Although once an impenetrable island fortress, Venice is now conquerable in a day.
Venice’s impressive history as a merchant republic and important trading centre is still more than evident to this day. When you couple stunning buildings with it’s unique locality then you are guaranteed to be awe-struck and start praying that it doesn’t sink any time soon.
- There is only two of us, both in our 20s – relatively fit
- We do not, generally, go into mueums and galleries – although we did enter the Doge’s Palace
- Venice is a walking city, the vaporettos will generally slow you down – although you need them to get to the other islands (obviously)
- We got into Venice before 9am and finished sightseeing 13 hours later
- We went in May
When we first got to Venice we had quite a long discussion with the receptionist at the hotel as to what he thought of our plan. He was actually the one who insisted that we walk everywhere as “us Venetians walk everywhere” because “it’s quicker”. The other tip he gave us proved to be invaluable and can be found a bit later on in this blog post.
We stayed in a hotel in Venice-Lido rather than on the main island (not necessarily because it’s better, more because it’s cheaper) and got the vaporetto over in the morning. Rather than staying on until the stop for St Mark’s Square we got off as soon as we could. We were told at reception the day before, by a guy who was born and raised in Venice, that if he could advise tourists on what to do he would tell them to get the hell out of the square and explore the city properly – so we followed our orders.
The walk from the vaporetto stop was not spectacular in and of itself, but it added to the atmosphere of the place. There is something to be said for making the trip slightly more arduous for yourself as it makes the end point that much more beautiful. If we had just got on the vaporetto, jetted across to the main square and then got off and seen it then it probably would have not been as good as working that little bit harder for it.
To our surprise there was absolutely no queue to enter the Doge’s Palace so we took advantage of it and went in. We had thought that there was no queue because we had woke up so early, but we went passed it later on in the day and there wasn’t any queue to speak of at that time either. We spent roughly an hour there and most importantly managed to cross the bridge of sighs, which now has a slightly more positive tone to it than it originally did.
Still following our orders from our friendly hotel receptionist we ventured out into the parts of Venice that are, apparently, less explored. So, to Dorsoduro and San Polo it was, with the promise of amazing food.
One of the many beauties of Venice is that you are pretty much always walking along a canal, an activity that would be considered romantic in most other places on earth. In Venice it is pretty much the same, although the feeling does start to go slightly – to be replaced with some sort of canal Top Trumps, but being able to stroll along (without feeling like you have to get out of anyone’s way) in Dorsoduro and San Polo was great. It was also great to start hearing Italian again. I realise that in this situation I am part of the problem, but Venice had just started to lose some exotic charm and lived-in feeling given the number of shouting tourists around the main square.
There was nothing in this part of Venice that we were aiming for as such, but if I’d care to be pretentious (and apparently I do) then I would have to say we were searching for the “real” Venice, if such a thing exists. The friendly advice that we had received earlier promised something different, a new experience that not every tourist gets. He was so insistent and purposeful that I think he could have sold us anything at that point, but what he had told us so far seemed to be bearing fruit.
As luck would have it we were going that way anyway to visit a very special canal side (much like most places in Venice) restaurant / cafe that comes with some very high praise indeed. We took our fill of food and started wandering round some more. One of the important things about doing a place in a day is not properly stopping for a sit down meal, although not everyone would like to have the same experience that we had!
We then headed up to Cannareggio in order to walk around a bit more and get the vaparetto to Murano and Burano. This is probably our favourite memory of Venice and there will be a separate article about how to get there, as it is not the most straight forward thing, but for now here are some photos of the two islands to persuade you that it is worth it:
With the walking around and island hopping it was now getting pretty late in the day and we still had some points along the grand canal to see. We decided that the best option was to catch a vaporetto – one that encircles the main islands – and use it as a sunset boat tour, which was a great idea and comes highly recommended.
After doing a full circle we got off to walk along the grand canal and eventually back into St Mark’s Square.
When we got back we realised that we had been walking around, aimlessly exploring for about 13 hours and were now feeling worse for wear. The receptionist from the day before looked at us trudging back and asked about our day, when we had finished telling him about the day he looked at us and smiled: “You did Venice like a proper Venetian, I told you you’d like it”