Italian Road Trip (Part 4): Venice

Where: Venice
When: June 2015
Hotel: Aries Hotel (Vicenza)
Why Venice: Venice would be the perfect way to end our Northern Italy road trip, and on a tight schedule, I knew that one day in Venezia would be more than enough for Karyn and I to walk around and enjoy the canals of the city. I had previously gone to Venice the year before when I had accompanied John on his work trip, so I knew that we could stay in Vicenza and take the train into Venice – a MUCH more economical option than actually staying in Venice, which is $$$$. Not to mention, this also enabled us to take a side trip to Nove, the amazing pottery mecca where Tiffany and Williams & Sonoma goods can be found at incredibly low prices. John joined us for this leg of the trip as it was a 3-day weekend at work and he had been wanting to go back to Nove as well. It was a win-win for all.

The Trip: Leaving Florence was just as hair-raising as driving into town – so needless to say, I was so happy when we reached the highway. Initially the plan was to stop and have lunch in Bologna (for bolognese!) but upon driving into town, both Karyn and I were a bit underwhelmed – Tuscany may have spoiled us. So instead, we drove straight to Vicenza. Vicenza is a 40-minute train ride from Venice, an hour from Verona and 30-minutes from Nove (which I previously wrote about here). In other words, it is the perfect base for exploring multiple towns!

Early the next day, we made our way via taxi to the Vicenza train station for our ride into Venice. Unless you’re on a cruise or splurging on a hotel in Venice, the smartest way to visit is to find a town outside and train it in. It cuts down on parking costs and headaches. Not to mention, the walking out of the Venice train station gives you an awesome first view of the Grand Canal!

The view immediately out of the train station.

The view immediately out of the train station.

From the train station, you can take a water taxi, or wait in line for a gondola, but I recommend starting the walk to San Marco Square.

From the train station, you can take a water taxi, or wait in line for a gondola, but I recommend starting the walk to San Marco Square.

Here’s the thing with Venice. You can plan and make an itinerary (and buy tickets if you have a museum you really want to visit), but I honestly think Venice is best explored by wandering. You will absolutely get lost at some point, but without a plan, you can wander or hop a boat to Murano or Burano (we ran out of time), but it really is the best way to enjoy Venice. (Which, by the way, does NOT smell as rumors would tell you and is absolutely not overrated. It is like a fairy tale or a movie set!)

Karyn's first view of Venice - which meant of course, we needed a selfie!

Karyn’s first view of Venice – which meant of course, we needed a selfie!

Yes, you can eat at a Burger King if you like. At least it's a bit covered up to not be so in your face!

Yes, you can eat at a Burger King if you like. At least it’s a bit covered up to not be so in your face!

So many charming flower-covered window sills and canals!

So many charming flower-covered window sills and canals!

When in Venice, riding a gondola is a must. But, if you pick it up in the wrong place, it can just seem way to touristy and not at all relaxing. Both time we have been in Venice, we have picked up a gondola away from the Grand Canal. It guaranteed no wait for a ride and we didn’t have to share the canals with swarms of other people (as is the case elsewhere). So I definitely recommend picking one up in a less busy area. The ride is going to be 80E, regardless of where you pick one up and how many people you have.

Pre-gondola ride!

Pre-gondola ride!

Our ride took us under one of the bridges.

Our ride took us under one of the bridges.

Heading out to the Grand Canal on the Gondola.

Heading out to the Grand Canal on the Gondola.

One of the 139 churches in Venice.

One of the 139 churches in Venice.

A garage, Venice-style.

A garage, Venice-style.

I like how our gondolier is on his cell phone...

I like how our gondolier is on his cell phone…

Post-gondola ride, we made our way in the same direction everyone goes – to the Rialto Bridge and San Marco Square, Each time I have been, the Rialto Bridge was so crowded it was more of a mad dash to get over and enjoy it from the other side than battle the crowds. We still did manage to get a couple of shots in and without crowds, you can tell this is a great place to enjoy the bustling Grand Canal.

There are signs that direct you where to go...the only problem is that they aren't always as well marked as this one...but if you do get lost, just enjoy the scenery!

There are signs that direct you where to go…the only problem is that they aren’t always as well marked as this one…but if you do get lost, just enjoy the scenery!

Walking up to the crowded Rialto.

Walking up to the crowded Rialto.

View of the Grand Canal from the bridge.

View of the Grand Canal from the bridge.

Once you cross over the Rialto Bridge the crowds will exponentially get larger – this is the touristy area. You’ll shuffle along with waves of people to the grand San Marco plaza, that overwhelms at first. You don’t know where to look!

Walking into San Marco square.

Walking into San Marco square.

A view of the church and clock tower.

A view of the church and clock tower. (Stupid scaffolding!)

I love this building in the square!

I love this building in the square!

San Marco is famous for the pigeons and I don't get it! These are flying rats people! Why are you letting them walk all over you??

San Marco is famous for the pigeons and I don’t get it! These are flying rats people! Why are you letting them walk all over you??

The other end of Venice.

The other end of Venice.

A gondola stop near San Marco and the end of the Grand Canal...this is why you don't want to get a ride here! It's just not as special!

A gondola stop near San Marco and the end of the Grand Canal…this is why you don’t want to get a ride here! It’s just not as special!

This is just one of many gorgeous views of the bridges and the canals!

This is just one of many gorgeous views of the bridges and the canals!

Venice is seriously photogenic.

Venice is seriously photogenic.

One of the must-have souvenirs from Venice - a mask!

One of the must-have souvenirs from Venice – a mask!

And you can't not drink a bellini! (You can have it at Harry's Bar like Hemingway, but only if you are willing to pay 18E...we weren't!)

And you can’t not drink a bellini! (You can have it at Harry’s Bar like Hemingway, but only if you are willing to pay 18E…we weren’t!)

After making our way around the canals and to all the main sites, we headed back to the train station – relaxed from our walk but also extremely tired!

Good-bye for now Venice!

Good-bye for now Venice!

Final Impressions: Venice doesn’t disappoint, and it was a great place to end our vacation. We made our way back to Germany the next day (accidentally taking the long way, but 10 hours through the Dolomites and Alps makes the ride fly by!) As far as the trip itself, it was fabulous. I would recommend our itinerary to anyone – we did a lot in a little time but still managed to relax throughout the trip. We ate amazing food, drank delicious wine and saw all the prettiness Italy has to offer. It was a fantastic trip.

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