It was the opening weekend of ‘Carnival’ in Venice, Italy, so we decided to take a quick trip and see if it’s possible to see Venice in a weekend. If you want to stop reading here, it is! Go for it! But if you want more information, I’ll share with you how we did it!
Sightseeing on the main island: Venezia
Transportation in Venice
We took a bus overnight from Budapest to Venice-Tronchetto on Friday night, which put us in around 9:30am. Since we were a bit sick of sitting, we decided to walk from the Tronchetto bus station to Piazzale Roma (about 20 minutes walking or there is public transport) where we bought our transportation tickets for the weekend. If you are 29 years old or younger, I highly recommend the ‘Rolling Venice’ pass! For €29 you get 72 hours (starting the first time you actually use any transport) of unlimited transport (except to airport), and you get some free and discounted entries into museums! Once we bought our ticket, we took the vaporetti (water transport) to the ‘Ferrovia’ stop, where the train station ‘Santa Lucia’ is. Right outside the train station there is a luggage storage that only charges €5 for the day to store a medium-large size backpack! Once we were a little lighter, we hopped back on the vaporetti and went into the heart of the city to the Rialto stop. First things first, we needed breakfast and more importantly, espresso. We found a nice place called Caffé del Doge that seemed to mainly cater to locals. The staff was friendly and our first taste of Italian espresso was invigorating!
The main attractions of Venice
After we were fed and caffeinated, we spend most of the day just walking around the city. While the weather at the end of January wasn’t freezing, it was very foggy for most of the morning. Perhaps this made the sightseeing a little less glamorous, but we were happy to be there the same! What were we able to see in our first day, you may ask? A. lot. but here were the places we made sure to see:
Piazza San Marco
Saint Mark’s Basilica
San Marco Campanile
It wasn’t hard to see a lot in a short amount of time purely because of the size of the island. What takes time, however, is if you decide to wait in lines to enter museums, monuments, or churches. There were VERY long lines during the Carnival weekend, so we decided to forgo entering most places in order to see more of the island.
Escaping the crowds to the quiet side of Venice
While the small size of Venice can make it feel very crowded, it is advantageous if you are trying to see many sights in a short period of time! And when we were starting to feel overwhelmed by the crowds, it seemed that as soon as we started walking east and crossed Rio del Palazzo, the crowds disappeared and we had Venice to ourselves.
Lunch at Baci & Pasta
For lunch we didn’t feel like taking an hour at a sit-down restaurant, so we were keeping our eye out for something quick and cheap, when we stumbled across Baci & Pasta in only its second day of business! It’s the type of ‘fast food’ pasta where you choose your pasta and sauce and they make it right on the spot! The two staff members were very friendly as they explained the process and types of pasta and asked us how our time in Venice was so far. The pasta was delicious, too!
Lodging on Sant’Erasmo
Because we wanted to see another island (and financially it was much more compelling to stay off the main island), we had pre-booked a hotel on the island of Sant’Erasmo. We stayed at Hotel Il Lato Azzuro, and we really enjoyed our stay there. The staff was friendly, they will pick you up at the vaporetti station (although it’s only a 10 minute walk), you can use their bikes for free, and the breakfast was amazing!
And above all, it was an escape from the crowds and high prices that was only a relaxing 20 min boat ride away. At first we were nervous about being far from the action, but it wasn’t a problem at all due to the frequency of the transportation. In fact, even though we went out to the Sant’Erasmo around 6pm and had planned to stay, we found the journey so easy that we decided to just drop off our stuff, shower, and head back to see the city at night. We did run into some trouble finding a meal just slightly before 11pm. After being denied at a few restaurants, we came across Trarroria Anima Bella. This was a cute little place where we had amazing pasta dishes and a bottle of wine for $40! We were definitely satisfied with our food finds in Venice on Day 1.
Carnival in Venice!
A gondola parade
On Day 2, we headed out early to get to the city center in time for the kick-off parade for Carnival! After getting off at the Fondamente Nove vaporetti stop, we headed towards Canal di Cannaregio, where the water parade was taking place. On our way there, we passed through the Jewish Ghetto, which I wish we had more time to go back to learn about. Once we found a spot along the canal to watch the parade, we relaxed and waited for it to begin. The parade was different than what we had expected. It was organized into themes, so every so often gondolas would come down the canal in waves with different costumes. People were dressed as animals, vikings, pirates, emojis, and many more! And it seemed to just be local families and groups that were participating either as a competition, or just for fun! Many spectators dressed up in costumes as well.
After the parade finished, we continued to walk around Cannaregio, stopping for a glass of wine on the water at Mezzopieno on the Fondamenta degli Ormesini for a nice break.
Another Venetian island: Murano
We continued our afternoon traveling to Murano to take a stroll around the small island where the famous Murano glass is made. We pretty much just window-shopped our way around the island and found it to be very quaint and nice to be away from the crowds. We were debating heading to Lido next, but by that time we were really tired out. There definitely was time to hit up more islands if we had the energy, but we opted for some relaxing time over another espresso instead.
Our favorite restaurant in Venice: Trattoria al Gazzettino
Upon recommendation, we had made a reservation at Trattoria al Gazzettino for our last meal, and it was outstanding! And not only do you get your meal, they give you a small appetizer beforehand, desert afterward, and a bag of pasta to take home! It was the ‘meatball on top of the spaghetti’ to our trip!
Returning home out of Venice-Mestre station
We were taking our return bus out of the Venice-Mestre station, so we headed to Piazzale Roma to take the bus out to Mestre. This was very quick and easy, and included in our transportation ticket! I also know that there are many cheaper places to stay in Mestre, and while we didn’t stay there, I can say that the transportation in and out was very easy. However, the train stops at 9pm so there isn’t a chance to experience nightlife in the center of Venice.
Ok so, can you do Venice in a weekend? The answer is yes, and then some! There was time to visit other islands, to relax with some espresso or wine, and to explore all parts (busy and relaxed) of the city. We were never disappointed in the food or the friendliness of the people we encountered.
Until the next adventure,