Highlights of Venice
Venice is simply magical. There is no other place like it in the world. Built on an archipelago, Venice is made up of 117 mini islands that sit within the Venetian Lagoon. Naturally, everyone takes boats everywhere and we felt like we stepped into a James Bond film (Speaking of James Bond films, that is a secret dream of mine no doubt. All I was missing was the tuxedo, arch villain, and some high speed boat chases and explosions. I already had the girl! ). And while everywhere you look is magnificently beautiful and spectacularly aged, you can't help to be shocked when you see everyday Venetians going about their lives. Delivering packages by boat, driving on their daily commute, and we even saw a funeral procession by boat! You're simply never a couple steps from the water. And while it can be hard to navigate, there is no better place to get lost than Venice.
For me, Venice is a simply fascinating place. Of course that phrase can be used to describe many of the places we've traveled to, but it has a unique application for 'the city of canals.' As an observer you just can't get over the fact that this city is literally floating. With every footpath you discover there's a waterway to be found, many hidden out of plain sight. With every beautifully constructed building, you can't help but wonder how it even stays upright. The magic and mystery are two prevailing sentiments that stay with you throughout any journey through this city. It is a city that begs you to get lost and discover places anew!
Harry's Bar has historically been the watering hole for famous people visiting Venice, including Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Aristotle Onassis, Peggy Guggenheim, and George and Amal Clooney (they were married in Venice!). Harry's is home to the Bellini, the 1930's cocktail of Prosecco sparkling wine and peach puree. It's expensive and delicious, but when in Venice it's a must! My mom has taken her love of the Bellini home with her!
This was so funny to me. Seeing all of the gondoliers hanging around really put the city itself into perspective. Much like other landlocked cities that have their taximen waiting for fares, Venice has their famous gondoliers waiting to ferry the next passenger through a canal or across the channel. I'm also desperate for one of those hats!
The Venice Essentials
- Gondola ride - may be cheesy but so worth it! You explore the smaller canals from a perspective you wouldn't get to see otherwise.
- St. Mark's Square - St. Mark's Basilica was built in 1092 and is the main attraction for the square. It's more impressive from the outside compared to other churches we saw in Italy. The piazza the church sits in makes for great people watching and a good place to sit and have a leisurely Italian lunch. The square sits at one end of the Grand Canal and is a good starting place to get your bearings.
- Bridge of Sighs - around the corner from St. Marks, you'll find the Bridge of Sighs. The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge's name, given by Lord Byron comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.
- Vaporetto Ride up and down the Grand Canal - The Vaporetto is Venice's public boat that makes stops all along the Grand Canal. You can find a seat outside in the back and ride it from end to end admiring the beauty of Venice! It costs only a couple euro per rider making it much more cost effective than chartering your own speedboat.
- Rialto Bridge - It might be underwhelming when you walk across it because of all of the touristy shops along the stairs, but it's quite beautiful to look at and the view from the bridge is even better.
Established in 1720, Caffe Florian is the oldest coffee house in continuous operation. Located in Piazza San Marco, you can choose to eat inside, which is decadently decorated, or outside in the piazza where they have lovely classical musicians playing all day long and you can people watch to your heart's content in front of St. Mark's Basilica.
Splendid Venice - We loved our hotel and location! We stepped off the train at Santa Lucia station right on the Grand Canal and hopped in a private speed boat- a la James Bond- to navigate the city to our hotel which was along a small canal. That ride was pretty pricey but 100% worth it for the experience of boating through Venice and getting the canal view you can't see any other way. Our hotel was in the San Marco neighborhood which was very convenient for all the sightseeing we were doing during our short trip. It's a very busy area, but you definitely find quiet and secluded moments. The hotel was gorgeous, luxurious, and had everything we needed, wanted, and more. I would highly recommend this hotel and booking through Booking.com for the best price. We got a great deal and that website has never steered me wrong- I book every hotel through them now.
The hotel also has a delicious restaurant, Le Maschere, that's located in a glass covered courtyard right in the middle of the first floor. They serve breakfast everyday, but I recommend dining there for dinner under the Venetian sky.
Venice will always leave an impression on any visitor, no matter how skeptical or particular. It is a place that will forever be enchanting and mysterious. No matter how many times you visit there are always new and intriguing finds. It is a city that carries immense pride in its history and even more in it's cultural preservation. Venice is a place that beckons you to visit but also entices you to return, knowing full well there is still more to see and uncover.
Extra Time for Sightseeing?
- The famous glassmaking island of Murano
- The colorful and Instagram worthy homes located on the island of Burano
- The glamorous Carnival of Venice, starting January 27th and going through February 13th
- The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a modern art museum located in a beautiful villa right on the Grand Canal
- The Doge's Palace, a Venetian Gothic style palace built in 1340. It was the former seat of government and palace of justice for the city and now serves as a museum. This is a must for a one stop all encompassing history of Venice