Last week I shared a little sneak peek of my weekend getaway to the world famous lagoon city Venice in Italy. Traveling to cities like Venice can be a bit of a challenge: it is one of those cities that is high up on people's travel bucket lists and you feel constantly confronted with the danger of drowning in mass tourism. In order to minimize this peril I recommend to travel around this time of year to Venice. The carnival is over and the late spring/summer season has not yet kicked in - it's the right momentum to dive into the unique experience of a dreamy weekend getaway to Venice.
Let me start with the hotel: Searching for a hotel if you are a bit design-savvy can be the next difficult task. Venice is very classic in its beauty and aesthetics so the majority of good hotels contribute to this coherent visual appearance and are rather classic - the kind of Venetian thing people have in mind. Baroque opulence, lots of curvy patterns and colours, curved wooden furniture and pompous chandeliers I am talking. But after a little bit of online research I managed to spot a beautiful hotel that applied a slightly different design language: The Palazzo Barbarigo placed directly at the famous Canal Grande. It still showcases a strong reference to the Venetian heritage but has toned down considerably on the interiors' opulence. Plus they have a super cute little balcony with one table for two to enjoy a breakfast with the magnificent view of the Canal Grande. Moreover, finding the hotel is a magic Venice experience: You take a 'vaporetto' (water taxi) from the bustling Piazzale Roma square and get off at San Toma station and walk an extremely narrow zigzag lane that will lead you to one door - the hotel entrance.
The entire city of Venice is historical and enchants its visitors from the first moment you step on the island. Despite the tourists you will feel the magic of past times when walking the narrow streets and passing the numerous bridges over the canals. The busy Rialto bridge connects the two sides of the Canal Grande and is a special attraction for all visitors. Some charming restaurants are placed just underneath along the canal. But if you want to experience a very good dinner with tradition Venetian dishes dating back to the 17th century, I recommend booking a table at the Bistrot de Venise. Located between the famous St. Marco square and the Rialto bridge, this restaurant offers impeccable service, divine dishes and an overwhelming list of local wines. I tasted black squid ink spaghetti, calf's liver cooked in red onions with polenta and an orange flavored pana cotta all topped with an excellent bottle of red wine from the Veneto region. Delicious!
Regarding sightseeing I can't help but admit that I did what I like most in Venice: Roam the streets pretty without any planning of what to see and where to go. After a few minutes you are sort of lost although it is pretty easy to find the way to the two main landmarks, the St. Marco square and the Rialto bridge as both are clearly marked everywhere. If you want to enjoy the full Venice experience, take a gondola ride from literally all over town (it can get pricey though and if you book the music/singing version it can get a bit tacky too LOL), go to the Santa Maria della Salute church opposite of the St. Marco square to enjoy great views, enter the St. Marco Basilica to experience a 'golden moment' and stunning mosaics and do pay the entrance fee for the gallery on top of the cathedral as you will have the best picture moments up there and won't be squeezed with too many tourists as the majority sticks to the free church entrance.
If you feel exhausted from all the walking and photo snapping, take a break at the historical Café Florian on the St. Marco square. It is the oldest café in Italy and is an experience in itself. Traditionally clad waiters, an interior like from a movie scene, an arched alley with (sometimes) a live orchestra playing classic tunes and the most divine hot chocolate - these are just a few observations I made during my little stop there. However, be prepared for luxury prices too. If a live orchestra is playing all guests (except kids) will be charged an additional music fee and a good hot chocolate will cost you around 10 Euros. But it is worth the one-of-a-kind experience! And since you are now in the spending mood, I recommend a stop-over at the Venchi chocolate boutique to stock up on the best Italian chocolates ever! And if you want to scream out a loud 'Mamma mia' while eating ice cream, I recommend a visit at one of the Grom gelateria boutiques - you will thank me, trust me!
Venice is unlike other cities the best place to walk around and discover the magic of the islands on the go. Keep a map with you as you will eventually get lost and it is a little adventure to find ones way back but it will reveal the beauties of Venice in an unforgettable manner - you will feel like a cast in 'The Merchant of Venice' and fall in love with the city. Stop by wherever you see a little café to enjoy an excellent espresso and whenever you feel tired of walking take one of the many means of transportation on the water.
But enough dreaming for today: Happy Monday everyone!
Photography by Igor Josifovic