The Mole Diaries: Venice
Kate Roberts is a 24 year old blogger and travel addict! She has recently moved back from the UAE so that she can travel around Europe before moving back to UAE permanently. This is her guide to one of the world's most magical cities. For more of Kate's travel writing, read her blog.
A couple of years ago, whilst living and studying in Germany, I managed to convince a friend of mine to join me for an impromptu 3 day holiday to Venice. Not only were the flights ridiculously cheap (around €70 return) but I had heard such good feedback from those friends of mine who had already been there, I knew it would prove to be an unforgettable experience. And that it was! Located in Northeastern Italy, the city is comprised of canals and bridges intertwined with narrow streets, all of which are surrounded by crisp blue water. To say this place was magical, traditional and romantic is an understatement. This city is out of this world.
I would say try and steer clear of 'tourist-heavy' places if you can; obviously the best sites will be full of tourists but there are more amazing spots the further out you go. Tour packages are great because you get to see the mountainous areas of Venice and you can pick up souvenirs from not-so-pricey shops. The food in most restaurants is amazing and generally cheap compared to the UK but they often charge quite a bit for drinks (even soft drinks) so just be careful there.
Where to stay
Hotels can be a little expensive in Venice and tourists also have to pay 'tourism tax' which can add up. I stayed at a hostel called 'Yha Ostello Venezia' which was located just opposite the main square. You can get a water taxi to the main square just a 5 minute walk from the hostel. It was lovely with lots of different room options and a big communal area with a tv and a bar. The people who run it are lovely and also gave us free tea and coffee - the best coffee in the world! Seriously it was amazing! The hostel was very safe and a great way to meet new people. Check out their website here.
What to do
With so many things to do there, I have narrowed it down to a list of my top 5 favourites!
1. Explore the city on a Gondola
As the saying goes ‘when in Rome’ but errr… Venice, a Gondola ride is just one of those things that has to be done. Yes, it does get a little boring after the first 5 minutes and no, you don’t get to see that much of the city but it’s very relaxing (if you cut out all the tourists staring at you) and is something you just can’t do at home in the UK (unless there’s a torrential downpour in November, you own a wooden boat and your first name happens to be Noah). Prices start from around €80 per boat-load and last around 40 minutes but you can of course try to barter with the gondolier - ’Per Favoreeeeee, per favoreeeeeee’.
2. Watch a show at La Fenice opera house
Opera music is a bit of an acquired taste for most but for me personally, there is nothing I love more than watching a tiny little human belt out some extremely high notes in a language that I don’t understand. The Fenice opera house is one of the most renowned landmarks in the history of Italy and is home to one of the most beautiful and extravagant interiors I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Literally, GOLD everywhere. A must-see!
3. Eat Eat Eat!
Note to self- you will probably leave Venice more than a few pounds heavier than when you arrived. This city has some of the best food I have ever eaten in my life!!! I am a sucker for Italian food - anything thats over-loaded with carbs, drenched in creamy sauce and puts me at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes - so this place was like paradise for my stomach. I had THE BEST pasta carbonara in the world, the most delicious stone-baked pizza and a local favourite, polpette which had me thinking about balls for the rest of the day - meatballs of course.
Famed for it’s Gelato, most tourists and locals agree that Boutique del Gelato at salizzada san liois is the best place to eat it and I’m pretty sure they were right. With a million different flavours to chose from and all at a fairly reasonable price, get your warrior elbows at the ready because you’ll be waiting in line for a while. However, do be aware that although the price of food in Venice is relatively low, you can sometimes end up paying a fortune for drinks - soft drinks included - as they are not always priced on the menu. Try dining out after 8 when both food and drink prices will be a little bit cheaper and most restaurants run ‘happy hour’.
4. Stand around and stare at big buildings, then take photos
For those of you on a tight budget, never fear as Venice is home to some of the finest historical buildings and architecture in the world.
In St Mark’s square alone you will find glorious, gothical buildings such as Basilica, Campanile, Procuratie Vecchie and Doge’s place- nope, I haven’t got a clue what any of them mean either but they are all amazingly, finely-detailed and grand buildings to marvel upon.
However, don’t expect to turn up and be able to take the perfect distraction-free photo, this place is a tourist (and pigeon) hub!
5. Be the hero on a water taxi
This is more of a method of transport than an activity but it left me feeling like a badass female James Bond, casually taxiing it
across the water for my evening glass of vodka martini before I went and kicked some evil enemy ass (went back for a second round of gelato). Water taxis are priced around €40-70 depending on the distance and time of day and are generally a pretty speedy method of transportation. They usually hold up to 10 people so try and get to the stand early so you don’t end up waiting for the next one.
...and one more for luck
And of course you can’t visit Venice without picking up a few pieces of souvenir shopping, just be careful you don’t end up paying more than they’re worth. There are lots of not-so-touristy spots where you can find some beautifully hand-crafted souvenirs at good prices, so try to avoid the crowds and seek out some more local places. And don’t forget about tourist tax! Check out this website for more information.