Winding streets, narrow canals, and four hundred pedestrian bridges connect the 100+ islands that comprise Venice, Italy. The Queen of the Adriatic, The Floating City. Venice was one of those places that I just HAD to see for myself. Also, I'm slightly concerned it won't be floating forever... but that Global Warming discussion is for another place and time.
Capital of the Northern region of Veneto, and home of row upon row of bàcari to get your fix of cicchetti (the fancy Italian version of tapas), Venice is a great place to sample food and drink. Our itinerary included a walking tour of five different bàcari, all with different local small plates and wines to sample. It was without a doubt one of my favorite parts of the trip! That might have been because one of my gal pals doesn't drink alcohol, and she gave me her wine samples at a few restaurants (thanks, B!) but it also might be because fresh fish, tomatoes, and cheese are all key in cicchetti creation. If you're looking to make your own cicchetti, stop by the Rialto Market for the freshest fixings!
If you love all things sweet and boozy, make a trip to Harry's Bar for THE original bellini. Harry's is an institution- the establishment opened their doors in 1931 and has hosted a various clientele including aristocrats, scholars, authors, and movie stars throughout the years. During WWII a portion of the establishment was taken over by the Fasciststs, installing a mess hall for their sailors, but just like the rest of Europe it survived and reopened doors after Venice was liberated. So do they make a good bellini? Heck yes! But fair warning, they're 18 euro a pop and rather small. Of course, you can't put a price on character and charm, and Harry's has plenty of it. This is, after all where Hemmingway wrote "Across the River and Into the Trees".
If you're looking to get your cocktail fix in a more cost efficient manner, you can always purchase a bottle of bellini at one of the many street vendors and sip while you stroll. Hydration is key, people!
Once you're feeling the bellini buzz, grab a gondola and be serenaded through the Grand Canal- I know this is on everyone's Venice bucket list! Not only is the Grand Canal a way to reach Venice's top attractions, its an attraction and experience in itself. Gondola rides are typically 30-60 minutes and can be a rushed and chaotic calamity or a completely romantic and lovely moment in time. To get the most from your gondola experience, I would recommend booking in advance. Typical cost is $20/person but if you don't mind a little splurge, book the $150 private tour! There are many options on viator.com!
The enchanting Grand Canal of Venice.
Venice is full of pedestrian bridges connecting the 117 islands, but only four span the Grand Canal. My favorite is the picturesque "Bridge of Sighs" (known as the Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian), one of the most iconic bridges in Venice. This bridge connects Doge's Palace with the Prigioni AKA prisons. Comprised of ornate white limestone, this footbridge received it's nickname for the legend that prisoners on their way from the Palace to the prison would let out a sorrowful sigh as they cast their last look at Venice through the bridge's tiny lattice covered windows.
The Rialto Bridge is beautiful and packed with restaurants and shopping nearby. The Academy Bridge (Ponte dell'Accademia) is named for it's crossing of the Grand Canal at the Galleria dell'Accademia museum. Because a little controversy makes everything more interesting, historical and beautiful Venice added a fourth canal-crossing bridge in 2008. This caused quite an uproar because of the bridge's modern appearance with it's steel beams and glass enclosures, not to mention the 10 million Euro price tag. Scandal alert!
Beyond its bridges, Venice is famed for sights such as St. Mark's Bascillica and it's beautiful domes. A few other notable spots: Doge's Palace, Murano, and the lovely Piazza San Marco.
As Venice isn't your typical city (did I mention it floats?), you may need to mix up your usual travel routine. Here's a few tips to consider during your planning:
--Don't try to commute from the main land. Just don't. If you are on a road trip, park your car in one of the garages on the outskirts and stay within the islands.
--Pay extra attention to the location of your hotel/air BnB, and it's proximity to public transportation. Trust me, you don't want to lug a bag through the very crowded and tiny cobblestone streets and bridges.
--Water taxi's are a lifesaver- the large ones are kind of like a bus on the water and relatively inexpensive. The smaller water taxi's can be a bit more pricey but also quicker.
--Unless you book a private gondola ride, six people go in a gondola. Don't be surprised if you're cozied up with a stranger if your party has less than six. And I do mean cozy!
My trip to Venice was short, so I didn't get to spend any time in the expansive museums, and for that reason I'd love to go back for a 3-4 day stay. If you're not into museums, I'd say 2 days is ideal! Venice gets a lot of flack in the world of travel bloggers for being overpriced, overcrowded, and downright touristy. Yes, Venice can be all those things in certain neighborhoods, but there is also so much charm to be found! The key is to do a little wandering off the beaten path.
They say you have to make time to "get lost in Venice". Revision- you will get lost in Venice, but damn it's a pretty place to be lost. Just don't fall into one of the canals!
BON VOYAGE, BABES! xoxo