Venice – Grand Canal – Piazza San Marco – Museo della Musica – Jewish Ghetto – Cicchetti

Grand Canal Venice

Spending just a few minutes wandering the historical city of Venice easily beats out hours spent reading about it online and in museums–it’s truly something that has to be experienced first hand and is an absolute must-do if you are in Italy. While it’s true that Venice is known for being super touristy, you can learn so much about European art and history just by wandering around that beats the pants off any museum, that it would be crazy to miss out on visiting this beautiful city. It’s weird not seeing a single car for days on end, but trust me–you won’t miss them one bit (you might even be stuck wondering why no other city has realized how nice it is to be pedestrian only).

See & Do

  • Piazza San Marco: The tourist center of Venice, this is the home of St. Mark’s Basilica and the adjacent Campanile di San Marco (Bell tower of St. Mark) This is the only real “piazza” in Venice, since all other public squares are called “campi” (field). This square is quite beautiful, but prepare to be absolutely swamped by tourists if you come between 10am and 6pm as that is when all the cruise-ship passengers disembark and wander the city. I would strongly recommend coming both before and after those times so you can admire the beautiful building facades and if you have time to, climb the Clock tower (Torre dell’Orologio). The atmosphere is completely different after dark, especially really late at night. Rating: 4/5

Piazza San Marco Piazza San Marco

  • Grand Canal: It’s no big secret that Venice is a bunch of small islands separated by tiny little canals–due to the lack of roads, the Grand Canal can be considered the major “highway” that splits the east and west sides of the city. There are only a few crossing points to get across this huge canal (most notably the Rialto Bridge). We took a vaporetto (water taxi) to get from the train station to the apartment we were staying at and rode through the Grand Canal. One thing to note is that you can walk absolutely everywhere in Venice, so I’d suggest skipping the boats to get around the city and just walk to your destination. Save the boat trips for when you’re headed out to a further island like Murano or Burano, or if you’ve got lots of bags (note that I don’t mean to skip the gondola rides, but that is of course more about the ride than the destination!) Rating: 5/5

Grand Canal

  • Ponte di Rialto(Rialto Bridge): The Rialto has been for many centuries the commercial center of Venice, and the Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge in Venice that crosses the Great Canal. Like many things in Italy, the bridge itself has so much history and is a work of art in and of itself. The current incarnation of the bridge was completed in 1591 and has been a major attraction of the city ever since. Rating: 4/5

Rialto Bridge

  • Museo della Musica: We just stumbled into this place as we were doing a huge loop around Venice–I love stumbling into random places that I wouldn’t have otherwise intentionally sought out. There was a special exhibit on the instruments created during Antonio Vivaldi’s time, most notably the arduous process to create a violin. For the price of admission (free!) it’s definitely an interesting way to spend some time learning about the history of music. Rating: 4/5

Museo della Musica

  • Acqua Alta Bookstore: This bookstore is pretty fascinating–at first glance it seems to be in a huge disarray, but that just adds to its old world charm. There is a huge gondola in the middle of the shop (you will have to squeeze through tons of people to get to the other side), but this is a real fun place to browse through books. They sell used postcards of random places in the front for 50 cents which makes absolutely no sense to me. Why would anyone sell a used postcard (i.e. there is already writing on it) from the 80s of a random destination to a bookstore? Why would anyone even buy that?! Anyway…way in the back is a staircase that is literally made out of books, which after climbing you will be rewarded with a great view of the canals–this absolutely cannot be missed! Also see if you can spot the friendly cat. Rating: 5/5

Liberia Acqua Alta Courtyard of Liberia Acqua Alta

  • Arsenale: The Arsenale was responsible for most of Venice’s naval power around 1000 years ago and still stands today as a monument to the massive world power that Venice once was. We got here a little late at night and it was fairly deserted, but as you can see from the pictures, it’s fairly well lit and is certainly fun to see in person, especially if you’re a history buff. Rating: 4/5

Arsenale

  • Wander around Dorsoduro: Dorsoduro is the southern part of the city of Venice and is a little off the beaten path compared to places like San Marco and around the train station. Prices here are way more reasonable than in the touristy spots–you certainly can’t go wrong ducking into a random restaurant in a corner for great food and drinks. I would strongly recommend going to Campo Santa Margherita for some good, cheap eats. Be warned that the area gets a bit rowdy at night due to the high student population and concentration of bars. It’s really nothing too crazy, but we did see a guy buy a rose then proceed to eat it while everybody around him watched with a horrified expression. Rating: 5/5

Eat & Drink

  • Birreria Forst: €3 per glass of drink. Tip: Bar price is cheaper than table price. €1.5 per snack. Peanuts are free. Of all the places we went, this was probably my favorite. Cicchetti are small snacks sold at bars and osterias throughout Venice, great for a snack or even if you’re not too hungry, great for a meal. This place had some great cicchetti, and their small sandwiches had soft, delicious bread. If you spend enough time here you’re bound to see a few gondoliers come in and grab a drink and snack, so you know it must be good. In addition the cichetti, a near universal drink that’s available in Venice is the Spritz. It’s a wine-based cocktail usually mixed with some kind of bitter liquor and then served with an orange slice. It’s available pretty much anywhere you go and is extremely popular with the locals. Rating: 5/5
Spritz Birreria Forst

Spritz @ Birreria Forst

Cicchetti Birreria

  • Trattoria alla Madonna: Around €12 per entree. €12 for 1 liter of wine. Tip: You may eat the bread because cover charge will appear on your bill no matter what. A bit touristy, this restaurant is a stone’s throw away from the Rialto bridge. Try the black ink cuttlefish pasta. Rating: 2/5

Spaghetti nero di seppia Trattoria alla Madonna

  • Osteria Al Diavolo E L’acquasanta: An Osteria is a place that serves simple dishes and drinks–if you stand by the bar you don’t get charged a table charge and can drink for relatively cheap. This place was a nice little place next to Trattoria alla Madonna. We decided to wine-hop the way back to our apartment–no matter what kind of wine you order, it will be reasonably priced and great tasting. Before visiting Italy I wasn’t that into wine, but this trip has completely changed my perspective.  Rating: 3/5
  • Osteria by the water: €3.50 per glass of drink. Got our wine in nice little to-go plastic cups and sat on a pier off the Grand Canal just watching boats constantly go by. Extremely romantic. Rating: 4/5
  • La Mascareta:  €3.50 per glass of drink. An osteria we stumbled upon on the way back to our apartment. It was still pretty crowded when we went in around 11:00 PM. We drank our glasses of wine standing outside, enjoying the air of Venice at night.  Rating: 4/5
  • Suso Gelatoteca: €3.50 for two scoops. Contrary to what people might say, picking a random gelateria in Italy isn’t necessarily a safe bet–a lot of them seem to have some generic icy re-frozen gelato, which arguably isn’t bad but isn’t the best you can get. This place–Suso–is definitely worth grabbing a few scoops for some authentic Italian gelato.  Rating: 4/5
  • PIzza Al Volo: Grabbed pizza slices and ate in Campo Santa Margherita. Around €2 per slice. It was ok, good for some cheap eats but I wouldn’t specifically seek this place out. Note that the slice in the picture has tuna on it which I personally thought was kind of nasty, but the plain slices were a lot better.  Rating: 4/5

PIzza Al Volo Campo Santan Margherita.

  • Collo Modi: Stumbled upon it while walking around Dorsoduro. €3.50 per glass of drink.  €2 per snack. We sat outside the cafe and spotted luggage porters pushing luggage on their push-carts.  Rating: 4/5
  • Bar Ae Maraveje: €7 per pasta dish. €2 per glass of wine. We came here during the cichetti hour where most locals got glasses of wine standing at the counter chatting up the people at the bar. Pasta was a bit too soaked in olive oil for our tastes.  Rating: 1/5
  • Cafe Rosso: €2 per drink. Spritz and beer. This bar is the most popular among students in Campo Santa Margherita. You can’t miss this place because it has the most number of people standing outside among all the bars.  Rating: 4/5
  • Al Bocon Divino: €2 per glass of wine. This is right next to Cafe Rosso. The bar is open to the plaza and has outdoor seating. Mostly students and tourists. This is where we saw a drunk student take a bite out of an entire rose.  Rating: 5/5

Stay

  • AirBnb apartment about 15 minutes from Piazza San Marco: We ended up taking the vaporetto out to San Marco and met our host there, but later on realized we could have just walked. At least the ride was nice! After being led briskly through the alleys of Venice, we arrived at a cozy little duplex. I’ve gotta say, hotel prices in Venice seemed ridiculous, but the AirBnb was quite reasonably priced compared to hotels (~$150 a night) and ended up being in a great location for sightseeing–close to the attractions but still quiet and cozy at night. We had a tiny little balcony overlooking a little canal and all the amenities we needed including free espresso and snacks, as well as a HUGE bathroom (really, I am talking like, an American sized bathroom–first time I’ve seen one that big in Europe). We did find the fact that the floor was slanted to be quite amusing, and we entertained ourselves briefly by rolling bottles of water on the floor, but really, what do you expect for a city as old as Venice.  Rating: 3/5

Transportation

  • Vaporetto: €7 per ride. Honestly, if you’re able to, stick to walking as you’ll see way more, and you’ll save quite a bit of cash. Take the Vaporetto if you want to head out further to Murano, etc.
  • Train from Milan to Venice : If you want to be flexible, it’s possible to buy train tickets on the day of your trip, otherwise if you know your schedule it’s possible to buy tickets in advance and save a little bit of money at http://www.trenitalia.com/ (click the English icon on the top right). Came out to around €37 per person for a 2nd class express train ride with assigned seats, and the ride was a comfortable 3.5 hours. You could save a little more by taking the regional trains (not bookable online), but that will take a bit more time and potentially involve transfers.

Visit Dates

  • Half Day of 10/27/2013 till Morning of 10/29/2013 

Fitbit Info

  • 10/27/2013 – Walked 6.89 miles
  • 10/28/2013 – Walked 12.08 miles

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