The Best of Venice, Italy’s Floating City

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The first time I went to Venice was in the middle of summer and it was awful.

The humidity was debilitating, the heat at the turn at every corner seemed like a punch in the stomach. Though I appreciated its uniqueness, and enjoyed being there with my son, I did not really appreciate it for all it was.

My second trip, in early Spring, was a completely different experience. Days were a comfortable warmth, with a cool chill wave every so often. The skies were clear and though there are always tourists in Venice, there were pockets where we could totally avoid them and enjoy the scene.

Last time I visited, I was in and out in 24 hours. This time we stayed around for a few days. The combination of weather, slow pace, and low tourist season made it fun to explore and understand why so many people walk away completely in love.

The best of Venice, a photo tour.

Where we stayed

When booking our hotel in Venice, I wanted to stay in a place that would have it all: the space, the comfort, the central location, and the views. I got that and more at the Palazzetto Pisani, the smaller palace of the wealthy Pisani family, whose decendents still live there today. We booked a terrace suite with a lagoon view. This room was located at the very top floor (no elevators), and was a two-story suite the second level being an open air terrace overlooking the roof tops of Venice with water views. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a small office right off the main bedroom. It was beautiful! The the hotel itself is gorgeous and right on the Grand Canal.

Vacationing in Venice, Italy_GirlGoneTravel.com

View from our room in the Palazzetto Pisani.

Vacationing in Venice, Italy_GirlGoneTravel.com Vacationing in Venice, Italy_GirlGoneTravel.com Vacationing in Venice, Italy_GirlGoneTravel.com

Highlights

Venice is overwhelming and non-locals can easily get lost. Easily. We relied heavily on our GPS, and even she was sometimes confused. Which is why I highly recommend kicking off your visit with a tour. My family and I went on a Walks of Italy tour (full disclosure: my ticket was complimentary, I purchased that of my family). For years I have wanted to experience a tour with them since so many of my friends have and had nothing but great thing to say. They did not disappoint. Our guide was fun, full of information and as a resident of Venice was able to give us inside information on best eating spots and shopping (tip: locals tend to go to eateries off the beaten path and not as obvious as those with the tables set outside and the waiters trying to lure you in). We dedicated an entire day to the leisurely Welcome to Venice, with a Gondola Ride Tour. We walked through what felt most of central Venice, skipped the lines to go up to the top of t St. Mark’s Basilica, toured the Doge’s palace, and went on a gondola ride. But the best were the little breaks in between to rest and take in the sites at our own pace, as well as touring the markets in the morning. We all enjoyed it and it helped us get a better sense of the city afterwards.

Fish market.

Fish market.

Food market. Morning in Venice.

Food market. Morning in Venice.

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

Marco Polo's house.

Marco Polo’s house.

Bridge of sighs. Venice, Italy.

Bridge of sighs. Venice, Italy.

View within the Doge's palace.

View within the Doge’s palace.

View within the Doge's palace.

View within the Doge’s palace.

View of the piazza within the Doge's palace.

View of the piazza within the Doge’s palace.

View of Piazza St. Marco from the rooftop of the basilica.

View of Piazza St. Marco from the rooftop of the basilica.

View of Piazza St. Marco.

View of Piazza St. Marco.

We spent a lot of our time afterwards walking through Venice, touring museums, eating, shopping. We went to Murano and watched the glassmakers at work.

Views of Murano.

Views of Murano.

Venetian gondoliers getting ready for the day.

Venetian gondoliers getting ready for the day.

Venice, Italy. GirlGoneTravel.com

Finding hidden cafes recommended by locals.

Insituto Veneto, Venice_GirlGoneTravel

Checking out the Joseph Klibansky exhibit at the Insituto Veneto.

We rode the public ferry and quickly realized we preferred the private taxis because they were faster, even though they also cost a lot more. To us, especially after a day of walking, it was totally worth it. We especially loved riding around as the sun set. The views of the city from the water at that magical hour is breathtaking.

Private taxing in Venice.

Private taxing in Venice.

Venice as the sun sets.

Venice as the sun sets.

Venice as the sun sets.

We enjoyed afternoons at St. Marco’s plaza people watching, and listening to the orchestra at Caffe Florian, Venice’s oldest cafe and quite possibly one of the most luxurious.

The oldest cafe in Venice, Cafe Florian.

The oldest cafe in Venice, Cafe Florian.

The oldest cafe in Venice, Cafe Florian.

We got lost a few times (again), but enjoyed every single minute of it!

Getting lost in Venice, again.

Getting lost in Venice, again.

 

It's a walking city, with lots of breaks in between.

It’s a walking city, with lots of breaks in between.

Venice, Italy. GirlGoneTravel.com Venice at sun set.

Getting there

We drove and parked in the private lot of Tronchetto and took a taxi to the historic center before walking a few minutes to our hotel (the Pallazetto can also arrange for a private taxi closer to them to arrive and depart), but you can also take the train directly into Venice. The stop is Venezi-S. Lucia. You can either walk or take a water taxi to your destination. Note that some taxis might have to leave you close, not exactly in front of your hotel. We were lucky that our hotel was right on the canal and thus a short private taxi stop away. But it was an adventure getting there for sure!

Venice train station - Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia

Venice train station – Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia

Getting through tight spots!

Getting through tight spots!

By the time we left Venice I had a completely different impression and opinion of the place. Yes, it can be a bit pricey and touristy, but if you connect with a local you can avoid both of those things. There are still ways to relax and enjoy the city, and I found it to be so much more enjoyable on cooler months. Come prepare to walk, walk, walk and make sure to wear comfortable shoes. And do book that tour on your first day if this is your first visit! It will make navigating the city afterwards easier and you will see things you might have overlooked otherwise. I absolutely loved Venice. It truly is an incredibly vacation experience.

 

Thank you to Walks of Italy for helping us explore the city.  To see more of our road trip adventure through Italy, check out my Instagram and follow hashtag #GGTinItaly. Stay tuned for more Italy stories!

 

All photos are property of Girl Gone Travel® and may not be used without direct consent from the publisher.

 

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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