I certainly am making up for lost time! After not having a proper holiday for at least 5 years, following my trip to Bergen last year the floodgates seem to have opened! I fell in love with Italy when I visited Florence earlier this year and I knew it wouldn't be too long before I returned. However, little was I to know that I would return the same year!
Myself and my business buddy Emma had been talking about going on an "away day" in order to chat business. That idea evolved into an "away trip" and after a quick google of flights, we had booked a return trip to Venice for the bargain price of £60! Venice has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember - this quirky place with canals instead of roads always captured my imagination when I was younger and so it seemed only right that I actually made an effort to go and visit!
Being so busy in the run up to the trip, I hadn't really managed to research much about it (aside from how to get to the hotel from the airport). We decided to wing it and see how we felt each day (and see what the weather was doing) before making any firm plans.
The guest house we were staying in, although being in the most central location imaginable, did not provide breakfast. So on our first morning we decided to head directly to San Marco Piazza and find somewhere suitable for coffee and a bite to eat. We got a little carried away, wandering through the peaceful piazza, down towards the water and stumbled across the famed "Bridge of Sighs". We were surprised at how misty it was - although it certainly made for some atmospheric photos.
A few snaps later and we headed on for breakfast. To our shock, retracing our steps less than an hour later and this viewpoint was besieged by hundreds of tourists all jostling to capture their own photo. Making a mental note to visit such places as early as possible, we scurried past and decided that the weather was now good enough for us to risk a trip up the bell tower.
Unlike the Basilica di San Marco (which is free to enter and consequently attracts huge queues), the bell tower is much less busy. Even so, we were surprised to walk in and straight up to the ticket desk with absolutely no wait! Two minutes later and we were in the lift heading for the top. This is undoubtedly the best place to take in the views of Venice. It is so flat with lots of tiny streets surrounded by towering buildings that you really need to get up high to appreciate it. We weren't disappointed!
With no firm plans, we decided to make the most of the beautiful weather and simply take a wander, stopping for refreshments whenever the fancy took us. We had a vague plan to visit the Aqua Alta bookshop and, even thought it was probably only a 15 minute walk, it took us more than an hour to get there because we were stopping so often to take photos!
A quick stop for gelato later (the cherry and pistachio flavour I chose may well have been the best ice cream I have ever had!) and we stumbled across the famous Rialto Bridge. Unfortunately, it was already swarming with tourists and I was quite happy to scarper away relatively quickly (after getting a couple of photos first of course!).
One of the things I loved best about Venice was just wandering and seeing where we ended up. Around every corner we were faced with another pretty square, a pretty doorway or a pretty bridge and I really had to hold myself back from stopping every 30 seconds to take another photo.
Our vaguely circular route took us back over the Grand canal via the Ponte della Academia, the view from which was rather gorgeous, especially with the brilliant and cloudless sky being reflected in the Grand Canal below.
After a quick nip back to the guest house to change, we returned back over the Ponte della Academia on our way to the Hilton rooftop bar where Emma had kindly offered to take me for a belated birthday drink. We only had to wait a matter of minutes before a table at the front of the bar became available which meant we were able to take in the view and the sunset whilst we polished off a bottle of Prosecco. Not a bad way to finish off our first full day in the city!
Day 2 and we were up nice and early as we had decided that we would take the opportunity to get over to explore some of the surrounding islands. Our plan was to head over to Burano first (we had heard that it can get VERY busy on the boats, hence the early start). Burano is famed for it's colourful houses and it certainly was vibrant. It felt rather strange to be in Burano so early - there was barely a soul about and it felt rather conspicuous to be wandering the streets. It wasn't too long, however, before the bridges were full of tourists!
From here we had intended to head straight back to Venice but after getting slightly confused by the boats, we found ourselves on the way over to Torcello. It turned out to be a rather happy accident as Torcello was really lovely and so, so quiet! Apparently, Torcello was one of the first islands in the lagoon to be inhabited and is where the Venetians originated. These days the island is barely inhabited. It made a lovely contrast to the hustle and bustle of St Marks Square!
The weather had been rather misty during the morning but upon our return to Venice I am happy to say that the sun once again appeared so we took our time wandering back towards the guest house, once again just seeing where our feet took us and, of course, stopping in occasion for Prosecco and Aperol Spritz! We spent a lovely hour quietly watching all of the gondolas making their way past the Bridge of Sighs congratulating ourselves for finding a spot that wasn't besieged with tourists!
We finished the day off by heading down to Riva degli Schiavoni to watch the sunset followed by food in the shadow of the Academia Bridge and a final stroll to see the imposing Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (the domed building that you can see from the Academia Bridge). Our final morning and what else were we to do except take a final stroll through St Mark's Square? We were surprised to see the huge cruise ships making their way through the lagoon and immediately realised many Venetians are so opposed to them - they were absolutely massive! We took the opportunity to have a quick look around the inside of the Cathedral itself, marvelling at all of the gold on the ceiling but we didn't have time to investigate the museum or the crypt which would have been interesting - next time perhaps! And just like that, our trip was at an end. We found our way to the Alilaguna and retraced our journey back to the airport taking in the last few sights of the Grand Canal as we went.
Thank you Venice! I'm sure I'll be back!