This post is the second in a 6-part series where I want to share the knowledge, experience and insight I acquired while planning and executing this trip. If you missed it, you can read Part 1 by clicking on the link below.
Where We Stayed
Hotel Gabrielli is a 4-star hotel situated along the Grande Canal and is one of the most exclusive hotels in Venice. It is located in a Venetian Palazzo from the 14th century and is only a few minutes walk from Saint Mark’s Square, the Basilica of St. Mark and the Doges Palace. We booked a room with triple (twin) beds. The room was nice, clean and met our needs.
Where We Ate
There are only a couple of places in Venice where you can get a wood-oven baked pizza! And you MUST try the pizza! Wood-fired ovens are highly regulated (read: outlawed) in Venice except for a few places that are grandfathered in. We got our pizza-pie-fix at Rossopomodoro (Calle San Marco 403).
What We Ordered
- Diavola (pizza)
- Capricciosa (pizza)
For a more traditional, sit-down meal, we went to Antico Gatoleto (Cannaregio 6055). Their tortellini is to die for!
What We Ordered
- Lasagne Al Forno
- Tortellini Panna Prosciutto
We stopped for Gelato at Venchi (Calle Dei Fabbri 989) and just like in Nice, France, we had difficulties deciding on flavors. Of course, we ordered a cup with multiples to share. Honestly, it was a bit disappointing and not worth the carbs. The Gelato in Nice, France set the bar pretty high and was the standard by which all other Gelato was judged.
What We Ordered
When we got to Venice, we checked in to the hotel and immediately headed out to explore the town. We came across a café where we decided to get a coffee and pastry. We quickly learned that in Venice, there are two prices for eating at a café. One price for standing at the counter and another (higher) price for sitting down. We chose to stand. We ended-up being repeat customers at Bar Pasticceria Chiusso (Salizada Dei Greci Castello 3306)
What We Ordered
- Caffe Americano
What We Did
On our first night in town, we went for a late-night outing (after 11 pm) to Café Florian (Piazza San Marco, 56). We sat and listened to a live band while trying the hot chocolate that the Florian is known for.
We walked around Saint Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco); the principal public square of Venice. We observed that everything in the city seems to revolve around it.
The Basilica of Saint Mark (Basilica San Marco), located in Saint Mark’s Square, is one of Venice’s top attractions and is something to behold. It is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, Northern Italy.
The Bell Tower of Saint Mark’s Basilica (St Mark’s Campanile) is also located in the “Square” and rises 323 feet above. One interesting fact we learned about the bell tower is that in a former life, it was used as a lighthouse.
The Bridge of Sighs is one of the most famous bridges in Venice. This bridge has many interesting tales to go with it. One of which is, sadly, it was used to transfer prisoners from interrogation rooms to their cells.
The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges that span the grande canal. This bridge is where all the shopping action takes place.
Doges Palace (The Palazzo Ducale) located on the “Square” was the seat of the government of Venice for centuries. As well as being the home of the Doge (the elected ruler of Venice), it was the venue for its law courts, its civil administration and its bureaucracy.
The Grande Canal is the main waterway of Venice. It follows a natural channel that traces a reverse “S” from San Marco Basilica to Santa Chiapas Church and divides the city into two parts. It is like the Main Street in the city and it is massive!
Of course, one of your “must-dos” when you are in Venice is a gondola ride! When planning for this trip, I found site after site stating how expensive and “touristy” gondola rides are. In reality, gondola ride prices are set by the city – not the Gondoliers. Also, the cost of a gondola ride (80 Euro) is “per boat”. This means up to 6 people can ride for a single price and if you split the cost 6 ways, that is 13.33 Euros per person for a city tour that lasts about an hour. Compared to the price of other city tours, that seems very reasonable. Additionally, you are on vacation so take the ride! You will get to see the city from a totally different perspective.
How We Traveled
We traveled to Venice by plane and then took a Water Taxi to the hotel. This boat ride was about 1 hour long and cost around 32 Euros per person.
We left Venice by taking the NightJet (train) to our next city: Vienna, Austria. At the train station (Station S. Lucia), we had our favorite pizza from Rossopomodoro again. If you choose to travel by train, there are only a few shops at the station and not much else to pass the time. Well, there is always more pizza! Having never traveled by train before, I was a bit concerned that we were close to our departure time but our train had not yet been assigned a track yet.
Travel Tip: This is normal, apparently. If you are concerned, just track down a conductor and inquire.
Venice is one of the cities I wanted to see like no other. You might say, it was on my Bucket List. The beauty of the city did not go on noticed. I loved the colors of the city, the old buildings and the architecture. Let us not forget the food! I LOVED THE FOOD! I could really go for a slice of pizza right now. I would go back to Antico Gatoleto for tortellini in a heartbeat! A MUST-DO is taking a Gondola ride as it is the perfect way to see the city from the perspective of the way it was originally designed. Shopping, on the other hand, was not as great as I hoped. After too many hours of wandering through endless shops, I did find a few small items to take home with me – like some Murano glass ornaments and a silk scarf but overall, the shopping in Venice was quite disappointing. We were only in Venice 2 short days and it was not long enough! On my next visit, I will need a week’s stay in order to see all that Venice has to offer.
Venice was not really on my “must-see” list but in hindsight, I am really glad we chose to go there. Of course, the food was exceptional and of course, I ate way more than I should have. My over-eating was balanced out by all of the walking we did. There does not seem to be any rhyme, reason or logic to how the city is laid out and because of that, we found ourselves walking in circles; wandering aimlessly looking for streets and addresses that (apparently) only exist on the map. You are surrounded by water and walking through narrow alley-ways between tall buildings so your GPS is useless. Just leave it turned off and save your battery for picture-taking. Numerous times, the map just spun in circles — and we were standing still. Now, do not take these comments as negative because Venice is a beautiful city with much to see and do. Our aimless wandering allowed us to explore and get lost and in doing so, we found some exceptional places we otherwise would not have found. Yes, I would go back — if for no other reason than to get some more of that wood-fired pizza. YUM! Next time though, I will plan to stay more than 2 days. You need at least a week to see the city and even then, you are only going to scratch the surface.
I LOVED Italy! Venice is one of the most unique cities I have ever been to. From the boat ride from the airport to getting lost in the winding streets, it did not cease to amaze. Considering we only had two days and we barely scratched the surface of all Venice had to offer. If you visit here, using your phone for navigation is impossible so just get lost and stumble across some of the best parts of the city! The food alone would bring me back to Italy again and again. The pizza, the pasta and the coffee were out of this world. I highly recommend a gondola ride because you will get to experience Venice in a whole new way. If you have the good fortune to spend more time than we did in Venice, you should definitely check out the nearby islands of Burano (known for its colorful houses) and Murano (famous for its glass making). I would visit Venice again!
Come along with us on our next stop: Vienna, Austria!