I’ve wanted to visit Venice for as long as I can remember so when the opportunity arose to spend a couple of days there ahead of my press trip through the Med on Island Princess*, it was too good to miss – Mr TS booked us two nights in a hotel in the Dorsoduro district and we headed eagerly for Gatwick. Arriving in Venice by elegant mahogany water taxi will stay in my mind for a very long time, it was absolutely glorious! We whizzed from the airport, past many of the islands which make up this intriguing city, motored up the Grand Canal, under bridges, past palaces and inviting side canals before being gently deposited right at the door of our hotel.
The Hotel American proved to be in an excellent spot for exploring the city (well done Mr TS!), it was within a short stroll of the Academia Bridge which meant we could leave our hotel and be in St Mark’s Square in a matter of minutes if we wanted to. We dutifully visited it, as you’re supposed to, but then dived with relief into the back streets of Venice and soon found ourselves free of the crowds, wandering happily for hours, soaking up the sights, sounds, smells and flavours of back street Venice.
Exploring a city on foot does has the advantage of being free and we were delighted with how much of Venice we could see without splashing out our limited cash (the posh taxi was courtesy of Princess Cruises but I would absolutely fork out for it myself next time – it is the BEST way to arrive, we felt like we were in a Bond film!)
Window Shopping in Venice
The shop windows of Venice are delightfully eclectic and I spent a lot of time peering through glass, snapping away with my camera
The annual Carnevale di Venezia is famous for its elaborate masks and there are mask making workshops all over the city. This one caught my eye, I’m sure you can see why! They supplied the masks for the Stanley Kubrick Film ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, the intricacy and madness of their work stopped me in my tracks.
I loved the tongue in cheek fun to be seen in some of the window displays of Venice’s Designer shops – while some took themselves very seriously indeed with glorious displays of Gucci handbags and sparkling, crystal studded sandals it was these two windows which had me reaching for my camera and grinning widely. Which one do you prefer?
The Venetian island of Murano specialises in glass making and its vibrant colours were evident in shop windows across the city. Visiting Murano to see glass making for myself is top of my list for our next visit but, in the meantime, I loved these colourful balloons!
And this window had to be photographed for my curry loving eldest child – curry flavoured pasta isn’t that just the perfect student food?!
A Vegetarian in Venice
I did worry (mainly due to the scare mongering of some of my meat-eating friends) that Venice would not be an easy place to visit for a vegetarian – I needn’t have, it was wonderful! We scoffed the most delicious pizza ever which we bought by the slice from backstreet takeaways, sat under parasols outside ristorantes in some of the smaller piazzas eating delicate savoury crepes and the most heavenly tirimasu and we perched on bar stools in the evening, sipping beer and chomping bruschetta just a stone’s throw from our hotel. I would love to stay in an apartment for a while and shop at the Rialto market where fruit, vegetables, spices, dried porcini and so much more were all laid out beautifully to tempt my taste buds
or at one of the barges parked up and plying their trade with boxes piled high with the ripest, brightest and prettiest veg I ever did see!
I imagined myself filling my basket, heading back home along the canals and through the narrow streets, lighting the rings under my pans, leaning out of my window to pick a few herbs from my abundant window box to add to a bubbling fresh tomato sauce, uncorking a bottle of red, throwing pasta and sauce into a bowl and just soaking up the Venetian vibe. It was easy to drift into these dreams as we meandered along, eavesdropping on an opera singer warming up in his dressing room behind the Teatra la Fenice and people watching as well-heeled Venetians tottered up its front steps.
Everyday Life in Venice
Being boaty people ourselves, we were fascinated to see the workings of every day life in a city where all trade is conducted by boat. There are the showy gondoliers plying their trade for the tourists, fighting for water space with Vaporetto water buses, with post boats and with rubbish collectors with built in boat cranes to collect small skips and remove them from the city.
We saw Italian delivery men having a bit of a shout and throwing parcels at each other in the back of their courier service boat, cobbles and cement being unloaded from a barge and pulled along on sledges to the road repairmen who needed them and we saw the emergency services whizzing up the Grand Canal to rescue people or sort them out.
In the evening as the light faded and the lamps came on, Venice looked stunning. Mr TS and I are planning to return as soon as possible and meander about some more!
We wandered into churches, small museums and art galleries and we peeked through doorways to catch glimpses of lives being lived.
I loved that we were walking in the footsteps of the many thousands who have visited across the centuries – the sign on this building, very roughly translated, says ‘Mozart stayed here’.
*If you’d like to read more about our Mediterranean cruise on Island Princess you can see my write up in Cruise International Magazine and I will be writing more about it here on Thinly Spread over the next few weeks. I also have a few more ideas for you when you visit Venice so watch out for another post coming soon!
We stayed at the Hotel American Dinesen for two nights which we paid for ourselves. The hotel was ideally placed, welcoming and very comfortable – I was very impressed with Mr TS’s choice! We flew into Venice from London but we left by cruise ship – the sail away down the Grand Canal was a once in a lifetime experience, but more on that soon!