Welcome back ladies and gentlemen from our intermission. Midterms were r-o-u-g-h and I’m overjoyed to be joining everyone again from my corner of the internet. I’ll be posting an update on my Iceland trip soon because I can’t leave you all in suspense for that long, but I’m happy to fill you guys in on my most recent trip to Venice!
I headed to Venice because it has long been a dream of mine to visit and it was there. Tickets were incredibly cheap, so the lodgings and the flights for this trip were under 100 euros. Which is a STEAL for Venice. I’m also trying to take advantage of the downturn in travel due to the pandemic and enjoy some places that have very high tourism rates. Venice is a destination that was described to me as a historical Disneyland for adults and it did deliver. I found there to be quite a few tourists, but according to my gondolier, it wasn’t that many people for this time of year. I have also noticed more tourists in Paris in the past few weeks, so perhaps it’s confirmation bias on my end. I left for Venice on a Tuesday evening around 7pm and this was an earlier flight than originally planned. My friend encouraged me to skip class and I took her advice although the class I was supposed to skip got cancelled so lucky me! I came back on Friday morning and even got a shower before my afternoon class! Look at me living my best life!
I got into the Venice airport around 9pm and while I thought this was pretty early, to the Italians this was the equivalent of midnight. I had to wait an hour for the bus to come to take me to the train station and seriously contemplated walking…it may have been quicker. Thankfully, J was up for a chat and I was able to while away the time on the phone. The Venice airport is a fair distance from nearby lodgings and almost 40 minutes away from Venice which you can take buses to. I chose to stay across the causeway from Venice on my first night because the hostel I was staying at in the city had strict check in times that I was arriving after. This ended up being a not great decision for buses because the buses were running much more frequently to and from the city center of venice than to Mestre Train Station which is what I needed. The bus ticket cost about 8 euros which I paid for twice because there are two different transport groups, ATVO and ACTV which run buses from the airport. ACTV is the public transit agency for Venice and I bought my original ticket with them, but when their bus didn’t show, I bought another ticket from ATVO. I also took the chance to buy a vaporetto pass at the airport which was very convenient because they don’t get activated until the first time you swipe. The vaporetto are the ferries that run all around the Venetian lagoon and I made good use of my two day pass, which was 30 euros. The hostel I stayed in outside of Venice, Anda Venice, was a very nice hostel for the price and very modern. However, as J has pointed out while I grumbled about my lack of sleep on these trips, hostels may not be for my delicate sensibilities. However, my budget does not really care about my delicate sensibilities so hostels it is for now! I had picked up a sandwich on my way out of Paris and ate before my flight so, once I finally made it to the hostel, I crashed but set an alarm for an early morning the next day.
The next day, I walked back to the Mestre Train Station, where I had been dropped off by the bus the previous evening. I bought a train ticket for the train that takes you into the Venetian city center which was about 1.40 euros which was a deal! Once in Venice proper, I took the vaporettos and started exploring the city! I purchased a ticket for a Secret Itinerary tour of the Doge’s Palace in English, which I had to purchase the ticket more than a month in advance. The ticket is a steal for a student because you get a tour in english and access to the Doge’s Palace after you finish the tour. I got to Piazza San Marco earlier than my tour so that I could explore and see the Basilica. There was a huge line, but you’re able to skip that if you make an online reservation which I was able to do the same day. I also stored my backpack in a nearby church, thanks to a Rick Steves recommendation because you cannot take items beyond a certain size into the basilica. I was told the storage was free, but it ended up being 2 euros. Perhaps prices have gone up with the pandemic. Inflation is everywhere! I got into the Basilica on a reduced fare because I am a student, a fact I exploit regularly for all my museum visits. It was a little underwhelming because the Basilica was under a bit of construction so you couldn’t see everything super well but the mosaics inside gleam as beautiful as ever. After my visit, I took the vaporetto up and down the Grand Canal for about an hour so I could ogle all the sites from an easy angle. I used the vaporetto early and often and spent probably half my time in Venice on these boats. I just love being on the water and would be seated outside rain or shine. For lunch, I used another Rick Steves recommendation for Calle de la Russe to find a bar with cheap coffee and sandwiches for a quick bite. The place I went was Osteria da Barco and the service was great as well as the fried rice balls. I returned to St. Marks for my tour at the Doge’s palace and got a close up look at the prison and closed offices in the Doge’s Palace. I walked around the front rooms afterward and marveled at it all. I’ll also mention that the palace has a coat check which was super useful to me because I was carrying around all my earthly belongings after checking out of my first hostel in the morning.
After touring the palace, I checked in to my second hostel which had really restricted check in hours starting at 1pm and going until 7pm. The second hostel was called Ostello Santa Fosca and was a converted piece of property from the Church run by volunteers to create a student hostel. The location was amazing! It was really spacious and clean and I loved it! After checking in, I went off in search of gelato and more sites to see. I ended up getting on a vaporetto to the Rialto Bridge and found some gelato nearby. Fortified by sugar, I wandered through the streets of Venice for a few hours, admiring all the beautiful buildings, canals, and churches that I came across. I let myself walk around and get a little lost in the city. My maps were really helpful in getting me to my intended destinations, but Venice is a maze to be explored and enjoyed. I always knew that I could find a vaporetto stop and be back on track easily so I wasn’t scared of getting too lost. I enjoyed getting to wander and see the little beauties of the city. I ended up at a bar called La Palanca for dinner on a more residential island of Venice. It was a lovely, low-key and cheap meal courtesy of a recommendation from a New York Times travel writer. I ordered up a few of the Venetian speciality of cicchetti which are different spreads on toasted bread. Most people know of my enduring love of open faced egg salad sandwiches which is essentially American cicchetti so, I was in heaven. I also really enjoyed the prosecco which at 3.5 euros a glass was cheaper than a pint of beer at a Parisian happy hour. Some people complain that Venice is a bit pricey, but compared to Paris prices, it was a bargain. After my evening repast, I headed back to the hostel for another night of not so great sleep. Again, cheap accommodation but at what cost??
Day Two was just as full as my first day. I set another early alarm to be up early to get in line at Accademia, the famous Venetian art museum. I didn’t purchase a ticket in advance to try and avoid the surcharge added for online transactions, but the Rick Steves recommendation was to get there early if you didn’t buy a ticket in advance. I didn’t make it that early, around 10 am, but slid in just in time to avoid the line. They only allow 400 visitors at a time and it’s a popular destination on rainy days and it was predicted to pour. I got in on a student ticket (2 euros!!! I cannot make these prices up!!) and spent the next two hours wandering around admiring the Venetian art. The art told a fascinating story about the rise and fall of Venice’s political power as much of the artwork centered around religious works with patrons from Venice or allegorical paintings of Venetian history. I really enjoyed looking around and zoning out with some beautiful art so I headed to Frari church afterwards to take in more of Titian’s paintings. It was incredible to see the hodgepodge of masterpieces housed in a single church. After taking in the sites at Frari, I went to grab some more cicchetti for lunch at a bar near the hostel called Teraferma. Absolutely delicious and good value for good food. I used the break to rest up for my lengthy afternoon tour of the lagoon.
Due to the rain, I chose to take a tour of the Venetian lagoon via vaporetto. I thought it would be easier for me to do that, rather than continuing to trudge through the very damp streets of Venice. I was correct although it was a very chilly experience! I took the 4.2 Vaporetto to Isola San Michele, the cemetery island. After admiring the cemetery, I took the same vaporetto line to Murano, the glass makers island. I walked around Murano for a little bit and admired the window displays. After Murano, I took the 12 to Burano, the lace makers island. I loved zooming around Burano via vaporetto because it was such a tranquil island and very picturesque. I took the 14 from Burano around the lagoon and just stared at the smaller islands that we passed on our way back to San Marco. Altogether, it was a two to three hour tour and took up most of my afternoon. I had decided to try for a gondola ride after getting back, but it was unfortunately still raining. I passed the time by taking a vaporetto to Salute Church to admire the iconic church from up close. The church was built after a devastating plague outbreak in the 1300s and felt apropos for the moment that we are at in this pandemic. After visiting, I headed back to my hostel for a warm cup of tea and a break from the rain. After my tea, I walked outside to discover it was no longer raining!!! I was terribly excited and ran to the vaporetto stop to take the vaporetto to another stop with gondoliers.
My original plan was to take a gondola ride from the Accademia stop, but I was so nervous that it would start raining again, I got off early at Rialto and found a gondolier who would take me for a quick ride. The normal price for one of these rides is around 80 euro and that price goes up to 120/135 euros after 5pm which had come and gone by this point in the day. I was also nervous to be taking one alone as a single female traveler, but figured that taking one in a crowded tourist area would be safest. After agreeing to a lower price, I jumped into a gondola and was whisked down the Grand Canal. My gondolier Emmanuel was kind enough to take some of the wonderful photos featured in this post. I am glad I did it, but it was a little awkward to do solo. Maybe next time I’ll have my partner along for the ride! After that ride, I practically sprinted through the city to try and make it to the restaurant I had chosen for dinner before it closed. In Paris and France in general, restaurants will often stop seating people within an hour of closing which is annoying and frustrating when you’re looking for a bite to eat outside of normal eating hours. However, the waitstaff at Trattoria Altanella were incredibly kind and seated me with no questions. This trattoria was another recommendation from the New York Times travel section. I felt so lucky because I got to enjoy a fabulous meal undisturbed and listening to the happy chattering of local venetians. I started with a grilled octopus salad, then squid ink pasta and finished with a delicious semifreddo with almond biscotti crushed inside. It was divine!! This dinner was where I had my only pasta dish while in Italy, but I’m hoping to rectify this in the near future!
And that was a wrap on my Venetian travels! I left the city around 6am the next day, taking the vaporetto to the bus station to catch a bus to the airport then catching a flight back to Paris. Honestly, I was so nervous for this trip and it turned out better than I could have imagined. Beyond the rain and the very late night bus from the first night, it was a phenomenal experience. I can see why Venice is inundated with millions of tourists each year. It’s an incredible city, but we need to savor it in small sips so we leave room for the locals. Happy travels my friends!