Mini Travel Guide: Lost in Venice
There's nothing like hopping across the continent for a quick travel fix and indulging in a few days of fun on a city break. Last month I visited Venice for five days, courtesy of my lovely husband, who treated me to a wonderful birthday surprise. So now that summer has finally arrived and we're all thinking about getting away, I thought I'd put together a mini travel guide to inspire some wanderlust!
Venice has been casting its amphibious spell for centuries, dazzling the world with its art, architecture, and music. I've long dreamed of floating through its romance on a gondola, with images of Venetian masks and canals swirling through my head. Today, it's a place where the new and the old collide in a swarm of excited tourists and badly behaved suitcases. Markets sit alongside luxury stores and gondolas weave their way through narrow canals. There's a constant whisper of the past as men tear through the medieval labyrinth of passageways with handcarts laden with boxes, narrowly missing a sea of bare ankles.
Venice is a fascinating trip into the past. The splendour of its architecture is unashamedly proud and impressive. Baroque, Gothic, Byzantine, it's all here. The islands surrounding Venice offer a pleasant and colourful respite from the crowds, but the real charm lies in its terracotta panoramas, numerous canals, and hidden passageways. A wrong turn reveals so much more than the crowded tourist hotspots, revealing glimpses into local Venetian life. In fact, there is no right or wrong way to see this beautiful maze. Getting lost is all part of the fun.
Campanile di San Marco
The bell-tower of St Mark's Basilica is one of the most iconic symbols of Venice. Standing at ninety eight meters, it's the perfect place to grab some amazing photo's. For eight euro's, take a lift to the top of the Campanile for a 360 - degree view of the terracotta tiled city.
Piazza San Marco
Home to the Basilica San Marco, Doge's Palace and the famous Cafe Florian, Piazza San Marco is teeming with tourists. Beat the crowds and get here at sunrise for some serene photography minus the happy snappers.
Basilica San Marco
Perhaps one of the most famous churches in Venice city, Basilica San Marco is beautiful both inside and out. It's free to explore, though you have to pay to visit certain parts of the church. Beat the long queues and the hot sun by arriving early in the morning or late afternoon.
The "sestiere" or neighbourhoods of Venice are a joy to explore. You can spend hours meandering through narrow streets, where every wrong turn reveals a multitude of hidden gems. Elegant shops, quaint cafes and stylish galleries tempt you with every step. Each district has its own charm and open doorways offer a glimpse into the life of locals.
The Rialto Bridge, one of four bridges that span the Grand Canal, connects San Marco to San Polo. Lined with pretty cafes and restaurants, it's the perfect place to take a break and watch the world go by. For the perfect summer drink, indulge in a Spritz - a delicious combination of prosecco and Aperol or Campari, all finished off with an olive or a slice of orange.
A large sestiere reached by crossing Accademia Bridge from San Marco, Dorsoduro is home to a large student population due to its many universities. Head to Campo Santa Margherita for a quick and very affordable bite to eat before you tackle the labyrinth of streets to your next destination.
If you want to visit the islands of Murano and Burano, you'll find Fundament Nuove, the dock from where the boats depart. Wander down the side streets while you wait for the water bus and discover impressive museums, peaceful squares and picturesque canals.
Visit the Islands
Escape the crowds and chaos by taking a water bus to one of Venice's many islands. Burano, famous for its handmade lace and candy coloured houses is the ideal getaway. Spend the afternoon leisurely shopping for souvenirs, sample the excellent seafood and enjoy the Mediterranean feel of this pretty island.
There are so many churches and museums in Venice. Unless you're really into history and art, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Apart from the most well known such as Palazzo Ducale, Gallerie dell'Accademia or Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, you can pretty much stumble on some type of cultural attraction everywhere you go.
There's no getting around it - Venice is expensive. But venture away from the beaten path and tourist traps to discover where the true taste of Venice lies. Explore hidden alleyways to discover discreet courtyards peppered with bistro's and candlelit faces.
We recommend: Muro Venezia.
Opened in 2007, this elegant restaurant serves up delicious pizza's, mediterrean and venetian food. The wines are excellent, the food, fresh and full of flavour and the desserts just heavenly! Plus it won't break the bank!
Do what the locals do and head to a "baccari". These small bars can be found all over the city, offering cheap snacks (cicheti) washed down with prosecco or tiny glasses of wine.
Venice is hot and crowded in the summer months, so be prepared for long queues at major tourist attractions.
Mosquito's - Take mosquito repellant and cover up in the evenings to minimise bites.
Generally the further away from the tourist attractions you go, the cheaper everything becomes. This includes souvenirs, so resist the temptation to buy everything on the first day.
Visit the official tourism website of Venice to purchase all in one passes for public transport and admission to tourist sights even before you visit.
Everyone gets lost when they visit Venice. How can you not! The easiest way to find your bearings is by following the super useful yellow signs that point out major landmarks. For example "San Marco" (Piazza San Marco), "Ferrovia" (train station) or "Rialto".