Italy is probably my favourite country in the world (at the moment, there are still countries I’ve never set foot in). I’ve been once to Milan and twice to Rome so when my friend suggested going to Venice this year I jumped at the chance.
I’d heard a bit from people who’d already been there before; how it was really overpriced (for most things I didn’t really find that to be the case), how it was smelly (yes the canals had a slight sea weed-y odour but in May it wasn’t that bad), and that the gondola rides were a rip-off (we didn’t even look up the prices for those). For me, however, my first impression of the city was how unique, quaint, gorgeous it was.
I think Venice is more of a shopping destination that a tourist one, like say Rome for example. While there are still some amazing attractions to visit, and a lot of history that makes up this city, most people will go for a city break to Venice for the shopping.
My friend and I walked all over the city and saw everything it had to offer; it isn’t that large so it was easy, while tiring, to go everywhere on foot. We wandered along the main streets where shops and cafes lined the pavements, we walked along the grand canal with gelatos in hand, we travelled alongside the smaller canals, side streets, and past quaint markets.
They say all roads lead to Rome but in Venice all roads seemed to lead to Piazza San Marco. It seemed to be the centre of the city; home to Saint Mark’s Basilica, a truly beautiful and breathtaking building which offers beautiful views of not only the cathedral inside but the whole square, and Doge’s Palace.
For me Venice was a spontaneous trip, we didn’t have anything planned so we wandered to our hearts content, crossing the Rialto Bridge and passing the Bridge of Sighs, visiting the museums and seeing all the history Venice had to offer. Of course we ended up spending a lot of money on gelato, souvenirs and more gelato but that’s part and parcel of being in Italy I guess.
Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)
- Don’t forget the sun cream…This was a really bad mistake on my part because by the end of the second day my back, shoulders and chest were burnt and of course I had no sun cream. Venice can get really hot, especially in the summer, and walking around you won’t realise you’re starting to burn until you get back to the hotel and look in the mirror.
- Drink plenty of water…The reasons for this are obvious.
- Be wary of tourist traps…The only places I’ve ever encountered this is in Italy. Most restaurants close to major attractions don’t care about repeat customers because they know tomorrow there will always be more tourists walking through their doors. If you’re not careful you can get caught with hiked up prices, cover and service charges and by the end of your meal you’re left with a bill that’s way more than you would have thought. So be careful because it can put a real damper on your day.
- Don’t take a gondola…Unless you really want the experience and you have the money it’s just not worth it. You can walk pretty much everywhere and anywhere in Venice, and if you want to travel by the canals then you can take the water bus for a fraction of the price.
If you ever get a chance to go to Venice one day try and go during the Carnival. Everywhere you go in Venice you will see masquerade masks for sale. They’re such a big part of the culture and honestly so beautiful you’ll want to buy them all. Every year during Carnival the streets are filled with masked party-goers and from what I understand (I wasn’t in Venice during Carnival much to my disappointment) it’s an elaborate and beautiful affair.