Venice Day One (28/12)
Arrived at the train station at approximately 4:30pm just as the sun was starting to set. Hoped off the train and walked straight out of the station to the canals to catch our water taxi to our hotel. The water taxi is basically a large ferry with an inside and outside section. We moved inside to avoid the cold winds but didn’t really need to bother as we only had to wait about 4 minutes until we reached our stop at Rialto Bridge (now this is a more impressive and pretty bridge – take note Ponte Vechiio) Our immediate impressions of Venice were that it is very pretty. The Christmas lights hanging in the streets, reflecting off the canal waters was part of it but just the general feel and look of the buildings, alleyways and canals gives Venice a relaxing vibe. We didn’t have to walk far until we located our hotel Al Lion Monument (recommended by Jenni – thanks) Hotel is comfortable and in a really good location, though Jess was a bit disheartended with the flight of stairs she had to drag her bag up in order to get to the second floor, that was until she saw the view of the canals that we had from up there. I decided I needed a shower before we headed out to dinner, problem was the Venice shower wasn’t co-operating. I couldn’t figure out how to get the water to stop filling up the bath tub and become a shower. Jess couldn’t figure it out either and nearly broke the tap in the process (trying to do what we had done in every other hotel room) eventually Jess gave in and went to get the lady at reception who demonstrated the mechanics of this strange system… can work it now but it still seems illogical!
Dinner at Barababao
We wandered down an alleyway near our hotel at about 7:30pm and found a restaurant that looked good (we were actually looking for another restaurant, however got lost). The waiter was outside the restaurant door and as we were looking at the menu he was explaining dishes to us , specials and bragged that they have some of the best ravioli, lasagne and house wines in Italy. Normally we wouldn’t engage with restaraunts trying to do the hard sell but given the waiter was so friendly and joked around with we thought we give it a try. Once we walked in and were seated the waiter gave us both a welcome drink (Prosecco) so Jess was sold that we had chosen the right place. The friendliness and service from this restaurant was a change from Florence where they didn’t seem too happy to serve tourist at times. While sipping our complementary glasses of prosecco we browsed through the menu finally deciding on spinach and cheese ravioli for Jess, traditional lasagne for myself and a mixed salad to share. Jess must have been thirsty and ordered a half bottle of prosecco which seemed more like a full bottle and I had a couple of local beers. The food was just as good as the service, Jess mentioned that the ravioli was the best she has ever eaten and my lasagne was as if it was homemade, really enjoyable. They then brought out the dessert menu and we tried the lemon sorbet, which again was amazing and the perfect way to finish off the night. We continued to eat at this restaurant every night we were in Venice, we couldn’t disappoint our new friend (the waiter.) On the second night the chef had run out of ravioli but our waiter managed to convince him that we were valued customers and the chef quickly got to work making fresh ravioli by hand while we enjoy a glass of prosecco. Jess claims the second night’s ravioli was even better than the first!
After dinner we decided to go for a walk to try get our bearings for the next day and to also walk a bit of the dinner off. It was now about 9:00pm so all the shops had closed and there was no shopping to be done. The Christmas light throughout the streets were still on so we did manage to take quite a few photos and take in the Venice scenery. It was then back to the hotel.
Venice Day Two (29/12)
Breakfast in Bed
Not a bad way to start the day with our hotel breakfast being brought to our room, we then decided to eat breakfast in bed and simply relax while we planned the itinerary for the day.
While we walked around the Venice streets on our first night I saw a Diesel store, there has been a watch that I have had my eye on for about 6 months now, so the first thing we did in the morning was visit the Diesel store. I tried on the watch but as it turns out the watch I originally liked wasn’t for me. I did; however, notice another watch which I had never seen before. Once trying it on (and getting a thumbs up from Jess) I am now the proud owner of a Diesel watch from Venice.
There are hundreds of bridges in Venice, however the Rialto Bridge is only one of four bridges spanning the Grand Canal. The bridge is also a tourist hotspot constantly filled with crowds due to it’s scenic views and surrounding restaurants/cafes and shops. We made sure that we snapped photos of the bridge from all possible angles as well as photos from on top of the bridge. We were lucky to have a nice clear day to really bring out the colours of the canal. The Rialto Bridge essentially encapsulates just how unique Venice really is, you could easily sit at a cafe by the water in the sun and watch the day go by. We however didn’t have this luxury as there were plenty more things to see and do in Venice.
St Marc Square
We navigated our way through the narrow streets of Venice only getting lost a few times while heading towards St Marc Square. Once you walk from the small laneways into the square, you really get a sense of the size of the grand canals and this central square of the island. The square is a buzz with tourists and vendors. In the square you will find the X Cathedral, X Bell Tower and palace museums. You can also feed the pigeons though i’m not sure it is encouraged as we couldn’t find anyone selling seed (we decided to get some bread and would come back tomorrow to feed them) Given the nice weather we went for a walk along the boardwalk area of the grand canal to take in the amazing scenery. When taking photos the landscape just looks fake, but I swear we were actually in Venice! As it was starting to get a little cold we decided to grab a late lunch at a pizzeria, Jess ordered a vegetarian pizza which happened to come with green beans, peas, carrots and just about every other vegetable imaginable…not really what she had in mind but she went with it. I went for a basic pepperoni pizza. The quality of all the pizza and pasta in Venice has been great, however the inclusion of peas was not a winner! After having walked around most of Venice we decided it was time to relax, unwind and get off our feet, my iPhone health app said that we had walked 7.5km so it was definitely time for a drink. We remembered a bar that was near our hotel and thought that would be the perfect places to start.
Bacaro Jazz Bar
One thing that we have noticed in Paris and Italy is the lack of actual ‘bars’ in the areas we have been. There are hundreds of restaurants and cafes that will serve you alcohol with your meal; however, there doesn’t seem to be bars where you can just sit down and relax with a drink. (Quite startling to an Aussie traveller) During the day we noticed a place that was actually called a ‘bar’ and looked like a bar rather than a cafe. So when we decided it would be great to just have a quiet drink (and take a break from food!) so we headed to the Jazz Bar near our hotel. Well quiet drinks didn’t end up being so quiet! The bar had an extensive cocktail list and a nice local beer on tap. The bar also didn’t help by providing us with complimentary olives after our first 2 rounds, and then shots after our 3rd round and consistently after throughout the night. Jess was happy drinking the bellini cocktails but also branched out to test their appltini making skills (verdict was good) 3:30 in the afternoon quickly turned to into 7:30pm, time lost all meaning in the crowded bar but when we eventually realised that it was time for dinner. We left and walked around the corner to the pasta restaurant from the previous night.
Venice Day Three (30/12)
There were 2 things that we had left to cross off the list for our Venice trip, to go back to St Marc Square and feed the pigeons and to go on a gondola ride.
After having walked around St Marc’s the day before we knew that it would be quieter in the morning, so this was first on out list for the day. Having essentially wrapped a whole bread basket up from dinner the night before and placing it in Jess’s backpack, we were well prepared and had lots of bread to feed the hungry birds. The pigeons were very friendly and gentle, they didn’t swarm in quite the way i imagined they would. Usually only 2-3 at a time would climb onto your hands and arms. Jess definitly enjoyed the process of feeding them the most, she gathered quite a large group at her feet and had a small few in her hands (and one on her head!) as seen in the video below. We both took turns feeding the pigeons and taking #pigeonselfies. The birds were surprisingly photogenic and cooperative when it came to posing for selfies! I know some wouldn’t care for this activity but in our eyes this is definitely a must when visiting Venice, it is also great to see everyone else and especially the kids feeding and playing with the birds. Jess gave a few kids her leftover bread once we had captured our shots and the kids really lit up when feeding the group.
Venice is best known for their beautiful and unique canals and the gondolas that travel up and down them on a daily and nightly basis. For centuries gondolas have been used as the most common watercraft in Venice, it is estimated that there are approximately 400 gondolas in active service today and they are mainly used as tourist transportation, rather than the daily tasks they were historically used for. We made the decision to catch a gondola away from the main (and very busy canal) instead opting for a slower and quieter ride (partly due to our slightly fragile state from the cocktails the night before) down the narrower canals near our hotel and Rialto Bridge. This was a perfect time for Jess and I to relax and take in the waterways of Venice and see first hand just how quiet, peaceful and stunning Venice can be once you are away from the hustle and bustle of the streets. Our gondolier also gave us a brief overview /guide of some of the prominent buildings in the area. Pointing out the birth place of Marco Polo and telling us about the history of the smaller churches and buildings that are lesser known by tourists. The whole trip took approximately 40 minutes to complete and we were able to keep warm with the blankets seen hanging in the picture above. Money well spent and an experience like no other.
We both agreed that we were a bit sad to be moving on from Venice so soon. Its relaxed vibe was something we needed after our busy start in Amsterdam, Paris and Switzerland. The food here was outstanding and by far the best we have encountered in Italy, i think it will be hard for Rome to top the pasta and pizza we were eating here. Jess loved all the christmas lights on the narrow alley ways at night and in her words “the prettiness” of Venice overall. We were sad to farewell George McFly our pigeon friend also…until next time George. Next stop Rome ….and New Years Eve!