The best advice for Inter-railing around Italy - Venice dreams...

When a special occasion comes along for a loved one, such as a big birthday or anniversary, your mind turns to ways to mark the event suitably. Such a situation occurred around this time last year and naturally some of mine and my other halves favourite things, such as travel, food, culture and adventure, popped into my head.
I wanted to plan an epic surprise and Italy fitted the bill for the reasons outlined above. Over the course of a week, I wanted us to inter-rail between Venice, Florence and Rome and to achieve this a fair amount of research and planning was needed.

First on the list was Venice, the City of romance. I booked flights directly into Marco Polo, as Venice has two airports, one a little farther out of town. Upon arriving, rather than spend a fortune on a private water taxi, we headed on over to the vaperetto terminal (or water bus to you and I). Being fairly seasoned travelers, we've got the art of flying with only hand luggage down to a fine art, which made getting about far easier. We bundled our bags on board the vaperetto and settled in for the journey to the stop nearest our hotel.

We landed around lunch time and the sun was peaking overhead. The first part of the voyage was fairly industrial looking but 20 minutes in the waterways opened up and we caught our first glimpse of the surreal beauty that is Venice. The vaperetto swayed and bobbed between each stop, letting on and off Venetians trundling about their business. Delicate wafts of delicious Italian cuisine had our tummies doing somersaults! Now the vaperetto does take a little while to get about due to the number of stops and so if you're in a hurry, this mode of transport is probably not for you, but it is cheaper than a water taxi, costing around *15 euro each for a 12 hour pass. Around an hour later, we reached our stop on the Grand Canal and stood mesmerised by the stunning but decaying architecture that lined both banks of Venice.
I booked Palazzo Guardi for our stay in Venice as it had a distinctly Venetian and romantic feel to it. You will quickly find that Venice accommodation is both pricey and quirky - you won't find any modern, cheap hotels here but instead you'll find charming and characterful pensiones. I wanted us to have the authentic experience and so this worked fine for us but for some international travelers who are used to modern facilities and space, it may come as a bit of a shock. Most pensiones are situated over several floors and not all of them have lifts, so be prepared for a walk up several flights of stairs. This was partly the reason we traveled light with only hand luggage! The owners were accommodating and friendly, initially offering us a room right off the hall but as we wanted more privacy, we requested a suite a floor down. It was a little quirky in layout and appeared to have access to a secret loft space but the bed was large and comfortable. After dropping off our bags and a quick freshen up, we headed out to get our first taste of Venice.
We asked the hotel reception staff for points of interest and they gave the best advice....go out and get lost. Venice is full of narrow alleys, twisting pathways and interesting nooks and crannies. Whilst to some it may appear unsafe to do this at first, especially at night, Venice has one of the lowest crime ratings. This turned out to be the best advice as we meandered and mooched through the most stunning street-scapes and frequently reappeared at yet another canal or quaint bridge. Soon the call for food was too much and we found a rustic cafe to sample our first Italian cuisine of the trip. We both adore pizza and so this was the first thing we opted for and we weren't disappointed. We paid around 20-25 euros for a main and a drink each, which was cheaper than the restaurants on the front charge but still quite expensive by Italian standards. Wandering a little off the beaten track and choosing somewhere set back off the main strip is the best way to eat well and cheaply. Other days we opted for a take out panini for lunch from one of the delicious bakeries to help keep costs down.
Over the course of our trip. we took in the main sights such as San Marco Square, Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs, much of the Grand Canal and many churches. We visited the top of the clock tower in San Marco Square, which provided fantastic panoramic views but beware visiting near the stroke of the hour or else take ear plugs! We could have gone inside the stunning Byzantine St Mark's Basallica but the queue was ridiculously long and it is expensive. Based on my research, viewing from the outside is adequate unless you're a church fanatic, and you can still learn a lot.
A big tip for traveling cost effectively in Italy is to download a free audio guide such as Rick Steve's offerings, which gave us such interesting historical information about each sight. You can download it onto your iPhone before traveling and plug your own headphones in for an informative and free way to get a fuller experience of the places you visit. We have since used these handy little guides in many other places in Europe and fully recommend them if you can get past the cheesy jokes (sorry Rick). We found you can see many of the main attractions in Venice comfortably in two days but of course, there are many amazing churches, galleries and neighbourhoods to visit which could extend your stay for up to a week.
Venice becomes even more beautiful at night and that famous romantic atmosphere really gets underway - you can even waltz to the sultry melody of a string quartet in San Marco Square if that's your vibe. You can dine in the open air serenaded by live music, enjoying great wine and food, including rustic pasta dishes and fresh seafood fished that day in Venetian waters. A dinner with wine is typically around 45-55 euros but again, getting off the beaten track will make it more cost effective. After dinner we wandered the canals and found cute cafes to order glasses of Pinot Grigio. Then, all of a sudden, under the stars, atop a quaint little bridge with the moonlight shimmering off the canal, my other half had a surprise of his own up his sleeve and totally blew me away by proposing. I had been so caught up in planning a surprise for him that I didn't even see it coming! Even without this, our visit to Venice was totally magical and I can't wait to return one day.
Stop by soon for the second and third parts of our Italian stop beautiful Florence.

*correct as at April 2014

No comments

I love to hear from people so please don't be a stranger and say hello!