It seems like Venice has been done to death, but as anyone who has visited the Italian city knows, it’s popular for a reason.
Part of the problem seems to be that many tourists visit Venice on day trips, a trend contributed to by cruise ships and one which Venice authorities try to discourage. Day visitors who aren’t paying for accommodation contribute less, but besides that I would argue that a day isn’t long enough to enjoy all that Venice and the surrounding area has to offer.
My partner and I stayed in a B&B in a more residential area. We chose Oceano Mare because of its glowing Trip Advisor reviews and because it seemed like the owner, Nicola, would be able to provide us with recommendations for genuine Venetian restaurants and bars.
It was a good decision as our host was very friendly and generous from the get-go. Because of the homely environment we were also able to speak with other guests around the breakfast table, so we had lots of great recommendations for things to do during our stay. It was lovely to escape from the very busy and touristic parts of the island, weave down the maze of alleyways, and return to the B&B in the quieter part of town. There were still plenty of excellent cafes, restaurants and bars within walking distance, but they were generally cheaper than those in the busier areas.
We didn’t have one bad meal in Venice. One of the main attractions for me – a pasta and seafood lover – was the food. But however high my expectations were they were exceeded. Besides what you’d expect; like delicious pasta varieties, pizza and gelato, we also tried new things like pickled sardines, which Venetian fishermen apparently used to take on long boat trips with them, and baked polenta. We also tried chichetti, finger food similar to bruschetta but with a variety of toppings, and lots of delicious wine and Spritz. As well as Aperol – which is currently enjoying a resurgence in the UK – we tried Campari and a Spritz I’d not heard of before: Select. Spending a whole week in Venice and the surrounding area gave us plenty of time to try a wide variety of local dishes.
Besides walking the length and breadth of the main Venice island, we also visited many of the surrounding islands and took a day trip to Padua on the mainland. A day’s ferry bus (vaporetto) ticket covers all of the surrounding islands, and the train to Padua goes from the main station, Santa Lucia. Here’s a breakdown of each of the islands, as well as Padua or Padova.
Murano is the island know for its glass craftsmanship, and the main walkway is lined by shops selling fine glass-work. I never thought of myself as being particularly fond of glass, but I developed a new-found appreciation by looking into some of these shops. I was slightly disappointed that we weren’t able to watch anyone working the glass, but I think we maybe arrived too late or you need to book onto an organised island tour.
Burano was the most memorable island for me because of its sheer beauty. It’s an incredible, picturesque little place with all of the houses lining the canals painted bright colours. There’s lots of little shops and market stalls, as well as bars and restaurants. The little island – which specialises in lace merchandise – is like something out of a storybook.
We went to Lido on our last day and sipped short, strong coffees on the seafront, walked down the quiet beach and talked about our future travel dreams and plans. So much of our time in Venice was spent walking along seafronts or canals, but it was lovely to fit in some beach time, particularly because of the rapidly-dropping temperature back home.
San Giorgio Maggiore
This tiny island is right opposite the busiest part of Venice, but if you hop over on the water bus it’s far more peaceful and quiet. A couple we met in our B&B who had visited many times before recommended we go up the bell tower of the San Giorgio church rather than pay to go up the one in Piazza San Marco. It was a great recommendation, not only was it free and without queues, the view, looking back on San Marco and providing a 360 degree view of the entire area, was stunning. Even though I knew it was coming, the chime of the bell on the hour made me jump out of my skin. Be careful with those cameras!
I’m not sure why we call this city Padua, I think the Italians call it Padova; that’s the name on the train station. We did a day trip here and visited Prato Della Valle, the largest square in Italy. We also went into the Basilica San Antonio, which was really interesting and felt like a significant religious destination. We stopped by a great market for delicious food and ate in a pizza restaurant. Prices were lower than in the city of Venice.
With all of the islands around Venice that are well worth visiting, as well as the bars, restaurants and museums on the main island, you can easily spend a week in the area without setting foot on a gondola!