Another daunting task, to offer some new perspective on a destination written about in countless blogs, travel guides, magazines…everywhere!
Well, what we offer you here is quite simply what we learned and experienced, and what made it magical for us. We hope you’ll enjoy reading our story, seeing the beautiful images, and find it useful if you or someone you know is going…or if you’ve been, rekindle the memories you cherish…and as always, please comment on what we may have missed.
Prior to our trip we heard all the negative stories. Venice is overrun with selfie-stick tourists. It can be dirty, smelly, hot…sound like most other big cities in the world? But we found a magic unlike any other city in the world. And with that here is our list of Magical Moments.
1) Arrival in Venezia
After the long, jet-lag inducing flight from NJ, the Alilaguna Water Taxi from the mainland felt like our first tour. Our anticipation to get there was energizing. Catching glimpses of Venice and the lagoon islands had us on the edge of our seats. But the best part was being personally met and warmly greeted at the Arsenale stop by our tour advisor, Lorenzo Guglielmi. We can’t say enough about everything Lorenzo, his company, his team and friends have done to make this a perfect trip. We sincerely give the highest recommendation possible to anyone visiting Venice to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.italiandays.it to plan your trip. In this day and age where we have a world of information at our fingertips there is still nothing like the personal attention one gets from this service. Imagine having a family member waiting to greet and guide you the moment you arrive on foreign soil. That’s how we felt.
2) Welcome to Venezia
Our welcome spritz: Apero (an orange liqueur with prosecco ) or Campari Spritz with a bit of cicchetti (small plates) was just a short turn down Via Garibaldi. A fantastic destination in the Castello sestieri (neighborhood).
Formerly a canal, now a wide, piazza-like street lined with bars, eateries and pastry shops. A wonderful place to take it all in. We sat outside Lorenzo’s favorite bar amazed that we were actually in Venice.
Our apartment was just a few short streets away, in a picturesque courtyard we only could have imagined.
3) St. Mark’s Square at Sunset
The crowds thin out and the sky behind the Campanille turns glorious shades from orange to deep blue.
Music is tastefully performed at the outdoor cafes by musicians covering everything from The Eagles to Sinatra to Disney Classics. Enjoy the bruschetta, another spritz, and end with a pastry or gelato. Magical!
4) Cross the Accademia Bridge
You’ll have to pass through some crowded, narrow streets…just breathe…pass by all the fashion glitz and souvenir stands. On the far side of the bridge you’ll be rewarded with the iconic view of the Grand Canal opening into the harbor. Make your way to the railing and pause to record the image in your memory forever.
5) The quiet streets of Dorsoduro
Once past the busy Accademia area, the crowds disappear. Wander to find just the right tiny wine bar, then treat yourself to lunch on the Guidecca Canal, taking in the magnificent views of Guidecca.
We picked Ristorante Lineadombra – a bit pricey, but the table with a view was well worth it, as we feasted on fresh pasta with sauteed octopus. Venice is not an easy city for great food. The mediocre eateries with pictures of food posted outside and ‘hosts’ beckoning you in are to be avoided. Best to get recommendations (please ask us in the comments area below, or consult with www.italiandays.it).
6) Santa Maria della Salute
This iconic landmark at the tip of Dorsoduro, right at the mouth of the Grand Canal, should not be missed. The octagonal design, capped by the beautiful domes, sends streams of light to stream down to the amazing mosaic-tile floor that is surely from heaven.
7) St. Mark’s Bascillica, the Campanille (bell tower), and the Doges Palace
OK, how can one even consider a trip to Venice without exploring these iconic architectural masterpieces? Well, you can’t, but know that everyone else in Venice will visit as well. So, book in advance, skip the lines, and invest in a guided tour to hear the incredible history of the Venetians throughout the ages. It will be well with it, despite having to put up with the chaotic logistics of meeting places, checked bags and waiting in the hot sun…patience my friends!
a) The Campanille (bell tower) actually has an elevator. The view from the top is magnificent – just be aware that the massive bells, directly above your head will ring on the hour – louder than you can imagine!
b) The Doges Palace tour will take you through the barbaric history of the ruling class of Venice during it’s heyday as a powerful center of international trade. You’ll cross the famous Bridge of Sighs…impossibly narrow, to the prison, where you can only imagine the brutality that took place there. You’ll catch what was the prisoner’s last glimpse of Venice through the narrow window openings…understanding at some level how the bridge got its name.
c) St. Mark’s Basilica maintains the reverence this sacred place of worship deserves. Women must have shawls to cover bare shoulders and low cut tops, and everyone talks in hushed whispers, if at all. The terrace view, where you’ll find the famous Triumphal Quadriga (the four horses, the originals have been moved inside) can only be described as beautiful.
Lastly, if you happened to bring a backpack (which I always do when traveling, but with today’s unfortunately necessary security measures I am beginning to reconsider), you’ll have to check it outside, down a narrow alley that can be hard to find. Simply stop and check the signs at the entrance that point out the way.
8) Exploring the lagoon islands
Venice is comprised of over 100 islands scattered throughout the picturesque salt marshes. Whether by water taxi or private tour, don’t miss the opportunity to see the sights from the water view. We chose to stay with our trusted friend and guide Lorenzo and our captain Marco from www.italiandays.it
We were once again treated like family, enjoying the sun and salty air, feasting on fresh seafood, accompanied by authentic Bellinis, freshly squeezed white pears from Verona, mixed with Prosecco, a selection of cicchetti and a baby watermelon for dessert. We loved learning the history of sparsely populated Torcello, the parent island from which Venice was populated. Settled in the year 452, where we toured the main square featuring the Church of Santa Fosca, and the simple, spare 11th century Greek cross church.
Our other main stop was the enchanting island of Burano, cited as one of the 10 most colorful places in the world. The brightly painted houses and the leaning bell tower, reflected in the green waters of channels. It seemed to be paradise.
The sunset was magnificent as we dis a ‘drive-by’ of St. Mark’s Square. Unforgettable.
9) Climb the Scala Contarini del Bovalo
This is truly off the beaten path…we were determined to find the beautiful cylindrical tower in a tiny piazza, down a tiny barely marked alley. About midway between St. Marks and the Rialto, it looks like a mini leaning tower of Pisa. It wasn’t leaning, but we were rewarded by sweeping views from the heart of the city, all to ourselves. Once you set out to find it, don’t give up!
10) The Jewish Ghetto
Another quiet sestieri in the Cannaregio neighborhood. Centuries of history lie within the quiet streets, campos and quaint eateries. A wonderful place to stroll, where every turn beckons a picture to be taken (and I took them all…). Couples sitting along the canals at waterfront tables, on the steps of bridges and at the water’s edge added an air of romance. We ate at the most authentic restaurant, where only we spoke English. We are sworn to secrecy to not publish the name, but if you are traveling to Venice, contact us at email@example.com and we’ll share the secret just with you!
Everyone we spoke to gave us this sage advice. We took it, and were incredibly glad we did. Don’t pack every day with tours…Venice is a city to explore, and you’ll be rewarded with magical moments discovered. Carla likes to say ‘sometimes a place finds you’. Enjoy, linger, discover and remember how it felt just to be there. Rest your tired legs and treat yourself to the afternoon spritz, bottle of wine, plate of chichi, pizza, pasta or fresh seafood. Find alleys and canals all to yourself. Venice will stay in your heart forever.