Experiencing Venice is like falling in love at first sight. To many, Paris is considered the most beautiful city in the world. To me, Venice is. All of the beautiful architecture, the canals, the gondolas, I just find it amazing (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage property). Since my first visit when I was fifteen, I always found this enchanting city to be very unique. I love that you can walk everywhere, no need to rent a car. But make sure you hop on the vaporetto (water bus) which gives you a wide angle view of Venice’s beauty that you just can’t get by walking around. I also love to wander and get lost through all of the winding, narrow cobblestone streets, and the further you venture away from Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), the quainter the neighborhoods become, San Polo being my favorite. San Polo is a quarter of artists and artisans, with narrow streets and tiny “campos” or squares. But what I love is that people actually live here in the tiny apartments above the many shops and restaurants, giving you a real neighborhood feel. Make the most of your time exploring through tiny alleys, across endless bridges, and make sure to just take it all in, while stopping for a coffee or gelato along the way.
Places to Stay We typically fly into Venice and take a water taxi from the airport. I really like staying close to St. Mark’s square, as the location is very convenient. This last time we stayed at the Residence Corte Grimani and were very pleased. We stayed in a one bedroom apartment (which for Venice is huge) for the three of us, and our daughter was thrilled to learn she had her own bathroom. Situated steps from St. Mark’s, the property is very comfortable and we had amazing canal views from our windows. I highly recommend this hotel if you’re traveling with children. Other nice hotels where we’ve stayed in the past are the Cavaletto and the Bonvecchiati, both very near to St. Mark’s also. Important to note, it’s good to find a hotel that has water taxi or water bus access, so that you don’t have to carry all of your luggage through the cobblestone streets.
Churches As with most major Italian cities, Venice has many gorgeous churches to visit. My favorite of course is Basilica di San Marco, one of my favorite churches in all of Europe and one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture in the word. Words cannot describe this amazingly beautiful sanctuary, it’s truly a must see. Another church I love in Venice is the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, with its prominent position at the tip of Dorsoduro, where the Grand Canal merges with St. Mark’s Basin.
Gondola Rides We visited at the peak of the high season in August, it was extremely busy and the crowds were everywhere. Though I have to admit, as much as I love my gondola rides, the tourist crowds were making us feel like we were in a Disney World queue. But a gondola is just one of those things that a visitor to this lovely city should experience. Venice is all about the water. I definitely recommend visiting in May or September instead. But this was our daughter’s first trip to Venice, so of course we had to take her on a gondola, which she loved.
Food Finding delicious eateries in Venice is not a problem. There are tons of great restaurants to choose from, yummy gelato places (Venchi being out favorite), and many pizza and fast food spots to get a quick meal, throughout the entire city. I had not been to Venice in many years prior to this visit last summer, and I was pleasantly surprised to not see any Starbucks, Burger Kings and only one McDonald’s further out in the Cannaregio neighborhood. Some of our favorite restaurants which we frequent on every visit are Antico Martini, Le Bistrot de Venise and Trattoria Da Mamo. And if you’re looking for a quick bite and don’t have time for a sit down meal, you have to try Dal Moro’s Fresh Pasta To Go (Calle de la Casseleria, 5324 in Castello). The pasta comes in a little white takeaway box with a fork and napkins, and it’s up to you to find a place to enjoy it. The pasta is really fresh, made when you order it, and very reasonably priced for Venice.
Another great place is Acqua & Mais (Campiello dei Meloni, 1478, San Polo) a Venetian take-away delicatessen where you can taste the seafood directly from the Rialto market. The specialties include the “scartosso” real Venetian mixed fried fish served in a paper cone so that you can enjoy it while strolling through the streets of Venice. Windows allow a full view of the cooks while preparing the food and prices are again very reasonable for Venice.
Paper Shops As many of you know, my love of stationery products comes alive when I’m visiting Europe, in particular, Italy. Venice has many gorgeous little shops selling handcrafted marbled paper, embossed stamps and beautiful pencils and notebooks. The most common one you will find is Il Papiro, this is a chain with various locations throughout Italy, several within Venice, and even shops in Palm Beach and New York. But there are a few others to look out for as well. I really wanted to visit, Legatoria Piazzesi, (Campiello de la Feltrina near Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, San Marco 2511), Italy’s oldest paper shop, which has been making books and paper since 1951. Unfortunately, it was closed during our stay, and apparently it’s closed a lot from reviews I have found on the internet. The collages in the window were beautiful and I read somewhere that the artist says that they are portraits of the tourists she sees walking by her shop! I would have loved to buy one, maybe next time (because of course, they will be a next time).
Another great paper shop we stumbled upon was Il Pavone, di Pelosin Paolo (Campiello dei Meloni, 1478, San Polo). This paper store had an incredible assortment of beautifully marbled paper in all sorts of color combinations and patterns, as well as swirls of colors on notebooks, pencils, frames, decorative boxes, stationery and even sheets of wrapping paper! But perhaps the best part of our visit was when the shop owner led my daughter and I to the tiny back room for a quick tour of his workshop where he hand paints every item he sells in this adorable store. Of course we made a few purchases…
La Ricerca (Ponte delle Ostreghe near Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, San Marco 2431) is another beautiful little paper shop selling leather-bound photo albums, address books, pencil pouches, you name it (by now you’re probably wondering how many of these places did we shop at). And according to Fodor’s, new products are introduced often so that no two visits to the store are ever the same.
Glass Last but certainly not least, I love all the tiny glass shops in Venice. No matter which street you turn on you will encounter at least a few on each block, selling various glass items such as these:
One store that has some beautiful glass items, and very special hand painted Christmas ornaments is Eredi Giovanni Pagnacco, right off St. Mark’s square, definitely worth a visit.
You can also visit some glass workshops and watch demonstrations if you’re interested. Vecchia Murano Glass Factory, in the heart of Venice, just a few yards from Piazza San Marco, is one of the lagoon’s biggest and most famous artistic glass factories. You can visit the store which sells all types of glass items and some very pretty glass jewelry, and skip the glass making demonstration.
However, I recommend you visit the island of Murano if you’re looking for a specific piece. Day trips to Murano and Burano are great if time permits.
Here are a few more photos of our trips for your enjoyment:
Have you been to Venice? I’d love to hear what you enjoyed most…