After a very early start on Friday morning and a quick flight of only 2.5 hours we arrived into Marco Polo airport just outside Venice in the sunshine.
We caught the airport bus to Mestre where we where staying for €8 return fare which took about 15 minutes. Mestre is the industrial centre just on the other side of Venice and at a fraction of the cost to stay actually in Venice itself, it was the perfect location.
We arrived at our hotel, Hotel Venice, quickly got checked in and more importantly got our jeans off and shorts on ready to explore. After some lunch in Mestre we boarded the 4L bus which takes you straight into Venice for €1.50 in about 10-15 mins.
It was like a different world. When you immediately get off the bus you are met by a huge bridge over onto the mainland of Venice itself. Venice is made up of around 118 mini islands and it was like something from a movie. The building where stunning and the canal was amazing.
After a stroll down the main thoroughfare we where quick to realise just how busy this place was and also how narrow the streets are. We where really glad we where staying over in Mestre because as there are no cars, buses or trains in Venice itself you have to either walk everywhere or take a water taxi. The amount of people having to carry their luggage through the streets and up and over the numerous bridges didn’t help keep the flow of pedestrians moving along to quickly. It was also very obvious that as you made your way into the heart of the city restaurants and drinks where quite expensive compared to where we were staying. For example the local drink that everyone left and right where drinking with their meal was called a Spritz. In Venice it was €5 whereas in Mestre it was €3 and the same with wine. A glass of red or white was €2.50-€3 whereas in Venice a glass could range between €5-€7. It was cheaper to wander off down some narrow streets to find a smaller coffee shop. The rule seemed to be the darker the establishment the more locals you would find in it so the quality of food and drink would be better.
On Friday after we walked around and got our bearing we had booked onto a tour via the website Venice free walking tours. On this tour we got to walk around the north of the city and seen sights and sounds with a local English speaking tour guide which we wouldn’t have known about otherwise. We got to see places and ventured off the beaten track whilst hearing about the history of the area which was really interesting. We had booked two other tours with the same company but on Saturday night and Sunday the rain came and came down hard so we had to cancel.
Saturday we where up and out early after a nice breakfast in our hotel which was included in our stay. There was a vast amount of different croissants from chocolate to apricot, plain to cream which was delicious. Unlimited coffee and tea and a generous selection of breads, meats. Yogurts and fruit.
We headed in to the city to meet up with another tour kindly gifted to us by my sister in law and by far the best thing we done in the city. It was a venetian street food tour and visit through the Rialto markets. Again our guide Alice was a local and she took us to different stops in the city to sample all local Venetian foods from cheese and meats to cicchetti (tapas) in the oldest winery in Venice. Then for some sweet treats in a local family run bakery where we enjoyed local biscuits made in Bruno and the tour finished off with a large ice cream in one of the oldest award winning geleterais in the city Geleteria il doge where we both got their famous ice cream known as Cream of the Doge (candied orange and chocolate) which can only be bought from their shop.
After the tour we made our way back to the Rialto bridge area. After doing some research on other travel blogs for Venice which I found to reveal all the best things to do I discovered a little gem. On the seventh floor of the DFS department store which use to be the old post office building you can get the best views of the city for free. They have a roof terrace which you book a 15 minute viewing slot online which lets you take in the sights and sounds from up above and my goodness with the sun shining it did not disappoint!
With rain scheduled for later on Saturday evening we made our way to the main square where the church of St Mark is located. This is free to visit but on a Saturday afternoon it was extremely busy and the queues where vast so we just grabbed a quick selfie, done some great people watching (Chris got his eyes truely opened to what it takes to get that Instagram shot!) and then we made our way back to the bus station through all the little winding back streets until we reached the Magnum palace which was on our hit list to visit as you get to make your own magnum ice cream. To be honest I thought it would be a fortune but it turned out to cost €5 which considering it’s located right on the grand canal was actually ok; and it tasted divine!
We made our way back to Mestre and went out for dinner. After we left the restaurant the rain started and my goodness was it heavy! This rain then continued overnight and the majority of Sunday. Venice of course is a sinking city so the more rain that fell the worse the street got with rain water and very deep puddles.
We had hoped to go and visit Verona on Sunday as it was only an hour away on the train and wasn’t too expensive but with the rain we didn’t fancy our chances of really enjoying the scenery so we just plucked up the courage and went back into Venice. We had met some friends from where we live on the flight over so we met up with them in a good old Irish bar and watched the last football game of the season and boy did we have some laughs. After numerous conversations with Americans, others from England and also Northern Ireland we managed to clock up the hours out of the rain until it was time for dinner again.
Our little city break was topped of by the best meal we had the whole time we where there in a local restaurant called lupo Nero. Sea fish was their specialty and my goodness where the mussels delicious and along with authentic pasta bolognaise which was out of this world the night ended well with another magnificent gelato! I’ll be honest I don’t know how I’m going to cope without the ice creams when I get home eek!
During my research of the city a lot of people recommended buying a travel pass that allowed you unlimited use of public transportation during your visit but we declined this. Absolutely the best way to see the city is to walk around it, get lost in it and do ver off the main streets. It’s in these back streets that you see the most gorgeous buildings, stunning balconies, local shops, empty canals with boats and gondolas and you get to cross little quant bridges without the cluster of lots of other people. The best photo opportunities are here absolutely. Would we go back…in a heartbeat!