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Venice for 36 Hours

Updated: Jun 5, 2021

On our second weekend living in Vicenza we decided to take a short trip to Venice (Italian: Venezia). We wanted to see it before all the tourists (the other tourists) start streaming back in post-pandemic. We’d been once before with some friends, but it was eight years ago (2013)! With it being so nearby we thought it made good sense to go ahead and go, even for just a couple of days.

Woman in black dress with large pink flower, a long pink cardigan, sunglasses, and a mask hanging off of one ear, standing on a bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy.
Ciao from the Grand Canal!

We are currently (as of June 2021) still at the hotel on the military base, but luckily there is a bus stop right outside the gate that goes downtown to the main train station. Chris got our bus tickets in advance (you can buy them from the Tabacchi stores, which are like bodegas or corner stores that sell cigarettes, lottery tickets, stamps, trinkets, etc.), so we were able to easily hop on the bus and be on our way. I’d looked online at the train schedule and there were two types of trains – a local train (more stops) that would take over an hour, or the Frecciarossa (less stops) that only took 45 minutes! We chose the latter option. It does cost more, but not significantly for a trip this short. We purchased the train tickets at a machine inside the train station and Chris went for the upgrade to 2nd class! I don’t know what we actually got for that because usually the Frecciarossa trains are pretty nice. You are assigned a train car and seats on your ticket. But I wasn’t going to stop him if he was feeling fancy! I think the total cost for both of us with the upgrade was 48, so not crazy! (The exchange rate right now is $1.22 for 1, so this was about $59.) They did pass out free bags with bottled water, snacks, a mask, and antibacterial wipes, which was a thoughtful touch!

The ride was easy, smooth, and uneventful. The train stops on mainland Venice (Mestre) and then continues over the lagoon to the islands (Santa Lucia, if you are looking at train stations). From there we walked out to an overcast, but not fully gray day, and made our way to the vaporetto stand to get tickets for public transport to our hotel – or close to it at least. The vaporetto is more like a bus, pretty cheap, fits probably 50-70 people and there are different lines to get to different areas of the city. You can also take a water taxi which is more like… you guessed it, a regular taxi or even a private car price-wise. They fit about 6 people and will take you wherever you want to go, but are significantly more expensive.

I had already mapped out exactly how to get to our hotel from the train station (part of my trip planning that you can read about here) and we only had about two stops before we got off right by the famous Rialto Bridge! There were a good amount of people milling around and enjoying the Grand Canal views, but not so many that it felt overwhelmed with people. We learned from our last trip to Venice that it’s a good idea to look for landmarks more than street names when finding your way around, so as we walked we looked for statues and unusual building facades. Luckily there was a big statute right in front of our hotel and it was located in a bright red building!

(There is a link at the end to all of the places I mention in this post.)

The red building our hotel was in, the Rialto Bridge after getting off the vaporetto, the area right by the bridge with a good amount of people but not too many.

The hotel did a no-contact check-in due to COVID and I already had instructions and had been WhatsApp-ing the owner, so it was very easy. We used a code to get in the building and our room keys were ready on the desk. All the rooms were up a steep, but manageable flight of stairs. The room was a good size (especially for Europe!), had a mini fridge and Nespresso machine, a big bed, an updated bathroom, and was really very comfy. I would recommend it for a couple or friends looking for something that has everything you need, but not a lot extra, if that makes sense!

Hotel Room details and me in the hall mirror above the stairs heading out!

By the time we got settled in, it was after 6:00pm so we were ready for aperitivo!! (Basically, Happy Hour!) Chris had seen a place that looked cool right around the corner from the hotel, so we went over to check it out! We were able to sit outside in the back, where I had an Aperol Spritz and Chris had red wine. They were playing a great chill out playlist and Chris was really into it. The wait staff were super nice and one guy chatted with him about the music. We had already noticed, but the staff made sure to mention too, that at the end of the street there was a really pretty canal view. When we were done with our drinks we made sure to head down and snap some photos!

Hubs waiting for our aperitivo, cute street the restaurant was on, and canal views from the end of the street.

After our little photo stop we wandered back over to the Rialto Bridge and to a restaurant recommended by folks from a Vicenza-based FB group I’m in. It was excellent! We really went for it and got TWO antipasti (appetizers), a beef carpaccio with parmesan cheese and arugula, and a prosciutto crudo with burratta cheese and tomatoes! It was scrumptious!! For primi (first course) I got spaghetti bolognese that was everything I had been wanting! Chris ordered spaghetti vongole (clams) that he loved! We had a Valpolicella wine (which we’ve been enjoying and is popular in this region). There were fun water glasses with a colored “marble” at the bottom that Chris is now determined to find and buy! LOL They brought us limoncello at the end and it was so much smoother than anything we ever had in the US! Again, the wait staff was very friendly, spoke English, and were happy to answer questions! We would go back and highly recommend this place to anyone else.

The prosciutto crudo and burrata, my bolognese, and the signs of a wonderful dinner - empty wine glasses and limoncello! (Plus the cool "marble" water glasses!)

We slowly made our way back to the hotel just meandering through the streets, trying to take it all in. It still felt profoundly surreal to be back in Italy, and it was such a lovely night to be out.

Rialto Bridge at night on the way back to the hotel after dinner.

We slept in a bit and didn’t rush to go anywhere. The bed was huge and pretty comfortable and the air conditioning worked well, which was nice because you couldn’t really open the windows. I had booked us a food and wine walking tour, but it wasn’t until 11:30, so we could take it easy. We eventually made our way to a small corner café for breakfast. We ordered two coronetti (pastries), one coffee (Chris), one Coke Zero (me), and one acqua frizzante (bottled bubby water) all for €11.50, which seemed like a pretty good deal for Venice!

Coronetti!! Delish!

We then made our way over to the Dorsoduro neighborhood (Venice has 6 neighborhoods or sestieri) where we were supposed to meet our tour guide. We were early so we just walked around a little, peeked through gates and over low walls. It’s a pretty residential area, especially compared to San Marco, the central neighborhood where our hotel was. Again, it wasn’t dead but it also wasn’t crowded, which was nice. After our stroll, we met up with our guide Cecilia for the tour, which was FANTASTIC and I highly recommend her! She is a sommelier, so you learn about wine AND Venetian history, plus cicchetti (pronounced: chee-KE-tee, snacks that are kind of a Venetian version of tapas, often served at wine bars)! What is better than that?! Truly, she blew us away with her friendliness, knowledge of both Venice and wine, plus her easy-going nature.

The WONDERFUL Cecilia introducing us to all the cicchetti, an unexpected part of Venetian history (they learned to build their boats from the Slovenians), and more delish wine and cicchetti!

After 3 hours with her (that actually flew by because we enjoyed it so much!), we went back to the San Marco area closer to our hotel, did some window shopping, popped into costume shops to look at masks, and looked for a nice summer scarf for hubs! He loves a scarf! He actually found several really nice ones for very reasonable prices. By that time, we were absolutely exhausted and I was honestly getting grouchy! We headed back to the hotel to refresh and both ended up taking naps in the nice cool a/c.

Scenes from our walk about!

Cecilia had recommended some restaurants but they were a little further than we wanted to walk, so I saved them for another time. We decided to look for something closer by. Several places were fully booked (good for them!), but we finally found a restaurant which was run by a family from the Amalfi Coast, so the menu is based on food from that region, still very seafood based like Venetian cuisine. We had to wait a bit, but we were fine with that. The prices were not extraordinarily expensive, but it wasn’t inexpensive either. We did get a little amuse bouche from the chef that was tasty. Then we ordered caprese with buffalo mozzarella, that was just perfect! Chris got mixed fried seafood, and I got a margherita pizza – Neapolitan style. Delish! All the wine on the menu was from Campania (where Amalfi and Naples are) so we were familiar with most of it. We chose a Greco di Tufo from Feudi de San Gregorio, which is always a reliably good label! We were sat in a larger Campo (the squares are called campo rather than piazza in Venice. We learned why from Cecilia. Perhaps I’ll write a separate post on some of the history I’m learning!) than the night before and it was a really lovely evening. We also had a lot of fun watching an extremely posh and obviously very wealthy British family that were sat near us. It was entertaining to say the least. Now whenever we want to indicate that people are extremely wealthy we will just say “molto freddo” (meaning very cold) because the women had to leave before the bill was paid because they were too cold. (We heard the men tell the waiter.) Despite it only being in the 60s and they had on multiple layers of clothing, plus the restaurant had brought them blankets! This is honestly, not all that unusual in Europe, especially Italy – to want to be bundled up and very warm at all times. And I’ve seen blankets at restaurants before. Certainly, it’s not only a proclivity of the uber-rich. But it was super funny to us in the moment! Chris had on his jacket and new scarf! I was the odd one out with only a light cardigan on over a sleeveless dress! I’m never “molto freddo”!! J

Amuse bouche, fried mixed seafood, and margherita pizza!

Our dinner view, more limoncello, and another angle of the campo at night.

The next morning, we had to be out of the room by 10am, so we had pastries as we got ready, some we had brought with us and some pre-packed by the hotel. We were able to leave our luggage at the hotel while we went out for more exploring. My plan was for us to go to St Mark’s Square (the one and only square actually called “piazza”) because we had not yet been there on this trip. But we had also discussed doing a gondola ride. We had done one with friends the last time we were in Venice, but since it was our 12th Wedding Anniversary we thought it would be fun to do it again. As luck would have it, one of the gondoliers we happened to walk past offered us a 20 discount (normally 80, but only 60 for us) so we decided to go for it right then. It was a good decision. He took us out into the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge, which is not where we went on the last gondola ride, so it felt different from the last time. I say even if you’ve done it previously, go for it again from a different starting point! It’s really interesting to see the city from the water.

12th Wedding Anniversary gondola ride! Fun fact from our tour: there are only two female gondoliers. But they have broken that glass ceiling at least! Hopefully there will be more in the coming years. It takes a great deal of strength to do the job and historically it's been a pretty tight "boys club".

Afterwards, we went to St. Mark’s Square and tried to absorb it all. I read to Chris from the Rick Steves app about the details of the buildings – the Clock Tower, the Basilica, the Campanile (Bell Tower), and the Doge’s Palace. Again, it was busy but not insanely crowded. We walked along the water front for a bit and then turned back inland to try to find something to eat. It would be an early lunch, but the pastries had not really done much for us! We just strolled around and looked at menus until we found what suited us and that had shade. It had turned out to be a very sunny day, despite the cloudy weather forecast. We got mixed bruschetta as an antipasto, Chris got a Diavola Pizza (spicy) and I got spaghetti al pomodoro (tomatoes). All of it was really good! I don’t think this is a place that is a must-do or needs to be searched out, but if you are nearby and it’s time to eat I think it’s perfectly pleasant and enjoyable.

All around St. Mark's Square. Another fun fact - they use to execute criminals between those two big columns (bottom right pic) for all to see! The Venetian Republic actually elected leaders and was much more democratic than the feudal kingdoms that dominated the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Period.

We got ALLLLL the drinks for lunch that day! LOL And some bruschetta. (Please pronounce it broo-SKeh-tah, not broo-SHe-tah. Thank you!!)

The temperature was rising by now and the sun really beating down, so we decided to go back to the hotel, get our luggage and head to the train station. The fast options (45 mins vs. 1 hr 20mins) were only once an hour and I didn’t think we’d be able to make the next one, but Chris wanted to go for it. Even though I HATE rushing like that when it’s not really necessary (I could have happily rambled around a bit longer, we had nowhere to be!) we did actually make it to the train via the vaporetto with about 3 mins to spare!! This time we still took a fast line, but it wasn’t the Frecciarossa (the official, nicer fast train), but a regional fast train. So the seats weren’t assigned and it’s just not quite as plush. And no free goodie bag! But it’s still a good train and was only 20-something.

From the vaporetto on the way to the train station...

To wrap up, it was a very short trip, but we are glad we went when we did. I have to say for me personally, I would not want to be there at a time when it’s much more crowded than it was on this trip. Restaurants were booked up on Saturday night. Granted they were still only allowed to have people eat outside (that has since changed), but still it was busy. There were certain areas, mainly around the most popular St. Mark’s neighborhood, that the very narrow streets were crowded and you had to shuffle along with everyone else. I think going at the height of summer and the “tourist season” would probably be miserable! Of course, you don’t have to stay right in the center. We did this time because I knew it wouldn’t be over populated, but in the future, I would want to stay elsewhere. After I had booked our hotel I started looking at restaurants and there were SO many great sounding ones in the Cannaregio neighborhood, so next time we go I’m going to book a hotel there, just to change it up! We also want to check out other islands, like Murano and Burano, so we will definitely go back and do more activities.

Water taxi that's actually more like a private car and the price reflects that!

One other observation I had was that people were very happy to see us! We heard multiple times how hard COVID hit and how so many people were badly affected by shutting down. They are so glad to be opening back up and really looking forward to having the city full again! And I, of course, fully understand that. It was also really interesting because there were obviously other tourists there, mostly Italians but we heard French a few times too and some British accents, but we really felt like the only Americans there. I’m sure we weren’t, but we didn’t see or hear others, which is pretty unusual in popular places like Venice!

Loved the intricate details on the balcony and the trees on that rooftop terrace.

If you are planning a trip to Venice soon follow this LINK to my Venice Recommendations page for names and links to the places I mentioned in this post. (Great to bookmark or Pin for later!) Or feel free leave a comment below and I can try to answer any questions or at least direct you somewhere else that might be able to help. Grazie and ciao for now friends! (Keep scrolling for more pics!)

More scenes from around Venice!

This flower shop tucked into the corner of a park made my heart flutter!

Okay movie buffs, recognize the white building? It's where Indiana Jones pops up from the sewers in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" after he's been looking for that tomb and they have to trample all the rats!

I also loooooved this facade!!

The details!!!

The Bridge of Sighs, coined by Lord Byron, from the idea that prisoners would sigh as they passed over the bridge at their last view of Venice through the windows before being taken to their cells. (Not necessarily based in true history, but it sounds good!)

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Beautiful photographs.

Thank you for taking us to Ital.


Jun 04, 2021

Great post, Tyler! I'm so happy you're back there and telling us all about it.

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