Been there, Done that: Venice

Venice — the Queen of the Adriatic! Some people also refer to it as the “City of Bridges” because the city is surrounded by water. No matter what nickname this great city goes by, it definitely warrants a place on everyone’s bucket list.

Many believe this is a city only for romantics, but it’s also a city for those who love history, culture, architecture and culinary cuisine. My interests lie in food and architecture so I knew this was a place I had to visit before the end of my tour.

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Just a two-to-three hour flight away, anyone can experience what Venice has to offer in a short weekend. If you plan right, it’s possible to stay three full days in the city and not have to spend a ton of money or waste any days of leave. My friends and I spent a weekend exploring Venice which was just the right amount of time to appreciate the city and still have the desire to come back. We flew into the Venice Treviso airport late Saturday evening and hopped on a shuttle bus, which was more like a luxury bus, for a 45-minute ride into the heart of Venice. Tickets for the shuttle were only 10 Euro a piece which, to me, is super cheap! The bus dropped us off at a transportation hub, where people can get flights, water buses and taxis to the surrounding areas.

Once there, we purchased a 30 Euro water bus pass for the weekend since the water buses run nearly 24 hours a day. Now here’s where things got a little tricky — because Venice is a labyrinth of alleyways and corridors, one could get lost fairly easily without the help of a navigator, a map and very specific instructions on how to get to your hotel. Luckily, my friends had intimate knowledge of Venice, since this was their third time to the city.

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Our bed and breakfast was located in the Rialto Mercato district which was about a 10 to 15-minute walk from the famous historical area of San Marco Square. This proved beneficial since we were near “the action” yet a little away from it all to enjoy some peace and quiet. We decided to hit the sights at 8 a.m., the next morning for two reasons: one, to beat the heat, and two, to get there before the other tourists showed up.

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The first place we visited was Palazzo Ducale also known as Doge’s Palace. This building served as the palace of justice and as the seat of the government where decisions were made about the wellbeing of Venice. The palace was constructed in the 9th century and is of a Venetian-gothic design. This is a direct contrast to Byzantine structure of the Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica) located just across the way. But if architecture isn’t your forte, they have plenty of street entertainment not to mention several restaurants for one to choose from to include some tasty gelato!

Once we had our fill of this tasty treat, we headed over to the Scala Contrarini del Bovolo, which is a Renaissance spiral staircase designed by Giovanni Candi and constructed in 1499. By this time, everyone was itching to spend some hard-earned cash over at the island of Murano, also known as the “Glass Island.” Here, one can get all kinds of glass trinkets, jewelry and artwork, and pricier items such as wine sets and chandeliers. But don’t take off just yet – have lunch in one of the island’s restaurants. We had lasagna and pizza, and it was some of the best Italian food I’ve had to this day, and once again, it’s super cheap! If you’re not into glass trinkets, a short trip by water bus or taxi to the Island of Burano might be the place for you.

Burano is about a 20-minute water taxi from Murano and well worth it if you’re into lace and artwork. In my opinion, it’s one of the best kept secrets in the Venetian Lagoon as it’s full of vibrant-colored houses that make for fantastic photo opportunities. Walk around, take pictures and enjoy the ambiance of small shops and no crowds. The local population is roughly 2,500 people. At certain times in the day, you may feel you’re out there all by yourself.

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Heading back over to the main island we stopped along the San Marco Piazza pier where countless numbers of vendors hawked their wares. They sold everything from food, shoes, purses, Venetian masks, magnets, clothes and key chains. Some were a little pricey, but if you’re a good at bargaining with the vendor, you may get your souvenir at a decent price. Dinner at one of the restaurants along the pier is also available, and I highly recommend the pizza.

We couldn’t leave Venice without making a few more stops to some famous landmarks such as the Realto Bridge, considered to be the “heart of Venice” and the Bridge of Sighs. The Bridge of Sighs is famous because it’s the last bridge prisoners crossed before heading to prison to be executed. Last but not least, we couldn’t leave Venice without travelling down the Grand Canal. For those looking for something romantic to do, a sail up the Grand Canal at night in a Gondola might be just the thing you need something to set the mood. It shouldn’t cost you anymore more than 80 Euro for a 30-minute ride and, from what I hear, is well worth the money. That’s definitely an item on my list for our next visit to the city!

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Until then, heading home from such a wonderful trip was just as easy as how we first got there. Just repeat the steps backward — only, when you purchase your shuttle bus tickets, be sure to inform the clerk which airport you need to go to, since they service the Venice Marco Polo and Venice Treviso airports.

If you have plans to visit Venice anytime soon, my recommendation is to do it before the winter time because it can get really cold. Also, wear a good pair of walking shoes, carry a detailed map along with a schedule for the water bus, and experience the sights, sounds and taste of Venice.

Happy travels!

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