Ah, the fascinating maze called Venice! Reading Shakespeare’s much celebrated play – The Merchant of Venice and watching the enthralling movie – The Italian Job; I had always pictured Venezia (Italian for Venice) as a dreamy city with shades of grey. Walking through the maze like secret stone passages and the fading pastel buildings, we realized that this city of bridges has so much more to offer!
After endless wine tours and spectacular views of the soft rolling hills of Tuscany, we headed to Venice. The roll and rattle of the hurtling train and the varied views of hills of Tuscany and then the waters that welcomed us to Venice added to our eagerness to experience the life in Venice.The train from Florence to Venice is pretty comfortable, leaves at a gap of every 1.5 – 2 hours and the travel takes around 2.5 hours. KS (my infinitely better half) and I had opted for a Bed and Breakfast near Venizia Santa Lucia Train Station. It was an easy 5 to 7 minutes’ walk from the station. A quick power nap and we were all geared up to scout!
We had planned to spend three days and two nights in Venice and pre-booked a free walking tour for our first day in the city. The walking tour started at -0, also commonly known as San Apostoli – a beautiful Roman Catholic Church. The tour was absolutely free of cost and our Tour Guide, Samuele, was terrific! The tour group was of about ten people and Samuele took us to places that were not touristy and helped us see the Venice that generally people miss seeing. The experience was completely surreal – like we were introduced to Venice socially over dinner and drinks and subsequently developed a bond with her – gradually; it felt like Venice let us into few of her Venetian secrets – un-masking herself.
Amongst these lesser known wonders of Venice, we got a chance to see one-of-a-kind library-cum-bookstore called Libraria Aqua Alta – a slice of heaven for book enthusiasts like us! Books piled up on the floor, in gondolas, boats – everywhere. We bought several books and stationery from there – quickly forgetting the perks of traveling light, greedily hoarding as many books as we could! 😉
Taking this walking tour was an incredible idea since on our first day in the city KS and I got a fair idea of main squares and streets. The alleyways in Venice make the walking easier and before we knew it, we had seen quite a lot. We went to a restaurant for a relaxed dinner before heading back to our Bed and Breakfast.
In the room next to ours were two lovely sisters from the United States, who were taking their first trip together – a month of city hopping in Europe. A casual exchange of pleasantries changed into hours of chit chatting that night. We shared a bottle of wine and lots and lots of travel experiences before calling it a night!
Venice attracts tourists by the droves from all over the globe, so, the regular touristy areas are packed like sardines. So, lo and behold! Many tourists come to Venice for a day trip but since we like to experience and observe the regular life in any city it only made sense to spend a couple of nights in here. Getting lost and stumbling upon beautiful old buildings, cafes and cute little stores is a whole another experience in Venice!
This city of canals has long captured the imaginations of travelers from all over the globe. It is one of the most visited cities in the world. As a result, it is a tad bit expensive, but the experiences that it offers are surreal! I think the wisest thing we did was to book our accommodation and train travel months in advance – it helped us save quite a lot! Vaporetto , the water bus, is the cheapest mode of transportation to visit the nearby islands. A single ticket for one way costs € 7.50. We bought the single day discount transport passes for €20 per person and went on to explore the famous nearby islands of Murano and Burano.
We started our second day with a trip to Burano – a cheerful little island that boasts of its colorful block-like houses and lace. It takes a little over an hour to reach Burano from Venice. We strolled around and soaked in the beauty of this beautiful little island. Thereafter, we headed to Murano – another fascinating group of islands – famous for glass making. After wandering around for an hour, we headed back to the main island, Venice. Our hunger pangs and the bright sunny afternoon called for a nice lunch – we got down at the famous St. Mark’s Square from our Vaporetto and had a rather beautiful meal at one of the randomly selected restaurants in the vicinity! Good food is fuel to a good mood after all!
Excited, we proceeded towards the St Mark’s Square, famously known as Piazza San Marco. This place is not hard to spot since it is bustling with tourists throughout the year! We figured that there was a lot to do here and ended up spending a little over four hours venturing into the utterly gorgeous Doge’s Palace – a remarkable piece of artwork inside and out, climbing up the bell tower for panoramic views of the city, feeding the pigeons at the square or just sit and gazing at the mind-blowing architecture.
Ponte dei Sospiri, or famously known as The Bridge of Sighs, is the only covered limestone bridge in Venice and is a complete hit amongst everyone visiting. This baroque style arched bridge was designed by Antonio Contino. It is said that two lovers will be blessed with eternal love if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile toll. No matter how hyped, the Bridge of Sighs is totally worth visiting! Swaying in these marvels of history and strains of music echo from one of the live bands playing at a distance – we walked towards the Rialto Bridge.
Rialto, the oldest bridge on the Grand Canal, was a familiar sight. As a kid, I received a picture postcard of the Rialto Bridge from a distant cousin who moved to Venice to study art. Seeing the Rialto, I realized, how visiting this place had been on my mind since childhood – and there I stood with the love of my life! KS and I, oblivious of all the tourists and hustle-bustle, stood there for a long time in a warm snuggly embrace while the commotion and action of the busy day died down and night fell in background! It was with a spring on our steps and smile on our lips that we made way to our room that night.
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Our last day in Venice started with a rich Italian breakfast followed by getting lost in the alleyways for the nth time. In Venice, everything awesome comes your way upon getting lost. We chanced upon a roadside van with blaring music and cocktails galore. The super cool mixologist was happy high and was letting everyone try a sip of all the amazing potions available. Did we hear free sips? – Sold to the idea already! We started with fruity sangrias and switched to shots and then to spritz.Spritz is served an aperitif in Italy – a wine-based cocktail with a tinge of bitterness from cynar. Wine, sangrias and spritz were our go-to drinks in Italy – Divine nectar of Gods, truly!We toppled our way to our B&B’s neighborhood and spent some happy high moments at the sidewalk of the canal.
Not surprisingly, we overslept the next day, and barely managed to catch our train to Rome. Venice, for all its hype, is truly charming. Once you take the time to know it well, it will reveal its delights gently. But boy, oh boy! The effort is so worth it! Easily one of the happiest destinations we have been to yet!