On Murano, having lunch in the winter sunshine
Dodges Palace from the Vaporetto
The bridge across to our apartment (looking up to the Bridge of Sighs from the back)
Colourful houses on the fishing island of Burano – the tale is, they painted them brightly so the fishermen could spot their house from the sea, now it just looks pretty
Heading back to Venice after Island Hopping
The Grand Canal
All the Gondolas lining up outside the front of the Dodges Palace
Mikey and I explored this compact, historical and almost melancholic city for a mere 48 hours and it was fabulous.
We visited in November, had cool weather and few crowds. I think this had to be the perfect time for us to explore this little Island. I can imagine in the heat and crowds, Venice would have a completely different feel.
- Buy a 48 hour (or appropriate) Vaporetto pass (water bus) and use this to Island Hop. If you prefer to do things in your own time, are happy to do a little research of your own and want to save money. You can island hop on these in your own time, instead of purchasing the more expensive tours of the islands (Murano, Burano and Torcello)
- Peggy Guggenheim Museum – €15.00 per Adult open 10am-6pm except for Tuesdays and Christmas day. The Peggy Guggenheim Museum is fantastic, a bite-sized museum of modern art, with gorgeous gardens. The museum was once the home of Peggy Guggenheim. She is the niece of Solomon Guggenheim and was a fascinating, forward independent thinking woman, with a truly fabulous eye for talent. In fact, she is so fabulous, I shall do a separate post on Peggy here in case you are interested.
- Secret Itineraries Tour at the Dodges Palace – €20.00 per adult, allow 1 hour 15 for the tour. Absolute A++ from us. Your ticket to see the Dodges Palace is included in the cost of this tour, and you get to see parts of the Palace otherwise completely hidden, and even get to see Casanova’s cell(s). We had a fabulous tour guide, you will learn loads about the fascinating city of Venice as well as the Dodges Palace. We bought our tickets on the day first thing in the morning, a few hours ahead of the tour start time. However, we were visiting in November! If we were going in high season, or February during the Carnivale, you would be best to book online in advance.
- Opera – We simply got lucky. After eating out take away pasta outside the front of St Marks Basilica, we went wandering Venice in search of a Gelato for dessert. As we got lost wandering the alleyways, we heard some wonderful music and followed the sound. A young man, dressed up in traditional Venetian costume stood at the doors and asked would we like to come in to listen to some Opera, the show starts at 8.30pm, we checked the time, it was 8.28pm. We decided it must be meant to be, so we paid the €28.00 per person entry for the ‘back seats’, and went inside. Never having been to an Opera or really listened to real Opera Music before, we were not sure what to expect, but at the end of the 2 hours show, we were both beaming and agreed, it felt like only 10 minutes had passed, not 2 hours! Most certainly, go to the Opera whilst in Venice for a truly memorable experience.
- To Gondola or not to Gondola?! – We did not take a Gondola ride whilst in Venice – we didn’t feel that we missed out at all. However, we have friends who did pay the €80 and they said although cliché, they loved it.
- If you enjoy walking and wandering – Stay Near St Marks Square (out of high season!) – this sounds like an odd tip, as obviously this is the busiest most touristy area of Venice. But this way, you can spend your evenings walking around other neighbourhoods of Venice, have dinner, find random operas to attend, get completely lost, and easily find your way back to your bed (the only signs around, are signs directing you to St Marco). We found this a stress-free way of navigating the windy little streets and saw things we wouldn’t have seen had we stuck to one neighbourhood.
- Dorsoduro – A fabulous neighbourhood to explore, find a nice wine bar to settle into, and watch the world go by
- Murano/Burano/Torcello – Hop on board the Vaporetto to Murano, stop for a bite to eat, hop on board the Vaporetto to Burano, have a little explore, hop on board to Torcello, have a little explore of the Byzantine Church, and hop on back to Venice and enjoy the views. If you are travelling in Autumn/winter, just remember to leave yourself enough time to visit Torcello when it is still light (otherwise it will be a very quick dark stop!!)
- Go in the Off-season! Venice is not a place you would sunbathe and swim in any way!
We took a Ryan Air flight so landed in Treviso, which is in mainland Italy, about an hours bus ride into the city. Ryan Air sells tickets for this bus as you line up to board your flight, saying this way you won’t need to line up to get your ticket when you land. There were no lines in Treviso (as we all had our tickets!), but this did make things nice and straightforward once arriving in Italy.
You just exit the small arrivals lounge and walk up to the waiting bus. It was, of course, some ungodly hour that we departed, so I dozed much of the bus trip in.
The bus brings you to the Piazzale Roma, from there you can purchase your Vaporetto pass. We purchased the 48-hour pass and hopped on board the next Vaporetto heading towards St Marco, they are very easy to figure out. We had several hours before our host was due to meet us, so we made our first stop was the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, where we were able to leave our bags locked up whilst we enjoyed ourselves for several hours. As an Art History Major, whose dissertation was on the Delaunay’s, I had a fabulous time.
Our Air BnB host was to meet us right outside Cafe Florian, right on St Marks Square.
In typical Italian fashion, she was about 30 minutes late. We stood waiting slightly anxiously, looking up hopefully whenever anyone wandered on by for the half hour. Eventually, she found us and we made it to our apartment for the next two nights, we fumbled our way around the language barrier whilst she explained to us what was what and recommended where to eat and wander.
That afternoon, we spent hours wandering around Dorsoduro and found a fabulous wine bar with a seat right by a small footbridge where we could watch people coming and going. As it was November the sunset was quite early, and we found ourselves ready for dinner fairly early. We found a restaurant for dinner as we crossed a footbridge, and stumbled upon a humming small restaurant. I could not tell you where we were in Venice, and that is just the way we liked it! Later, well fed, and well wined, we weaved our way through the streets, following the sporadically positioned painted signs on the corners of buildings back to St Marks square, from where we could find out apartment. I’m sure we could have hopped on a Vaporetto, but it was much more romantic to walk.
The next day we got up, found ourselves a breakfast of croissant and cappuccinos and went straight to the Dodges palace to get our tickets for the Secret Itineraries tour, it wasn’t going to start for a few hours. This suited us perfectly as we wanted to check out the Rialto market, so walked across the famous Rialto bridge and over to the market to see what was on offer. It was mostly fruit and vegetables and fish, I expect in the summer, the market would be much larger, but it was certainly still worth checking out.
We wandered back to the Dodges Palace spent some time looking around ourselves and then had our fabulous tour, which we 100% recommend booking in for. After the tour with our minds buzzing we hopped on board the number 9 Vaporetto to Murano, we wandered around this little wee island, and stopped in at a canal-side restaurant for lunch and enjoyed some winter sunshine. We didn’t stay too long, Murano is small, and known for its famous glass blowers and glass blown ornaments. Not really in the market for glass blown items, we just briefly perused these before hopping on the next Vaporetto to Burano.
It is a much longer ride to Burano than it is to Murano, and we enjoyed looking out over the lagoon. There’s actually some really interesting things to spot, ancient and abanded buildings on tiny outlying islands. We found this particularly interesting after the tour we had been on that morning as the guide had explained quite a bit about the infrastructure of Venice and the history of the outlying islands. Even looking at the eroding bricola (the wooden poles sticking up in the lagoon) was that much more interesting after our history lesson.
Burano was very quiet, and the sun was beginning to set, it was peaceful and retained a traditional feel. The homes had washing hung out the windows, the cafes and restaurants had local old men sitting and chatting outside and many older women were wandering up the main street looking as if they had somewhere to be, they were busy, this was their daily life, this was their island. It felt like we were in their private space, yet they hadn’t noticed our presence. By the time we were ready to leave this pretty little island the sun was setting quickly, and we realised by the time we would make it to Torcello, it would be dark! We could not see any life of lights on Torcello and knew there was little there other than the Byzantine Church and lots of marshland. I was very eager to visit this intriguing historical island and in particular see the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which reportedly has some very well preserved Byzantine mosaics.
Michael pragmatically pointed out we wouldn’t see anything as it would be dark and he doubted anyone would be there keeping the lights turned on, and I felt too spooked to go in the dark!
Torcello has a really interesting history, it was one of the first and was once the most populated of the islands in the Veneto. People initially fled to Torcello to flee the barbarian invaders led by Atilla the Hun. Torcello was once a large and important trading centre, but the surrounding lagoon gradually became swampland, making it hard for ships to navigate, and bringing Malaria to the island, spelling the death of Torcello.
That evening, we decided to grab our dinner at a highly recommended take away pasta hole in the wall type place. We sat and ate out the front of St Marks Basilica and enjoyed each others company and watched as the other tourists went by, and the salesmen tried to peddle their ‘selfie-sticks’ and random lights trinkets you throw up in the air. Once fed, we decided we needed some gelato. Anticipating this to be straightforward was wrong, it turned out to be more challenging than expected. Nowhere was open. After about 25 minutes of wandering through some very quiet and silent areas of Venice then stumbling across little pockets of activity again, we heard some beautiful music. We followed the sound and ended up attending an Opera concert! It was absolutely fantastic! Neither Michael nor I knew how much we loved Opera, the two-hour concert felt like it had only lasted about ten minutes, after the concert, we happily found our way back home to bed, sans gelato and a bit lighter in the pocket than expected.