Venice Unmasked…

Venice is a magical, floating, scenic city which instantly draws you in to the relaxed, laid back lifestyle, with the well-preserved culture and amazing architecture. You can easily understand why it attracts up to 50,000 tourists a day throughout the year.

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I truly believe this is the real ‘City of Romance’. It is impossible to not fall in love once your here, whether it’s with the charismatic city itself, the scrumptious Venetian food or that someone special with you!

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I was instantly mesmerised by the sheer adventure, beauty and colour this fascinating city withheld in the winter month of November, when we visited. It was cold yet, bright and sunny one day and then misty with a chill of ice in the air the next…

Map???? Forget it – Half the fun is getting lost exploring the endless maze of winding streets and bridges of confusion leading to dead-end canals and hidden piazza’s threaded through the wonderful city. We must have walked miles and miles, but I never seemed fed up or tired as there was always another stunning surprise or ice cream shop around the next corner!

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Venice is a well-known location around the world, mainly recognised for being surrounded on all sides by water.

Location: –

Situated in the northeast of Italy, on the Adriatic sea. Sited in the marshy Venetian lagoon made up of a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linking bridges.

Facts: – 

  • The city and the lagoon are listed as a World Heritage site.
  • Population of 280,000
  • Home to the famous lover and play writer ‘Giacomo Casanova’, explorer ‘Marco Polo’ and composer ‘Antonio Vivaldi’.
  • Venice is made up of 416 bridges, 177 canals and 127 campi (squares).
  • Venice was not built directly on the surface, but instead supported by wooden platforms kept together by wooden piles entrenched in the sea bed. Because those emerging flat lands were not sturdy enough to support a building on them.
  • Venice was home to the world’s first factory: The Arsenal, founded in 1104, was a shipyard that apparently produced one warship nearly every day.Venice is sinking! The level of the land has lowered while the sea level has risen.
  • Venice is sinking! The level of the land has lowered while the sea level has risen.

Acqua Alta – High water

The Acqua alta is a big problem for Venice and the venetian people. It happens November – December time, mostly as a result of an interaction between tides, flooding the city.

The venetian people react very quickly with sandbags and raised wooden boards above the water to walk on and carry on with their daily lives.

We were very lucky as days approaching to our trip the city was flooded with record high tides and I was seriously debating taking my wellies, as I wasn’t going to let it spoil our trip! But the day before we arrived the moon and tides changed and the waters cleared for a few days!

The city is fighting back against the ‘Acqua alta’, with an engineering project called ‘Mose’, which is a system of big movable barriers able to lift up when the tides exceed a certain level, preventing the water flooding the city causing damage and inconvenience to the locals.

Getting there: – 

Just a short 2 hour flight away from Manchester or London in the UK, with a number of low-cost airlines flying in to Venice everyday!

Venice has one international airport, ‘Venice Marco Polo’ on the shores of the lagoon and another nearby airport ‘Treviso’, used by the budget airline ‘Ryanair’.

Depending on the transport you choose from the airport (boat, train or bus), you can be in the centre of Venice within 20 minutes.

Transport in Venice: – 

  • You can not visit Venice and not ride in a gondola!

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The traditional and symbolic boats have been used as transport around the narrow Venetian waterways for more than 10 centuries evolving and perfected over time. Gondolas are designed to be easily operated by highly skilled oarsman known as ‘Gondolier’. This is a sought after job in Venice and to qualify takes extensive training and a rigorous exam and only 3 to 4 licences are issued annually. To this day only 400 licensed Gondoliers are operating in Venice.

You do hear all the rumours of the extortionate prices and many of these rumours are true with a 30 minute gondola ride charging 80 euros per person! Shocking really…

We opted for a shared gondola tour to save on the pennies costing only 30 euros each for 35 minutes, exploring the main grand canal and around the narrow, winding side canals passing houses, hotels and under bridges whilst being serenaded by the Gondolier in his stripy red and white jumper. An average gondola can hold about 6 people comfortably. It is everything you imagine – I loved it!

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  • Traghetti’s are used by locals and tourists to cross the canal. Easy, efficient and cheap!
  • Water Taxi’s – These are the James bond style small speed boats, which are on the pricey side but can take you from one side of the city to another in the quickest amount of time.

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Splashing the cash: – 

Take a first class flight into Marco Polo airport, followed by a speedy water taxi to your door of the 5* Bauer Il Palazzo benefiting from the most elegant, romantic rooms and finest cuisine in Venice. Also it has the most spectacular vantage point in Venice, located just steps from St Marks square.

On a tight budget: – 

Book a special offer package from websites such as ‘moneysupermarket.com’, like we did with everything included.

Stay in Mestre on the nearby mainland, take a daily 10 minute bus ride in to Venice.

You can make your trip to Venice whatever you want it to be like we did…

72 hours in Venice

Arriving from Manchester, UK with the airline Monarch we flew late afternoon in to the ‘Marco Polo airport’.

We bought an ‘AVTO’ bus ticket from the machine in the arrivals lounge near the luggage carousel for 13 euros each return to the train station in Mestre.

The buses were immediately outside the arrivals hall and bus stops were easily labelled, you just put your ticket in to the machine on the platform as you entered the bus. The journey took 15 minutes and luggage was easily stored underneath the bus.

Arriving 7pm at our 4* budget accommodation ‘Hotel Delfino’ based on the mainland ‘Mestre’. Check in was quick and easy giving us our room key, we were staying on B&B basis.

We quickly checked out our rather spacious, modern room – which was far better than we expected, equipped with mini bar and all the amenities you could ever need. Dumped our cases, freshened up and headed down to reception to ask how we got in to Venice itself!

The bus stop was located straight across the road from our hotel and tickets could be purchased at reception for 2.50 Euro return.

The journey took 10 minutes on the number 4 or 4L bus, which regularly came every few minutes taking you directly to the main bus stop in Venice.

It was warm, dark and very busy around the bus stop, but you felt instantly safe. We went for a slow, stroll and the excitement of this beautiful city instantly overcome me as I crossed the first bridge and set my eyes on the grand canal lit up from the glow of lights shining from overlooking hotels, shops and restaurants. You could hear the lapse of the water hitting the side of the canal walls, as water taxi’s zoomed past. It was everything i imagined…

We found a nice, small, traditional looking italian restaurant in the winding back streets not far from the grand canal called ‘Al Poggio’. Specialising in Venetian seafood. We carefully followed the waiter to our table, down the narrow aisle between tables trying not to knock anything. I ordered us two ‘Venetian spritz’ cocktails, bright orange in colour and fizzy from the presecco. whilst we looked at the menu and decided what to eat…

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We finally made a decision to have a selection of italian meats and breads to start followed by the most delicious seafood platter i’ve tasted in a long time. Service was excellent and there was even a singer in there – a perfect way to spend our first evening in Venice…

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FRIDAY: –

We hopped on the number 4L bus from Mestre into Venice. Spending a full day exploring, sightseeing and mainly getting lost! Weather was hot and sunny and we must have walked miles and miles that day, but I loved every moment of it! Wandering aimlessly through the alleyways, discovering charming often empty squares and streets – really makes you appreciate the true beauty of this city. Getting lost is a must in Venice!

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Highlights of the morning included discovering the busy yet beautiful ‘St Marks square’, viewing the magnificent ‘St Marks Basilica’ and right next door ‘Doges palace’. We decided not to spend half a day taking the palace tour, as the city was enough of an attraction to us without learning more about this famous historic palace. We were able to view the famous ‘bridge of sighs’ from the outside though without paying a fee. We strolled along the water front passing hundreds of pretty gondolas and stopped for a glass of prosecco in the sunshine at a picturesque spot outside the ‘hotel Monaco’ overlooking the terrific grand canal.

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We decided to have lunch on the go after such an indulgent dinner last night, we had a huge slice of salami pizza costing just 4 euro from a take away shop. We sat an ate it on the raised flood boards at the side of a quiet, backstreet canal watching the gondolas float by… Not a worry in the world apart from the pizza eating pigeons that kept hounding us for crumbs!

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In the afternoon we found ourselves taking a relaxing amble along the sunny waterfront. Before deciding to take a water taxi over to ‘Guicello island’ as we’d had no real on the water action yet. This was the best idea we had on the whole trip, as only took about 5 minutes to get too. Giving us the chance to explore and see the more residential side and how the locals lived. We soon realised not a lot was going on here so found a nice waterfront bar and watched the sun go down over looking Venice, whilst sharing a bottle of prosecco! We soon realised what a hidden gem we had discovered – We felt very lucky to of ended up here – Utter Bliss!

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Early evening was soon upon us and also on ‘Guicello island’ was a large Hilton hotel. My husband discovered the Hilton had a skyline rooftop bar. It was a shame it didn’t open till 5.30pm once dark, but what a great place to take in the panoramic night lit city of Venice. Its not cheap, but they did give us free nibbles and had a free shuttle boat back to Venice – Happy days!

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In the evenings the off licenses turn in to bars serving drinks and a variety of cicheti (small snacks). Locals gather here to drink and chat. We slowly made our way back to the bus stop calling in off licenses (bars) drinking prosecco and local wine along the way, chatting to locals and trying lots of different types of cicheti – which are 1 euro a pop. Our own cultured bar crawl I suppose! Ha.

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Venice is notorious for its lack of nightlife but we had great fun chatting to locals, singing and trying on venetian masks from street sellers…

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we were back at the hotel for 11pm, very merry after a full day out and about experiencing everything Venice has to offer. Loved it and made memories to last forever!

SATURDAY: –

Slightly longer lie in this morning, waking with a slight headache too, but well worth it! Ha. Still we were in Venice for around 11am, it was like a completely different time of year today – It was cold and very foggy.

We ventured through the narrow streets passing through the quieter, misty ‘St Marks square’ again to the royal gardens near the waterfront, there was an eery feeling as you looked across the misty grand canal. A total contrast to the day before but I didn’t mind and felt lucky to witness Venice this way too!

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We took our pre arranged 40 minute Gondola tour, this was such a special way to view the city both romantic and charming whilst being serenaded by Italian songs the whole ride. Venice was undoubtedly planned to be seen from the water! We slowly, sailed down the choppy grand canal and around the more secluded, calm, narrow waterways whilst soaking up the unique atmosphere. A venetian experience not to be missed – but don’t pay too much. Take a shared tour like we did…

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We took a late lunch at the Venice jazz bar, this place was fantastic with jazz music playing, sport on the TV screens and even a happy hour! The ceiling was a collage of woman’s bra’s. Food was really good but the Bellini’s were better, ha.

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We spent the late afternoon shopping, we used our international bank account as we always do when travelling around the world. We do this to keep a close eye on what we spend and where, to stick to our budget of travel spends and it also helps reduce charges and keep fraudulent activities to a minimum and away from our main account.

The Italian leather is something not to missed here so I was taking the shopping very seriously, ha! I picked up a gorgeous red, leather handbag for only 50 euro’s. The gloves were beautiful too, in every colour you could think of. You can set up an international account, hassle free with a bank such as LloydsTSB International like we did. Shops seemed to open quite late and was lovely to browse the shops at leisure in the dark. We walked through fruit markets and stopped in small bars for a refreshing drink and to rest our feet every once in a while!

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That evening we tried a late set menu for 16 euro each at ‘Da Giorgio’. It seemed a very busy, small restaurant and very popular with tourists even at 9pm. I had ‘Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and clams (hot) to start followed by squid with potato’s – Delicious to be fair! We then took a slow stroll around the dark canals and over the bridges, a lovely romantic day and night!

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SUNDAY: –

This morning was our time to leave, I was sad as we had such an amazing time exploring Venice. It was a special, magical place! We took a short work around mestre (mainland area) but all the local shops were shut down as it was Sunday. We went back to the hotel to pack and checked out and walked to the train station 5 mins away to catch our bus back to the airport.

Well our short trip to Venice certainly lived up to everything we hoped for. We enjoyed lots of prosecco, lost ourselves in the labyrinth maze of piazzas, waterways, bridges and soaked up the renowned beautiful architecture this city has to offer…

Well worth a visit – add it to you bucket list!