Destination 1: Venice – 2 Nights

Timeline: August 29 – August 31

Day 1: Arrived to Venice Marco Polo airport around noon, took a water taxi called Alilaguna from the Orange line from the airport straight to the Rialto Bridge, 15 Euros was the fare. Purchased tickets from the airport kiosk. Upon arrival to Rialto Bridge, got a slice of Venetian style pizza from Al Ponte De Rialto Self Serve Pizzeria which was really delicious.

AL Ponte De Rialto Self Serve Pizzeria

From the Rialto Bridge walked to Hotel Concordia at San Marco Piazza. Luggage lift is unlikely to find and super pricy (over 100 Euros) in Venice so travelling light is highly recommended. Checked in to hotel around 2 PM. Upon arrival, upgraded the basic room to one with a narrow balcony opening to San Marco Piazza with amazing view.

San Marco Basilica view from balcony, Hotel Concordia

Spent short time at the hotel to refresh and requested hotel’s reception to help with purchasing “skip the line” tickets for San Marco basilica, 2 Euros was the entrance fee of teh basilica. First day in Venice was dedicated to discovery of the place and getting lost in its neighborhoods. Started with espresso shots and cantucci biscotti and started walking around San Marco piazza and streets. Venice is just like an unreal place, either sitting on a patio chair and enjoying live music, sipping wine or coffee, watching the crowd or stairing at a canal with passing Gondolas and listening to the drivers singing for their passengers or just getting lost in absolutely tranquil corners of its narrow alleys, there’s alway something to amuse the visitors.

Patio in San Marco Piazza

Walked to the famous Teatro la Fenice, there was no time to visit the inside but the outside was just as interesting. Lingered around the theatre for some time and enjoyed watching the super fashionable crowd arriving for the evening event. From there, walked toward the Dorsoduro neighborhood and passed from the picturesque Ponte dell’Accademia. Spent some time on the bridge and enjoyed the best view of the Santa Maria della Salute basilica and the Grand Canal.

View of Santa Maria della Salute basilica from Ponte dell’Accademia
View of Santa Maria della Salute basilica under the moonlight

Had dinner at a waterfront restaurant in Dorsoduro, “Alle Zattere“. Very nice patio on the canal with view of Santa Maria dei Rosario basilica.

Dinner at Alle Zattere restaurant

From Dorsoduro walked back toward San Marco piazza. Retired the night by some more strolling in San Marco piazza and gelato.

Day 2: Woke up early, had breakfast at the hotel and headed to San Marco piazza for the early morning stroll and coffee, checked out the luxury hotel Danieli, visited the Bridge of Sigh and got ready for the 9:55 tour of Palazzo Ducale at 9:55 AM, online tickets were purchased in advance from website. It was a full tour of the Palace, prisons, rooms, and armoury. Ticket was 20 Euros for the access to all rooms and tour of the palace and prisons. Entire visit was about 4 hours.

A room in Palazzo Ducale
Palazzo Ducale prison


Palazzo Ducale Arches from the courtyard

After Palazzo Ducale, walked toward Rialto Bridge and San Polo neighborhood for more of Venice walk and explore and from there headed to Castello. We had heard about Cicchetti in Venice and were looking around to try it for a light lunch. Cicchetti is a special Venetian food, similar to Tapas. Finally found a small, cute Cicchetti cafe that had super delicious food and wine with nice and friendly staff, it felt like visiting an old friend. The place was called ” Un Mondo Divino“.

If visiting Venice, don’t forget to try tiramisu from I Tre Mercanti in Campo de la Guerra, steps away from the Rialto Bridge. Their specialty is tiramisu and they’ve been around for a while.

I Tre Mercanti, Tiramisu House

After lunch, walked in Castello neighbourhood and paid a visit to basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo . Art work in the basilica was extraordinary, tall colored glasses, sculptures and paintings were breath-taking, it was worth the visit. Very small fee of 2.50 Euros for the entrance.

Basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo
A sculpture at the Basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo

After the basilica visit, hired a gondola for a 45 minute ride. Gondola ride is a MUST DO for all Venice visitors. It is not comparable to any other boat rides or water activities. There’s nothing like a slow ride on a gondola with a close up view of these old Venetian structures in this magical silence just step away from the tours crowd. Gondola drivers are local residents and very knowledgable about the area. Our guy, Marco, told us all about the tradition of passing the gondola driving knowledge generation by generation and the family tradition.

Close up view of a canal from gondola
Venetian posts
Marco, our great gondola guy

After the gondola ride, headed back to hotel to refresh, drink some wine, and relax at the hotel room balcony facing the San Marco basilica and piazza. In the evening, walked to Guidecca neighborhood to visit Santa Maria della Salute basilica from outside and checked out the streets and some of the luxury hotels of that area.

Santa Maria della Salute Basilica at night

Walked back and had some antipasto, pizza and pasta for dinner accompanied by white wine at a bistro in San Marco piazza. closed the night by sitting on a patio chair at San Marco and listening to pleasant sound of a live performance at the bar by the piazza.

Day 3: Departure day. Started the day very early to visit the San Marco basilica, opened at 9:45 AM. Picked up the pre-purchased tickets from the hotel reception and headed to the basilica. Skip the line tickets expedited the entrance wait time. San Marco basilica’s interior is amazing and offers Byzantine religious architecture and tiling art. Also visited the museum and the actual copies of bronze horses inside. View of San Marco piazza and grand canal from the balcony of the basilica is stunning and picturesque for camera shots.

San Marco pier, view from the basilica
Replica of San Marco horses, basilica San Marco

Visiting basilica took about 1.5 hours. Headed back to the hotel for checkout and walked to the Rialto bridge. Purchased water bus, Vaporetto, ticket to the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station to take a train to Florence.

Summary of Venice Activities:

  • Day 1:
    • Checked-in to Hotel Concordia
    • Walked around Venice neighbourhoods
  • Day 2:
    • Tour of Palazzo Ducale: Prisons, Rooms, Armoury
    • Visited basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo
    • Gondola ride
    • Walked on the Rialto Bridge, to San Polo, Castello and Guidecca neighborhoods
    • Visited Santa Maria della Salute Basilica
  • Day 3:
    • Visited San Marco Basilica
    • Departed to Florence via train

Some tips for visiting Venice:

  1. If staying at a hotel, communicate with the reception in advance they can help providing tips on easiest way to get to the hotels, as well as purchasing tickets for attractions/tours.
  2. Always purchase attraction/tour tickets in advance, and if available, purchase skip the line options as lines to box offices and entrances can get extremely long.
  3. Visit Alilaguna website for easy and affordable water taxis, they come regularly and stop at all major sites of Venice.
  4. Water bottle gets more pricy as you approach San Marco piazza, you can buy water bottle for 0.50 Euro in San Polo vs. 3.50 Euros in San Marco.
  5. San Marco basilica is only open from 2 to 4 PM on Sundays and Holidays.

Next Destination: Florence, Tuscany and Pisa