For most of us, a holiday has to be memorable, enjoyable and most of all a complete out of the world experience. There are very few places around the world which give you this experience as soon as you set foot in the place. Venice definitely tops the list of such places. You will know as soon as you step outside the Santa Lucia train station, as all your senses will give you that experience. More on treating all your five senses later! First, let me shed some light on how you can get to Venice and settle down in a cosy hotel before you are ready to pamper your senses.
Although you will not find a road in which vehicles can ply in Venice, it is still well connected to the rest of Europe via road, air and rail. The Santa Lucia train station is the gateway to Venice. The exit leads you directly to the Grand Canal where you can take a water taxi or a water bus (called the vaporetto) to your Hotel. If you’re arriving by air, Marco Polo Airport is where you’ll land. The cheapest way to get to Venice from the airport is to use the “ATVO Venezia express” bus or the “ACTV Aero Bus”. The difference between the two is that the latter is the local bus service which has multiple stops before it reaches its destination which is the “Piazzale Roma” in Venice where both buses terminate.
When in Venice, choose a hotel which is at a walkable distance from the train station. In this way, you need not worry about catching a water taxi or boarding the busy vaporetto with your luggage to get to the hotel. Venice is a small place and a 15 minute walk from the station will lead you to a lot of lovely and discreet lanes which are peppered with small boutique hotels. The ones with canal views are more expensive and it wouldn’t hurt to check in to a hotel without canal views since you will surely want to spend more time outside your hotel while in Venice.
A visit to Venice must start off with the exploration of the Grand Canal, the central artery among the veins of smaller canals and the busiest in terms of traffic! It is indeed a visual delight and the best way to get your first experience of this magical city. Board the vaporetto (you can buy a day pass) and feast your eyes on the beauty of the buildings that appear to simply rise out of the water. The smell around is certainly intriguing, some might find it foul but for me it is an integral part of what Venice is. The water appears turquoise from a distance. As you go along, you will be mesmerized to find beautiful bridges, cafes, hotels and homes lining up along the canal. The luxury hotels all have their own little dock lined with colorful flowers and smartly dressed staff waving at you as you chug along. Forget yourself, let go of all your worries and breathe in as the journey will have a calming effect on you despite the chaos and rush of people and boats all around. I, for one could spend an eternity here. The vaporetto goes around in a circle to complete its trip to the point where you boarded, I would suggest that you hop on and off at stops to explore more of the city. Trust me when I say this, you will not find a better value for money ride anywhere else in the world.
After your journey, you will feel that you have bonded with the city in a way that you’ve belonged here since the beginning of time. The locals you meet are very friendly, note that the whole of Venice is a hotbed for hospitality since the city literally runs on the income generated by tourists. Make the most of it.
Your visual & nasal senses would now be content but you will be pleasantly surprised when your body informs you that the taste buds on the tip of your tongue are craving for some lovely Italian food. We’ve all had cravings in our homes for pizzas and we have the luxury of simply picking up the phone and ordering for them to be delivered at our doorstep. A craving for pasta would lead us to our local Italian restaurant back home. But in Italy and likewise in Venice, the culinary experience is a sheer treat for your taste buds. The cobble stoned streets of Venice are peppered with restaurants, cafés and gelato shops with a large number of them having outdoor seating. Be aware that there is an extra charge for sitting outdoors is most places in Italy and Venice is no exception. Try out the mozzarella cheese pizza with the toppings of your choice. The melting cheese with Italian seasoning and your favorite toppings combined with a cold beer or wine will be nothing short of heavenly. A sip of expresso or any other form of coffee is a norm in Italy and most restaurants offer them, go for it if you love coffee after your food.
You must try the Gelato which is nothing but a tantalizingly tasty ice cream, the pistachio flavor is something to die for. I have never tasted a better ice cream than the one I had in Venice, there are so many flavors to choose from and they are all moderately priced. It’s the ideal solution to bring down your body heat as it does get very hot and humid during summer.
A visit to Venice is incomplete without taking a tour of the Piazza San Marco and the monuments that surround it. The Piazza or a square in English can be reached on the vaporetto and the moment you get off the vaporetto at the designated stop, you will be welcomed by a warm gust of wind from the sea. Make sure that you are properly dressed to enjoy the breeze but at the same time ensure that you cover up as per the guidelines set by the churches in Italy which are pretty strict on dress code. Make your way to the St Mark’s Basilica. The Basilica appears small from the outside but is massive on the inside with two central domes and two smaller domes on either side with magnificent paintings adorning the inner walls. It is quite breathtaking and the atmosphere inside the Basilica is serene. If the chaos outside had you irritated, stepping inside the Basilica will leave you in complete peace reminding you that a place of worship can have a calming effect on you irrespective of what faith you follow.
Right opposite the Basilica is the St Marks Campanile or the bell tower, a brick colored cathedral tower from where you can experience stunning aerial views of the city and the surrounding sea. There are long queues to get in during summer and it is best that you either arrive early morning or late in the afternoon to view all monuments around the Piazza San Marco. Listen to the ringing of the bells, it is a treat for your ears. And if you thought you’re done, you are wrong. You still have the Doge’s Palace and Museum which you can visit at the Piazza. The palace is an iconic symbol of the Gothic style of architecture. It would be a good idea to pre-buy tickets online for all the monuments around the Piazza since it can get busy with tourists.
There are so many other little churches and museums in Venice and you will probably need an eternity to explore them all. The best way to make the most of it is to walk along the cobbled little streets and explore as much as you can. Take a ride in the famed Gondolas, although expensive (about 80 to 100 Euros for 30 minutes) it is ideal for romance with your loved one. You can ride along the tiny inner canals, which is probably the most romantic thing you can do in Venice as a couple but ensure that you are not taken for a ride in terms of pricing and time!
If you are tired of sightseeing, what do you do? You shop, of course. Whether it’s designer boutiques or local stores selling magnificent masks of all shapes and sizes or those tiny replicas of Gondolas, there is something to satisfy everyone’s retail cravings.
Venice has stood witness to history, right through the era when the great plague left the city on the brink of extinction to the period of renaissance which gave birth to innumerable architectural wonders all around Europe and to today’s day and age where experts say that the city is sinking. Come what may, the city has passed the test of time in flying colors and will surely stand tall for generations to come. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and jet off for an out of the world experience!