My first visit to Venice I spent my days just walking for hours on end in the sharp ice wind because naturally I found myself in this extraordinary city in winter! Each step I took, each turn of my head, each breath of air I inhaled I was met with a slash of bitter icy air but my eyes were not disheartened. Venice is not like any other city. A city built on water with no cars, countless footbridges and narrow paths making it easy but worth getting lost no matter how many times you visit. Just the name can invoke hordes of images – gondoliers in striped jerseys, The Rialto, The bridge of sighs, masked balls and crumbling palaces confronted with streets of water. Venice really is another world and there are few cities that give you a charmed, warming feeling like Venice does. Strolling the streets and palazzos, I felt fortunate to be witnessing a city quite like it.
As I was backpacking at the time, I took advice from fellow bloggers on places to stay that was affordable and comfortable. I settled with Plus Camping Jolly located 10 minutes from the city centre by bus. It was similar to a holiday park with dorms, bungalows, mobile house tents, swimming pool, bar and restaurant. A simple yet perfect fit to my arrangement at the time.
Each time I have visited Venice since, I can’t even begin to explain the tingles I get when I walk through the terrace and enter Piazza San Marco. The contentment and complete bliss as I sit at Caffé Lavena sipping on a perfectly foamed cappuccino in the warmth of the Italian sun soaking up the gloriousness of it all.
My best advice to give for Magical Venice, the city that my dreams are made of is to walk, stroll and admire her in all her splendour.
Head towards Bacino Di San Marco where thousands of ships were launched into battle and dominated the seas for hundreds of years. This is the best place to watch the sunset as it bathes it’s beautiful glow onto the water reflecting against the city.
For me, Venice is this enchanting world where she captures your imagination and romantic fantasies and casts a magical spell on them. It’s mysterious and grand ancient buildings have stories to tell you and as she stands tall on the water Venice let’s your heart wander to places you’ll only dream of elsewhere.
Top 10 must see sites and attractions
- The absolute first and best thing you can do in Venice is getting lost. By walking aimlessly through the narrow streets and alleys you are sure to find Venice’s charming and often empty squares, which will make your appreciation of the city grow fonder.
- Ride the Vaporetto down the Grand Canal, under the rialto bridge by the crumbling fronts of palazzos like the Ca’d’Oro and the Ca’Rezzonico and past the dome of Santa Maria before finishing at St. Mark’s Square. A single ticket is €7
- Visit the Doge’s to walk across the famous bridge of sighs and see Casanova’s prison cell that he famously escaped from. The best way to see this is to book the Secret Itineraries tour (http://palazzoducale.visitmuve.it) with a guide that will explain the community and political history of the city.
- Visit St. Mark’s Basilica church. Italy has some of the most beautiful churches in the world and St. Mark’s is an example of excellence. For free you can explore the art of St. Marks and even climb the stairs to overlook the square itself.
- Shop (or window shop!) at the Rialto market. If you are a foodie, who most travellers tend to be, put this on your list. It is as much as a cultural experience as is it a food related. It’s a good way to see how real Venetians get their food because obviously there is more water happening than there are fields of crops! The Rialto is known as a fish market, but there are plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit as well.
- Hire a gondolier. Yes it’s the biggest cliché and yes it’s way over priced but you are in Venice and you really should do it. Gondoliers depart from every dock so wander around and find the best place. The rates of the gondoliers are fixed by the city of Venice so don’t try bartering them! Expect to pay €80 for 40 minutes. The best way is to find like-minded travellers to share with.
- They say when Casanova escaped prison he stopped for a coffee at Caffe Florian before fleeing to Paris. When you visit Piazza San Marco you will now understand! There are 3 main restaurants in the square with tables and chairs spread out. An orchestra plays nightly so grab a cocktail, sit back and relax. Warning: There is a supplementary charge for when the orchestra is playing!
- Go island hopping to Murano, Burano and Torcello. Known for glass making, lace and fewer tourists. Escape the crowds, as it’s easy to reach using public transportation. Vaporetto line numbers 12, 13, 14, 4.1, and 4.2 go to Murano from Fondamente Nove (on the north side of Castello), and line number 12 continues on to Burano and Torcello.
- Just on the right from San Cassan Square on the bridge you will find Artigianato d’Arte di Vianello Mauro. A glass artesian that brings glass back to life, giving demonstrations to tourists. Worth checking out!
- For a relaxed dining experience with white table cloths and delightful coffee head over to Caffe Lavena in Piazza San Marco and people watch in the sun. It’s much more extrodinary than you think!