ASHLI + DEBS TAKE VENICE
*full write up on Venice w/ suggestions and itineraries coming soon!
When you think of Venice, you think of the “sinking city” – the city of canals and gondolas and men in striped shirts singing “OH SOOOLO MIOOO” in their black hats. Just me? Venice is made up of 2 parts and – as a whole – is MASSIVE, but that’s including the inland + the island. The island itself is teeny tiny and that’s the Venice we all think of, fresh out of a storybook. It’s made up of 4 neighborhoods, similar to boroughs in New York City called “sestieres” (a fact that doesn’t matter but now ya know!): Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, San Polo and San Marco – the most famous of them all is San Marco. If you are planning a trip to Italy and plan to stop in Venice, I do recommend you spend a brief amount of time in Venice as a whole and staying in San Marco while you’re there, because a little goes a long way. If you are planning a full trip to Venice then definitely check out Canareggio and Dorsoduro – the more popular non-touristy areas that are also safe and have amazing foods!!
San Marco felt much like the “Times Square” of Venice, suuuuper touristy to the point that it definitely is annoying to some people who visit, and it didn’t really feel like we were in Italy as much as it felt like we were in a far off land but I fell in love with it personally. There’s definitely a storybook quality to San Marco and you feel completely transported to a world that feels fake and surreal because it’s just so different than our normal reality!
There are also 3 islands that are technically part of Venice but named differently and known for something unique – Burano, Murano and Lido. Burano is probably the most famous as far as photography goes because it’s lined with bright colorful homes and lace shops and delicious gelato. Murano has a glass factory and makes a ton of hand blown glass pieces that people travel far and wide for. Lido is a beach island getaway with private beaches and known to be home to the Venice Film Festival. We did not prioritize to visit one of these islands, but I highly recommend you make accomodations to do so if you have interest because they each come highly recommended!!
THE GONDOLA (or lack thereof):
We also opted not to go on a gondola ride – I KNOW I KNOW – but we both just didn’t feel the need! I don’t know why! I know it’s so famous but everytime we went to do it we both felt like it wasn’t necessary. I was pushing it because I thought my mom wanted to and my mom was pushing it because she thought I wanted to do it – proving the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. I’m sure it’s totally worth it so definitely do so if you find yourself needing to mark that off your bucket list!! So you know, the ride is about $100 USD for 40 minutes for a 6 seater gondola, so if you’re wanting to go but want to save money, see if you can find some people to join you to bring down the total, because it isn’t per person but per gondola. Also, the gondolas are monitored by the government and they have AN INTENSE process of becoming an approved gondolier so you’re in safe hands!
TOO LONG DIDN’T READ:
Venice + San Marco particularly has something for everyone – shopping, high end designers, amazing gelato, GONDOLA RIDES OF COURSE DUHHH and a very unique dining scene.
Read on for details on our time in Venice and what I recommend for you to have the best time while visiting!
<<Please refer to my page about general Italy travel tips regarding currency, language, converters, etc. because I won’t be outlining these below. I also outline our general trip itinerary if you need to reference that!>>
Originally when planning this trip, I wanted to spend some significant time in Venice because it had such an immense beauty in pictures, and felt completely different and interesting, but when I asked the 900,000 people I asked about travel tips, they all said you only need 1 day, 2 TOPS to see Venice and anything more is a bit excessive…now i can say I agree!
We landed in the Venice airport from Paris, and had tickets for the waterbus to the island. The ride itself was about 35/40 minutes, and rode this over to the island of Venice, got off at our “stop” almost like you would with a highway or subway, and lugged our luggage over the Rialto Bridge (pic below) which was QUITE THE WORKOUT and i hadn’t even had any pasta yet! Even the boat ride into Venice is like a dream, it’s such a crazy and beautiful place. Entering the trip this way felt surreal, to be honest.
We stayed in a pretty touristy area at this Airbnb which was such a funny color – good to know that most, if not all, the AirBNBs in Venice are ran by companies and not individuals who lived on the island of Venice. We found that to be strange but was the norm – some companies make you check in to a centralized location to get your keys and can be far from your Airbnb; we met our host at the apartment we stayed in which was super helpful!! Especially if you don’t have cell service in Italy…
We got to our place around 6pm, and noticed pretty quickly that all of the places near us were very tourist oriented, in a sad way. The food looked frozen, everyone working there spoke English and nobody Italian was eating there. We decided to meander around our neighborhood to find a place for dinner and landed on an outdoor seating restaurant facing a canal and had a great meal – details below in food. To celebrate finally getting to Italy with no issues (and being jet lagged!) we went on the search for some dranks and found a couple cute bars to have some local wine! It was delicious – and cheap!! Like $1 a glass!! I was in heaven, clearly. We enjoyed some Spritz’ (the aperol spritz is like the drink of Venice) and some squid ink pasta (since Venice is known for it’s seafood) and had one of our favorite meals of the whole 2 weeks.
Most of you don’t know my mom (commonly referred to as Momma Debs, or Debs) but homegirl loves her classic rock and her live music, something instilled in both of us sisters still to this day. We were heading back and both of us stopped in our tracks and froze, realizing that we heard some classic rock music and needed to find where this live band was playing. We crept through the back walkways of Venice following this music that we felt sound familiar and found this amazing band at a local watering hole rockin out to our FAVORITE classic rock songs!!! DANCE. PARTY. COMMENCE. It was too cool and something about that made me feel connected to the world in a really neat way – it shows the power of music and how it can translate literally to any person in any culture.
The next day, we had an early morning as tourists and headed to St Marks Basilica for mass cause duh why not? First of all- OH MY GOSH THIS BASILICA was stunning!!!! I was raised Catholic (although I don’t identify with it any longer) so that may be a reason I find so much beauty in churches and cathedrals, etc. but I truly believe that anyone of any religion could go to a place like St Marks and have to physically lift your jaw off the ground. We ate breakfast in St Marks Sq which – oh my god do I highly NOT RECOMMEND!!! We ordered a mimosa and a coffee (not each, 2 drinks in total) and it came to almost 35 EUROS. IM SORRY ARE YOU HIGH. Of course, it’s our bad for not being prepared and I WILL SAY the view was incredible and we did get some chips and olives “complimentary” with our drinks, but I think we should’ve gotten a back massage and a Tiffany’s bracelet for that kind of money, but I’m not being dramatic or anything.
St Marks Basilica is incredible and if you don’t happen to pop in for a service, you can still wait in line to climb the stairs to the viewing platform at the top and look over the city and the square! We didn’t do that because…well, we didn’t care to, but I have no doubt it’s totally worth your time!! If you’re claustrophobic, i’d warn you here because i heard it’s a super thin staircase that’s used for both directions (like 2 feet wide!! with no windows!! not kidding!). From St Marks, we walked towards the Grand Canal (the famous entry point of the canals and the widest point) and walked along the water to see all the beautiful yachts and hotels and street merchants. It was a beautiful view and a great way to enjoy the day – not to mention it was the right way to walk to our next destination – HARRYS BAR!! aka the original Cipriani.
Okay, you may not be a Hemingway fan or as much of a foodie as I am, but if those two interests happen to intersect, you need to make sure you stop in Harrys Bar in Venice. If you’ve visited places like New York, London, LA – you’ve maybe heard of a very famous (ahem, expensive) restaurant called Cipriani. Well, Cipriani was founded and started at this very bar where the bellini (you know, champagne + peach puree! basically an upscale mimosa lol) was invented!! As a huge fan of this sparkling beverage, I had to have one at the place it all began (plus the place has such a charming story). More details coming on my food recommendations for Venice.
The rest of the day went as you can imagine – getting lost, stopping in somewhere to get a glass of wine, stopping somewhere for a small bite, more wine, more bites, latherrinserepeat until we were nice and full and drunk and happy. We even tried eating at that place with the “probably-frozen” food and it tasted horrible as imagined so we moved right on with our food tour of Venice. We met someone who was selling beautiful Venetian masks, and ate cichetti (more on this to come) and went to sleep pretty early. With a morning train the next day to Florence, we cuddled up into bed happy we got to explore the tiny island of Venice.
The following morning, we made the WHAT FELT LIKE 6 hour walk to the train even though it was ONLY AN EASY 25 minutes!! Trust me, that’s sayin a lot when you’re up and down all over those canal bridges with 2 suitcases- quite the workout. But really, oh my gosh my New Yorker came out when I just wanted to call a cab and couldn’t do it in this city of gondolas. Walking to train from San Marco was beautiful for sure, and being early we had the city to ourselves, which was pretty cool – so i guess that’s a plus. I’d just mentally prepare yourself for that because once we got to the train, I was rreeeaaaadddyyy for a freakin nap.
AND SO WRAPS VENICE. On to Florence…and probably the best part of the story…
*full write up on Venice w/ suggestions and itineraries coming soon!