Now that we’ve had a chance to get settled back at home, I’ve had time to upload some of our photos and give you a little glimpse into each city we visited on our 2 week Italy trip.
Our first stop was Venice. We arrived in Venice on Wednesday mid-morning and left early afternoon on Friday so we had 2.5 days to explore Venice. This was plenty of time to see all the beauty and charm this romantic city has to offer.**Fun Fact** Venice is the capital of the province of Venezia and the region of Venato in northern Italy which is known for its art, beauty and canals. It’s an island city and the only way to get around is by foot or water. The streets are only made for pedestrians so be prepared to walk and wander.
Although the side streets and small alleys can get tricky, Venice is fairly small and there are signs everywhere so don’t be afraid to get “lost” because you’ll eventually find your way back. Honestly, getting lost is the best way to really immerse yourself in the city and to truly see what Venice has to offer. Just make sure to have a map on hand! On our last night in Venice we actually did get lost. Both of our phones died and we only had our good ol’ trusted paper map that the hotel gave us to help navigate. Thankfully John is direction savvy and actually knows how to read a map so we found our way back within 30 minutes even in the dark. Venice was really safe and no one bothered us. Everyone is still out and about even after 10pm so if you do get lost and need directions, I’m sure someone will be able to help you out.
Where We Stayed:
We stayed at Hotel Papadopoli by Sofitel which was located off the Grand Canal in Santa Croce, near the Piazzale Roma, the principal arrival point in Venice (about a 20 minute drive from Marco Polo airport). We had a private transfer which was included in our travel package (read about our Costco travel package here) who dropped us off at our hotel. Although our hotel was within walking distance from the main transportation hub, once you reach a certain point, you can’t enter with a car. Luckily our hotel was less than 10 yards from where the driver had to park and he was nice enough to walk us all the way to our hotel and help with our luggage.
We arrived at our hotel just before noon so we just dropped our stuff off and ventured out for the day. We chose a canal side restaurant for lunch by Ponte delle Guglie. It’s one of two bridges to span the Cannaregio Canal in Venice. Venetians aren’t really known for their cuisine so I didn’t make it a point to remember the names of the restaurants we dined at, plus there’s one restaurant after another so you can honestly just pick anywhere to eat. I’d suggest staying away from restaurants with photos on the menu as those are known for being more touristy. The owner or manager of the restaurant we had lunch at was this cute little Italian man who was extremely friendly, barely spoke any English and really made our first meal in Italy that much more enjoyable. After lunch we spent the day wandering and exploring the city. Our hotel was about 25 minutes walking from Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square which is the main square of Venice. **Note** St. Mark’s Basilica is the cathedral church of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. It’s free entry, but it was a bit crowded so we didn’t go in.After a looong day of wandering the city, John and I stopped at Hotel Monoco which has a cute outdoor patio for some cocktails while we enjoyed the peacefulness while overlooking the Grand Canal.
On our second day in Venice, we purchased ferry tickets to Burano. I think we paid about €40 round trip for both of us. We stopped at the Rialto Bridge (the oldest of 4 bridges spanning the Grand Canal) for a quick photo op on the way to St. Mark’s. Isn’t it a gorgeous view?? It was a lot less crowded than at sunset (sunset photos at the end of the post). **Fun Fact** Bridge of Sighs was built at the beginning of the seventeenth century with the intention of connecting the Old Prison and interrogation rooms in Doge’s Palace to the New Prison. There are a couple of theories as to how the bridge got its name. One is that the prisoners who walked across the bridge on their way to the executioner would “sigh” as they crossed the bridge while getting their last glimpse of the outside world. The other theory is much more romantic. If a couple kisses under the bridge while on a gondola during sunset, they will enjoy eternal love and so the lovers’ “sighs” would be due to an overwhelming feeling of romance of the whole scene. Which theory do you prefer?
Burano is an island in the Venetian lagoon known for its brightly colored fisherman’s houses and lace work. It’s about a 45 minute ferry ride from the pier. There are several restaurants and little shops all over so we just walked around and had lunch before we went back. If I had woken up earlier, we would’ve probably stopped in Murano as well which is only 20 minutes from the pier and is known for its glass making factories. Since we had to choose, we both thought Burano would be more worth seeing and it really was. Isn’t it just stunning??
P.S. All of our photos were taken with my Iphone camera. I didn’t feel like lugging around my bigger camera, but it worked just as well. After a couple hours in Burano, we stopped back at Hotel Monaco to find a gondolier to take us out at sunset. They had quite a bit of gondoliers in front of the hotel the night before, but honestly, they’re everywhere along the canal so you can easily find one. It costs about €120 for a 40 minute gondola ride so make sure to find a gondolier you really like since they do expect a tip and consider bringing a bottle of wine to make it even more romantic. Our gondolier just whistled which wasn’t worth an extra tip, but he did get a really good sunset photo of us right in front of the Rialto Bridge so we’ll give him that. We ended the evening with dinner at a restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the Rialto Bridge. Again, there are so many restaurants to choose from so I didn’t write down the name, but I don’t think you can go wrong.On on our last morning before heading out to Florence, I slept in and so I didn’t get a chance to have a cappuccino at Caffè Florian, an iconic cafe from the early 1700s and the oldest coffee house in the world. (Bummer!) At least one of us did..