Venice, Italy

Venice is often heralded as one of the most romantic cities in the world… After seeing it with my own eyes, I can say with certainty — Believe the Hype. Venice is by far one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting…

Venice is essentially a collection of small islands linked by a system of canals. There are no cars allowed in Venice, and the locals and tourists make their way across town via foot or boat. The Grand Canal is the main waterway; filled with boats, gondolas and water buses (vaporetti), this heavily trafficked canal snakes through the heart of Venice. But Venice’s charm lies away from the Grand Canal, along the smaller canals in the quiet neighborhoods.

I found the city to be very walkable. You can get across town on foot in about thirty minutes, and there are no hills to contend with. As Venice is incredibly scenic and picturesque, walking across town and wandering through the narrow calli is a great way to spend the afternoon.

Taking a gondola ride in Venice is somewhat cliche, and slightly overpriced (think: tourist trap), but even so, I still highly recommend this signature Venice experience. We did our ride at dusk (100 euro for 45 minutes; 80 euro if you ride before 6pm), and it was lovely. If you’re curious to see what Venice by gondola looks like, check out some video I shot during our cruise.

Because Venice is a major tourist destination, it can be very crowded, particularly in the area around the Rialto Bridge and the Piazza San Marco. To avoid the crowds, I suggest staying in the Cannaregio sestiere (district). Cannaregio is a ten-minute walk from the train station, and only 20 minutes on foot from the major sights. However, it is a quiet area, with a ton of fabulous restaurants, such as Ostaria da Rioba. For lodging, we had a lovely stay at the Casa del Melograno, and would recommend them. Modest accommodations, but great location and excellent breakfast offered in the hotel’s tranquil garden.

Another thing to note:  Venice is EXPENSIVE.  There’s just no way to avoid paying a lot for food and lodging.  This is another reason why it’s nice to stay in a sestiere farther from the “action” — the accommodations on the perimeter of town are more affordable, and not really that far from the main attractions.

But if you DO want to splurge on a fancy meal, I also recommend Fiaschetteria Toscana near the Rialto Bridge. We had an excellent, romantic meal here, honeyfunded by our cousin Brian. :)

If you’re planning a trip to Venice, check out Venice for Visitors. I didn’t find this site until after we’d returned, but after clicking through the site, I concur with most of their recommendations. Very comprehensive!

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