Venezia! I finally got to visit one of the most interesting cities in the world! A maze of canals and stunning photo opportunities. Adam and I arrived in Venice for a short 3 night stay after 8 days in Croatia. We took the boat ferry a few stops down to meet with our AirBNB host, who's grandmother left her family a cute villa on the south side of the island. She led us down a few cobblestone streets full of warm colorful buildings to a gate that led into a courtyard. Up, up, up the stairs, then up a wooden spiral staircase into the apartment. It was the cutest place, with trinkets of times past littered all over it's existence. What I love about AirBNB is that you get a feel for what it might be like living in the city. In this case, rather than a receptionist and a lobby we had an Italian native host and a centuries old quaint apartment. This can make a trip that much more special.
Our first full day in Venice Adam and I signed up for a free walking tour. Our guide Elena was an Italian scholar who was very passionate about the city and it's history. We visited Santa Maria Assunta church which houses the Tintian's Martyrdom of St. Lawrence and Titian's Assumption of Mary. Then we walked through the quieter streets of Venice that don't have the heavier foot traffic of Saint Mark's Square, and learned about the infrastructure of Venetian Canals, and how the salt deposits are slowly eroding the buildings. We also learned about sustainable tourism in Venice. Since the whole city's economy relies on tourism, it's important to try and eat at Venetian owned restaurants and make purchases that are made by local artisans. This keeps the city's culture alive and thriving, instead of overrun by foreigners who start to shift the culture.
2 ways to be a sustainable tourist in Venice:
- Find restaurants owned by locals. You can usually tell it's local if there aren't signs with images of the food, or if the menu is only in Italian. Also venture off the beaten path to find some hidden gems.
- Purchase masks, blown glass, and other goods from local shops. These are a bit more expensive but you can tell they are quality hand-made. For example, the masks are papier-mâché instead of plastic.
In the evening Adam and I we went on a Wine and Cichette tour with Urban Adventures. Venetians like to bar hop and get small bites along the way. Our guide took us o the back streets to some small restaurants that were twice as good as the ones on the main drag and a fraction of the price. We tried some different types of these small apps like squid, meatballs, and cheeses on homemade bread.
We left the tour happily full and slightly tipsy. We made friends at the walking tour that were all meeting at a bar called Al Timon. This bar was also more of a locals spot, where you can drink your wine while relaxing on a wooden boat on the canal. When we arrived the group of 6 we had created had just about doubled. We grabbed some more wine and found space to mingle on the boat. We drank, then we drank, then we drank some more. By the end of the night we were dancing in the streets, having an amazing time with our new friends. We stumbled home around 4am, wandering through the maze of this gorgeous city. It feels even more special when the bustle of people has died down in the middle of the night.
The next day we got up really late and had breakfast down the street from our place. This was a mistake because it was one of the more touristy spots on a main drag. A mediocre brunch and a huge bill later, we left feeling less than satisfied.
Gallerie dell'Accademia was next up. This museum houses many great artworks by Italian masters. My fave was The Feast in the House of Levi by Paolo Veronese. The canvas spans a very large wall of the museum.
We finally found our way to the infamous St. Mark's Square. We went inside Saint Mark's Basilica to explore the countless mosaics made of different types of stone, and a vast majority shimmering gold glass. We went up the steps and paid 5 Euro to view the square from the terrace. I think it was worth it, great view from above overlooking the entire square. If you head up near closing there are better opportunities to capture an amazing photo without interruption.
Our guide had told us about a book store called Liberia Aqua Alta on the canal that was a sight to see. Basically it's the most interesting, disorganized, water flooded bookstore with books in baths, boats, and a gondola. It also has a nook with a view, and a staircase of moldy books to another view of the canal. If you're into interesting sights, check this one out.
In the evening, Adam and I went to go back to get some Chicette at the formerly mentioned locations—but sadly, it was Sunday and there were mostly closed except for Ostaria Antico Dolo, where we stopped to grab some bites and wine.
After, we went out in Campo della Maddalena to get some cocktails. There were people out, but it wasn't the same crowds as Saturday had been. I imagined Venice would be more of an everyday scene because of all the tourists, but it was definitely more quiet. We sat over a couple glasses of Prosecco and enjoyed our last night.