Venice in a Day

piazza san marco

Last weekend, A. and I left the kiddo at my parents’ weekend house and left for a day trip to Venice. It’s a two-hour drive only, so we had plenty of time. We’d been to Venice several times before (I believe I’m nearing double digits myself) but it’s one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever been to.

venice1

The gondolas off Piazza San Marco / Canal Grande (taken from Rialto bridge) / Even the doorbells are pretty! / A street market full of yummy food

We spent several hours following the stream of tourists around the narrow streets, looking into the shop windows full of Venetian masks and slightly tacky glass ornaments.

beautiful garden

The usual fishy stink of the canals (often mixed with the distinct odor of the sewers) was somewhat tempered this time by the scent of jasmine. There are many little secret gardens in venice, either on the rooftops or in cool courtyards, and jasmine is everywhere – the little star-shaped blossoms really smell nice.

One of the side streets, so narrow! / One of the smaller (!) churches / A house between houses / Boats are the only sensible means of transport here.

One of the side streets, so narrow! / One of the churches (I think) / A house between houses / Boats are the only sensible means of transport here.

What you have to know about Venice is that it’s CROWDED. Even in the colder months, I suppose, though if you’re ever planning a trip there, I’d recommend waiting for spring because Venice is notorious for floods during the winter (the sea rises) and I would bet that it’s not really cool if you have to balance on the narrow, slippery wooden walkways they put up. At any other time of the year, however, this relatively small island is PACKED with tourists of all possible nationalities. We saw at least four gigantic cruise ships docked in the marina and I can only imagine how many more people arrived by car or train. So be prepared for waiting in lines for the churches or museums. We didn’t visit any of those this time but chose to have a more relaxed day instead.

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The view across the sea / The clock tower on Piazza San Marco / San Marco’s basilica / The campanille (the church tower) on Piazza San Marco

This is where most of the people end up, I think. Piazza San Marco is huge and beautiful and it’s supposedly the most expensive place to have a cappuccino. We didn’t test that theory! I remember when I was little and it was still allowed to feed the pigeons – they would flock in HUNDREDS and peck at the corn people threw at them. Luckily, the city authorities came to their senses (seriously, EW) and forbade people to feed the pigeons (they had to find alternative employment for several people who lived off selling corn to tourists!) because they pooped everywhere and were destroying the monuments.

bridge of sighs

One of the most famous spots in the city, the Bridge of Sighs, reportedly named thus because it was common for prisoners to sigh as they saw the light of day through its windows for the last time as they were being transported from the Doge’s Palace (the court; on the left) to the prison on the right. Some people also say it’s because lovers come to Venice and sigh at the sight of it. Who knows?

Libreria Acqua Alta / Ditto / Great homemade pasta / A saint eating ice-cream or singing karaoke?

Libreria Acqua Alta / Ditto / Great homemade pasta / A saint eating ice-cream or singing karaoke?

We did have two things on our itinerary: We wanted to find the “best known” bookshop in the city, Libreria Acqua Alta, and Dal Moro’s noodle shop. We found both, to vastly differing results. I didn’t particularly like the bookstore. It’s crowded and looks like a madman’s attic. There’s a gondola smack in the middle of it, it’s filled with ancient (in an uncool way) Italian books in a totally haphazard manner (my OCD tendencies sprang to life) and one of the shopkeepers was smoking inside. In a tiny space filled with (very flammable) paper. There is also some sort of staircase made of books outside, which I disliked because I don’t think any books, even dictionaries, should be treated like that. But the pasta was wonderful, totally fresh, and both sauces – amatriciana and pesto – were jummy. We sat in the shade by a canal, dangling our feet over the water and watching the gondolas pass by slowly. It was a very nice lunch and a much-needed getaway for us.

srcek

Have you ever been to Venice? Did you like it?

Do you prefer very touristy, crowded destinations or are you more of an off-the-beaten-track person? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

 

  • Ummm best date ever? What a great way for you and A. to have some quality time. You Europeans are so well-traveled, I have serious continent envy right now. ;) The pigeon poop was destroying monuments? What the hell was in the corn they were being fed?! Seriously fascinating stuff about alternate employment for former corn sellers; that’s the kind of thing you don’t think too much about usually but it makes perfect sense when someone mentions it. That bookstore sounds horrible…smoking inside, I mean…what is the world coming to? I need bookstores to be at least semi-organized (author last name or topic at least) so I completely understand your frustration there. I’m glad you had such a great day date – your photos make me want to visit Italy again!

    • :) Well Europe IS much smaller so it’s easier to get around and visit places. As you’ve said: you drive for 5 hours, you’re still in the same province. I drive for 5 hours and cross 3 countries :)

      Hahahaha TOXIC BIRD POOP! :D No, I think it was more the QUANTITY of bird poop than the quality – it was everywhere and they had a hard time cleaning it off the monuments or something.

      I think that bookstore is “quirky” and “old-fashioned” by design, a kind of tourist magnet where everyone is supposed to ooh and aah over the alternative to Barnes & Noble or something. I doubt they sell many books there, as I said they’re mostly in Italian and really old (and weird). Like translations of Freud + cheap comic books from the 60s + torn-up cookbooks all in one shelf weird. Ugh.

  • Looks like you had a lovely day! The pictures look beautiful. I’ve never been to Venice, which is a bit of a sore spot for me, haha! When I was in high school we went on an exchange to Italy (Mirandola) and we were supposed to visit Venice, but the trip was called off because it had snowed… I’ve been wanting to visit it ever since then! I’m sure I will one day, though. :) Good to hear you two had so much fun there!

    • Yeah I think Venice in snow wouldn’t have been as enjoyable as this trip was :D You’d probably hate the city – and now you’ll be able to come in the summer and enjoy yourself on your own terms :)

  • I’ve never been to Venice, but I’d love to travel there some day. It seems so beautiful. We definitely do not have buildings that look like that or have the kind of history in America!

    Touristy destinations can sometimes be fun, but I definitely prefer traveling to places off the beaten track. One of my favorite vacations was to a small town in North Dakota, which had a population of maybe 1,000 people. I just traveled around the countryside with my sister-in-law exploring old and abandoned farm houses.

    • Ah, I’ve seen plenty of history when I was in the US, too. I mean, there’s beauty everywhere – like you said, little gems can be found even in un-touristy places :)
      And while I enjoyed Venice (and other destinations like Paris and London) very much, I, too, prefer uncrowded spots where I feel like I’m catching a glimpse of the genuine country, not just what people want to sell the tourists.

  • Maraia

    My mind is still reeling at the thought of that guy smoking in the bookshop. WHAT? WHY?

    Gorgeous pictures! It looks like you were there on the perfect day. I’m so glad you and your husband had some time to yourself. Also, that pasta looks delicious.

    I spent part of day in Venice a few years ago (wait, 8 years ago. That’s scary). It was gorgeous, but our Italian friend/tour guide who had been an exchange student at my high school turned out to be totally crazy (in a scary way, not a “haha” kind of way). She basically ran us around the city like mad, so we didn’t get to actually SEE anything. I’d love to go back and really explore. I don’t mind going to popular tourists spots, but I tire of museums, etc. easily. I prefer wandering around narrow alleys, taking pictures (I love the doorbells. I’m a big fan of doors.), and eating delicious food.

    Aaaand, once again, I’m thinking of Locke Lamora. EVERY POST. ;)

    • Yeah, I’m glad you noticed my restraint in NOT mentioning the Bastards ;) (Perhaps I should change the post title to Camorr in a Day? Though there was not nearly enough blood & murder for that…)

      One of the reasons I dislike guided tours is because I’ve always felt rushed – I like to move at my own pace and discover the city on my own. We always try to combine some museum & gallery time with aimless wandering when we’re in a new place but in Venice we’ve been to the major sights already so we just ambled around this time.

      There’s a “haha” way to be crazy? :)

      And YES my first reaction to that guy smoking was to try and search for the shopkeeper to report the lunatic but then I realized he WAS one of the people in charge… Though probably if anything DID catch fire in there, they’d just dump it through the window – directly into the canal.

      • Maraia

        I think you could make a Locke Lamora tag and work all your posts around that. Actually, it’s entirely possible there’s already one out there.

        That’s one of the nice things about re-visiting a place – not feeling pressured to fit everything in. I can’t stand guided tours. I don’t like someone telling me what to do in general, and when combining that with travel….yeah, it doesn’t work. Tours are always either too slow or too fast and being you’re in a group means you’re constantly surrounded by other people.

        Well, when she was at my high school, we jokingly referred to her as “crazy Leez” because she was quirky and funny. When we got to Italy, we didn’t find her brand of crazy so funny anymore. My friend and I stayed at her apartment in Florence for a night, but for some reason it wasn’t sealed off. There were chunks of floor missing, and when we got up in the morning, there was dog poop on the floor. No one seemed bothered, so I guess it was a common occurrence. We also stayed with her mom in the north, and she was EVEN WORSE. She kept trying to follow me or my friend into the bathroom when we were getting ready for bed. The whole thing was just so bizarre. Our trip overlapped with a visit from her US host family, and they were as blown away as we were.

        Those poor books. I wonder how many times a day the phrase “just dump it in the canal” is used in Venice.

        • “Being in a group means you’re constantly surrounded by other people” > spoken like a true introvert, bravo ;) But I definitely agree with you. I can’t even travel with a group of friends, let alone a huge group of strangers. I mean, I do take trips with other people but I tried travelling with my friends in high school and once at the Uni but it wasn’t to my taste – we always wanted to do different things (partying vs actually SEEING the city, for example) and the compromises left us feeling dissatisfied. Luckily, A. is as much of a loner as I am so we work together perfectly (both at home and when travelling).

          Um wow, that sounds really unsafe (the Florence appartment situation). Maybe it’s a cultural thing but I dislike people barging into the bathroom when I’m using it :D

          And I think that if we lived in the Middle Ages, Venice would be pretty much one giant sewer. (As much as I would love to experience time travel, I also LOVE modern technology) ;)

          • Maraia

            OH man, that is one of my biggest pet peeves. When I studied abroad, I went traveling during semester break, which happened to align with spring break in the U.S. Almost every hostel was packed with drunken Americans who had spent tons of money to go to Europe just to drink themselves silly – exactly the same thing they would be doing at home. I don’t get it. Why would you spend your time in a gorgeous city like Barcelona drinking, being hungover, and not remembering anything? Seems like such a waste. I miss traveling like that, but I don’t know if I could convince myself to stay in that type of hostel again.

            I don’t know how I feel about traveling completely alone, but I agree that you do have to find the right person/people to go with, otherwise it’s a disaster. Great friends don’t automatically equal great travel partners. One of my closest friends since kindergarten and I went to Europe during college, and we nearly killed each other.

            Hahaha, yeah, I don’t think it was a cultural thing in this case.

            GOOD POINT. It’s so easy to romanticize the Middle Ages, but I’m all for flushing toilets and regular garbage pickup. :)

          • Mm, yeah, I now prefer smaller B&Bs or something similar, I don’t think we’ve been to a huge hostel for a while now. It’s a great option for travelling on a student budget but I do like my room with an ensuite bathroom now, communal showers are just … eh, we’ve managed to find pretty cheap accomodation away from the partying crowds :)

            I travelled around Bavaria a bit when I studied in Munich for a few months – and all over Munich, of course – and I felt pretty safe. Germany is such a woman-friendly country. I wouldn’t want to go travelling alone in some other countries, though.

          • Maraia

            Germany is definitely on the safer side. I can’t remember ever feeling uncomfortable there. (Did you ever go to Freiburg? I know it’s not in Bavaria, but it’s relatively close.) I have a friend from study abroad who traveled through Bosnia by himself and had incredible experiences. Most of them wouldn’t have been smart or safe for a woman traveling alone, though. I envy him that freedom to do whatever and trust so openly, just because he’s a male.

          • Eep! A lost comment! :)

            I’ve never been to Freiburg. In fact, I haven’t travelled in Germany nearly as much as I would like to. I think we may attempt our first real little-family trip abroad in the autumn and go to South Germany (I’d love to visit Nurnberg among other places). I hope we get to do that.

            Yeah, women travelling alone are still rarely a good idea in some places. I mean – even in Germany, I took care not to do “dangerous” stuff (i.e. stay out too late, go into weird neighborhoods…), which is something that really ticks me off. Why should I have to care where I’m going and who I’m going with?! Ugh.

          • Maraia

            OH man, if you end up doing your trip in the fall, please stop in Freiburg. I know I’m biased, but it is seriously one of the most gorgeous cities. It’s right on the edge of the Black Forest! I guess it’s a little harder to get to than Bavaria, with the forest in the way, but it’s worth it. One of my absolute favorite photographs actually was taken in Nürnberg, on my very first trip to Germany. Yay, I’m already getting excited and I’m not even going! If you decide you want any travel trips, let me know. :D

            Yep, it would be stupid not to pay attention to that sort of thing, but it’s endlessly frustrating that we have to in the first place.

  • Ermagad it’s so gorgeous! I’ve been to Venice but it was many years ago when I was young and I only remember snippets. I am so envious, both that you got to go on a day trip to such a wonderful magical place and also that you got to drop the kiddo off at the grandparents for a day out as a couple! I wish my parents or my husband’s mom lived closer, so that we could get free babysitting and get away more ;)

    ~Mogsy

    • Thanks, Mogsy :)
      I’ve heard that grandparents are really excited about babysitting the firstborn child but that the excitement wanes when you get a second child :) So far, they’ve been a great help and the kiddo enjoys being with them (and with my husband’s mom as well). Yeah, it’s easier when the country is so small and everyone lives close by – but that also means you have ALL of your in-laws at hand which can sometimes be challenging :D How far away do your parents live? I know people tend to move a lot more in the US.

      • They live in Shanghai :)

        They have a house in Las Vegas too though, but that’s still very far away if they’re there (we’re on the East Coast). They love traveling so we probably couldn’t catch them at home even if we tried, lol. They just came home from a trip to Russia.

        ~Mogsy

        • Umh, yeah, living in Shanghai does make babysitting on the weekends more difficult :) Wow, that’s so… I feel provinical and sheltered sometimes, talking to people like you – and others who’ve moved a lot, making a new home and friends at every stop in their lives. I’ve travelled a lot but Ljubljana has always been my home.

  • I am 10000% jealous that Venice is just a 2hour drive from you! I WOULD NEVER LEAVE!! GORGEOUS pictures, thank you SO MUCH for sharing them with us!! ♥ It looks like such a dreamy place to see, it’s definitely on my bucket list of places I MUST see before I die! The bookstore experience sounds unfortunate though, books thrown all around would have made my OCD flare up too, and the smoking?! Gah! No thank you! But YAY for yummy pasta though. Ahhh pasta, always makes things better :) Thanks for the stunning virtual tour and tourist tips Kaja and I’m glad you had a wonderful trip! xxx

    • Yeah, living in Central Europe means we’re pretty close to some spectacular places. But I think Venice is best enjoyed in small doses, mostly because it’s so crowded! I always marvel at the natives there – they seem so relaxed!

      Pasta is my go-to comfort food, too. NOTHING beats pasta for lunch. :) And this one came recommended by the lovely people of Internet as very good and very cheap – and it was both! I’m really glad we discovered it; Venice can be very expensive, as you can imagine…

  • I haven’t been to Venice although I dream to go. Everyone say to me it’s smelly and I will be disappointing, but I just have to see it for myself.

    I tweeted about Libreria Acqua Alta recently. Pictures look awesome although in person I might have same ocd problems as you.

    Thanks for wonderful post!

    • I wouldn’t say it’s smelly and disappointing! I like it very much and I keep returning :) It depends on your expectations, I guess. If you’re up for a crowded place with some great history, I think you’d enjoy it!

      Yeah that bookstore… I know it’s probably just me and that other people would enjoy it very much but I hoped to BUY BOOKS and I just couldn’t find ANYTHING for me in that mess… Eh.

      • We’ll see. I hope to talk my husband into that adventure soon. He’s still hesitant since it’s a bit longer drive from Serbia…
        I never plan to buy books if it’s not English-speaking country. Books in English are always too expensive. :(

        • Umh, yes, I imagine the drive from Serbia would be pretty long! Wouldn’t it be faster to go by boat? (I have no idea if that’s even a possibility, just guessing.)
          I always browse the bookstores for English books though I rarely buy anything if it’s not an English-speaking country. But we did get some amazingly cheap books in Rome because one of the largest bookstores had a sale going on so everything was 50% off or something…