Destination: Venice

March 26, 2009 at 4:13 pm 8 comments

Venice was a dream.  Have you been?  If not, put it on your list and start working towards it.  If so, are you longing to go back?  Although it was rainy and chilly for our visit, I loved it.  It was just beautiful.  The water looked as fake as I expected.


Pics: St. Mark’s Basilica exterior, St. Mark’s Basilica interior, Doge’s Palace interior, Grand Canal, St. Mark’s Square from Grand Canal, Hotel Canal exterior, on the Rialto Bridge

Apparently people from the US visiting Venice last summer were fewer than in the past.  (Source: Tripso.)  The weak dollar wasn’t enough to keep us away, though!  Here’s my take on what to see in two days.  But it’s really just my opinion; there are obviously lots of other great things to do there that we didn’t make it to.

1.  St. Mark’s Basilica: This is one of the most amazing churches I’ve been in.  Entry is free, and there are two tricks to avoiding the potentially long lines to get in: (1) Make an advanced reservation online (only up to 48 hrs in advance); (2) Check a bag.  Yeah, that’s right, if you check a bag, you can skip the line.  It’s a little tricky finding the bag check – it’s about a block away (down an alley to the left of the church when you’re facing the entrance).  One of the employees checking people in should be able to understand enough English to point you in the right direction.  One of the other important things to remember is to visit when the lights will be on.  On weekdays, this coincides with the free tours!  We loved our free tour at 11am, especially when the lights came on at 11:30am.  The lights are only on for an hour a day on the weekdays but all day on weekends (for the services).  It’s really really important to go when the lights are on.  It’s kind of boring with the lights off, but it becomes a magical, golden place with them on.  You can see a covert picture above.  My friend sneakily took that pic with his iPhone.  Make sure you have a camera on you even though you’re not supposed to take pictures inside – you can climb around up on the roof with the fake horses of St. Mark and get some really great pics.

2. Doge’s Palace: It’s so conveniently located – right next door to the number one place to go.  Also, you can walk across the Bridge of Sighs.  You can book a ticket in advance, but we didn’t and had an easy time of it just after lunch.  We were a little disappointed with the Doge’s Palace in comparison to Versailles – it was very empty.  The architecture, however, made the visit very worthwhile.  If you have a dslr, take it in and use it a bunch!

3. Wander: If you can’t get to St. Mark’s when the lights are on, the most important thing to do while you’re in Venice is just to wander.  Get lost!

4. Rialto Bridge: You can tell by the hordes of tourists on the bridge that it’s a great place to get a picture of yourself with the Grand Canal in the background.  It’s worth the time just for that.  That said, there are also a ton of restaurants nearby, and it’s super easy to just wander around the area for a good ogle.

5. Murano: We didn’t realize it would be such a hassle to get here.  Be prepared!  The water bus ride out there took so long that we wondered if we’d gotten on some bus taking us to another country.  This was also probably made a little more miserable by the fact that it was cold and raining.  And there wasn’t a lot of fun stuff to look at once you got past Piazza San Marco.  That said, it was absolutely worth the trip to me once we got there.  Then again,  I’ve been a paperweight collector for most of my life, so I’ve admired Murano glass for that long.  (No, I don’t want you to buy me paperweights!  I get one a year at Christmas, thanks.)

Since we were pressed for time, we opted to skip the museum in favor of more time to shop and to see a demonstration.  We found a glass demonstration with no problem (expect to pay unless you have plenty of time to wander around to find a free one).  It was crazy to us to see how quickly the artists could create these things.  You can check out my pics (see link at end of post) to see a bit of the process.  Then we had a good time admiring the work in the shops.  If you visit one of the nicer shops, definitely ask to look at the pricier area.  We saw some amazing (and reeeeeally expensive) works.   Also, if you want pictures of the shops (you probably will), take a bunch of pics as you are walking in.  They’ll usually ask you not to take pics in there – sad, they are beautiful shops.

6. Santa Maria dei Miracoli: I have to admit, the only reason I wanted to pay this church a visit was due to its mention in one of the books identified below.  We didn’t get to see the inside of the place, but the outside alone was worth the wander.  It’s called the “marble church” for good reason, and Save Venice did a great job in the restoration.

7. Harry’s Bar: Have you been to Cipriani’s in New York? If so, then you know what I mean when I say BELLINI.  Harry Cipriani actually began with “just” a bar in Venice.  That bar’s fame has spread far and wide, leading to the establishment of Cipriani’s in New York , London, LA, Porto Cervo, Hong Kong, and Miami.  Why?  The bellinis are ridiculous – both in price and yumminess.  I believe we paid about €50 for just 3 little bellinis.  That was especially ridiculous last June.  It was worth it.

Other places of note that we didn’t make it to:  Companile (climb up for a great view), Guggenheim (killer art museum), Correr Museum (Venetian history), Venice Naval Museum, Natural History Museum, Archaeological Museum of Venice, Ca’ Pesaro (Asian art museum), Academy of Venice (art museum featuring lots of classics). 

 Where to Stay
Since we were heading out on a cruise and had a brief stay, we weren’t too fond of the idea of dragging our luggage on a boat and opted to stay near Piazzale Roma.  We found the cheapest place we could stand, Hotel Canal, and were pleasantly surprised.  We shared a quad room with our friends and ended up with 1 double bed and 2 twins.  For just two nights, it was fine.  The room was clean, they provided breakfast (including croissants and fake Nutella!), it was easy to find, and it was easy to get to other places.  There were plenty of restaurants within easy walking distance.  Oh!  We also loved our view – we had two “balconies” overlooking the side canal and from which we could also see the Grand Canal.  Pretty cool for one of the cheapest places in Venice!

My mom and aunt stayed at the nearby Carlton & Grand Canal.  So… it was way nicer than our place.  They had SCENTED toilet paper!  And their breakfast was nicer too.  That said, they paid a lot more than we did.  I’d pick our place again just because of the price.

If we were there a bit longer, I would’ve preferred to have stayed somewhere near the Rialto Bridge.  There was a lot going on in that area.

What to Read
Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon: SUCH a good mystery!  And I don’t even really like mysteries. 

Rick Steves’ Venice: Yes, I know – everyone already knows about Rick Steves.  Too bad – check it out anyway.

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt: I think this is the second non-fiction book I’ve read for fun and actually finished – the first being Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  The intrigue is so juicy!

Food: Don’t forget to eat as much gelato as you can!  Charlie Leocha on Tripso recommends his favorites here. Also, we found the gnocci to be especially fabulous.

Cruisin’: If you’re leaving from Venice on a cruise, you’ll want to snag one of the FREE buses to the port.  Just make sure you look for a bus that has a small Port of Venice sign in the window and that they’re going to the right ship.  We had orange buses each way, so I bet that’s the norm.  The bus is a bit tricky to find if you aren’t willing to look for it.  Here’s a tip: with your back to the piazzale full of buses, face the Grand Canal.  Turn right a bit, and you’ll see a hotel.  Turn right a bit more, and you’ll see a bunch of vendors selling snacks and souvenirs.  Go to the far right along the sidewalk with the vendors.  If you don’t spot a line, ask around.  You’re in approximately the right place to catch the bus.

Check out more of my pics here.


Entry filed under: CenturyClub, Cruisin', Destinations, Europe, photos.

TTT: Moneysaving tips Passport Day, March 28, 2009

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ami @ Elizabeth Anne Designs  |  March 26, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    if anyone is looking for a hotel near the rialto bridge, i can highly recommend the hotel locanda ovidius. adorable, comfy, large rooms and perfect location. in 2005 we were able to get that hotel for a steal but while researching this trip with the feisty tourist we found it to be much more expensive. (worth it if you want to stay in that area though!)

  • 2. Alan  |  March 26, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Of course all the food is great, but I personally enjoyed La Zucca. That’s Italian for pumpkin, and indeed, much of the menu includes items made with pumpkin. We had a nice table outside along the canal as well.

  • 3. David  |  April 3, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Really, Really enjoyed this review… Some dumb questions on my part but when you say “Since we were heading out on a cruise and had a brief stay, we weren’t too fond of the idea of dragging our luggage on a boat”, which boat are you refering to? Second, how did you get to the hotel from the airport? I am going with my family in July on the Splendour leaving out of Venice. I was considering getting there a couple of days earlier. Would that be your suggestion? Any other gems in regards to restaurants. Thanks so much for an enjoyable read. Dave in Houston

  • 4. feistync  |  April 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    David – (1) We didn’t want to drag our luggage on a water bus or water taxi since we were only there for 2 nights and would be getting in late the first night. It was just an extra step we decided to avoid for the sake of convenience. If we’d gotten their earlier in the day or had spent an additional night there, we probably would’ve stayed in a different area. (2) We took the bus to Piazzale Roma and then just walked to the hotel – it wouldn’t have been too bad if we’d had our bearings/could’ve found someone who spoke English to help us find the hotel. (We had a tough time finding it but felt dumb once we did.) (3) I loved that cruise! Didn’t like the boat though. Hope you’ll have an amazing time. I say, YES, you ABSOLUTELY should spend at least 2 nights in Venice BEFORE the cruise (3 if you can swing it). We were so zonked when we got back that we wouldn’t have enjoyed ourselves after. Plus, coming in early gives you a safety net if your flight or luggage is delayed. (4) Re restaurants – for the most part, a view of the Grand Canal is going to cost you plenty extra for the same quality food you’d find for less just a block away. We were happy every meal we had there, but nothing seemed as though it was such a stand-out place that we should tell people to go there specifically. So I say wander and see what strikes your fancy. The folks on the forums at TripAdvisor will have some specific recs if that’s what you’d prefer.

  • 5. Dave  |  April 4, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    thanks a bunch.. We will probably take you up on the Hotel Canal. It looks nice enough and the price is not so bad plus it is one of only a few hotels that will make room for 4 in a room and since we have kids, it is not an option. Thanks again for posting your experience. Can’t wait to get there… Dave in Houston

  • 6. Jenn  |  April 12, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Beautiful pictures and great advice.

  • 7. Ying Huffman  |  May 17, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Hi there, I read your review on the cruise critic website about your experience on your Mediterranean cruise! My husband and I are in our mid 20’s and we also live in North Carolina, and are interested in the cruise with a few of our friends…was wondering what off shore excursions you recommend? What was your fave port? Santorini looks amazing, but how about the other ones? We LOVE LOVE to travel!!!! also are there young people on the ship, or mainly older ones?

  • 8. feistync  |  May 17, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Ying, we went on the itin that didn’t visit Santorini – I couldn’t pass up Mykonos + Delos, Athens, and Olympia. They were fantastic! Mykonos was my fav. We only did the Olympia ship excursion and went on our own the rest of the time. I think that was a good choice for us since we’re comfortable on our own. And there were people of all ages on the ship – and lots of 20-60somethings ready to party every night. It was great.


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