Travel | 13th October 2015

A Guide to Venice

As part of our mini-moon Simon and I went to Venice for 3 days and I think it’s fair to say we were both completely blown away.  It was a first visit for both of us and perhaps because we were newlyweds the romance of the city really worked it’s charm.

Venice, the city built on over 100 tiny islands, is unlike any city I’ve ever been, and boy is she photogenic.  Although I knew the main attraction was the canals it did take me a day to fully adjust to the fact that there are no cars, everything is done by boat; taxi’s, garbage removal, deliveries, emergency services, literally everything.  We found the taxis (more of a bus on water) a little difficult to understand and often so crammed full of people you couldn’t move so we decided to walk everywhere and I think this is definitely the way to do Venice.  Someone told us that getting lost is all part of the fun and they weren’t wrong.  We head out each day with our trusty map (which I errrr misplaced on the second day, my bad) and navigated the small passageways, bridges and squares through the city.  More often than not we had no idea where we were going but we saw so much.  It’s not huge and you can pretty much cover all of it on foot in 2 days.  Now unfortunately Venice doesn’t really cater for wheelchairs or prams because the tiny islands are all connected by bridges of various different sizes, but this is all part of the charm of the city so we can’t really hold that against it.

There’s no shortage of history in Venice and even if you’re not the most enthusiastic sightseer some of these buildings will absolutely blow you away.  Let’s start with the main man, St Mark.  He has a Basilica and a square in Venice, basically he was a pretty special dude.  Ok so I didn’t really take in many of the facts about St. Mark but we decided to explore these places without a guide, so that’s my excuse.  In my defence I did a spot of Googling afterwards so I am little more clued up than I let on (who said Wikipedia is shit?).  The Basilica is one of those buildings which you can’t go to Venice without seeing.  Entry inside is free of charge, so there’s no excuse for not going in.  Don’t be put off by the lines to get in, we stood inline for not even 10 minutes and we were inside and exploring.  There are areas inside the Basilica, for example the Treasure Room which are charged at about 3/4 Euros per person to enter, this also goes for the viewing gallery which leads to the roof terrace where you can look out over St. Marks square and to the left, Doge’s Palace.  I would definitely recommend paying the small fee because that is one view not to be missed!
The ambience of being in St. Marks square is incredible, just to be wandering amongst these epic buildings is so overwhelming and this is exactly why you need to be careful.  Pick-pockets operate to the max in this area of Venice, and although we had no problems (no one was getting their grubby mitts on Faye!), I have heard horror stories from other people who have been, so just keep your wits about you.  St. Marks square has a plethora of cafes to choose from and as some of you may have seen from my snapchat (ejstyle) they aint cheap! As with the Gondolas we did our research before we went so this took the sting out of the news that a small beer will set you back 13 Euros and a small Diet Coke is 10 Euros.  But again, we had to do it, because let’s face it, where else could you be sat in the world with sights like that!  Can you tell how much Faye was enjoying herself?!

When it comes to restaurants we were spoilt for choice, the Grande Canal is full of amazing eateries and you’ll also find plenty down some of the smaller streets.  There are a few things to be aware of when eating in Venice, after all this is a major tourist destination and so there is some serious dollar to be made out of us non-locals.  Firstly, you want to eat at a restaurant on the Grande Canal?  Lovely, I would definitely advise it at least once, but if you want to sit outside with the view of the Canal you will be charged extra, but they probably won’t tell you that until it comes time to pay.  Secondly, fancy a pizza to share?  No sorry, we were told by a handful of restaurants that no sharing was allowed, we had to order a pizza each or leave.  The bill.  Now this is where google or an Italian app will come in handy because some places like to charge for all kinds of little extras (basically meaning ‘tip’ but worded 3 different ways) without telling you, and obviously they are all documented in Italian.  I’m all for tipping but after the service we recieved I’d be damned if I was going to pay a service charge 3 times and be short changed at the same time.  Just be aware, count how much you’re giving your waiter and make sure you check the change you’re given back.  Then a tip, unless already charged, is up to you.

Food wise it goes without saying that it’s obviously all Italian, which if you’re a fussy eater like me should do you just fine.  I survived off a variety of different pizzas (although I soon found my fave: The Diavola), spaghetti bolognese and carbonara.  For you fish foodies out there (vom!) there are plenty of seafood restaurants and all the produce is caught locally.  Price wise the most we paid for a pizza was 13 Euros and that was on the Grande Canal, but if you head away from the main areas then you’ll find some cheaper places to eat with equally delicious food.  If you’re really desperate, yes, they have a McDonalds, and NO, I did not eat there (smug proud face).

Now this wouldn’t be a fair review if I didn’t tell the honest truth about our time there and unfortunately there was one factor that really let the city down for us, the service.  In every single restaurant we went to over the course of the 3 days we were pretty much left alone, which you might think is a good thing, and in some cases it is, but when it’s 30 degrees, you’ve been walking for hours and all you need a is a drink it would have been nice to actually have a member of staff visible/on the premises.  In most cases we had to get up and wander around to find someone to ask for another drink, or to order food and even go in search of someone to request the bill.  On one occasion we had been left alone for 95 minutes after ordering our first and only drink, we were close to pouring ourselves another one while the only waiter (in a restaurant with only 2 couples to serve) played on his phone in the back room.  I wouldn’t have said all the Venetians were rude (although we had a few), they simply just didn’t care about service, perhaps it’s their incredibly laid back way of life, it’s just a shame especially when your city revolves around tourism.

Gondolas.  You can’t go to Venice without having a ride in a Gondola.  But be warned, it’s bloody expensive.  We checked online before we went and word on the web was that a Gondola ride would set us back about 100 Euros so we prepared ourselves mentally and financially.  We ended up paying 80 euros for a 25 min ride which took us down part of the Grande Canal and then down some smaller canals.  It is very romantic and our Gondolier even had a little whistle as we rode along so I can’t really complain.

Now for the most important item on the agenda, Shopping!  I personally have a built in homing devise for shopping areas when I visit a new place, but this skill wasn’t required in Venice.  The luxury stores, Chanel, Dior, Celine, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Gucci (to name but a few) are all located just off St. Marks square, so they are incredibly easy to stumble across and luckily they are all in the same area, it’s like the Bond Street of Venice, aka heaven.  There are also some popular high street stores and even a Sephora for you beauty buffs out there.  As with all tourist cities if you’re after a souviner to take home you’ll not struggle to find a souvenir shop.  The streets are scattered with the typical stalls filled with Venice t-shirts, Gondolier style boater hats and the occasional snow globe but their fortay is clearly in Venetian masks.  Just around the corner from our hotel there was a huge store full of Venetian masks, floor to ceiling, with some more traditional styles and some completely outrageous headpieces, they don’t allow photography inside the stores but I managed to sneak a few snaps of their window display to show you guys.

We went mid-September and the weather was glorious, on average it was about 26 degrees, but it was hot!  Luckily as Venice is woven with tiny passageways there’s no shortage for shade if you need a little rest-bite from the heat.  As you’re exploring the city there are plenty of Churches scattered around which are refreshingly cool to mooch around in for a bit, oh and obviously there’s the history of each one to absorb in too.  We were warned before we went that in the heat Venice can smell, I’m not sure what exactly we were meant to smell but we didn’t notice any unpleasant odours at all, well apart from an accidental detour through a fish market, bleughhhh!  In fact this was probably the cleanest city I’ve ever visited, no litter, no overflowing bins, no fag buts and no dog mess, despite the fact that there are dogs everywhere!  I was amazed at how many dogs we saw, but when I thought about it, most of the houses/flats in Venice don’t have gardens so the city is full of dog walkers constantly and for an animal lover like me, this was just the icing on the cake!  On our last day it rained, and my gawwwd did it rain, but it didn’t dampen our spirits, despite only having flip flops (footwear fail!).  We had already covered everything we wanted to see on the first 2 days so before our flight we paid another visit to St. Marks Square, just to absorb in the awesomeness of that architecture.

All photographs from this post were taken on the Olympus Pen E-PL7 with a mixture of the pancake kits lens and the 45mm Lens

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