Wednesday, 6 December 2017

A Weekend in Venice - Unmissable Sights & Bites

The view from Saint Mark's Bell Tower over the Basilica and Venice

What makes a wonderful weekend in Venice? You're probably thinking gondolas, grand cafés, pasta and prosecco, and you'd be right - but here's my first timers guide to enjoying the best of the best in 48 hours...

Gondolas Docked in Venice looking towards the island of San Giorgio Maggiore
Travel blogger Explore With Ed sightseeing in Venice along the Grand Canal
Saint Mark's spectacular Basilica, the square is sometimes referred to as the drawing room of Europe

FIRSTLY, WHEN SHOULD I VISIT VENICE? | VENICE CITY GUIDE
As with any European city, you'll benefit from visiting off-peak during early Spring and Autumn when the crowds are less and the temperatures are comfortable. My city break was early November, it was cool and wet but very quiet away from the usual tourist spots.
Exciting news for Welsh readers, Cardiff Airport recently announced they'll be flying direct to Venice in 2018!

Golden sunset over the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
1 of the 170 canals of Venice lined with colourful buildings and historical churches

HOW DO I GET TO VENICE FROM THE MAINLAND?
If you're arriving by ship you can walk across the road from the port exit and catch the local bus or People Mover that takes just a few minutes to Piazzale Roma. Arrivals from Marco Polo Airport may benefit from getting the shuttle bus or water taxi.

The bridge of Sighs in Venice
The golden hour in Venice looking towards Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

WHAT SHOULD I SEE? | VENICE CITY GUIDE
  • Saint Mark's Basilica and Square
  • Rialto Bridge, the Grand Canal's oldest crossing
  • Doge's Palace, Gothic Architecture and Museum
  • Saint Mark's Bell Tower
  • La Fenice, An iconic Opera House
St Mark's Square in Venice with the tall bell tower and basilica

The view from Saint Mark's Bell Tower
The opening times vary throughout the year, but taking a trip up the Bell Tower is a must if you want to see the best view over the 118 islands that make up Venice. You can book tickets online if you'd like to beat the peak season queues, in November I walked straight in. 

Binocular view looking west over Venice from the top of St Mark's Bell Tower
A birds eye view of Venice across St Mark's Square
This is what the view looks like from the top of St Mark's Square bell tower

WHERE SHOULD I GO TO EAT?
There's an abundance of restaurants along Rio San Leonardo and Strada Nova that'll satisfy hungry tourists on a budget, just see where your eyes and nose leads you. For those not sparing any expense however, places like Club del Doge (recommended by The Foodaholic) and Caffè Florian (my Pinterest find on Gastrotravelogue) in Saint Mark's Square may be just the ticket.

Beautiful murals and street sculptures in Venice
Waterside cafes and places to eat in Venice

Caffè Florian, The oldest coffee house in the world
Opened in December 1720, Florian really does feel like you've gone back a century or two with its polished dark wood and golden furnishings. The prices may make your eyes water (around €10 for a hot chocolate), but it's a very special "when in Rome Venice" experience.

Caffè Florian, this is the oldest continuously run coffee house in the world
Luxury hot chocolate on a silver platter from Caffè Florian in St Mark's Square Venice
Canal tours in Venice passing near St Mark's Square with a view of the Bell Tower

The Roman Guy's Venice Food Tour
After a trip to Rome I connected with The Roman Guy who organise tours across Italy, including Venice. They invited me to experience one of their tours on my final day that worked out perfectly. If, like me, you have a mid-afternoon or evening flight this is a great way to fill in the hours and discover the hidden gems of Venice from a local expert.

Venetian Bacaro with The Roman Guy

Our guide Giuliano met us near the Rialto Bridge and took us straight to 'Bacarando' for Cicchetti. Think of this as an Italian version of Spanish Tapas or British bar snacks. What did we have? A glass of Prosecco and deep fried cheese containing meat, fish or vegetables - scrumptious!

Cicchetti in Bacarando Venice on a Food Tour with The Roman Guy, Deep fried cheese and prosecco
Short and cheap gondola ride across the grand canal in Venice
Hand sculpture in Venice highlighting the fragility of the city against the sea
Vegetable market stall in Venice
Preserved traditional fish market building in Venice

After this we took a short gondola ride over to historic fish market to learn about the origins of Venice's food scene. Nearby was 'Al Merca', our second food stop where Venetians get together over a spritzer and panini.

Mercato del pesce al minvto, Fish market at Minvto
al MERCA bar in Venice for Spritzers and Panini
Pane Vino e San Daniele Red Wine and Pasta Meal

'Pane Vino e San Daniele' truly felt like a local favourite away from the tourist hub. Biting into bruschetta (and mastering the correct pronunciation), we pondered over a choice of classic dishes including a favourite of mine, lasagne. This was washed down with a glass of red wine and coffee - we decided to skip gelato for a hot drink indoors because of the time of year. I should mention Pan Vino's lasagne is possibly the best I've had anywhere, so rich and meaty!

Pane Vino e San Daniele Lasagne, Best restaurants in Venice loved by locals
Cappuccino in Pane Vino e San Daniele
Pane Vino e San Daniele exterior
Twilight over Venice's Grand Canal

Giuliano's passion and friendliness made this a fun two and a half hours, and it's always lovely to meet other travellers who share your love for food and travel. Visit The Roman Guy for more details about the tour,as well as other itineraries in Venice and Italy.
Further reading: Tips for a cheap city break to Rome, A city guide to Lecce in Puglia and Planning an amazing trip to Amsterdam 

Disclosure: My food tour was complimentary of The Roman Guy, however all opinions are my own. 
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© Explore With Ed | Wales based Food, Travel and Cruise Blog

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