So last Friday, my lovely boyfriend and myself got back from sunny (but freeeeezing) Venice, in Italy. It’s our first holiday together, our first couple’s holiday for either of us in general, and both of our fist time’s in Italy. I must highlight that I’ve wanted to go to Italy (in particular Venice) my entire life. You know that one place you’ve always wanted to explore? Mine was Venice – so it’s safe to say I went with pretty high expectations, and luckily for us it really didn’t disappoint.
We booked from the 5th to the 9th of January, flying with EasyJet and staying at total of four nights. In truth I was worried that four nights wouldn’t be enough, that we wouldn’t be able to see everything Venezia had to offer. I was very wrong. There’s a reason they call it a ‘City Break’, and my first piece of advice to anyone looking to visit here, would be that you DO go for a ‘break’, not a week holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I highly highly highly recommend going there. If you haven’t gone there at some point in your lifetime, you are really missing out. It’s beyond beautiful. The canal, St Marks Square, La Fenice Opera House, the streets at night time – it is truly breath taking. But four nights is more than enough, in fact you could definitely comfortably do it in three. There’s loads to do, many things to see, but you don’t want to over do it and give yourself time to ‘get bored’. Obviously if laying in bed for hours on end, and spending time/money on a swanky hotel is something you like, then by all means do it. We stayed out there to sight see and spend as much time outside of the hotel as possible, so that wasn’t our game plan.
When transferring from the airport to Venice, pay €27 for a return on a public water boat taxi – don’t waste your money before you’ve got there, plus why then you know you’ve got your return sorted! It takes an hour and 20 minutes, but it goes round all the little islands, it’s so pretty!
We stayed in the Orion Hotel, a simple traditional Italian style hotel literally a two minute walk away from San Marco/St Marks Square. On arrival we learnt that they had given us the room on the top floor; actually the only room up there, not as luxurious but it I definitely felt like it was penthouse treatment! In fact, one of the few people manning the front desk referred to it as ‘The room of paradise’, and I have to say I do agree. Being on the top floor meant climbing manyyyy stairs, but we overlooked surrounding buildings and were slightly away from the bustle of crowds in the streets below. We had a very comfortable double bed, with soft blankets instead of a quilt, an extra single bed (which ended up caked in all our stuff), a wardrobe, two bedside cabinets, and a cute little rug next to the bed. It’s in classic Venetian style: Striped bed sheets in dark colours, huge mirrors, old fashioned head boards and those beautiful Italian style windows that fling open like one in a Disney movie! The TV was naturally all in Italian, except the BBC News channel, so we came back extremely clued up with what was going on in the world.
Speaking of what was going on in the world, I can’t write this without mentioning what was going on in France at the time. ‘Je Suis Charlie’ seems to be the slogan flying off of everyone’s lips and after three gunmen went through the streets of Paris, killing 12 civilians within the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. All I can say is how much I condemn the three people who made this happen, how disgusted I am that people can do this to others – repeatedly. But France, oh France you did so well. It bought tears to my eyes to see you all stand strong and group together. I’m not sure whether #JeSuisCharlie was the right phrase to use? Personally I do not agree with some of the images Charlie Hebdo put together, however the overall message behind it – supporting freedom of speech – now that’s something I agree with. So congratulations France for rising so admirably in the face of terror. The other on going phrase used last week was #JeSuisAhmed, in the name of the young Muslim police officer who died fighting to protect the rights of those who insulted his faith. How humbling. Ahmed Merabet, you lived and died a true hero.
Whilst walking through the streets of Venice, I was so glad to see that the locals Italians were rising to support the French in this particularly appalling time.
Anyway, back to the happier thoughts of a lovely holiday. Our first day in Venice was spent naturally wandering around. I noted several times how lucky I was that Russell has such a good sense of direction; when I was seemingly totally lost, which is easy to do when every street looks the same, he knew exactly which way to keep walking. We managed to do the entire trip without a map at all, and we didn’t get completely lost once! Very proud. We realised very quickly that in the same way we sell hotdogs and burgers in the street, the Italians love grabbing a pizza to go, and it was delicious.
Venice made us beyond tired, in fact three out of four days we ended up taking a little afternoon siesta – I’m not even sorry. We blamed it on the ‘sea (canal) air’ but in truth why does is matter? We were on a nice cute romantic get away, if taking an hours nap everyday was something we needed to do then I don’ttttttt care. And plus it meant more time to take in the breath-taking sights in the evening. I’m not sure if it was a Christmas thing or not, but fairy lights are scattered across every street and it looks so magical.
Choosing places to eat –
Naturally I can only advise you about the places we went to, but my first tip would be to look at Trip Advisor before you enter. Most have staff standing outside trying to drag you in, like people do outside nightclubs – be blunt, don’t be fooled. Pay attention, if you see a lot of Italians in there it’s probably going to be better. A lot of people stay on the mainland and come across to Venice for a day trip (big mistake if you want to get a real feel for what Venice is truly about) which means between 6pm and 8pm the restaurants are bustling…but where as normally the rule of ‘busy restaurants show good restaurants’ rings true, due to the times when tourists eat, this rule no longer necessarily applies in Venice. We ate after 8pm every night, and it really showed in the quality of the places that we ended up going.
On the first night we sat at a little place called Riva del Vin, right on the side of the Canal. In fact, if you walk across the bridge, and go to the 4th restaurant along that side (remember to include the first one, that doesn’t have outdoor seating) then that’s it! We sat inside, thinking about how very chilly it was outside, but sat right next to the window so we could still look along the canal. I get the feeling they get a little annoyed about you asking how much things are, although service was overall lovely and very fast. In my travel diary I wrote ‘Russ had simple Penne Pasta in Pesto, which was delicious, and I had what I can only describe was the best Spaghetti Carbonara of my life’.
For those of you reading from countries that have restaurants such as Ask and Prezzo – they are lying. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a Carbonara from places like this… It’s supposed to be authentic Italian taste. Pshhhhhh. I often find, especially in Ask, I can never finish it. I always find it too sickly and overpowering. But in Venice? No no no. It’s creamy, and delicate, and just perfect. Mmmmmmmm. We decided to stuff our faces with deserts too, and ordered Honeydew Melon and something they call Fragola Con Panna. They even took the time to teach my how to say it, which gets them brownie points as far as I’m concerned! Fragola Con Panna is a very simple desert, consisting of Strawberries, Cream and Strawberry Sauce on the top – sounds very basic, but very quickly became our favourite Italian discovery! We actually came back to this lovely place on our final night too and sat outside under the warm heated lanterns, and considering it’s January it really wasn’t too cold at all.
Another place we liked was Al Teatro Coldini, which was a little further in. Here I had Risotto with Mixed Vegetables, and Russell enjoyed a Spaghetti With Meat Sauce (AKA bolognaise). Again very well priced and lovely service, although he did comment on me leaving some of my food! Maybe that’s super rude over there?
We found that if you sat somewhere very close to the square, or in a ‘prime position’ it was more about pretty quick service and alrightish food. I’d recommend eating in/near the square and on the canal, but be prepared that you’re more than likely paying for the experience, not the quality of food. Although an upside is that most restaurants hand out a portion of bread for free! (Beware, they may charge for Balsamic Vinegar or Olive Oil to dip it in)
Another place we ate at was Caffe Sara Ceno, the second one on the other side of the Canal. It was another outdoors cute romantic candle lit dinner, again we had two mains, desert, and two drinks for €60. They had red blankets to wrap around you which I just loved! Beware if you eat here, we got pretty abrupt service, in fact there were several occasions where we asked for something, and they just forgot about us. But overall it was lovely!
If you’re careful, ask about service and cover charges before eating, and don’t order anything that’s not on the menu without asking the price – then you should be fine. Venice has an expensive name for itself, especially in regards to food, but as a Londener I really don’t think the prices were too bad. We could’ve done it a hell of a lot cheaper had we needed to. However, we found one place that really brought shame to itself by having an incredibly greedy nature.
Bar Novo. I cannot make this any clearer, remember this name and DO NOT EVER GO THERE. Had I looked at Trip Advisor beforehand I would’ve seen the incredibly awful reviews, but she stood outside and just dragged us in! In total we bought two pasta dishes, some Bruschetta (which was literally cheese on toast with some tomatoes on it), a Bellini (bought in the shops for €4…bought here for €9!!!), a cola and some water…for €65!!!! It’s not near the square, it’s not near the canal, there is literally no reason for us to pay that much. Considering we paid a MAX of €60 when we did eat at the canal, that’s ridiculous! When she put down the bill she had the cheek to say ‘tip not included’ which was just a complete joke. Luckily this was on our last day, so didn’t muck us up too much – had we been in England I definitely would’ve argued and not paid that. Crazy.
Anyway considering we ate out every lunch and dinner, this was the only time we were screwed over, so I think we did pretty well! Something we did notice is service…Um try service with a smile? Not enough to ruin or holiday, or even get annoyed over, but service was pretty much always a little blunt. I’m not sure whether this was just an Italian thing, or whether it was because we were tourists, but it’s worth noting.
Pretty much the whole way through the trip) I was drinking an Italian drink called ‘Spritz’ – a mixture of Aperol or Campari and Prousecco. Something to note is that the Aperol version is muchhhh sweeter, and the cocktail including Campari is very bitter. I’m not a bitter gal myself, so Aperol was the way forward for me. However, for the fruity peach lovers try a Bellini – ohhhh myyyyy godddddd. Can’t say it’s got a lot of alcohol in it, so if you were trying to get drunk you’d probably have to drink quite a bit.
Speaking of drunk times – don’t go to Venice in search of a fabulous night life. Night time is for walking sweetly hand in hand and enjoying the lights across the canal water…there’s a couple of Italian bars, which I found a little intimidating, which you can locate by following the voices of a pretty drunk group of boisterous locals standing outside holding a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other.
There’s a lot of sight seeing to be done, like alottttt. On our second day we went out in search of the Teatro La Fenice, or in English, The Opera House. It’s simply stunning. It’s €9 each to enter and you pay an extra €3 for a ‘photo pass’, and it really is money well spent. I can’t say much about it other than it’s stunning. The pictures really speak for themselves.
We did the Palazza in St Marks Square on our last day, probably spending around 2 and a half hours in there. €32 again extremely well spent. Like most of Venice, everywhere was the most beautiful architecture, and it was clear no details were missed. My god was it beautiful.
Again, coffee in St Marks Square – everyone warns not to do it. But why go to Venice and not do it? It’s like one of those things you just have to do, like climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris. €21 for a coffee and a hot chocolate, but we sat by the window, and in truth it was probably the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life! Although the square was always bustling, I can imagine in the summer or over the festival period it was be absolutely rammed. They speak of orchestras filling the square battling in beautiful harmonies, with couples twirling round in the middle. How stunning that must be. You can’t help but try to picture it like it was in the olden days, simply beautiful.
If you get a chance, one evening walk across to the other side, and sit infront of the big cathedral. The lights gently shimmer off of the water, it’s peaceful and serene – just sit. And watch.
These photos really do just speak for themselves.
And lastly, obviously- the Gondola ride. You can try and barter with them, but the legal and safe Gondola’s won’t budge. As a young couple we just had to, and although €80 is a lot, it covered every main landmark in the city. They give you a little blanket and you cosy up tight. You hear about the water smelling but honestly we only smelt it a couple of times, and it really wasn’t that bad at all? And we saw absolutely no sewer rats! Our ‘driver’ gently crooned a sweet song as he steered us expertly around the tight corners, impressively never scraping the Gondola once. He pointed out the landmarks, including the music school where Bach, Beethoven and Mozart all studied – as a musician myself I found this fascinating. He told us a cute little story too, ‘You kiss under every bridge and you love forever and ever and ever’ – it’s probably just an old fable but it’s was beyond romantic. We got on the gondola just as the sun was setting, so by the time we got onto the main Canal, it was dark and the lights were twinkling – just spelt R O M A N C E. He rocked the boat and shouting ‘big movie kiss big movie kiss!!!’ Cute central.
In essence, if this hasn’t convinced you to go to Venice, then you’re stupid. Get out there. Listen to my advice. Stay in the same hotel. Do everything you’re supposed to do as a tourist, no matter how many negative people will tell you ‘it’s too expensive ‘ – shut up, stop whining. Go explore the world!
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Thank you for reading!
Ps. Sorry if my romance makes you vom, I’m not normally so cringe but seriously in Venice? You don’t have a choice.
Pps. If that ridiculous amount of photos doesn’t seem like enough for you, here are a few random ones I’ll chuck in for free!