If there ever was a city unlike any other in the entire world, it would be Venice. It is absolutely unreal. From the moment we stepped off the boat, my mouth hit the ground and I think it stayed there the entire two and a half days we were in town. One look at Venice, the Grand Canal, and all of the smaller canals that wind their way through the city, and you’re hooked. You almost can’t believe what you’re looking at – a footbridge at every turn, tiny waterways that run between buildings, narrow streets that empty into huge courtyards, buildings that are in some form of aging disrepair but that are still wildly cool. You feel like you’re on a movie set, like there is no way this is real life. But it is. And it’s glorious. Unique and absolutely breathtaking, especially at night, Venice immediately became my favorite city in the world. I know, I know – I haven’t been to a ton of places. But I have a very hard time believing any other city is ever going to top this place. Plan a trip and see for yourself. While you’re there, check off the things on my…
Top Ten Must Eat/See/Do List – Venice Edition
1.) St. Mark’s Square – The hub of Venice is certainly this piazza. With the basilica (see #3 below) on one end, the Museo Correr on the other, and Doge’s Palace (see #5 below), the campanile, and the lagoon close by, it’s tourist central but it’s a must see. Stop for an espresso at one of the square’s many cafes (Café Florian claims to be the first one in the world!), sit outside, and just watch the people go by. I’ll warn you though – the square is rife with pigeons. If you’re afraid of birds like I am, stick to the perimeter.
2.) Antico Forno – There are approximately 1 million pizza joints in Venice but this one is by far the best. I can say that because we ate a ton of pizza while in town…at one point for three meals in a row. Don’t judge me. Thin crust is more traditional (and more delicious) and whoever thought to put prosciutto on pizza was a genius.
3.) St. Mark’s Basilica – Church number two of our tour, St. Mark’s Basilica is the epitome of Byzantine architecture and art. Glistening, golden domes and a mosaic marble floor that plays tricks on your eyes, the basilica is the crown jewel of Venice and a must see for any visitor! The church itself is free to tour, although the line to get in apparently gets crazy long. We lucked out and walked right in. I read that the treasury tour is worth the admission fee but we opted to skip that.
4.) Bacareto de Lele – This tiny (and I mean realllly tiny) corner sandwich shop is a hidden gem. You know a place is good when there is a line out the door. But it’s totally worth the wait. Their homemade wine and the simple but amazing sandwiches of speck, mortadella, and prosciutto cannot be beat. It’s grab and go, so take your grub and sit on the steps to the canal for a dining experience unlike any other. Also, we split four glasses of wine and six slider-sized sandwiches for around nine euros (~$10). SO CHEAP BUT SOOOOO GOOD!
5.) Doge’s Palace – This building from the 14th century was once home to Venice’s governing council. While some sections are opulent and impressive, others are small, dark, and modest. In addition to the chambers of the Great Council, the palace also contains Venice’s ancient courtrooms, which were linked to the prisons by the infamous Bridge of Sighs. Incredibly, most of the structure is still original. We sprung for the Secret Itineraries Tour, which is guided and takes you into rooms and chambers not open to general guests. I highly suggest it but book online in advance to avoid a long wait for tickets!
6.) Gelato – Every ice cream cone I eat from here on out will pale in comparison to the gelato I ate in Venice. The traditional flavors are made with real fruit or nut purees. Gelato also generally has fewer calories and less fat and sugar than ice cream. So I'd say technically gelato is good for you! Note to self: Replace vegetables with gelato.
7.) Get lost – No map, no GPS, just walk around. It’s an island so how lost can you really get? Venice is full of amazing treasures and there is something unique and exciting at every turn. But you won’t find most of them on a map. So just head out and go where the tiny alleys take you. You’ll be surprised by all of the beauty that you find.
8.) Rialto Market and Pescaria – Similar to La Boqueria in Barcelona, the Rialto Market is the place for fruit and vegetables, spices, nuts, and other various fresh foods. Not far away you’ll find the fish mongers of the Pescaria with their fresh octopus, spider crabs, cuttlefish, squid, and other staples from the sea. It’s a sight to behold and a great way to get a look at how the locals live.
9.) Ponte dei Tre Ponti – This bridge is located just steps from Piazzale Roma, and it’s where three bridges from various directions collide to make one. Actually, the name means “Bridge of Three Bridges” in Italian. And apparently you can see 21 other bridges from this vantage point. No, I didn’t count; I just took the guide book’s word for it. Regardless, it’s still a pretty cool site!
10.) Gondola ride – Ok, I know it’s a super touristy thing to do but where else can you ride in a gondola?! So when in Rome, right? Or in this case, Venice. A half hour gondola ride will run you 60 euros during the day, or 80 euros at night. Although it was more expensive, we waited until dusk. SO! WORTH! IT! The sunset reflecting off of the water is absolutely breathtaking and we were able to see sides of Venice we never could have seen on foot. 80 euros still too steep for you? Find some friends to split the cost with – it’s per ride, not per person or couple!
Oh Venice, no other city will ever compare to you! Without question, it was my favorite out of the three we visited. There is literally nothing else like it. Stay tuned for a recap of the final city…Paris!