For us we couldn’t not go to Venice. To see this city made up of dozens of tiny islands that may one day be consumed by its own waterways was not a question in our minds. Yes, it has a considerable tourist presence- mostly drawn by the promises of eternal love as you ride a gondola under the Bridge of Sighs- and it may have been difficult to truly sense what life is like for the small population of native Venetians, but our time in Venice was incredible and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a visit to this unique and special corner of Italy.
What to see:
- The Islands- on our first day in town we set off for the islands of Burano and Murano, a short 45 minute ferry ride north of Venice. If you’ve ever seen the pictures of brightly colored, adorable houses sitting along a canal you’re actually getting a glimpse of Burano, the small island famous for making delicate (and expensive) lace. Burano is a dream for photographers and lace enthusiasts, and for us it was a wonderful place to wander, stumble across the touted purple artichokes, and of course, eat. More on our meal later… And since you’ve purchased your unlimited one-day transportation pass, it’s all too convenient to hop on a ferry to Murano to check out the famous Murano glass. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to see some glass blowing in action. The islands are like the Hamptons (I can imagine) and a great place to experience the beauty of Venice a little ways off the beaten path.
- Palazzo Ducale (aka Doge’s Palace) and the Basillica- situated in the always busy St. Mark’s Square, this iconic landmark was home to the ruling doge, or duke, of Venice. On the outside it’s easy to be impressed by the Gothic architecture, but to truly appreciate the inside beauty and what took place within these walls we’d highly recommend a guided tour. Yes, we felt dorky walking around with our one earphone and following a lady with a flag, but it was very educational and enjoyable. And while you’re being a tourist, go ahead and pay a few euro to skip the lines going into St. Mark’s Basillica. It’s incredibly opulent and offers great views of the square from the front terrace.
What to skip:
- Gondola rides- well, we did skip it and can safely say we feel no regret. No, I did not feel cheated that I wasn’t whisked around in a boat, sang to and romanced under the stars. It’s dang expensive and we know our money was better spent enjoying Venice in other ways.
- Menu turistico- Venice is a fantastic place to be an adventerous eater, so please don’t settle for any place offering the “tourist menu” of 3 courses for 30 euro. Get lost and find the good eats.
Where to eat:
- Trattoria Da Romano- in a word, AMAZING. I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain and naturally watched any of his Italian-themed episodes before leaving on our trip, and I am happy I did. I had actually forgotten that Burano was home to this family-owned trattoria, but boy am I glad that we stumbled across it and they had open reservations. We started with some sumptious butter and lemon clams and mussels- perfection! And then we were served the main event- Seafood Risotto Da Romano with Shrimp. This is without a doubt the creamiest, richest risotto we have ever had and we licked the platter clean!
- Cicchetti- this is less a recommendation of where to eat, but “what” and “how” to eat. Cicchetti is basically Italian tapas that you can find at counter-style wine bars called bacari. For many things we did not know what we were looking at, but that’s the fun! Order a few bites of this and that and it comes with a free, small glass of house wine- score! We particularlly loved the fried meatballs from Ca D’Oro alla Vedova, cured meats from Al Timon, charcuterie sliders from Da Lele, and eggplant suppli (fried bite) from Al Merca. You can’t go wrong with cicchetti!
- Torrefazione Cannaregio- an artisinal shop that gets coffee right. On the main drag of Venice, this place is pretty special and turns classic espresso into rich, bold, and slightly sweet coffee creations. Highly recommend getting at least one cup while you’re in town. Otherwise, grabbing cappucini and a pastry from any pasticerria counter is still a fun Italian experience!
I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to share some pictures from each place visited, and the solution I’ve come up with is Flickr. In each entry I will post a link to pictures that you can feel free to view and experience on your own. First album is up- enjoy Venezia!