I remember being so overwhelmed when planning my first trip to Europe. It’s so hard because you want to see everything and it’s just not possible in one (or even 4) trips. My best advice is to make a list of everything you want to see and do, and then prioritize in order of importance. For example, I just knew I had to see Venice, and while I was definitely interested in Rome, Florence, etc. Venice was my top priority. There was just something about a “floating city,” authentic Italian pizza and gelato, all those charming bridges and gondolas that made Venezia top on my Italy “to do” list.
Well imagine my surprise when the water taxi docked at St.Marks Square, everyone filed off and I was like “is this it?” I followed the crowd and grew a little more disappointed as we walked. I felt so underwhelmed – sure there were some neat, really old buildings – but this was not how I pictured it to be. I just kept walking and ended up right in the centre of St. Mark’s Square. This was cool – some amazing architecture and lots of pigeons, but still not what I pictured…and then I noticed a few little entranceways into what looked like alleyways (almost a little hidden).
I just picked one and we started walking, a little worried if I would be able to find my way back. It was only a few minutes into our alley walk, when this is what we came upon…
Now this is what I was talking about!!! Love at first sight, any disappointment I had was long gone and so was the worry of not being able to find my way back – hopefully we would never find our way back! With every step we took, and every bridge we crossed, it was like stepping into a postcard. This is the Venice I had imagined (and more).
We walked and walked through twisting corridors of shops and cafes, feeling like everywhere we looked was worthy of a photo stop. It was during this time that we literally ran into Robert Herjavec of the Shark Tank (this was just before The Shark Tank had aired, but while he was still on the Canadian television version called The Dragon’s Den). He was with his wife and we didn’t want to bother them but it was cool to spot them and see how they just blended with the crowd, nobody seemed to notice (except for Mama Bug, it’s been said that I can spot a celebrity a mile away – I don’t know what it is, they just always seem to have an aura around them.)
Our next stop was to find a gondola, which really was not a difficult task – they are everywhere but in different neighbourhoods or areas. Yes this is a big touristy thing, but how can you go to Venice without going on a gondola ride? Mama Bug went back and forth whether we should do it during the day or save it for at night, and after visiting (and riding) again at different times, I would have to say The Bugs preferred during the day. At night it was so dark, it was difficult to see our beautiful surroundings Everyone is different however and depending on the situation (and if there was a Papa Bug present 😉 – I’m sure this would be very romantic at night.
We’re not big souvenir shoppers, we usually limit souvenir buying to a Christmas tree ornament, and sometimes a unique piece of jewellery. We’ve really tried to get away from buying a bunch of “stuff” but I remember on the first Venice trip being drawn to the beautiful Venetian masks that were sold at many of the shops. I wanted to be sure before purchasing one, that it was made and decorated in Venice. I did lots of research before my second trip and came upon the highly reviewed shop, There was a great selection and after a very long time of indecisiveness, I finally made up my mind on this one, and still today it is one of my favourite European purchases.
Baby Bug used her birthday money to buy her own Venetian souvenir mask.
Prices in Venice are very high – for everything. This is one reason why taking a cruise that includes a stop in Venice might be ideal. There are many itineraries that include an overnight stay in Venice (and if you can find one that begins or ends in Venice – even better), this allows you to add on an extra few days at the beginning or end of the cruise to enjoy the city. My first choice when looking for accommodations would be to stay right in Venice, however if you are looking to save some money, staying just outside the city (on the mainland) is much more affordable and very easily accessible to the city by a short train ride. Food can also be very expensive, be warned that often small cafes and restaurants will charge a “sitting fee” just to eat there so it’s a good idea to ask about it before you order (our relaxing gelato stop quickly turned pricy when we realized we were being charged for sitting.) And speaking of being charged – there are public restrooms occasionally throughout the city but again, there is a charge so be sure to have european change on hand.
Venice was definitely a highlight of our trip and one of the most unique places that we have been. It felt like a place where you could endlessly wander and explore.
The Lucky Bugs Top 3 Favourite “Venice” movies
- The Italian Job
- The Tourist
- Casino Royale (newer James Bond version with Daniel Craig, but also for those who like James Bond movies, Moonraker is our 4th choice)