It’s now been over six weeks since we got back from our beautiful four day trip to Venice, and I wish I could hop back on a plane and be sat back on the Grand Canal sipping on Aperol Spritz (THE best summer drink, and it tastes sooo much better in Italy.)
It’s no secret that my Husband and I love Italy. It is hands down my favourite country in the world. Its many regions differ so much from one another that each time we go; it’s a different holiday experience. We have been lucky enough to visit Naples, Milan, Turin, Sicily, both Lake Maggiore (you can read about that trip here) and Lake Garda, Verona, Sorrento and Amalfi in the last few years. All stunningly perfect places, but Venice is completely different, not just to other places in Italy, but to anywhere else in the world.
Its secret canals and arching bridges mean there is a photo opportunity at every turn. Annoying for my husband when I am obsessed with taking photos….
Venice – the facts
- Venice is the capital of the Veneto region of Italy and sits in a rather large lagoon in the Adriatic Sea.
- There are 118 islands, 416 bridges, 177 canals and 127 squares in Venice
- The Venice lagoon is 15 meters deep at its deepest point.
- The cities alley ways are tiny, with some just 53cm wide. Not good when the only food you can eat is carbs….
- There are no cars, bikes, scooters or any other motorized vehicles besides boats allowed in the city
Booking our trip
We booked our trip through Expedia. Not something we had ever done before, we usually look what deals British Airways holidays have on offer but on this occasion, Expedia was hugely competitive when booking flights and hotel.
Home for our four day visit was Boscolo Venezia, a five star hotel part of Marriott’s Autograph collection. It was beautiful, and very authentically Venetian. We normally opt for modern, boutique hotels when staying away from home, but Boscolo gave the full Venetian experience complete with fabric walls and over the top chandeliers. Aside from the decor, the hotel was lovely. It had a spa that hotel guests could use and although we stayed on a room only basis, there was a bar and restaurant too if needed.
Located right on the edge of the city of Venice, it sat in the Cannaregio district which is mainly unchanged by tourism and gives a really good taste of local Venice life. There were bakeries and bars lining the canal and it felt like a really laid back neighbourhood.
It was ideal as the water taxi stop was a four minute ride away and the hotel has its own boat and pier should you order a private boat. It also has the one of the largest secret walled gardens in Venice which made you feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the streets outside its walls.
Our flight from Gatwick landed around 10.30am and as we’d only opted for hand luggage, it meant we were at the water taxi stop just ten minutes after getting off the plane. We caught a 30 minutes water taxi ride and got off at the stop closest to our hotel. The weather wasn’t great, infact it was really grey and very windy but it still didn’t dampen the beauty of the place. Check in wasn’t until later so we left our bags at reception and headed off with armed with a map and a rough guide by the reception of how to walk to San Marco Square.
Typical us… we got lost after about three minutes! The bridges and gorgeous buildings are a big distraction and we just found ourselves just wondering, which is what we like to do anyway. We found an amazing pizza place that sold huge slices to take away, so looking like true tourists; we carried on whilst eating our first of many pizzas.
After a while we started to get our bearings (with the help of Google Maps) and made our way to the Rialto Bridge. So stunning to see it in person. But SO busy. Think Leicester Square busy. We found that to be true of most places in the centre of the city, but its Venice and everyone else was there to do the same as us and just explore.
I am not a huge fan of crowds, and it was stupidly windy so San Marco Square for me on this first day was a little underwhelming. It was starting to rain and was a bit chilly so we couldn’t appreciate the true beauty of the square and all it has to offer.
After a couple of hours of exploring we decided to head back to the hotel, stopping for our first Aperol Spritz of many on the way in a lovely little local bar just around the corner from our hotel. 3 Euro for a drink cannot be bad! Whilst walking back, we spotted a restaurant we wanted to head back to for dinner so we took a card for later so we could navigate back to it. It’s amazing how all the alley ways feel the same… Venice is very much a case of, if you see something you want to buy, get it as you’ll never find it again!
After an hour in the hotel spa (you’ve got to make the most of the free parts the hotel offers!) we got ready to head out. The evening was chilled and relaxed as we ate in the restaurant we’d spied earlier (Mozzarella and Parma Ham, followed by huge bowls of pasta, and red wine) and then had a lovely stroll back to the hotel at dust, eating obligatory gelatos. It really is such a beautiful place, especially as the sun is going down and once the crowds have calmed down (dust was my favourite time of day as it was so much quieter). It feels just as romantic as Paris walking along the water’s edge.
We woke up to pure sunshine on our second day and I could not have been more excited. I am one of those people who take a while to adapt to a new place. The first day of a holiday is a weird one for me, maybe down to the fact that I can get anxious, I always feel out of sorts to begin with. But I woke raring to go and we’d planned to visit some of the Islands, Murano and Burano which was the main thing I wanted to do on this trip.
We popped back on a water taxi after spending a while trying to understand which route took us where – but we managed it and after a 15 minute boat ride, we arrived in gorgeous Murano, famed for its glass blowing.
Walking round Murano bought back everything we love about Italy. The buildings, the water, the people. It was bliss and felt so different to the business of the city from the day before.
We wondered round for a couple of hours, taking in the views until we found a water taxi stop to take us to Burano, a small island known for its brightly coloured houses. Being an avid instagrammer, this is a place that crops up a lot on my feed and I was convinced it could not be as pretty as it is in pictures, but it really, really is. This was hands down my favourite place we visited over the whole trip and I would visit again in a heartbeat.
Every house had its own unique colour and the centre of the island housed a wonky bell tower. Truly stunning!
By the time we got the water taxi back to our hotel is was only 1.45 in the afternoon, so we decided to make the most of the hotel’s free boat service to San Marco square. We thought this would be a really popular service, but when the boat’s captain came to collect us and guide us through the gardens to the hotel’s private pier, it became apparent it was just us on the boat. Moving at high speed across the lagoon in a gorgeous wooden speed boat was a proper James Bond moment. It was exactly how I imagined a trip to Venice to be in my head – if you are George Clooney and Amal! We were like excited children whilst we got taken into the heart of Venice.
That evening we visited a new viewing terrace that overlooks the whole city. The concierge at our hotel recommended we visit to take in all the views. It sits a top of the T Fondaco department store, right next to the Rialto Bridge and you can see for miles. It’s well worth a visit… and it’s free! Numbers are limited to only a certain amount of people at a time, but you are capped to 15 minutes of visiting time, so you would never have to wait long. We then had drinks by the Grand Canal and went out for a Pizza dinner in the neighbourhood by our hotel, obviously followed by more ice cream. If you ever visit Italy, go to Grom. Hands down the best gelato we’ve tasted.
Today was my favourite day! I was so excited again when we woke up to another day of pure sun. We went out for Espressos and pastries and ate like true Italians, standing at the bar. We then headed out on the Vaporetto to visit the Lido. The Lido is essentially what the Hampton’s is to New Yorkers. A seaside paradise, apart from the main hustle and bustle of the tourist spots. We visited out of season, and workers were prepping the beaches ready for the influx of summer visitors.
The Lido is an island just 6 miles long and a half hour boat ride from the city of Venice. Once we arrived, we went straight to the bike shop to hire some bicycles for the morning. Much to my panic, the roads on the Lido were busy with cars. I didn’t expect there to be any! 20 Euros later we were handed a bicycle each, no helmet (!) and little fold out map with some bike routes. We nervously started to explore. I am not going to lie, I was a bit scared cycling on the road when I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a teenager. especially considering the mad drivers in Italy.
Once we got going, there was no stopping us! The Lido is absolutely beautiful. We stopped off on the beach by the hotel were the Venice Film Festival is held annually, then continued to cycle 6 miles to the end of the island. Once we were out of the main town, we were in glorious Italian country side, which is my favourite.
We stopped for a little Aperol Spritz before starting the cycle back as the sun was starting to get hot. We stopped on the way back to admire the cute canals and bridges that the Lido has to offer.
We dropped the bikes off, both unharmed (!) and headed back to San Marco Square by boat. After a wonder around a this time, very sunny San Marco square (I really could appreciate the beauty in the sunshine this time). Hilariously, Craig getting pooed on by pigeons, not once, but TWICE in the space of about 30 seconds. (I nearly wet myself in public!). After the pigeon incident, we swiftly left the square with its hundreds of threatening pigeons and decided to take the plunge and go on a Gondola ride. It really didn’t appeal to me before we went to Venice, but I am so glad we did as it’s such an experience.
The 80 Euro price tag is standard through the whole of Venice, and may sound a little steep for 30 minutes, but it was just gorgeous. We started by the Rialto bridge, and went on the Grand Canal for a short time, luckily it was fairly quite as it can get pretty busy. Think the M25 but for boats! We then spent the last 20 minutes being guided around the most serene secret canals that no walking or bridge crossing would have ever taken us too. At some points you couldn’t hear anything but the oar entering the water, which is amazing considering how busy Venice is. We loved our Gondola ride and would urge anyone to do it. It wasn’t gimmicky, or forcefully over romantic – just so much to see and take in. A really special memory.
After our rather pricey boat ride, it meant we had to have a thrifty lunch but it actually ended up being one of my favourite meals due to the setting! Crisps and prosecco on the banks of the canal is the holiday dream.
Our last evening in Venice was spent with a trip to the spa before heading out for a quiet meal once again in our neighborhood. It was a Thursday evening and we got the sense it was the night be out if you are a local. Lots of cool bars threw open their doors and set up tables on the banks of the canal. We then headed back to reluctantly pack our bags for the journey home.
We were lucky because our flight home wasn’t until 4.30 in the afternoon so we spent our final morning in Venice eating canolli and wandering around the Rialto fish market. As we’d headed out early in the day to make the most of our final hours, we treated our self to one last meal, this time right under the Rialto Bridge. More pizza and Aperol of course!
Our trip to Venice was wonderful and we felt we went for the right amount of time. I would highly recommend Venice, in fact ANY where in Italy as a beautiful holiday destination. I would recommend buying a Vaporetto travel card to anyone visiting, as we didn’t and spent a small fortune on our many water taxi trips, and felt we could have made a big saving. One to bare in mind next time we visit!
Now the two week countdown begins until our next trip away to Portugal at the end of June! I best get packing…