Venice must look wonderful from the air, but we arrived by train from Switzerland and I really recommend the trip. I love travelling by train because it is the best way to experience the scenery at just the right pace. It takes roughly eight hours from Zurich (if I remember correctly) and the alpine views are fantastic. We booked a hotel down an alleyway within easy walking distance of the station, so we didn’t have to drag our luggage too far. We were up under the eaves though, with no lift in this very old, quaint building.
But all I wanted to do anyway was get out there and walking the narrow lanes and alleyways of this unique, beautiful town. Venice is such a special place that even decay looks historical and whimsical. It takes you back in time instantly, conjuring up mental images of Casanova and decadent courtesans, even though the cobbled streets are thronging with tourists.ย Travellingย by water is so much more carefree and romantic than catching a taxi or subway!
I read that going to Venice and not riding on a gondola is like going to Paris and ignoring the Eiffel Tower. But as you know from my Paris travelog, I did in fact ignore the Eiffel Tower! And yes, I didn’t ride a gondola either. They are very expensive, and no matter how romantic they are I prefer to spend my money on good food, wine and entry into the most amazing museums and historical sites. If you only have a day or two in Venice, make sure you go to St Mark’s Square and visit St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. These in my opinion are two of the most beautiful historical places to visit.
If you’re visiting the basilica make sure that your shoulders and legs are covered. I was wearing a short skirt and had to purchase a piece of sack cloth to wrap around my waist in order to cover my legs. Many people were also wearing them around their shoulders. So save yourself the money and make sure to wear a long skirt or trousers, and bring a jacket or sweater too. The interior of the basilica is absolutely gorgeous, made of millions of painstakingly applied gold mosaic tiles. The view from the balcony is also worthwhile, as you can take in the whole of St Mark’s Square.
The Doge’s palace was one of my ultimate favourite places. The inside is so beautiful and opulent, and if the walls could speak what stories they would tell. My favourite romantic tale is that Casanova was imprisoned there and managed to escape. It was quite something walking across the Bridge of Sighs as well, imagining all the people who had come before me. The queues to get in were a bit insane, but completely worth it. It also deserves enough time devoted to it because there is a lot to see. We in fact lost our friends in there, never to be seen again (well, not quite… I know they’re not still in the dungeons because I saw them last week).
The other highlight for me was the boat trip we took to the island of Murano. You can take a boat from St Mark’s Square, I think it is like a sort of water taxi. This island is legendary for its glass making, and we went to a glass factory to watch them at work (hot stuff) and bought some of the most gorgeous gold-rimmed wine glasses and coloured vases. These were pretty expensive purchases and factory shipped them for us at an extra cost. They arrived in South Africa in one piece! If you want an affordable Murano glass souvenir then look no further than the beautiful jewellery made from glass beads, like drop earrings or necklaces.
If you can make it to Venice during Carnevale around February, I am sure that would be quite an experience! I didn’t buy one of the thousands of masks sold as souvenirs, but I did buy some tiny silver Venetian masks to add to my charm bracelet. I collect charms representing the places I have visited. They were much more affordable than a real mask. Lastly, I just wanted to mention that if you order wine at a restaurant they bring you an entire jug of wine. That’s my kind of city!