Johnny and I had the most wonderful wedding and honeymoon, and still have stars in our eyes from both. I did the majority of the wedding planning (with help from my mother, his mother and vendors, of course), while Johnny led planning our honeymoon. Which, by the way, if you plan to do more of an “adventure” honeymoon versus an all-inclusive beach setting (which also seems like a fabulous idea), I completely recommend letting your husband-to-be taking the reigns, maybe with some help from a travel agent.
Our Italian adventure started in Northern Italy, working our way through the country and ending at the Amalfi Coast. We began in Venice and the rest is for other posts, another day.
Venice is magical. It’s a sinking city, built on a series of small islands, where the streets are replaced by canals, boats are the primary means of transportation and hundreds of small bridges link the maze of the city into something that can be navigated in its entirety within a few hours.
The buildings line the sidewalks and canals in one long line, making it difficult to distinguish where one stops and the other begins. Everything has a touch of gilt, ornate doors or elaborate details, despite the missing patches of paint on the construction that’s centuries old.
Many people told us we only needed a short time in Venice and this was so true. Despite it’s magic, the city is filled with tourists milling about, pricey hotels and mediocre food, by comparison to the rest of the country. Plus, it’s just not very big. Hence why a couple nights in the city is really all you need.
We stayed at Hotel Ai Due Principi and enjoyed the spacious room, easy breakfast included each morning and friendly staff. A one-way trip to Murano was included with our stay and the staff helped book the water taxi. One of the ladies who worked there also provided a helpful tip for dining in Venice; in short, she advised that if someone is outside inviting you to come in, it’s likely extremely touristy and something to skip. She also helped advise the best way to get from the airport when we arrived (water taxi) and to the train station when we departed (water ferry).
Museums aren’t something we enjoy for hours on end, so we hit a couple highlights and spent the rest of the time exploring the nooks and crannies of the city:
Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) is the main attraction of the city, housing some of the major landmarks and serving as the city center. Sit in front of one of the cafes one evening to watch the sunset over the square, sip an Aperol Spritz and enjoy the music from one of the dueling orchestras that line the perimeter.
Campanile di San Marco (St. Mark’s Campanile) is the bell tower that was used as the watch tower and lighthouse for the dock when it was first built in the 9th-century. It offers breathtaking views of the entire city. Start here and purchase the audio tour at the bottom of the tower, which includes a hand-held smartphone-like device and headphones. At the top, each of the four directions has a printed map pointing out landmarks around the city with corresponding self-led audio. It’s the perfect way to learn a lot about the city at your own pace. We spent at least an hour and got some great photos of the rooftops, water and other landmarks.
Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica) is the beautiful church flanking one end of the square, with elaborate décor and even more history. You can wait in line for free, or pay a few extra euro online or at one of the local booths in town to skip the line. We went the skip the line route and it’s definitely the way to go.
Hotel Danieli was highly recommended for brunch or drinks to enjoy the view of the port and Adriatic Sea along the city. We weren’t there over a weekend, so we opted for lunch. Sticker shock is a real thing on this menu, and it might have been our most expensive meal of our entire Italian adventure and all we had was one drink each and split one of the less expensive options. In hindsight, go there but maybe wait until after 3 p.m. for a pricey cocktail with the stunning view. Don’t miss the lobby and downstairs bar as well, with impressive Murano chandeliers.
Murano houses the famous glassmaking factories and museums. While it doesn’t take a long time to visit, it’s worth seeing the technique that’s centuries old and the vast array of precious items that are handmade on the island. With good reason, you aren’t allowed to take any photos of the pieces on display but a Google search gives you a good idea of the variety. You also see elaborate chandeliers, sconces and other glass items from Murano throughout the entire country. Our boat ride to Murano was around 9 a.m. and we were back to a new part of the main area of Venice before lunch to explore further and dine in another piazza.
Gondola rides are pricey but a great way to see the city from a new angle. If you go earlier than sunset it’s about 80 euro, closer to sunset is 100 but you wouldn’t be able to see inside the canals as well anyway. We went later in the day, though still at the 80 euro price, and then sat in the square with an Aperol Spritz to watch the sunset.
Our next stop was Brescia, near Lake Garda, which I’ll be sharing next!