When I saw the attractive offer of WizzAir for a two ways ticket to Venice for 20 euro, I could not resist the temptation and booked the trip for the end of January. It turned out that this was the perfect time to visit the famous Italian city. At night, temperatures fall, but during the day because of the shinning sun, you can enjoy long walks without freezing. The biggest advantage of visiting Venice during the winter is the lack of the usual flow of tourists. Of course, you will meet groups of Japanese cameras everywhere, but they are many times less than during the tourist season. So you will enjoy visiting museums, churches, and other top tourist attractions in Venice without waiting for hours on the lines. On internet you will find detailed information about sights, prices, accommodation and so on, so you will be able to organize your trip by yourself. That’s what I did and it was much more fun than with a travel agency.
Our (I was with my friend Mila) plane departured from Sofia at noon in a snow storm to arrive in sunny Italy in the early afternoon. Transfer from Treviso airport to Venice took about an hour, and if you order it by WizzAir will cost you 5.5 euro for a round trip. So after a plane delay and some mishaps (our bus broke down) along the way, we found ourselves on the square Piazzale Roma, where is the main bus station in Venice. From there, we headed to our hotel – also booked and paid online. Turned out it is a small building in nice narrow streets and conveniently located right in the heart of Venice, near the Rialto Bridge – perhaps the most famous bridge of all. Once settled, we left our luggage we made our first tour along the Venetian canals to orientate and make plans for the next few days. If you really want to enjoy the city, then I advise you to plan a trip for at least three days to be able to experience Venice, not just to run from museum to museum.
Since we had enough time, we decided to spend two days to visit all cliche sights. For visitng Basilica San Marco you do not need much time. Admission is free, but if you want to see some things inside, you have to pay few more euros. Most impressive is the altar composed of 80 icons and it is covered with gold and precious stones. Be sure to visit the museum. Inside are the original four horses brought (or stolen :D) from Constantinople to adorn the front facade of the basilica. From there you will enter the terrace, which offers a beautiful view to Piazza San Marco and the coastline. In the summer this square is filled with tourists, tired from walking, shooting photos and talking. Next stop – just to see the Doge’s Palace will take half a day. The building, which was the residence of the government, is an architectural masterpiece. What you’ll see inside can be describe with just one word – beauty! Huge columns, religious sculptures, colorful tiles, pictures of the most famous painters, painted ceilings and furniture decorated with countless ornaments. This one building reflects all the glamour of old Venice and certainly worth a visit. From the Doge’s Palace we jumped in the jail through the worldwide famous Bridge of Sighs. Through here walked the convicted prisoners and had a last sigh for beautiful Venice before being thrown behind cold bars. And this Venetian prison is not a friendly place, believe me. Fortunately the tour around the empty cells do not take long, and once out in the fresh air, you’ll appreciate even more the beauty of the city.
The ticket for the Doge’s Palace cost 16 euros (for students – € 8), but the entrance ticket allows you to visit few more museums – Correr, the Archaeological Museum and the Biblioteca Nazinale Marciana. You’d think that these are three separate buildings, but it is one that includes paintings, sculptures, objects (including exhibition of weapons), and ancient old books in Latin. The entrance is in the Museum Correr, located opposite the Basilica San Marco. And if after this tour you are still thirsty for art, I recommend you to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia. This is the most important museum of Italian art. The entrance fee is € 9 and the exhibition includes paintings of the most famous Venetian artists. Inside is also Vitruvian Man by Lenorado Da Vinci, but it is exposed to visitors only in special cases, so I couldn’t see it.
You should consider that each of these museums takes time, so if the day is rainy or chilly, spend it indoors, enjoying the Italian art. Otherwise, take advantage of the good weather and take a walk on the Venetian streets. The greatest treasure of Venice is the city itself. Small and narrow streets ends on the large squares or they spin in circles while you’re losing direction. Old buildings with ornate facades catch the eye, and fresh flowers adorn each window. Large and small bridges cross endless canals where gondoliers ride love couples. Numerous architectural details catch the attention, and moved by the wind the Italian flag “dance” on every terrace.
Walking around Venice feels like in front of you become alive centuries of glorious history, political intrigues and romances. The beauty of Venice lies in this very authentic atmosphere, preserved to this day. A friend of mine likes to say: “This is the only city in the world that does not change.” And he’s right. Here, time seems to be stopped. Of course, you’ll see the shiny shops, expensive hotels and restaurants, and outside the tourist center – even new buildings, but under this modern look Venice is still the city of nobles, courtesans, clerics, artists and … love.
Venice seems small town compared to today’s metropolis, but its streets can always surprise you. They say that one of the best things that can happen to you is to get lost in Venice – you will find unexpected beauty. Streets are endless – some of them are close enough to walk alone man. Flowers are hanging on every window, the gates are painted with ornaments. Every corner, balcony, wall, column hide a piece of history. Its a real pleasure to walk between the buildings, finding new and interesting facades or just to watch gondolas floating on the canals. Some Venetians even have the pleasure to go home by gondola and literally step from the boat to the front door. Ambulance, police and even the man who collects the garbage are doing their job on boats. At one place in Venice, where several larger channels gather there is even traffic light.
If you stay away from Piazza San Marco and the main attractions, you will be able to peek into the everyday life of the ordinary Venetian. When sun go down and all the tourists disappear in their hotels or in the restaurants, you will see Vemetians to go back home from work by vaporetti ( water buses) or to go for a walk with their dogs on the narrow streets. Like all typical Italians and they speak loudly and do not hide their emotions. If you want to feel their world better, go for a dinner at a trattoria – modest restaurants where eat more Italians than tourists. Many of them are family restaurants, the kitchen is traditional. The most delicious are those dishes that include seafood. Be sure to try the famous black spaghetti made with squid ink – one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in my life! Try the tiramisu in a pastry shop, and don’t forget to get an ice cream – even though it is January. I should admit that Italian food is my passion but words are not enough to describe how delicious it is. Just try everything possible. Even if you fail to translate something from the menu, do not be afraid to order it. If you want to go out to a bar, go to the student campus. There are restaurants and bars full with young people. You’ll notice noisy companies to watch another match of the Italian Calcio and drink beer. And if you want to taste typical Venetian cocktail, order a Bellini (champagne and peach juice).
If you have more time and opportunity, walk to the suburbs – where the atmosphere is totally different. Its interesting to walk through Cannaregio, where is the Jewish ghetto. In one of the newly occupied districts I even saw something that I never assume that I can see – high building with underground water garage, where you can keep your boat. If you need a rest, you can just walk from San Marco on the promenade and exit in a quiet park where you can enjoy a relaxed atmosphere.
We had an extra day in Venice, so we decided to visit the islands. We bought card for the vaporetti for 12 hours (16 euros) and started with Murano island – famous with objects made of glass. There you can see the glass museum (admission is 8 euros, 5.50 discount). The island of Burano is known for lace, but something else impressed me more… All buildings are colored in a different color. Colorful yellow, fresh green, blue, orange or deep purple will catch your eyes. Walking through these colorful streets made me feel like in fairy tale. If you are cats lover, you will be pleased to know that this is the preferred pet of the islanders. White, black, gray cats purr lying on the sun in almost every yard. Finally, if you have some more energy, stop and visit the island of Torcello. It is relatively small and almost uninhabited. What it offers is an old church and several restaurants where you can eat. We had our late lunch there and continue our “water walk”.
One of the biggest attractions is the vaporetto № 1. This line runs along the Grand Canal, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful facades of the buildings on both sides of the channel. Among the most famous are the Ca d’Oro and Venetian casino. However, keep in mind that drivers make very bold and crashing moves at each stop and be prepared to be shaken. Very impressive is to make this tour at sunset or after dark when the facades of the buildings are illuminated. The view of Piazza San Marco in the dark, surrounded by countless lights is spectacular. Night Venice invites you to take a walk on a moonlight. No tourist, Venetians are resting at their homes. In the night you can see another Venice – mystical, romantic, fascinating.
If you have the opportunity to visit Venice, don’t miss it. And enjoy every moment you have there. Breathe, feel, and live. And once walked on the streets of this magical city, you will lose your heart out there, because there is hardly a man to resist its beauty. Venice is timeless. It is art, it is life. Venice is love.
Text by Neli
Photos by Mila Popova