The last leg of our Italian journey brought us to Venice! This city is amazing because of how different it is from any other place in the world. The entire city is built on a canal system and you get from place to place by foot or by boat. You could go an entire trip without seeing a car, which is something we certainly were not used to.
Although Venice is beautiful, it gave us our fair share of trouble in the beginning. After getting off the train from Florence and then taking a bus boat into the heart of Venice, we eventually got lost trying to find our hotel. Thinking it was a good idea to ask a local, we spent the next 20 minutes wandering in Venice on the wrong side of the main canal.
Finally, after asking a few more people (that didn’t lead us astray) we had made it to Hotel San Gallo. We recommend Hotel San Gallo to anybody staying in Venice because the staff are very friendly and helpful, and it is only a minute walk to Saint Mark’s Square. (But be aware that this hotel does not have an elevator).
After an early night it was time for a day of exploring Venice. This part of the trip was a bit more relaxed because there were not a million things we needed to pack into the day like in Rome or Florence.
First we visited Saint Mark’s Square and Basilica since it was very close to the Hotel. When this square isn’t flooded with water (Yes!… When it rains enough, Venice floods), it is flooded with people. If you are interested in getting a more tourist free photo of Saint Mark’s Square you should try to head there earlier in the morning.
At the front of the square sits the basilica which we did not get the chance to go in. However, we were able to take in its beauty from the outside. The square is also home to Campanile bell tower, which we climbed on our second day. I guess wherever there is something to climb, we are going to climb it. Doge’s Palace is another beautiful building next to the basilica. It used to be home to the supreme authority of the republic of Venice, but now it is a museum.
For every canal that Venice has there are probably three shops. One of the most popular types of shops are those that sell Venetian masks. The wearing of Venetian masks originated through the Carnival of Venice. This festival is said to have started in the year 1162 when people began to dance in Saint Mark’s Square after a winning battle. The masks are used to keep identities unknown, especially in the past when there was a great disparity in wealth. Also, it allowed people to do things they might not be able to do (e.g. promiscuous behavior and public intoxication) if everyone knew it was them. This festival is similar to our Mardi Gras and is one last nights to indulge before lent begins.
You can’t go to Venice for the first time without taking a ride on a gondola. The price is set by the city and during our visit it was 80 euros for 30 minutes. It seems a bit expensive but if you split it between a group it’s not that bad. We thought it was worth it and recommend it to any first time visitors. On our gondola ride the gondolier showed us Marco Polos house and I am sure there are many other gems to be found on gondola rides through Venice.
The next day we went early to the bell tower in order to avoid the long lines. After this we spent most of our day in Murano and Burano, two islands near to Venice. Murano was first and we spent most of our time here admiring all the glass work. This island is world renowned for its glass blowing. I think we may have walked into every possible glass store on the island, and by the end I was done with all the glass. I’m only exaggerating and the amount of different glass ware was truly impressive. On this island you can find anything hand made from glass. Whether it is animal figurines, keychains, christmas ornaments, cups or jewelry, you will find it in Murano. We definitely recommend making a stop here if you are in Venice.
The next island, Burano, is another island that we recommend you visit even if it’s only for a short time. This island is known for producing lace. We were not able to explore much of this because we gave most of our day away to glass viewing. However, we were able to admire the picturesque buildings for a while.
Then it was back to the main island of Venice, where we probably got some gelato. We ate some much of it I can’t remember the specifics. Sadly, this was our last night and in the morning it was time to say goodbye to our moms. It was definitely bittersweet, but we had an amazing time and made a lot of good memories!
Please take a look at our video blog below to check out our adventures from Venice!!
Stay tuned to hear about our rainy weekend in Portugal.