Don’t believe all the negative points you hear about this unique city. Yes it’s busy during the summer months and yes its expensive, but isn’t every popular European holiday destination?
We went to Venice in July for my 40th birthday; if it wasn’t a special trip then we might have gone out of season. With a good exchange rate at that time and the common sense to save up I didn’t spend my time checking if I had enough money for a gondola ride (80€) or drinks in St Mark’s Square (50€ for 3 soft drinks), I did both! As for the crowds, the majority of them were day trippers and had gone home or back on their cruise ships by 7pm, so much quieter at night.
We stayed at the Hotel Bonvecchiati, everything was excellent about this hotel, I can’t find any faults…apart from its American guests were always moaning. There was nothing about this hotel to complain about, it wasn’t the hotel’s fault it was extremely hot this particular week (grazie for their air conditioning). The helpful staff, cleanliness in the hotel and our room (maid service twice a day), the view from our superior deluxe canal view room (canal obviously and the top of the Campanile/Bell Tower and St Mark’s Basilica), the breakfast (buffet) and most importantly the location, only two minutes from St Mark’s Square and five minutes (if you don’t get lost) from the Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal. All good!
We were only there are 4 full days and we saw the main sites: (If we had another day I would of visited the islands of Murano and Burano or queued to go to the top of the Campanile)
Grand Canal and view of Campanile di San Marco – just like the postcards
Rialto Bridge: from a far a nice photo, close up not so good, lots of building work and when you cross the bridge it’s just touristy shops on it.
Saint Mark’s Basilica: Beautiful building (minus the scaffolding) inside and outside. We chose to take a pre booked tour, a bit boring and hard to hear the guide but much better than standing in the long queues.
Doges Palace: Found our guide and the palace more interesting than the Basilica. Perfect for art lovers, painting everywhere, the prisons and walking over the Bridge of Sighs were my favourite parts. Lots of stairways and no air conditioning.
Saint Mark’s Square: It’s a big square so enough room for everyone and during the day the crowds are queuing to get into the Basilica and the Palace, so you can enjoy the atmosphere and people watch while drinking a lemonade for 16€ at the Caffe Florian, it 10€ for the drink and 6€ for the music, the music sounded better with a beer (13€ + music charge). But who cares about the price I was on holiday!
Gondola Ride: Had to be done, it would be like going to Paris and no seeing the Eiffel Tower. 80€ for 30 minutes before 6pm, 100€ after 6 (per boat not per person). No haggling – the rate is set for all. Very good experience of seeing the city from the canal at a very slow pace. We got our Gondola ride near the Rialto Bridge and our route took us ‘around the block’. Maybe taking a Gondola near Doges Palace would have been better, as I really wanted to go under the Bridge of Sighs.
During our gondola ride we past the hotel where George Clooney got married 😦
As for food I recommend the home made lasagne at Da Raffaele, pizza at Ristorante Al Theatro and the steak at Hard Rock Café. I know it’s not very Italian but I had to cross it off my Hard Rock Café bucket list.
With regards to my TV/Movie locations to visit list: Firstly our gondola took us past the hotel where George Clooney got married and on Wikipedia there are over 95 movies filmed in Venice. Out of them I have seen (and remembered their Venice settings) Casino Royale, One Chance, The Talented Mister Ripley, The Tourist (a terrible film with a beautiful background) and I have the Young Pope downloaded just haven’t found the time to watch it yet.
Yes maybe my trip would have been cooler and quieter in spring or autumn, but I wanted to be out of the UK for my big birthday; however the good weather and busy atmosphere made my experience better. It might be a bit boring sitting in St Mark’s Square alone or not so much fun having a gondola ride in the rain.