Arriving in Venice
In April, 20014 I went with a group of girls and teachers from high school for a two week classics and art history focused trip to Italy and Greece. After the 18 hour haul from Auckland airport, our first port of call after stepping of the plane onto Italian soil was the city world renowned for both its physical and historical beauty. The city of Venice attracts over 15 million visitors each year, offering endless activities, from lunch in the famous St Marc’s Square, to gondolier rides around some of the 177 canals the city is built amongst.
Where to stay…
I would highly recommend the Hotel Defino for accommodation if you are wishing to stay just out of Venice, but not within the actual city itself. Hotel Defino was beautiful and includes a breakfast buffet for every booked room. This was great for us as students, and therefore great for anyone travelling on a budget as you can help yourself to croissants, bread and coffee that you can take with you for lunch.
Although Hotel Defino is located just out of the city of Venice itself, you can purchase ‘vaporetto’ (water taxi) tickets which include a public bus service from the hotel that transfers you to Venice, departing every 15 minutes from outside of the hotel. The bus takes only 10 minutes to arrive at Piazzale Roma in Venice, and from here you take the vaporetto to St Marc’s Square. We purchased a three-day vaporetto pass at the cost of 40 Euros each, and this was perfect for our frequent transportation into and around Venice for the three days we stayed.
What to do…
Venice is a truly beautiful city with the old roads that run through the city having become the pavement for over 15 million visitors to Venice each year. Being the ‘city of canals’, a gondolier ride should be at the top of your ‘to do’ list. You should set aside at least half an hour to embark on the amazing adventure each Italian gondolier takes you on around the beautiful canals through Venice. Here you are able to explore the backyards of Venetians. Keep your eye out for a man in a black or blue and white striped shirt and you’ve found your gondolier. I would say one of the best ways to explore Venice is by gondola, and being able to become part of the Venetian lifestyle and culture on a half hour gondola ride is a must do for every visitor to venice.
Mestre, Venice, where we stayed at the Hotel Defino is also home to some of the worlds most renowned Museums and art galleries such as the Plazzo Grassi and the Gallerie dell’ Accademia. Famously known for its amazing art collection of Venetian artists, both the Plazzo Grassi and the Gallerie dell’ Accademia are ports of call while in Venice. The historical value of these buildings alone is a reason to step inside and appreciate their beauty. In fact, the Plazzo Grassi museum was the last plazzo to be built along the Grand canal before the collapse of the Venetian Republic in 1791.
Our group also took a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection art museum, also known as museum Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. This museum was the house of Peggy Guggenheim up until she died in December, 1979. It is now the home of her art collection, which presents her passion for the development of twentieth century artworks. I found this museum to be particularly beautiful as most of the art did present more of a modern twist on historical Venetian art displayed in other palazzos’ we visited while in Venice.
St Mark’s Square
A visit to Saint Marc’s square is also a definite must do on your itinerary while in Venice. We were in Venice on Easter Monday and were therefore able to attend the Easter mass at the Saint Mark’s Cathedral. If we hadn’t been in the square in the early morning I would say we wouldn’t have been able to fit into the sea of people. Apart from public holidays, a wonder around St Mark’s square is something you must do to appreciate the true historical value of the surrounding Venetian buildings. However a thing to remember is that as soon as you sit down at a table within the square you are immediately charged a fee. A few of us made that mistake on our first night, and speaking little to no Italian, ended up having a very interesting argument with the waiter. We then taught ourselves to learn how to say “lei parla inglese” (do you speak English) when we got home that night. This definitely proved to be a saviour on many occasions, from ordering food, to finding out whether your boat was going to take you to the right place or not.
Taking the vaporetto to the Island of Murano and Burano has to be the best experience I had in Venice. Pastel coloured fishermen’s houses lining the streets, along with endless Venetian glass shops, I would have to say this is one of the most amazing places I have been in the world. Walk around the streets and explore the fishermen’s market, browse the glass shops, and take pictures outside of a house of any colour you could imagine. With a vaporetto pass, it takes 15-20 minutes on the water taxi from Venice to Murano and Burano Island. A must visit for Venice goers.
Where to eat…
Every street and alley way in Venice is lined with various places to eat. The rule is usually that the further away you go from St Mark’s square, the cheaper the meals get. However if you are there to get the full Italian experience with top end chefs, St Mark’s square is the place to go. But for those wanting it a bit more simple, everyday Italian food, the little pizza window found down almost every street is ideal. Every lunch time my friends and I bought ourselves a plate-sized piece of pizza for 3 Euros each.