I should start with an apology. You see, I am almost ashamed to admit that I never wanted to visit Venice without a man as my companion. After all, is it not known to be one of the more romantic destinations on our planet? It is, of course very romantic, but far be it for me to say it is a place purely for couples. Indeed, having been there twice now, fortunate as I am, I have to say it would be somewhere I would be happy to visit alone and honestly feel that everyone should stop by here at least once in their life.
Others may wince, but it really is a place that looks in real life (even on a cloudy day) just as it does in films. It’s magical, at times unbelievable and certainly beautiful, despite the fact that the age of some of the magnificent palazzos, soaring from the water, may be showing..
I defy anyone to find a place so easy to wander wistfully around. You will walk miles and not realise it and every corner will be a revelation. Not least because you may feel like you’re onto something, and know where you’re going, only to find that you stumble into a dead end, with nothing before you but mystical green water. There is no better place in which to get lost.
It’s possible to worry about how far your money will go in Venice and you would be right to give your budget considerable thought. It would be very easy to spend a fortune here and if you’ve got it to spend – luck you! Unfortunately, I know that as soon as I get back from a trip, I will want to start thinking about where to go next and with limited funds, it’s important to be sensible. This doesn’t mean being stingy though, just savvy.
The most recent hotel I stayed at was in fact, an annexe to a the better known, extremely well situated Hotel Monaco. It was about a two minute walk away, and although it had its own concierge desk, facilities were to be available at the main sister hotel. This may be a problem for those of you who like to have your hotel bar and a fancy lobby, but for me it was great.
Hotel Palazzo Selvadego was a stunning discreet Palazzo, steps away from St Mark’s Square. The walk to breakfast at the Hotel Monaco and Grand Canal was nothing once you realised you would be greeted with a plentiful buffet. The tables were beautifully presented and my coffee came in a lovely silver coffee pot. Ooh I felt the part! And when my husband returned to the table with two glasses of Prosecco(for breakfast!), I drifted off imagining he was Robert Downey Jnr! I tell you, nothing goes down quite as well as an infusion of dry Italian bubbly with your continental cheese and cured meats in the morning, while you gaze out of the window in wonder at the Grand Canal…
Our days were spent walking and soaking up the wonderful bridges and architecture. We stopped by museums and made good use of the Vaporetto boat buses. I had ordered my three day tourist tickets including airport transfer by land bus, on line at Venice Connected, saving me money, but also saving me a heap of time in the arrivals area at Marco Polo as I bypassed a mammoth queue. A few clicks of an automated ticket machine, assisted by a lovely man who worked for ACTV and we were off. I must applaud ACTV for this, as although my husband and I could have easily navigated the ticket machine, it is to their credit that they provide assistance in this way, so don’t be afraid to prebook and go for it!
The water bus Vaporetto service is as efficient as one would expect public transport in mainland Europe to be, and much more fun than the land versions. I thoroughly recommend it as a means to get about. If I had the funds, I may be tempted by the streamlined style of Venice’s water taxis, but it does mean you would miss out on people watching the locals – immaculately dressed old ladies, floating in a cloud of rich fragrance, not to mention the achingly handsome thirty something dads, effortlessly styled, pushing their toddlers in prams, sans child’s mother. Oh the beauty of European family values! Young, attractive men, unafraid of childcare. You wouldn’t see that in a water taxi.
You also wouldn’t get the chance to hop on the wrong boat accidentally and unexpectedly experience the most unforgettable part of the trip, as we did. We ended up agreeing we should get off the boat at Zitelle, on the island of Giudecca, and do an immediate about turn. But then my husband spotted a tiny cafe bar with just half a dozen or so tables outside, on the water’s edge. It wouldn’t hurt to stop for ten minutes and have a drink. Two hours later, I’m still there looking across the shimmering water at the Doge’s Palace, St Marks and Campanile, knowing I am experiencing one of the best views in the world. I wanted to bottle up that moment and keep it with me forever.
I took it all in, sat outside that peaceful bar, just a handful of other tourists for company. I breathed in Venice, from the passing car ferry to the barge full of fruit and vegetables, from the magnificence of the domes of Santa Maria del Salute, to the sun soaked awnings of the more well-to-do hotels, lining the basin of the Grand Canal. I could see the heaving mass of tourists moving back and forth in the distance near San Marco and I knew that from this wonderful vista, I was experiencing something truly magical. It was with a heavy heart that we left to head back to the throng. The reality though, was that the boat ride back may well have become somewhat difficult to bear after a couple more beers.
Where to eat is also a question that leaves many groaning with dismay when it comes to Venice. I must say that food is very important to me and although, like many, I profess a wish to lose half a stone, I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that I like my dinner a bit too much and I’ll settle for a size 12 as opposed to a ten. This in mind, researching good dining spots was something I spent far too much time doing, not to mention the fact that it just stressed me out! In the end I went with the flow. Finding cheap, tasty lunches in the form of generously filled toasted focaccia sandwiches is easy and in the end, we ate a fabulously cosy dinner in a little place I spotted only for me to discover afterwards it came highly recommended in the DK guidebook. Give it a try. It’s called Enoteca San Marco and it’s moments away from Saint Mark’s Square.
Trust your instincts – and you will find food you’re happy to eat. Failing that, there’s always McDonalds! Hey, if it’s what you want, who am I to judge? Enjoy and no one will ever know unless you tell them. It is however, entirely possible that you’ll be yards away from an Italian feast, so explore if you can because this is what you have to do in Venice; open yourself up to getting lost and finding hidden opportunity. If you miss a certain museum because you found a lovely square with sun trapped tables outside quirky bars – sit down and order a drink or three. You won’t regret these moments. You’ll relive them time after time on rainy Mondays back at home.
Have you been to Venice?
Any recommendations in this post are purely my own opinions, nothing on my trip to Venice was sponsored.