I love Venice! I hope Venice is on your “to do” list while you are here. It is visited by millions of tourists every year and I know the pressures of that influx on these ancient islands has had a toll, but I can’t help it, I love returning to these little islands called Venezia. The people, the shops, the food, the narrow streets with worn out stones that are beckoning to tell you secrets and stories of the past.Visiting Venice during Carnevale this year was such an experience. I know I’m writing this a bit late – but I’m hoping you put a pin in it! It is one massive party after another. We could have joined a plethora of activities from masquerade balls to themed dinner boats to dinner with Casanova.
Arriving by car if you decide to drive to Venice, you’ll want to park at Garage San Marco (MAKE RESERVATIONS in advance ~ like months in advance) If you have a larger vehicle (SUV or Minivan) those are in large car parking and there is only so many reservations for these size cars. You can also park at the Marco Polo airport garage and vaporetto in to Venice. You’ll want to make reservations here as well.
Arriving in air – Marco Polo airport -Vaporetto
This time our travel to Venice was quick and easy with EasyJet. A direct flight, inexpensive flight from Stuttgart for about €80 RT and we booked them last October when we were visiting Romania. This crazy habit I have of booking upcoming travel while on travel with friends….yup, I’m nuts. But I’ve got to hop on those sales when I can.
The hour flight took us straight into Marco Polo airport near Venice. If you fly here, you’ll have to take a bus, boat taxi or Vaporetto (bus boat) to the main island and Grand Canal. Book your ticket online before you go to avoid hanging out in long ques. You will still have to process your online voucher for a real pass at the check-in counter and this still takes a few minutes. It is a 10-15 minute walk to the vaporetto station from the airport. Plan accordingly to avoid waiting 30 minutes for the next boat. (Know which stop you need before going and plug it into your itinerary)
Staying in Venice
I will not recommend the hotel in Venice we stayed at as it was just awful, but I can warn you against it. The Hotel Alycone only had one thing going for it and that was its location. It was near San Marco square. Our very, very tiny room was inexpensive for carnival season, €120 a night for a 30m brothel room but with broken doors, no shower door and much, much more… just read my TripAdvisor review. Just yuk! And I’m not a prude, it was just bad. It went from 4 to 3 star since we booked. This happens sometimes – thankfully we weren’t there much.
I’ve stayed in Venice before and I would highly recommend staying at the B&B Campiello Zen, they are under renovation until spring of this year so we were unable to stay right now. I do look forward to visiting my friends in the future.
We chose a bit more subdued introduction to Carnival. My friend Heather suggested we go and scout out “one of the most famous celebrations in the world.” (Quote from Condé Nast) so we opted to attend the parade on Saturday in San Marco’s square for the feast of St. Mary’s.
Venice during Carnival is something else, if you really don’t like crowds, well then I wouldn’t recommend it. The security was very tight and every bag was checked, that made me feel safe but the amount of people in San Marco piazza was incredible.
Good Eats in Venice!
One of the biggest downfalls of my job is ALL the great food. I have a tendency to gain weight when I visit Italy and lose weight when I go to France. I got no idea why that is the way it is – I feel like I eat the same amount but there it is ~ However, I am by no means complaining. The flavors and combinations of Italian food makes my belly say, “That’s Amore!”
Pasta and pizza
If you are traveling with a large party, consider making dinner reservations, most establishments are small and quaint and can’t support very large parties. You’ll want to check on TripAdvisor for recommendations – I have a few there. Not all restaurants are fantastic.
Find a grocery store – still cheaper
Venice has a smattering of eclectic stores all over the islands. You can find anything from leather shops, high – end clothing stores, ceramics and of course, Murano glass and festival masks in almost every nick and cranny you stroll along.
Leather bag shopping
Shoes, clothes, lots of masks for carnival
Closer to San Marco prices go up
Gondola rides through different districts (palace district)
We chose to do a gondola ride right before sunset and it was stunning. Our boat gondolier, Fucchierri was superb, he gave us interesting historical tidbits along the palace district but also remained quiet for us to enjoy the serenity of the canals. Except for an occasional… AHOY! ~ when we looped the corners.
It was nice seeing and hearing the conversations between the fellow gondoliers we passed sharing tips on where to pick up more guests and which station was busiest. After all, this is probably one of their busiest weekends of the year.
- €80 for up to 6 passengers ~ 30 min
- €100 for 6 for night for 35 minute trip
Fucchieri shared with us he has two children, boy and a girl and he now is grandpa (Nonno) – his grandson would be 10 soon! Family means a lot to Venetians.
Carnevale in Venice
Arrive early for festivities, still hard to see if your short like me
Square is packed and security is tight, bags were checked and it seemed like they were counting attendees in the square. Occasionally we would see armed guards, but not threatening.
This part of Carnival celebrates the twelve most beautiful women in all Venice. One would be chosen to be next year’s Angel for Flight of the Angel.
The procession looked beautiful but because of our view was so crowded, it was hard to get great shots. However, there were plenty of characters willing to be photographed for the fun of it.
The Flight of the Angel event was kinda of a hoax too, we were thoroughly disappointed because this was one of the weekend’s highlights everyone said not to miss. After checking several websites and times while we were there, it was posted to begin at 12 noon, however, she flew at 11 a.m. It seemed all the Italians knew this, however most tourists were scrambling to get there because it had already passed by noon. I would’ve said this was our mistake however, my friends went the following week with a scheduled tour and the same thing happened to them. Perhaps this is a way to control the crowds but for whatever reason, we missed it. Thankfully there is YouTube.
Costume characters like to pose, stop for a bit to take good photos. Some characters asked for money, none that I took pictures of however.
Take a walk down to the pier by Port Zaccaria, photographs of the bay are amazing.
It goes without saying with this many people in one area be aware of your surroundings and belongings. Practice situational awareness. I bought a new purse in Venice that is pretty hard to break into and good for my back also.
Doge’s Palace – secret itinerary tour – Elena
I always considered it such a blessing when like hearts meet from around the world. Our tour guide Elena was EXCEPTIONAL. Heather arranged for us to take a “SECRET ITINERARY” tour of the Doge’s Palace before and thought it would be perfect for our short stay. It includes the history of Venice, the wise escape artist, nobleman, Casanova and a walk through of the entire palace for as long as you’d like to stay. It was perfect.
Arrive earlier for your tour, Venice is busy all year long. These tours book up quickly, you’ll need to purchase your voucher online and then visit the ticket office. You’ll need your passport as well. The tour is just a little bit more than the regular palace tour but it is so much better than just a walk through.
Elena, gave us a ton of information and insights her extra work and details added to our tour. She was fun and interesting and was the perfect guide. We became quick friends. She loves to travel too – go figure.
Dungeons, flooding, and more ~ on this tour you will also learn how and who actually governed medieval and Renaissance Venice. This historically independent town would waffle back and forth with being loyal to the crown, loyal to the church but always being loyal to Venice. Believe me, you will leave knowing so much more about this city built on islands that were once not connected by bridges AT ALL! It is really fascinating – just do it!
Venice at night – pictures
Here are a few pictures from strolling the streets of Venice at night, I hope you enjoy. Depending on the time of year, you will hear street vendors singing and serenading throughout the canals and narrow streets. It is an unbelievable memory.
You may have missed Carnivale this year but take heart – it will be amazing next year too! I hope my tips have been helpful and you’ve marked it down for “MUST SEE AND DO!” You won’t regret it, just remember book early and plan accordingly.