Last February, I traded picturesque Bruges for the real Venice. The romantic reputation it has had of old, has in recent years been drowning in headlines such as "Venice drowns in mass tourism", "The Sinking City” and “Venice says no to wheeled suitcases". I couldn't be bothered, though, and booked a trip to the Roman lagoon. Andiamo!
All ready and raring to go, after a two-hour flight, we find ourselves at the Piazza San Marco, one of the world's most beautiful squares. It's midnight by now, Venice is dozing off, and after a quest through the many alley's and one-way streets, we arrive at our hotel.
After a good night's sleep, we are awakened by passing boats, the smell of espresso, and heart-warming Buongiorno’s. We are ready for an Italian breakfast!
The Italians loyally stick to an espresso and cornetto (or croissant) for breakfast. We were served a mix of continental, American & English breakfast.
Rummaging through picturesque alleys
We set out our hunt for the daily Venetian life starts from the centrally situated, bustling Piazza San Marco. The water shows us the way and we walk in the direction of Castello: the borough where the Venice Biennale takes place. the deeper you dive into the streets, the more peaceful the atmosphere. Brilliant! We feast our eyes on the Roman wealth and imagine ourselves in the days of yore. This is the Venice I am looking for.
A little online research leads us to ‘Serra dei Giardini’, a lovely social cooperation that, on the one hand, grows and sells plants, and, on the other hand, indulges inhabitants with home-produced delicacies. A concept I love to tuck into, both metaphorically and literally! Nearby, you find the ‘Monumento a Giuseppe Garibaldi’. When you take a close look, you can spot tortoises in the water.
In one of the many picturesque houses, we meet Alice. She is the driving force behind @Oi_Va_Voi_studio. The young lady magically turns photos into vivid paintings. Of course, I can't leave her gallery without buying a work of art.
Carnival in Venice
After a refreshing Aperol at the Rialto bridge (a must-do at sunset!), at the recommendation of Alice, we walk into the Jewish quarter, a bustling neighbourhood next to the station, where you take your first steps on Venetian soil. A nice quarter, but obviously the city's tourist. Our visit coincides with carnival and the Italians put up barriers everywhere to orderly guide the masses through the narrow streets. Somehow frightening, yet it also has something to it: both tourists and locals are dressed in colourful costumes and wearing mysterious masks. A wonderful atmosphere!
Make sure not to skip the ‘Chiesa di San Pietro di Castello’ in Castello, it's one of the most beautiful cathedrals around here. Tip: purchase a Chorus pass. It gets you into all churches within the region a great deal cheaper. Without it, you'll be charged about €3 for every single entrance.
The forgotten quarter
On the second day, we explore Giudecca, popularly known as ‘the seventh Sestriere’, or ‘the forgotten part of Venice’. And you do feel lost in some places here. Look for photogenic places and you'll find them! Visit the rooftop skyline bar of the Hilton and spot the Cipriani hotel where George Clooney had his wedding night. The busyness of yore made way for expensive hotels overlooking the city. Make yourself comfortable here on the quay and enjoy some peace and quiet.
The canals of Venice
We would almost forget, but Venice is the “city of water”. So you can't miss out on exploring the canals. I choose the three-day pass for the Vaporetto or waterbus. It allows you to hop on and off wherever you like.
And so we sail along the Canal Grande with purebred Venetian Massimo! He tells us about the various palaces, the families, and the glorious past. This unique boat trip costs €45 per person.
Our intense walks alternate with a little guilty pleasure at Florian’s, a famous and age-old business at the Campanile di San Marco. We're lucky not to bump into a long waiting queue! We join the numerous tourists and Venetians.
The pinnacle of our trip, however, was a nice brunch at the Quadri restaurant at the Piazza San Marco. Slurping a cappuccino with a live orchestra to your ears, there's no better way to enjoy Venice!
Our favorite adresses
Ristorante Enoteca La Colombina – Cannaregio 1828, Venice (great!)
Caffe Rialto – Ponte di Rialto, Venice (Enjoy it for aperitif by sunset)
60/40 Food Shop – Dorsoduro 129/a Venice (delicious smoothie & lunch to go)
Gran Caffè Quadri – Piazza San Marco 121, Venice
Caffè Florian – Piazza San Marco, Venice
Written on 09/03/2020 by Bert