A grand strategy I know to kick off a travel post is to feature one of the most enchanting places in the world: VENICE
Thousands of people visit this place every day but only a handful gets to experience it the way the Venetians do. Here is a chronicle on how we were able to pull off this great adventure on our own.
My husband and I live on a peninsula so the idea of Fiji, Bora Bora and the Maldives came to mind. But after much debate and consideration, the need to experience refinement, history and European culture prevailed. Planning the wedding was a formidable task in itself but figuring out where to go for a honeymoon proved to be equally challenging.
To avoid the rigors of travel planning, we decided to get a travel agency at first but the quote we had was ridiculously overpriced. So instead, we opted to do our own hotel and flight hunting. It turned out to be not as difficult as we thought. A lot of reading and web browsing definitely helped.
To grab a great deal is to book ahead of time. We made our reservations eighteen months in advance and landed a first-rate room package. We had the liberty to choose our room location and the level of accommodation we wanted.
Venice is surrounded by bodies of water. So naturally, the best way to experience it to the fullest was through a hotel overlooking the Grand Canal. After sifting through tons of possibilities, we chose to stay at the Hotel Palazzo Sant’Angelo. It was a luxurious boutique hotel near the Rialto bridge.
It had its own private dock that offered guests easy access to a water taxi or a Gondola. The Sant’Angelo stop station was just a few steps away if you opt to take the Vaporetto. The hotel’s easy accessibility has definitely added to its charm. The lobby was very warm and welcoming. Adorned with palladian floors, it was an artform in itself.The rooms were decorated with elaborate 18th century style wall paper and drapery: a distinctive Venetian accent. The marbled bathrooms were a lovely site to see complete with artisan fixtures and a bidet! The welcome chocolate dipped fruit platter, champagne and Venetian colorful masks were added touches that elevated our spirits as we fought our circadian dysrhythmias (aka jet lag!).The staff were friendly, helpful and the best source of all the insider’s secrets to a lot of the untouristy-off-the-beaten-path-to-go places. The superb customer service blew us away and it was definitely what sets this place apart from the rest.
Romance and luxury sums up the reasons why we invested on a water taxi…best decision we ever made! The Vaporetto or a Gondola were an option but they did not have the same coziness that a water taxi provides. It was a little bit more costly but the comfort it offered was well worth it. If you have seen photos of George and Amal Clooneys’ “Amore”, then you will know what I am talking about. After all, we were going to one of the most romantic destinations in Italy so we felt the need to get in and out of Venice in style. And it did not disappoint.
The Not-So-Known Secrets
A true Venetian cultural immersion would not be complete without experiencing its culinary offerings. Based on the hotel’s recommendation, we made reservations to a rooftop sunset dinner at the Restaurant Terrazza Danieli of the renowned Hotel Danieli. The panoramic view of the Venice lagoon filled with the fiery colors of the Venetian sunset deserved a five star definition on its own. This memorable dining experience elevated us to the realms of Royalty. We would relive this day everyday if we can!
Early morning exploration without the sea of tourists in Venice is a definite to-do-list! The calm, the aroma and the promise of a great day heightened all our senses. This was probably our best advantage by staying in the island.
The best kept secret of Venice apart from the canals and great monumental structures are the Museums that surround the islands. Be prepared to be mesmerized by the expansive array of stunning architectural masterpieces. The elaborate wall embellishments, intricate art works and the kaleidoscope of colorful murals speaks volumes to the amount of talented Masters this place has inspired.
Our senses were overloaded with awe and wonderment. Our top favorite was the Oriental Art Museum in Palazzo Pesaro. It held a rich collection of Japanese antiques that dated back many centuries ago all the way to the Edo Period.
The intriguing contemporary exhibit in the Gallery of Modern Art awakened our inner child as we tried to decipher the artists’ genius and figure out the message these eccentric art pieces project.
We also particularly enjoyed the one-of-a-kind display of relics at the Museum of Natural History inside the Fondaco dei Turchi. The entire exhibit was a refreshing spectacle and the lay-out had such a unique spin.
The beauty of Venice comes in different waves and colors. Yes, I have seen Venice in my dreams, inside pages of books or in a movie but there was nothing like the experience of seeing Venice through the Gondola. It was like a magic carpet ride. Bridge by bridge, we were rewarded with wonder after wonder. Every turn looked like postcard-perfect views!
Our Gondolier lead us to the side of Venice away from the bustles of touristry. He had been a Gondolier for more than 30 years and knew every inch of the Venetian scenery. He proudly inherited this profession from a generation of Gondoliers. He was a wealth of knowledge and even revealed some of the unwritten whispers of the Venetian history. He reminded us of “Guido”, the character from the Oscar-awarded Italian film La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful). His personal revelations and way of thinking resonated a message that amid any challenges, life can be and is still beautiful!
Clearly to date, this was the most romantic ride of our lives!
The Street Mazes
Venice is devoid of cars. Instead, the city is swarmed with bridges and waterways. The tiny alleys are like a complex labyrinth. Treacherous as it may seem, they are worth getting lost into.
The most unbelievable authentic Venetian meals we had stemmed from our unplanned misadventures.
Despite its limited topography and size, Venice is surrounded by more than a hundred churches (139 to be exact!). The most visited and most recognizable is the St Mark’s Basilica. The tolling of morning bells were part of the daily landscape.
Wine Under the Bridge
Venice and its waterways are synonymous. So it goes without saying, it is also known as the City of Bridges. The most notable Rialto, the Accademia and the Bridge of Sighs were on top of our everyday escapades.
The proximity of the Rialto bridge from our hotel afforded us the opportunity to take advantage of the Aperitivo (Italian Happy Hour). We blended with the locals in this quaint tucked away bar/booth that offered the best tasting wine ever! This is coming from the palate of a non-alcoholic drinker. For some unknown reasons, wine in Italy felt like a very tasty flavored water. It was tolerable and I have managed to finish a whole glass or two. One noteworthy observation is that almost everything was served in real cups/wine glasses. Plastic or Styrofoam cups were an obsolete option here.
We enjoyed our drinks sitting on the docks watching the allure of the Gondolas passing the Rialto bridge. This backdraft definitely took the meaning of Romance to a whole new level!
The Vaporetto was the most practical way to get around Venice. There were a lot of different routes and stop stations that will take tourists and locals alike to the different Islands that surrounds Venice. As much as we enjoyed the Water taxis and the Gondola, this Waterbus exemplifies the everyday transit of a typical Venetian. The stewards were very courteous and helpful. One of them named Boscolo exemplified a true version of modern day chivalry. He treated every passenger like they were his family.
The Nearby Isles
The main island had a lot to offer but the surrounding isles had their own appeal.Murano and Burano were on top of our list to explore. Murano has always been known for its glass making industry but apart from this craft, the art of etching has become an endangered workmanship in Venice. We had a once-in-a-lifetime chance of meeting one of the last remaining etchers in the Island.
It was enlightening to learn from this gifted Maestro the reality of his dying profession and the commercial crisis his industry has endured in the recent years. In return, we decided to patronize his creative works and hoped to be an instrument in preventing his artistry from facing extinction.
Burano on the other hand, captivated us with its vibrance. The brightly colored houses were unforgettable and the array of beautifully tatted Venetian laces were lovely attractions that showcased the main livelihood of this archipelago.
The bistros and cafe’s were also worth salivating. It is definitely a must-see itinerary.
The Doors and Doorbells
The doors and doorbells of the Venetian residences were like statement art pieces in an open gallery. They made a lasting first impression in my mind.
The masterful woodworks were carefully crafted up to the last detail.
Venice was a visual feast.You have to take time to appreciate the magnitude of its grandeur.It was an overwhelmingly surreal experience that was definitely one for the books.
We didn’t need an itinerary. Every turn was an adventure! Getting lost added to the joy of discovery.
Sadly, we had to say goodbye to this fascinating place. We carry tons of memories to hang on to until someday we meet again…
This was the journey that set the tone of our lives! What’s your story?
Disclaimer: This article is intended to amuse. The opinions are solely mine/ours. In case you're itching to say something, please let it all out! I'm all ears...