As a Venice virgin Kelly informed me that I should be writing this post from a newbie perspective. Kelly fell in love with Venice a few years back, and she was so excited to return. I on the other hand was about to see what all the fuss was about!
Train from Bologna to Venice
We travelled to Venice from Bologna, and this was the final length of our 2 week Italy trip, talk about save the best to last, ey? Our train tickets had been booked in advance and cost around €13 each from Bologna Centrale to Venezia Santa Lucia. The train journey was just over 2 hours long and again the Italy trains didn’t disappoint – on time, air conditioned, spacious and comfortable. Training around Italy is so easy!
Coming into Venice on train was quite incredible – one road in and the same road out, with water either side of you. You kind of know what to expect, as you’ve seen the movies and the photos in magazines etc., but actually crossing the Venetian Lagooon to get to the main island really got me excited.
Where to Stay in Venice
On arrival I had my first experience of crossing a Venetian bridge, only a minimal pedestrian bridge, but still a bridge and a bridge in Venice at that! We picked up our keys from our AirBnb host in a shop near the bus park and off we went in 33 degrees heat to find our apartment. After walking over several bridges, we arrived at our apartment which was absolutely perfect for the 3 nights we had. It was very clean, modern and only a 20 minute walk to Rialto Bridge (the centre point of Venice). It even had a canal view. Through a small window, but still it counts…
After researching (for hours) we struggled to find cheap accommodation in Venice, but for £72 a night we thought this place was a steal in comparison. We would certainly recommend this cosy studio in Venice city centre, you can find it on AirBnb here.
Things to Do in Venice
Go get lost
Normally I am quite organised with my planning of things to see and the routes to take, you can thank my map.me (app) for that! However in Venice we found ourselves just getting lost, and actually really enjoying it. There are so many little alleys and streets that have the potential of leading you somewhere, or actually nowhere. From this we found cheap bars, art exhibitions, gondola photo opportunities (with no one around) and quirky shops. I don’t think you’ve had the full Venice experience until you have got lost.
Rialto Bridge, Venice
For me there are two ways to experience Rialto Bridge, or 3 if you have lots of money – it’s full of jewellery shops! Firstly don’t go over the bridge, but go either side where there are little areas overlooking the beautiful Grand Canal. From these areas you can sit and watch the water traffic go by from underneath Rialto Bridge. It’s like watching the A12 in boat form, it’s quite fascinating and can sometimes be carnage when a few barges come along. If it wasn’t for Kelly, I could sit here for hours watching the world go by with a few glasses of wine, to which a lot of people did. These areas fill up quickly and are fantastic photo opportunities with the Rialto Bridge as the backdrop.
Secondly would be to walk over the bridge itself, and this is likely something you will have to do, as this is one of the only bridges to get over from one side of the Grand Canal to the other. There were many instances when me and Kelly stopped on this bridge to admire the Grand Canal. In the morning you will see delivery barges docked and hard at work. You’ll then experience watching the water buses and gondola’s start their business. On our last evening we watch the sunset on Rialto and it was a fantastic memory of our trip.
Piazza San Marco, Venice
The Piazza San Marco is manic. We arrived here sweating in 30 degree heat, after walking 30 minutes from our apartment. I think we got a little lost in the alleys of Venice, but hey, that’s all part of the fun.
St. Mark’s Campanile, Venice
Based in the Piazza (you can’t really miss it), we decided to take the trip to the top of the bell tower – St. Mark’s Campanile. It was quite difficult convincing Kelly to take this trip, but I was adamant to see the views and as soon as I mentioned it was a lift, rather than stairs, she was more at ease. We arrived mid afternoon and queued for about 30 minutes in blistering heat (there’s no shade in this queue people), there were queues all day long, even at 9 in the morning. The ticket on the door cost €8 each, but if you have the money you can book online in advance and skip the queue for €12.
€8 can seem a little expensive getting a lift to the top of a building, however the views from the top make it all worth while. You have a 360 view of Venice and watching the boats dotting around the islands is priceless. We even got to experience the chime of the bell – which amusingly scared a lot of the tourists!
St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice
We had already seen St Mark’s Basilica from the outside on previous days, but were intrigued to see what was inside. On previous days there had been very long queues that snaked all the way around Doge’s Palace. We therefore decided to go inside before our trip to Murano, Burano & Torcello one morning and started queueing at 9.30, where the doors opened at 9.45. It took us 45 minutes in the queue, which we were happy about as it looked so much longer on previous days, so we would recommend getting there early. Also part of the queuing remains in the shade of Doge’s Palace which is bonus!
Entry to St. Mark’s is free and you are told to leave your bag in the luggage room close by, which I believe is also free, however there was even a queue for this! Luckily my small gymsack (I think that’s the term!) was ok. Kelly had to cover her shoulders and knees and we were told that no photos could be taken inside (here we go again!).
Walking into St. Mark’s Basilica you really get that WOW factor! The amount of decoration is phenomenal and the walls and ceilings are embedded with the tiniest of mosaic tiles – it’s quite the spectacle! There isn’t an area that isn’t filled with mosaic. Prepare to witness Chandeliers as tall as the building itself, as they drop close to ground level. Unfortunately the experience was ruined somewhat by tourists taking photos after being warned – there’s no stopping them and the lack of respect really grinds on me.
Upstairs in St. Mark’s Basilica
Again, I had to convince Kelly on this one… but whilst you’re in the Basilica you have the option at the end to head upstairs and overlook the Piazza. I basically thought this was just a photo opportunity, but as we headed up the steep steps we actually discovered that the €5 each entry cost also included the museum, which was on the same floor. The museum was actually really good, and we spent 20 minutes walking around. As you walk around, you see the Basilica from a different viewpoint. You also learn about the mosaic tiles, history and get to see the 4 original roman bronze statues of St. Mark’s horses, which are currently replaced by replicas on the front façade.
Adding to this, the views of the Piazza from the top were definitely worth while. Pay the extra €5!
Bridge of Sighs, Venice
I actually started taking photos of this bridge without knowing what it was or the history behind it, it just made for a good photo! It wasn’t until I asked Kelly “aren’t we going to see the Bridge of Sighs?”, to which she replied saying “that was it!” once we had walked past it. So of course, I went back to take more obligatory photos of this piece of history. It is suggested that the Bridge of Sighs got its name from prisoners crossing it having their final sigh whilst looking over beautiful Venice through the window, before being taken down to their cells.
Doge’s Palace, Venice
We didn’t actually go into Doge’s, so I can’t really count it. However we did walk past it on many occasions and certainly admired the look of the palace. I think by this time both me and especially Kelly, were a little bored of palaces/museums as we had been in so many over the duration of the 2 week trip, and forking out another €20 each didn’t appeal to us.
Gondola’s in Venice
Yep, there’s loads, but are they worth doing? I found myself repeatedly coming back to this question throughout the trip. Shall we? Shan’t we?
In the end, we opted out of the Gondola, as the €80 price tag (or €100 after 7pm) for 30 minutes was a little above our budget and we’d prefer to spend it on food, and we did, on a steak in fact! That be said, the Gondola is an integral part of Venice and if you have the money, certainly go do it. You could even split the cost 6 ways if you have a group.
Throughout the trip we heard a few bad gondola experiences, where a couple had been taken around the more quieter canals that really smelt and another having their time cut short. We also found that the the Gondoliers didn’t always seem the most interested, and you would often find them with one hand on the oar and the other on their mobile phone. In fact this Gondolier attitude ruined quite a few of my photos…
Shops in Venice
Whilst going through our ‘getting lost stage’ we came across some gems across Venice. These gems included gelato parlours, sweet shops, venetian themed shops, toy stores, Murano glass shops and art exhibitions. There’s so much to see… and find!
Murano, Burano & Torcello
If you have the time, this trip cannot be missed, and you can probably do it all in half a day from Venice, we would suggest 3-5 hours. We purchased our AVTO water bus tickets from Ferry Terminal Rialto and it cost €20 each. The tickets lasted for 24 hours from the time you purchase them, we found this to be the cheapest way of getting around the islands. However once purchased, we found out that near Ferry San Marco you can purchase tour tickets around the three islands for exactly the same price (20€), so in hindsight we wish we had purchased these, because it would have included a glass factory visit in Murano.
Once we had our bus ticket we were sent from Rialto to San Marco to Ferry Terminal S. Zaccaria where we eventually found our number 7 water ferry to Murano. It was a bit complicated and the ferry stations get very busy, so do your research beforehand.
The trip to Murano from Venice took about 40 minutes, and upon arrival we were introduced to another stunning island with river and bridges. We walked into our first ‘original’ Murano glass shop to find a guy glass blowing and another painting glass. There was quite an audience in this shop and Kelly informed me we would see much more, so we moved on. And oh was she so wrong! Murano Island is very small, and can be walked around in about 30 minutes. For 25 of those minutes we didn’t see another glass blower in sight. We did however see so many shops selling Murano glass products, they are really fascinating and all offer up something new.
It got to a point where we were close to Murano Faro (the ferry terminal to leave) and Kelly looked like she wanted to leave. So I said “well I haven’t ‘properly’ seen any glass blowing yet”, to which we then got our phones out and researched glass blowing factory’s to find out entry was €10 each. Kel thought this was expensive, however there was a glimmer of hope… we came across this shop called Fornace Artigiana “Ai Dogi”, which is right near Murano Faro and allows you to watch the glass blowing from behind a curtain in the shop, for only €1!
The products in this shop were pretty awesome too…
This was the best €1 I’ve ever spent! As a group of around 15 we watched one of the guys produce 3 glass horses within the space of 7 minutes and the second guy create some colourful glasses in front of the burning furnace. The talent from these two was out of this world! We weren’t allowed to take photos which was a shame, but the experience was fantastic! This made my Murano experience.
What didn’t make my Murano experience, is then waiting in a 45 minute queue for the water bus to the other islands. It was horrendous and there didn’t seem to be much management at these ferry terminals.
We decided to visit Torcello from Murano, as everyone had got off the water bus at the Burano stop beforehand. In all honesty there isn’t much to Torcello, but it is a cute little island none the less. We walked around it and back in about 30 minutes. Within that time we walked along the canal, took an obligatory photo on the bridge and walked around the grounds of the cathedral. Other than that there are about 3 restaurants (2 very expensive ones) and a free water fountain, which we took advantage of.
It’s safe to say that Kelly was really feeling the pose in Torcello and stole some guys chair…
Burano is the home to colourful houses and a fascinating little place – a lot bigger than I thought also. Apparently it’s the place to eat fish for 5 times cheaper than Venice. Sometimes I wish we were fish fans, but we stuck to pizza. We ended up walking around the island for about an hour, there’s lots to take in and the areas of colour draw you in. Definitely worth a visit!
Where to Eat & Drink in Venice
Pizzeria Ristorante da Sara, Venice
On our first night we ate in Pizzeria Ristorante da Sara, after liking the menu, location and the reviews on TripAdvisor. We both had our first Aperol Spritz in Venice and enjoyed a pasta dish each. Our bill came to €30 which we thought was cheap considering places we had looked at throughout the day. We also found that a lot of the restaurants served fish, which we weren’t keen on. This food and portion size was great and the service fantastic, considering they had just let in a school group of 27 and accepted another group of 30! First night, success!
Cook in Venice
Partly down to budget and partly down to having our own apartment we (or shall I say I) decided to cook a pasta dish on our second night. I really wanted to cook with the big pasta we were so use to seeing! So we nipped down to the local Conad City and picked up about €7 worth of ingredients, including thick tagliatelle, arrabbiata sauce, veg, pepperoni slices and of course parmesan. I have to say myself (and Kelly agreed) that the pasta dish was so tasty and better than what we could do at home. We had pasta left for lunch the next day too. Cooking in Venice, tick!
Cafe Noir, Venice
With an Aperol Spritz setting you back only €2.50 each you cannot go wrong with this place. We had about €8 in change left on our last night so spent it all in here. It does have a student vibe, with fairly modern music, but that suited us. You could easily forget the time in a place like this.
We actually picked up lunch from Cafe Noir one day also as it was close to our apartment. You can pick up a large veg/meat thick wrap for €2.50, the cheapest we found across Venice, and when we say the cheapest, there were places selling exactly the same meal for €6/€7 near St. Marks.
Ristorante Florida, Venice
We really wanted to make our last night in Venice special, and after scrimping the night before on eating indoors we decided on Ristorante Florida for our last meal. Located on the Grand Canal in front of the Rialto Bridge we thought this was the best location. We watched the sunset from Rialto and grabbed a table around 8.15pm. The place was busy and we had to sit a table back from the canal, which I wasn’t too happy about. After sitting down and asking, we got moved to the outer tables directly next to the Grand Canal (you don’t ask, you don’t get).
It was the perfect setting and we both enjoyed fillet steak with buttered spinach and homemade chips. The food was out of this world and we got given a beef hotpot as a compliment from the chef and a pack of pasta to leave with. The staff were attentive and the atmosphere was outstanding. I’m so glad we picked this place, and the reviews are true about the steak!
Bigoi was our Italian pasta meal before we set off home. Again the TripAdvisor reviews were doing wonders for this place, and we can see why! I arrived 10 minutes before opening time and there was already a queue. The past was fresh, thick and really delicious. Each pasta pot costs between €6-€8 depending on toppings, so a great lunch idea!
Drinking Water in Venice
There are water fountains with clean drinking water everywhere throughout Venice and throughout Italy as a matter of fact. Save €2/3 here and there by taking out your own bottle and refilling. It saved us loads!
Our Venice Experience
My first experience in Venice didn’t disappoint at all. To the point I already want to go back. Venice can be an expensive place and I have heard so many people moan at the expense, but if you do the research and plan your days it can be very affordable. The further away from St. Mark’s you are, the cheaper things get. You only have to walk 20 minutes or so to benefit from these prices.
Venice is a place like no other I have ever been to, running off one mode of transport – the boat. Around every corner there is something happening and the place is rich in culture.
After leaving our Burano, Murano & Torcello day trip I was intrigued about the Lido island, that we actually missed off. I think if we were to go to Venice again we could possibly stay on the Lido with its beautiful beaches and enjoy both the stunning weather and the sights of the surrounding islands. Plus, I’m sure it will be cheaper to stay here. Until next time Venice…