Venice has always been one of those places I’d been keen to visit (especially before it sinks, right?!) but I have to admit it’s never been up there at the top of my bucket list! Although tempted with a family trip, I certainly didn’t hesitate to book my flight and off we went for a 3 day adventure around the Italian lagoon.
Having always prided myself on my sense of direction and map reading skills, I have to admit it’s a challenge in Venice! Arriving in the day time, we crossed bridges, turned alleys, followed canals and passed squares — around every corner it was a picture perfect view but I did wonder how I’d remember the route. Our lodgings were beautiful, a traditional Venetian apartment overlooking the canal — the photo above was taken from our lounge… such an idyllic view to wake up to. Eager to explore, we unpacked and ventured out for some pizza.
Staying in San Polo, we were central enough for all the sights but tucked away in a haven of peace and tranquility. Venice is quite small so you can do everything on foot so we headed straight for the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge. Small shops and fish markets surround the area, with fishermen selling their catch of their day to locals and tourist pap away with their cameras. It’s a lively atmosphere and I have a huge love for open waters (I think that’s what happens when you grow up in the Midlands) so it’s safe to say I found my happy place. Crossing the Rialto bridge that connects San Polo to San Marco onwards we went to the famous St Mark’s Square…
Like any big square in the well trodden cities I’ve visited (Saint Peter’s Square / Old Town Square / Djemaa el Fna… to name a few) they come with swarms of people. But you can’t deny, the architecture is breathtaking — it’s like stepping back in time or into a romantic film setting. Oh and a trip on a goldola is a MUST! It’s quite expensive but such an experience. Traditionally, a gondolier license could only be passed down from father to son and was quite a prestigious profession. These days there’s a gondola school where they take many exams (language / history / Venetian art) before obtaining their license — so each ride is a personal history tour guide. We even got serenaded!
On leaving San Marco we strolled down the riverfront into the sleepy neighbourhood of Castello. Albeit just moments away from St Mark’s Square, the crowds begin to disperse and it’s calm… we walk past lush park spaces, churches and tiny bookshops. It definitely felt more local than touristy here and it was a welcomed oasis.
Prior to our trip I’d been reading up on the sights of Venice and came across the kaleidoscopic island of Burano. Many blogs rated it in their ‘top 10 colourful places in the world’ and just a 20min water taxi away it was a must. Traditionally a fishing town, it’s said that the houses were painted in bright colours so fishermen could see from afar and avoid crashing into shore during thick fog. Still famous for it’s fish dishes we had lunch in just one of the many restaurants on the isle.
Houses follow a strict colour pattern and if you want to paint your house a different colour then apparently you have to submit an application to the government! Fuschias, tangerines, pastel blues, peach and mustards… so much visual inspiration, you might see some of these combos pop up in my work 😉 Thank you, Burano.
Returning to Venice by boat as the sun set, I knew one day I’d love to come back and explore more. I’ll document just some of my findings below for when that day comes:
- Do it all on foot, you see so much more (apart from the Islands, you need a boat for that of course!)
- Visit Burano & Murano by water bus, a day ticket is unlimited so great for independent island hopping
- I loved the neighbourhoods of San Polo & Santa Croce
- Avoid staying in San Marco, it’s so busy and touristy albeit nice to visit
- It’s cheesy, but get a gondola — you might learn a thing or two!
- There’s so many local hidden gems, so go get lost in the alleys
- We didn’t visit the Lido but come summer the sandy shores look so inviting
- We found restaurants closed quite early so don’t be late!
- Indulge in some Cichetti, Venice’s version of tapas.