Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weekend in Venice

Ohh Venice, beautiful Venice... Venice is a city of curved bridges and canals, beautiful architecture, hidden plazas and churches... a truly unique city.
It is impossible to drive in Venice and probably unnecessary around it. From the airport, there are two options to get into the city: ATVO Express (€3.00) and ACTV 5 (€2.50). You can buy tickets at the public-transportation booth in the arrivals terminal, which also sells 12- to 72-hour ACTV tourist tickets. If you stay outside Venice, there are numerous busses going everywhere, including Rome. We took the express bus to Venice and from there line 53E to Dolo, a small town between Venice and Padova. Villa Gasparini, a hotel where we stayed, is located on the outskirts of Dolo. Luckily, the bus stop is only 50m from the hotel because there are no sidewalks in Italy. Everybody is either driving or driving...
After a quick shower, we went to a nearby pizza (what else?) restaurant for a bite. Although there are a lot of Italian restaurants in cities such as London, Toronto, Tel Aviv and New York, you cannot compare it to a real Italian pizza; it is thin, crispy and loaded with goodies! On the other hand, stay away from their beer...
The day after, we sent to explore Venice. Since we stayed outside (in Dolo), our starting point was Piazza Roma (central bus station). So, without further due, here comes John Markh “A Parfect Day in Venice” guide:
From Piazza Roma (bay 4B), walk through souvenir booths and cross the small canal. Take left, then next right (just next to Mercure hotel) across another bridge which will take you to a small plaza where you can fill your water bottle. From there, walk back in the direction of the bus station and follow signs to Piazza San Marco. Don’t afraid to be adventurous and take small detours; there are signs every couple of blocks and you might discover a hidden gem which will make your journey more special (you might as well write your own guide to Venice). The rout should take you to the Academia (bridge) where, if you have a moment, you could take right to the waterfront to get a well deserved ice cream and fantastic views. Walk back to the Academia bridge and continue to Piazza San Marco.
Piazza San Marco was a centre of political and religious life in Venice for centuries and it is plainly displayed by the wealth of decorations and beauty of the place. Walk around and if the line is not to look, go inside Basilica to marvel at gold mosaics and up the Campanile (bell tower) for marvellous views.
From there, take left along Riva degli Schiavoni (the waterfront) and admire the views, crowds of people and turn nose up at all the trinket stands (you can do better for souvenirs elsewhere). When the crowd thins, take a table at one of the waterfront cafes and enjoy a slightly overpriced pizza or salad and bottle of wine (better service, quality and price the farther down you go....).
After a refreshing snack, find your way to Arsenale and either take a vaporetto (water bus) or walk the mazes of Venice to Rialto Bridge. Wander across with the incredible hordes of tourists and continue over bridge and through the mass of souvenir stalls to the outdoor markets - if you like seafood keep wandering a bit further up this main drag to the incredible outdoor fish market - quite a sight!
From here, start following (loosely) signs to Piazza Roma (bus station). It will take you through San Polo district. If you go to the far end and turn right, you should see Antica La Corte Birreria. It is a great local place for pizza, salads, light meal and dessert for a reasonable price at Campo San Polo. Also, there are number of interesting shops where you could buy souvenirs or Moreno glass for a decent price. Exit into the sunlight and go further up to Campo Santa Marguerite - very active place with lots of bars, small pubs and shops.
This was an unforgettable weekend...
Check out the photo album at http://picasaweb.google.com/john.markh/20090816Venice#slideshow.

Traveller Tips:
  • Don’t stay in the Venice itself; it is a complete nightmare to drag your luggage through all those bridges. On the other hand, don’t stay too far as you won’t be able to use the ACTV tourist tickets.
  • If you use public transport, buy your tickets in advance (from ACTV ticket office or from snack shops). When you buy on board, it usually costs more. However, if all you have is a €100 note, the driver might let you ride for free!
  • In Venice, plan your route carefully as there are only 2 bridges across Grand Canal itself and it could be a really long walk between those two.
  • There are plenty of fountains with drinking water in Venice itself; all you need is a 1l plastic bottle to fill and refill when needed.