Venice was by far our favorite stop on our Italian honeymoon tour! Despite the storm that set in the second day, despite the resulting flooding throughout the city, including our hotel lobby and elevator, despite the daytime cruise ship crowds, we completely fell in love with Venice. The unique charms of the city built on water (actually, built on millions of wooden piles) where even trash collection is by boat, completely won us over and we are so glad that we were able to visit this amazing city. My only regret was not being able to go on another gondola ride!
Only in Venice: Gondola Ride Along the Grand Canal
Yes it’s touristy, but when you’re in Venice, you go on a gondola ride! We were actually on our way to lunch when a gondolier convinced us that lunchtime is the best time for a ride since everyone is at lunch and the canals are less crowded. And he was right!! We saw long lines and crowds afterwards whereas we did not have to wait in any line and the canals were relatively uncrowded! We chose the longer ride option that went into the smaller canals and it was an incredibly charming and even peaceful experience. Our gondolier also acted as a tour guide by pointing out famous buildings (for example where George and Amal got married!) and he even took some pictures of us at the end. You can choose to share the gondola with more people to lower the cost, but we opted for a private ride with just the two of us and the gondolier. It’s our honeymoon after all!
Surprisingly Delicious Food
During my trip research, I had read that food in Venice is not very good, and so I had somewhat low expectations. But I found the food to be surprisingly delicious and in fact, don’t recall a single bad meal, even when we had take-away pasta! We had an amazing seafood dinner at Osteria alle Testiere on our first night that was among the most delicious that I’ve ever had. We had take-away pasta for dinner at a tiny one-man shop just a few blocks north of St Mark’s Square called Tuttinpiedi that was seriously delicious and affordable as well. One night, we walked into a restaurant near the popular Bacino Orseolo Gondola Station, expecting a very touristy place, but again we had a delicious meal with great service and did not feel overcharged.
Another delightful experience was the “cicchetti”, which are small snacks/dishes that are typically served in traditional cicchetti bars and are somewhat unique to Venice, although we saw some in Florence as well. There are a number of bars and restaurants that serve cicchetti and there are even cicchetti tours that take you to several bars to sample different kinds. We enjoyed ordering quite a few dishes to try, occasionally with a glass of wine, and every single one was delicious!! I think this was one of Ken’s favorite things about Venice in fact!
Venice Before the Crowds
Venice is a very popular city and is frequently in the news for their attempts at crowd control. And I won’t lie – it was very crowded even in rainy November. But the majority of the crowds are from the huge cruise ships and those tourists mostly leave in the late afternoon. We got up before sunrise several times to beat the crowds and were able to enjoy the city and take some pictures with far less crowds. And being able to see the beautiful sunrise over the Grand Canal made it completely worthwhile!
Other Trip Highlights
- Breakfast at the Westin Europa & Regina hotel watching gondolas glide by on the Grand Canal. I mean, talk about an only-in-Venice breakfast experience!
- The unique architecture. Venetian architecture is so unique, from the unusually shaped St Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) to the grandeur of the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) to the many elegant and colorful buildings throughout the city, there is just so much to take in!
- Getting lost in Venice! Smartphone GPS does not work among the small streets of Venice, so don’t rely on it to get you somewhere specific! It is best to get a paper map from your hotel and have them draw out the best route to get to somewhere specific, such as a restaurant. If you rely on your phone, you will be spinning around and around just as we, and countless other tourists around us, did!! Although, I have to say that getting lost in Venice can be quite fun if you are not in a hurry since all the streets are so cute!
Photos were taken with a Nikon D750 except for the second photo (of sunrise overlooking Grand Canal), taken with an iPhone 7 Plus.