The floating city. One of the most romantic places in the world. A must-see.
That's what people always say about Venice, and now that I've been there myself, I'm joining them.
Staying with my fab friend Emily in Verona meant we were only an hour or so from Venice, and I sure as hell wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to go on a little day trip! (Just a heads up: this is going to be a photo-heavy post, but I actually took waaaayyyy more.)
It was a super hot early June Friday, with just the occasional wispy white cloud breaking up the beautiful blue sky. And Venice looked as breathtaking as it does in the postcards (and that episode of Made In Chelsea a few weeks ago!)
We ran out of the train station right out to the main canal. My jaw dropped, my eyes widened, a grin spread from ear to ear and all I could think was WOW!
I'm actually in Venice. And it's breathtakingly beautiful.
If I've understood correctly, Venice is made up of a series of islands. It's supposedly quite small, but Em and I only stayed on the main one all day and it felt huge. I think this may be because it's made up of a veritable labyrinth of tiny winding streets and tons of little bridges crossing the narrow waterways, each one photo-worthy. Naturally, I was snapping away non-stop.
As well as the little waterways, there are of course the main canals and big grand bridges, the most famous of which is the Rialto. The view from up there really is something.
But then again, everywhere you look in Venice is amazing.
There are such vivid colours all around, and to me it was like looking at the world through an Instagram filter. Probably Lo-Fi.
The water is amazingly green, the sky a sensational blue, and the houses every colour under the sun. I loved it.
There's definitely an old-fashioned feel to Venice. For starters, there are obviously no cars. The buildings are nearly all in states of disrepair, but if you ask me this just adds to their charm. Along with the ornate lampposts, I loved the ye olde vibe.
In some ways, Venice was just as I imagined it to be: there were tons of gondolas and - get this - all the gondoliers really do wear stripey tops! One even went past us singing that traditional Italian song "Volare, ohhh oh. Cantare, oh oh oh ohhh!" (You know the one I mean, right?) Too great.
And you've just gotta snapchat in Venice, right?
However certain aspects of Venice surprised me. For one thing, I really wasn't expecting all the shops! Designer shops (Chanel, Longchamp, Dolce and Gabbana), high street shops (H&M, the Disney store), lots of touristy souvenir shops and a range of interesting boutiques selling everything from fine leather bags (oof! The smell) to handmade glass trinkets. I suppose they're all catering for the tourists. And by Jove, there were a lot of tourists! (Myself included, of course.)
However it turns out you can easily go from the centre of a tourist-swarm to a quiet corner.
Em and I found a particularly great spot to sit down a narrow street with our feet dangling over the water, watching the gondolas go by, completely out of the hustle and bustle. We sat there sheltering from the prime heat of the day and chatted for ages about life and love, the future and the present, our memories and our dreams. Yup, it was pretty deep. And when together, we are two girls who can just talk and talk and talk some more.
To be honest, all we did all day was wander, sit, snap, marvel, walk, admire, eat, explore, shop and chat. It was bliss.
Another surprise was that it isn't literally just canals and tiny streets. There are also big open squares lke Piazza San Marco.
Venice may be one of the most romantic places in the world, but it also makes for a pretty cracking day out for friends.
We had no idea where we were going, but that didn't matter. Everywhere you go there's something beautiful to look at, and when you do finally want to go back to the station there's some pretty good signage.
Aside from a bunch of postcards (laaaaaave sending postcards!), we didn't buy anything apart from food. And as you can imagine, it's all somewhat pricey.
Foodwise, Venice has got all sorts going on! Whether you fancy a quick slice of pizza or a sandwich, a fancy sit-down meal in a restaurant, some fresh fruit, a smoothie to sip or a scoop of gelato to go, there's plenty to choose from.
There are also a few water fountains dotted round the city so do try and fill up there if you're on a budget like we were.
For lunch, we went for a couple of simple margherita pizza slices. When in Italy, eh? But it wasn't long before we were after some pudding. I know you know what we went for.
Although there are gelato shops every ten metres in Venice, Emily had a particular one in mind: Suso. I tell ya, this is a gal who is now something of a gelato connoisseur. And I felt lucky to be able to benefit from her knowledge. (Tip: don't go for the places where it's all piled up in mountains. That means it's not freshly made.)
It was a tough choice at Suso, but I went for yoghurt swirled with mango, and a second scoop (duhh) of Opera: nutty ice cream covered in a thick layer of essentially nutella. I'd had the latter in Portugal before and blimmin' loved it.
Now I know what you might be thinking: "RACHEL WHAT WERE YOU DOING?! THOSE FLAVOURS DON'T GO!" But calm yourself, dear.
That same concern had popped into my head, but the way the scoops were piled up meant they didn't mix. Thank goodness.
Rich, chocolatey opera first, followed by creamy, refreshing mango yoghurt. And you can even eat the tub! So fab. Cones are all very well but realistically it can be quite a stressful experience trying to eat all the ice cream before it melts, am I right? Tub for the win, and edible tub for the ultimate.
We enjoyed ours sitting on the steps of a bridge over the water. Mmmmm.
I think Venice is an absolute must-see once in your life, and I don't think it necessarily needs to bankrupt you.
Tragically, a gondola ride can set you back a good 100€ (I kid you not), but the beauty of the place is totally freeeeee!
Sure, there are loads of snazzy hotels, a stay in one of which would of course be a treat and a half, but I don't think you necessarily need more than a day in Venice. Of course you could explore much further afield if you were there longer, but I got an awesome feel for the fabulous place in just a day. It was super lucky Emily lives so close!
I'll never forget my trip to Venice, and although it's now completely touristified, they all flock there for a reason: it's blimmin' beautiful and unlike anywhere else.