It all started with Kim, my amazing Montana raised, country and state-hopping friend who, thanks to her new job, was back in England for four months whilst she toured Europe. Sounds glam right? I thought so too, but you can talk to her about that! It didn’t take long before I realised I could turn envy into fun by tagging along with her on one or two of her adventures. She listed her locations, I picked Venice and Florence.
At the last minute, Kim’s job had to cancel the rest of her Europe trip and keep her London based, so thus began my next solo adventure…
My weekend started Friday with a relaxing Church retreat in Denham Grove, set in the quiet and peaceful English countryside. By Saturday I had joined a barbershop club that happened to also be staying in Denham Grove and by Sunday evening I was in Venice.
It was past 10pm when I landed, with no idea how to get to my Hostel, I used the airport wifi to get directions. You could book a water taxi from the airport but I opted for a cheaper bus which took me to Piazzale Roma. From there, I got the equivalent of the tube (underground trains in London for those from other parts of the world) in the form of a boat called the Vaporetti which pulls up into different docks around Venice. Similarly to the tube, they have different colours and numbers to represent each route they take and there are maps for you to see where they stop.
Zitelle was my stop, on the Giudecca Island, the Vaporetti driver threw his rope around the metal stubs on the dock and waited for the boat to settle beside it then lifted the bars as passengers flocked off.
It was so dark, I couldn’t see where I was supposed to go. With no directions and no signal, I would have been wandering with my backpack for ages had I not been found by three Spanish-speaking girls who directed me to the hostel.
At the hostel on the way to my room, a large, hairy and sweaty man sat in his underpants passed out on a stool leaning against a wall. I edged past him cautiously and entered my 16-bed dorm, my bed was the last at the other end of the room. Whilst I was bent down unpacking, I heard a voice behind me saying “hello” and I jumped nearly out of my skin with a scream. I didn’t have to turn around, I knew exactly who it would be; the sweaty fat man in his see-through Y fronts. “What do you want?” I snapped, my heart still racing from the scare. “I’m in the bunk above you”, he said.
So, that was my bunk buddy for the next 4 nights. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well the first night.
I didn’t know where to start with exploring Venice, but luckily a colleague lent me a guide book of Venice, and Kim had given me a number of suggestions herself. The first thing I got for myself was a 3 day pass that gives you unlimited boat, bus, train and tram access for €40. I had to buy this from a tobacco/bits and bobs shop which was next to the Zitelle dock.
First stop was San Marco, there was so much to explore just in this little area, but not before I got breakfast in a local cafe.
Some of the highlights of Venice:
Piazza San Marco
This square has so much going on. By day, you can enter the Basilica, view the Palazzo Ducale, or Torre dell’Orologio and you can go up the Campanile di San Marco for fantastic views over Venice.
Libreria Acqua Alta
A little unassuming shop which just so happens to be a library built around a gondola overflowing with books with a staircase made out of old books out back. Climb the book staircase to see a view of the canals.
A fantastic pizza bar near the square, they also have sockets for you to re-charge if you need to.
This is the most famous bridge in Venice, built of marble it crosses the grand canal and it has three paths: one wide central walkway which has shops on its either sides and two along the railings of the bridge for the perfect photo op.
Bacareto da Lele
I stumbled across this little pub by mistake whilst exploring the Dorsoduro area, but overflowing with local students, I couldn’t ignore it. And it was easy to see why it was so busy; you could buy an Aperol spritz for a puny €1.50 or a Chardonnay for as little as €0.60. Students then sat along the canal or on the steps of the cathedral to drink, chat and chill out.
Who knew Venice had a beach?! I didn’t, until I found out that the Lido had a beach that stretched along one side of the island. Of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to relax on the beach.
This island is an essential part of your visit to Venice, nothing can quite describe the feel of this island. With every building a different colour, it’s full of life and not like anything you’ve seen before.
So aside from ‘Y-fronts’, aka my bunkie, I met a whole bunch of people and made a few friends on this trip.
In my hostel, I met Matt and Dave; also from the UK, and we spent the day in Burano together witnessing a pretty crazy argument between an old woman on a zimmerframe and her equally old and frail husband. We also shared a romantic dinner for three in VinoVino, a gorgeous little restaurant that Kim recommended, and we played ball on the Lido beach together whilst Matt’s neck likened to a lobster more and more as the day went. Suzannah, a California girl I met in my hostel room, joined us for some cheap Aperol spritz’s in Dorsoduro and a late game of cards before Matt and Dave returned home to the UK.
Relaxing with an Aperol spritz in Piazza San Marco, I met a couple from Holland and we exchanged stories of our motherlands. Promising to meet them up the Campanile di San Marco, I queued to pay the €8 fee to get in and that’s where I met Pablo and Rachelle. This couple on their honeymoon from the US had just landed in Venice, Rachelle had lost her case and the hotel they were staying in was out in the mainland, far from the Islands but they didn’t let it stop them from making the most of their time here. Wandering around in San Marco, they queued behind me and asked me what I was queuing for… I admit I didn’t have much info to offer them but we made friends near on instantly.
By the time we got up the bell tower, we’d already decided I’d third wheel with them on a gondola ride seeing as it was a whopping €80 for the gondola; the more the merrier. And by the end of the gondola ride, I’d invited them to join me in my two bed apartment I had booked in Florence… and they said yes!
You’re going to have to read about how that went in my next blog post!