So, the morning came and after a 2 hour flight we arrived at Marco Polo Airport. We actually flew over the island of Venice on our descent - it looked so surreal! That tiny glimpse of the beauty we were about to encounter made us so excited to land and get there as soon as possible! The staff at the airport were really helpful and told us which bus to board to get to our hotel and we were dropped off outside the door in less than 15 minutes. My husband had booked us into a modern 4 star hotel in an area called Mestre on the mainland which had been recommended to him by one of his work colleagues. It was an ideal base for us as the bus stop into Venice was right outside the front door and the journey took less than 10 minutes. We checked in, unpacked and hopped straight on a bus. There are no cars or buses allowed on the island of Venice so all buses stop at the terminal called Piazzale Roma situated at the top of the Grand Canal.
I will never forget that feeling I had when I got off the bus and saw my first real view of Venice, looking down the Grand Canal. It was absolutely breathtaking and we just stood there and stared for a while taking it all in. I had never seen anything like it. I’d seen pictures of Venice in the guide book I’d been reading but they just don’t compare to actually being there and seeing it for yourself. It felt like I was looking into a beautiful oil painting and being sucked into it, experiencing a whole new world that I didn't realise existed. Right there and then I fell in love with Venice.
We spent the rest of the day wandering the streets and crossing the bridges over canals before sitting by the side of Rialto Bridge sipping Bellini’s and watching people go by. I even found a Sephora and a Kiko Cosmetics store down one of the little streets (much to my hubby’s delight...not!) but as we only took hand luggage I couldn't really buy much (sob!)
Venice is beautiful by day and is equally pretty at night. The reflection of all the lights glistening on the water, the sound of people chatting over dinner and a bottle of wine, couples walking hand in hand through the streets.......it’s completely mesmerising. We decided to be traditional on our first night and both ordered pasta dishes – my husband picking lasagne and me a penne pasta with chicken in a garlic and mushroom sauce. Before our trip I had read that the food isn't too great in many cafes and restaurants in Venice but, to be honest, we didn't have a bad meal at all while we were there and the prices were a lot cheaper than I was expecting.
The next day we got the bus to Piazzale Roma and headed straight to the famous Rialto Market. Crowds of people had flocked here to buy fresh fish, fruit and vegetables from the numerous stalls. It certainly was a sight to see, but after a short time it got busier and busier so we got on a vaporetto (water bus) for the 45 minute journey to Burano island. It may seem like a long journey when we were only there for 3 days, but it was well worth it! This tiny little island is the prettiest place I have ever seen! The streets are lined with quaint houses each painted a different bright colour – apparently this was to ensure that drunken fishermen could find their way home! After the hustle and bustle of Venice, the island of Burano was a welcome place to escape the crowds and enjoy the peace and quiet for a couple of hours. We admired the scenery for a while then sat outside in the sunshine at a cafe bar and enjoyed a traditional ‘Spritz’ drink whilst eating tiny little chocolate pies.......heaven! The weather was fantastic for our entire stay – about 24 degrees in the day and clear blue skies, then in the evenings I only needed a cardigan to take away the chill.
Burano was a big highlight of our trip and I could have stayed there all day, but there’s so much to see and do in Venice so we caught the next vaporetto to Murano island which is famous for its glassware. We spent an hour or so browsing the shops where I bought some glass jewellery and then we watched a genuine glass-blower at work, creating a decorative vase and a horse shaped ornament with effortless ease. I found this fascinating to watch and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the island.
From there we took the short vaporetto journey back to Piazzale Roma and wandered the streets of the Cannaregio region of Venice for a while before going on a gondola ride. Yes, it’s expensive, but you can’t go all the way to Venice and not go on a gondola! It’s all part of the experience, and our gondolier was fantastic – taking the time to tell us the history of certain buildings and stories from the ‘old days’ whilst meandering through the quieter canals and waterways which seem worlds away from the noise of the Grand Canal. This was another highlight of the trip for me. At this point it was starting to get dark and we were getting hungry so we decided to look for a nice restaurant to have our evening meal. We stumbled upon a little square which was almost like a courtyard, containing three restaurants which all had their tables outside and in the middle was a gentleman playing music on an accordion – the perfect setting for a nice meal! We both had pizza and can honestly say it was the most delicious pizza we have ever tasted! It was cooked to perfection and full of flavour......Italians certainly know how to make good food!
For our last day we headed straight to one of the most famous places in Venice, Piazza San Marco. The architecture of the Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale is stunning, no wonder the square is always packed! Unfortunately the queues to go inside these buildings were already extremely long and we didn’t want to waste our last day standing in queues, so we spent time soaking up the atmosphere, listening to the music being played by the orchestras in the very expensive coffee shops and restaurants. We found the best thing to do in Venice is to just wander round the streets and walk along the canals, stopping at an ice-cream parlour or a delicatessen for a sweet treat or at a pavement cafe to enjoy a ‘Spritz’ or a cappuccino.
Those three days for me were amazing and something that I will never forget. Venice is like no other place I’ve ever been to, it truly is magical and it had me under its spell right from the beginning. We were sad to leave but both agreed that this is a place that we will definitely be re-visiting. For now, we're picking our next city break destination.......next stop, Dubrovnik.
Have you been to Venice? What's your favourite city break destination?