Italy

Trip Summary:

Dates:    July 1st – 3rd

Year: 2014

Main Language of Country:   Italian

Capital City of Country: Rome

Transportation Used:   Ferry, Water Taxi, Train (to Switzerland)

Currency: Euro

Accommodation: Hotel

Number of Photos Taken: 324

Favorite Place: Burano

Average Cost of a Full Meal: 8 – 20 Euro

Average Cost of a Night per Person: 35 to 50 Euro

Best Foods Eaten: Gelato and Mozzarella!

Introduction:

My time in Italy was limited only to the city of Venice, and as I was only there for a few days, so needless to say, my time in Italy was very brief. I have, however, always really wanted to visit Venice, so even only a few days in the city was better than nothing, and when you’re travelling you seem to be able to cover a lot of ground and see a lot of things in a very short time.

Before arriving in Venice, I had been travelling by myself through Morocco and then Croatia. My last stop in Croatia was a town called Porec, which is where I boarded a ferry on the morning of July 1st that took me to Venice.

I was meeting my girlfriend, Hilary, in Venice and it was our first stop on a two week trip through Europe. We were both arriving in Venice at roughly the same time, with my ferry reaching the dock a few hours earlier than her plane was scheduled to land. Our plan was to meet at the Hotel where we were staying as a last resort, but as I was to arrive several hours earlier we were hoping that I could make my way to the bus station to meet up there as Venice is known for being difficult to navigate.

The day before catching the ferry over to Venice I had looked up rough directions for how to get to the hotel from where I thought that the ferry would be docking and I felt fairly confident. I found out that the problem, however, was that I had actually looked at the wrong ferry terminal, so just before our ferry docked in Venice I realized that we were docking on the totally opposite side of the city than what I had expected, so the directions that I had to get to the hotel were useless.

Our ferry was also docking later than planned, and I had really wanted to be able to meet Hilary at the bus station as she was nervous about navigating around Venice by herself. So, once my ferry landed in Venice and I hurried through customs, I set off with no directions and less time than I had planned for.

I had a rough idea of the layout of Venice from looking at a map the night before so I headed in what I thought was the right direction. Venice is tough to navigate at the best of times with all of the dead ends, the narrow alleys, and the twisting streets, and it’s even worse when you’re in a rush and loaded down with a heavy backpack.

Miraculously, however, I was able to find the Rialto bridge which was a landmark that I recognized to be close to the hostel. I then nearly walked past the alleyway where the hotel was located, but happened to notice a Disney store out of the corner of my eye. The directions had mentioned a Disney store and luckily I was able to find the hotel down a small alley beside the store.

After dropping off my bags at the hotel and checking in very briefly, I sprinted across Venice in the direction that I thought was the bus station. I followed a confusing series of signs that eventually led me there and I found a bridge that gave me a view of the Piazzale Roma where the busses dropped passengers off.

I only had to wait a few minutes before, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar face running towards me out of the crowd below, and it was Hilary. After all of the confusion finding my way around Venice and with less time than expected, it seemed miraculous that everything worked out and it was a huge relief to see her there in the square just moments after I had arrived.

Looking back, we would have been able to find each other eventually even if we hadn’t met up at the Piazzale Roma station, but in the moment it was a crazy feeling that I won’t ever forget. It’s tough to describe the feeling of being in a new and unfamiliar place and not sure if you’re in the right place at the right time, and suddenly see a familiar face running towards you.

Anyways, that’s about enough of my story. Let’s get into some of the places and things to see and do in Venice.

 

Venice: (July 1 – 3)

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Venice has to be one of the most famous and well-known cities in the world and something about being in the city makes it feel like you’ve stepped back in time. You can almost imagine that you’re walking along the streets of the city as a trader from across the world here in Venice for the first time to sell your goods, or maybe you can imagine yourself as an artist during the renaissance period. The city has stood through flooding, invasions, revolutions, plagues, as well as times of flourishing prosperity, and the history of it all seems to have seeped into the walls, streets, and waterways of the city as it’s gives the city a personality and a feel that is very special.

It’s completely unique from any other city that I’ve been in before and the main reason for this is the canal system and the fact that the city is sinking and regularly dealing with floods. There are also no cars in the city as everything is done by boat on the canals and waterways between all of the buildings. Because of this, even something as simple as the background noise is different in Venice. You don’t hear the steady hum of vehicles and tires on roadways, but instead you hear the church bells, the movement of people, the splash of water lapping against the side of buildings, and the occasional echo of a motor boats along the canals.

The frustrating thing about the layout of Venice, is that it’s extremely hard to navigate while walking. The walkways twist and turn around in narrow alleys and often end up in dead ends. There aren’t many open areas to get any views or vantage points to find landmarks or to try to reorient yourself, so most times you’re just making guesses as to which direction to go. It also takes a while because you’re always looking for bridges to cross over canals and sometimes you have to go a long distance out of your way just to find a bridge to get where you want to go. It’s part of the fun of being in Venice though, so you just have to make sure that you have enough time to get where you want to go, don’t go anywhere in a rush, and expect to get a little lost from time to time. Whoever sells compasses and GPS’s in Venice, must make a small fortune.


TIP: We stayed at Hotel Caneva in Venice. It had a great location and our room backed out onto a canal with a small balcony. The rooms weren’t anything special, and it was quite expensive at about 80 Euros per night for a double room. Everything in Venice is very expensive, however, and we decided to go with a hotel rather than a hostel or something cheaper, because a hostel was about $50 each per night, so the cost ended up being roughly the same. So, if you’re travelling to Venice solo, a hostel might be the way to go, but otherwise it might end up being cheaper per person if you share a hotel room.


Besides wandering the streets, checking out museums or churches (which we didn’t do a lot of), and taking endless amount of pictures, there aren’t a ton of things to do in Venice. Some of our favorite things that we did that didn’t cost a ton of money, and were different from wandering the endless maze of streets were:

  • Burano:

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Burano is a small island within the Venetian lagoon that is definitely worth taking the time to visit if you have a couple of days in Venice. It’s about a 40 minute ride on a water bus from Venice (timetables and the departure locations can be found online). You will most likely use the public transportation system ACTV and you can buy tickets or travel cards online. A trip to Burano on a waterbus should cost about 6 to 10 Euro per person.


TIP: Don’t book a water taxi to get to Burano as it will be very expensive. You’re better off using the public transportation water busses.


Once you get to Burano, the first thing that you notice is the colours. All of the buildings are painted a different vibrant colour so it’s like walking through a rainbow. Like the main city of Venice, Burano has many canals and bridges, but it’s significantly more straightforward to navigate around. Burano is also famous for its lace-making so that might be worth checking out if you’re interested.

 

Colourful buildings in Burano under bridge with boats.


The island of Burano is quite small so you can easily walk around and see all of it with a few hours so it makes a great afternoon or morning trip from Venice. There are also a ton of places in the city to stop and get a meal.


TIP: We only ate at restaurants two times while in Venice. Once in the main city, and once on Murano. Food from restaurants tends to be quite expensive, but sometimes it’s worth the cost to experience the food of the country. For all of our other meals we found grocery stores throughout Venice (which can be a bit difficult to find, but not impossible) and were able to save a lot on meals. Another tip is that you can get fresh mozarella and gelato from the grocery stores which were awesome and saves you from having to buy gelato from expensive shops.


If you want to visit a few more islands and make a full day trip, you can check out Murano (which is famous for its glass-blowing), San Michele, or Torcello. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to visit any of these islands, but if you can only pick one, I can say without hesitation that you won’t be disappointed with a trip to Burano.

  • St. Mark’s Square:

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Likely the most recognizable and familiar landmark in Venice is St. Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco. It’s a really impressive area and you can’t miss it.

 

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On the east end of the square is the Basilica San Marco as well as the basilica’s bell tower Campanile di San Marco. Then right beside the Basilica is the Doge’s Palace which is another famous landmark.

 

Doge's Palace in San Marco Square


Behind the Doge’s palace you’ll find the Bridge of Sighs which is an enclosed bridge that enters the prisons at the back of the palace where prisoners would be escorted to serve their sentence and the windows on the bridge were said to be the last view of the outside world that the prisoners ever saw. And of course, you can’t forget the flocks of pigeons that are known to hang around St. Mark’s square.

 

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As you can see, the area around Piazza San Marco is full of things to see and check out. We climbed to the top of Campanile di San Marco and got a really great view of the city from above. Unfortunately, however, we decided against visiting the Basilica and Doge’s Palace, so I can’t say much about it, but it would most likely be well worth it to tour the buildings.

  • Canals:

The waterways are what makes Venice so unique and interesting, so it would be remiss not to spend a bit of time on them. You can take a waterbus (called a vaporetto), a watertaxi, or even a gondola depending on how much you want to spend. If you’re looking to save on costs, there are vaporettos that run the length of the grand canal so that you can see the entire length of the grand canal from the water.

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The grand canal is the largest and most well known canal in Venice and even if you don’t see it from the water, there are many places that you can walk along side of it and there are many bridges that pass over it so you can see most of the canal just by walking.

  • Rialto Bridge:

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The Rialto bridge is, as far as I know, the most famous bridge in Venice. It crosses over the Grand Canal and is quite large and impressive. Its design is very unique so it’s easy to spot and recognize in an instant.

And, if you’ve played the game Assassin’s Creed II then you’ve already crossed this bridge many times already and already know what it looks like so you should have no problem spotting it.

 

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Conclusion:

With Venice giving me a small taste of travelling through Italy, it makes me want to return to travel through more of the country. We really enjoyed our time in Venice and it is a place full of places to explore and photo opportunities. Every corner that you takes gives you another view of a canal with colourful buildings along each side. And in places like Piazza San Marco and Burano the photo opportunities are even more apparent.

The maze-like streets of Venice make it frustrating and difficult to navigate at the best of times, but on the other hand it presents and completely unique experience that can be quite fun if you allow yourself to wander and get lost from time to time. And even though Venice is incredibly beautiful and fun to explore, everything begins to look the same after a while and the isn’t a ton to see or do within the city itself once you’ve visited the major attractions. Because of this, I think the ideal time to spend in Venice would be between 3 to 5 days which would give you enough time to explore the city without getting bored or frustrated.

After our time in Venice, Hilary and I continued our Europe trip with our next stop in Lucerne, Switzerland where we were to spent a few days.


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