20 Apr Venice: A romantic getaway… plus one
Venice is the Marmite of Italian cities.
Some love it, others hate it, but you can’t know until you’ve tried.
I’d wanted to go to Venice for ages, despite being convinced that I – a person who doesn’t really like either crowds or water – would have a fairly horrible time.
Anyway, after 5 years of living just a train ride away, I finally found a good reason to go and see what all the fuss was about. One of my best friends, Bex, was organising a 3-week trip to Italy with her boyfriend around Easter. They’d mapped out a series of stops around the country, from Milan in the north to Amalfi in the south (to visit our other friend who’s living a lovely, limoncello-infused gap life there), and would also be dropping in to Turin at some point too.
We also decided to go somewhere new together for Easter weekend, and I volunteered to play the role of third wheel in what is arguably the best destination for loved-up couples in Europe: Venezia.
I’d bought my train ticket before Bex and Ben, as they had an Interrail pass so were understandably less fussed about the fares going up than I was. But when I booked, business class on the Frecciarossa was actually cheaper than economy, so while they slummed it, I enjoyed a peaceful 5 hours with free prosecco and snacks, arriving at Venezia Santa Lucia feeling very smug indeed.
For a first-time visitor to Venice, leaving the station is a very weird experience: as soon as you pass the main doors, you see some steps down to the street, and immediately in front of you a huge canal and buildings which look like they’ve been pinched from a film set. It’s really quite surreal.
We walked through the crowded streets, over some cobbled bridges and a whole lot of canals, and checked in to our Airbnb for the weekend, an apartment in Canareggio. We’d guessed Venice would be pricey, so had tried to keep costs down on accommodation, but the place turned out to be genuinely adorable, so much nicer than we’d expected, and so easy to get to.
Over the 48 hours that we were in Venice together, all we really did was walk and talk and eat and drink, but it was just so nice. It was Easter weekend and therefore obviously raining, but the drizzle did eventually stop and we got a good look at how pretty Venice is on the second day.
Psst: If you’re after a real itinerary for Venice, try this one from Destination Dorworth.
We totally failed on seeing anything cultural, despite Venice having probably the most museums and galleries per capita of anywhere in Italy. Aside from not really wanting to spend loads of money on museums, we were actually just perfectly happy getting lost and then getting found again, and didn’t really get round to doing anything else. I know, I know. Next time (when I’ll hopefully be a bit less poor).
What we did do was some serious Aperol Spritz sampling. When in Veneto!
We found a sweet, very popular, and very cheap place called Al Squero where we grabbed a few ciccetti (Venetian tapas, for want of a better comparison) and – you got it – some Spritz, and sat outside on the canal wall, watching the gondoliers punt their way down the river.
Food-wise, I have to say that (apart from the Squero ciccetti), I wasn’t very impressed. Maybe I’ve just become snobby from living in a non-touristic place, but found that although we made a concerted effort to avoid the tourist traps (avoiding tourist traps in Venice, a contradiction in terms, I am aware) everything was still pretty overpriced and average-tasting at best.
We did find a nice ice cream place, Gelateria il Doge, which is apparently the best in Venice (although this adopted Torinese has to point out that Torino is truly unbeatable on the gelato front). We did end up steering clear of Italian food for our Easter Day meal, opting instead for a very cheap Chinese restaurant close to the hotel. In our defense, at this point it was chucking it down with rain and we risked pneumonia if we walked around for much longer looking for a (possibly non-existent) place to eat cheap, local food.
The weather wasn’t exactly the best for strolling around to find cute places for a drink, as the evenings were quite cold even when it wasn’t raining, but we did stumble across the tiny Un Mondo di Vino one evening. The teeny place had just enough space left for the 3 of us, as well as (surprise surprise) some great wine. Bex smashing a wine glass on the bar at precisely the moment I’d started filming her provided much amusement, so let’s all just enjoy that moment, shall we?
On the last morning, before heading back to the station, we went for another walk and sat in the sun (sun! I know!) for a morning cappuccino (me) and a morning…Spritz (Bex and Ben).
What can I say, Brits will be Brits.
So what did we learn from our weekend in Italy’s city of canals?
- The most beautiful supermarket in the world is here – it’s an old theatre-turned-Carrefour, and it is, like much of the rest of the city, surreal.
- The gondoliers really do wear stripy t-shirts, and the gondole really are just full of cringey couples.
- It’s one huge, if very pretty, tourist trap. We got ripped off immediately by a café who added random small amounts all over our bill (but sadly didn’t have the energy to argue with the woman who was ever so convinced that all this made sense, over a couple of euros) and everything costs double what it does in Piemonte or, indeed, almost anywhere else in Italy. The only cheap thing about Venice is the Aperol. So take advantage.
- The main road running through Venice is, as anticipated, tourist hell. But the funny thing is that you just have to move over by one street, and you’ll be practically alone. Once you learn that little trick, the place is magical.
So maybe Venice really is like Marmite.
While (much like smearing a thick, brown, yeast paste on your breakfast) a drizzly island filled with rip-off cafés and thousands of Americans is – in theory – everything I hate, I have fallen totally, inexplicably in love.