Out of our whole trip to Italy, even in the winter, Tim’s favorite city was Venice. He says it just barely edged out Florence (my personal favorite), but future vacation homes may have been brought up by him in conversation. In this post I am going into all the details of our 2.5 days in this beautiful and unique city. While some on my list of 10 are an absolute must on anyone’s list, others are experiences we enjoyed. I also have some places to see that we missed out on… but that just means we have to go back again!
Venice was surprisingly busy (to us) this time of year. After chatting with my cousin in Milan, we learned our preconceived thoughts of a deserted winter city were false and expected just as much hustle and bustle as other times of the year. We arrived in the late afternoon when it was already getting dark (see pictures of both sides of the bridge in front of the station). While there are no cars at all in Venice (SO awesome) due to all of the canals, there are no direct routes for walking so large water taxis are the only other way around. We took forever to figure out which direction to go on for the water taxi with our luggage and so, decided we’d be traveling by foot the rest of the time here!
We arrived at the NH Collection Venezia Pallazzo Barocci, which we loved even more than the one in Milan! It was situated right on the grand canal (you can see the reflection of the water in the picture below) near the famous Rialto bridge. Upon arrival we were greeted with glasses of prosecco and an amazingly helpful overview of Venice with plenty of notes on a map. They also made a reservation for us for dinner nearby.
When you look at the maps in Venice, it seems as if things are so far away, but in reality the streets are so short that you get everywhere in minutes. We left the hotel and were only walking for a few minutes when we made it to the bridge. There were Christmas lights strung across every street, ally, square and canal – I absolutely loved it!
(#1) The Rialto bridge is a must see tourist attraction in Venice no matter what travel blog or list you are looking at. The lights made it seem a tad less touristy and more beautiful. Then, we took a turn and were already by the restaurant!
The restaurant was lined up next to several others and we checked out their menus, too. Any of them would have been amazing but we were thrilled with the ambiance, the wine, and the food at Osteria Bancogiro. You can see the Montepulciano we shared in the picture below with the chestnut tagliatelle that we shared. It was topped with cuttlefish and an oily sauce.
We also shared this branzino, topped with chickpea purée before being baked; it was delicious and had a phenomenal texture. The shot glass was filled with a mediterannean sauce that they said was a puree of tuna and tomato, essentially to have withthe fish and that delicious roasted artichoke heart.
(#3) Do what the locals do.
Afterwards we walked around and saw a large group and heard a lot of Italian chatter that we couldn’t understand, so we walked over to the square the noise was coming from. There was a kiosk-looking bar to order drinks at (yes outside in the less than 30 degree weather). So we stopped and I had a glass of prosecco and Tim a beer for about 5 euro total and sipped among a crowd of people out for the night. Around the corner a few steps away was a canal – we were imagining how it must be even better in the summer in that spot when it isn’t 25 degrees out!
We walked around a bit more and stopped in for one last drink at Cafe Brasilia. It was quite unique and a good place to stop for a non-traditional Italian drink such as a Guinness or margarita if you’re craving a break from Italy… but who would ever not want to be in traditional Italy? Because of this, Cafe Brasilia is fun, but not an absolute must in my book if you are on a short trip.
We woke up the next day ready to explore, but needed some fuel. We walked out the front of the hotel to this beautiful view!
We fueled the long day of walking at El Cafe where I had some eggs, fruit and toast with an espresso and as you can see tim enjoyed a chocolate croissant and a chocolate crepe. It was vacation so, let’s give him a break :). Unfortunately, they missed the “we don’t eat pork” memo and some prosciutto ended up on my plate. I would still go back, preferably in the summer so that we could sit outside! The only reason I don’t have El Cafe on my top 10 list, is because there’s another place mentioned below we apparently should have eaten at! It was just a further walk than we wanted before we really headed out for the day.
After breakfast we stopped back at the hotel to really get ready for the day. When we headed back out, we passed by many squares with leaning towers like this and past canal after canal and a smaller, beautiful church on our way to St. Mark’s square.
(#4) Visit St. Mark’s Square
I couldn’t even capture everything in this large space at St. Mark’s Square with my camera. We were in awe of how much amazing architecture there was in the 360 degrees around us that it was hard to focus on just one building or view at a time.
Also, we apparently should have eaten at Cafe Florian there! Since I didn’t, I am not going to officially put it on the list for you, but I plan to make it there someday.
(#5) Walk along the southern part of the Grand Canal,and walk from the west all the way east
When we turned the corner from St. Mark’s Square though, we were by the outlet of the grand canal with amazing views and among many local vendors.
After lots of walking by the water with such unique and gorgeous sites we finally weaved back into the more “landlocked” part of Venice if you can even call it that.
We then realized hunger was building, we hadn’t made lunch plans despite Tims large spreadsheet of what to do and where to eat, but we knew we wanted some Napoli style pizza sooner rather than later on this trip! Thankfully we were outside another restaurant that I was able to pick up wifi from and we saw that the only Napoli pizza in Venice was less than a half mile away!
(#6) Eat Napoli Pizza at Rossopomodoro
We walked over, waited about 10 minutes before being seated, and were super satisfied with everything Rossopomodoro had to offer (even the 90’s N’Sync and Britney Spears CD’s playing for music).
This is still the second best pizza I’ve ever had (more on the best ever in my Florence recap). With the best ever wheat crust, an amazing tomato sauce and that garlic, fresh basil, and high quality olive oil, how could I not eat the whole thing? Well, I probably should have listened better to my hunger cues and stopped because I had salad first. With all of our walking though, and hardly any snacking, I think I actually lost weight in Italy. While I haven’t stepped on a scale in over 6 months, I certainly felt more lean. And yes, that was with pizza or pasta everyday, sometimes both. Anyway, Tim really enjoyed the olives here, too.
As you can see on the menu, this restaurant supports the slow food Movement! I continued to see this logo on many other restaurant menus on our trip, and can only hope we hop on to this trend in the us more, too. While we skipped it at this meal, they also have wine without sulfites, in case that is something you react to.
From lunch we walked a lot (more than Tim may have loved), past an old naval area and fort and to what is known as the “Jewish Ghetto”.
(#7) Walk through and eat in the “Jewish Ghetto”
This is where all Jews were required to live in the area until Napolean said otherwise. It is still a place where many Jewish bakeries are and if we had more time in this city, I would have come back to one of them the next morning! This was also the busiest area we walked through other than St. Mark’s Square with plenty of cultural stores and some restaurants.
After a long walk back we totally crashed for about an hour at the hotel, and then did some hopping around for “dinner”. First, though, we passed over the bridge and walked by the Gallerie dell’ Accademia and the to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (more on that later) for some beautiful night views looking the other way across the outlet of the Grand Canal. Somewhere near Campo de Sant Agnese’ we stopped to eat.
(#8) Eat at a Restaurant with a Handwritten Menu
Really, this is a must for anywhere in Italy, but it really stood out to us in Venice. While we loved everything we ate this night, part of me still wishes we hadn’t stopped for snacks at the first place and just had a full dinner at Al Vecio Marangon.
We shared a purred mushroom and vegetable soup at Baba which was to die for. We also enjoyed sautéed carrots, green beans and cabbage alongside a small green salad. We are lucky this is what we actually got as this is likely the restaurant where we had the biggest language barrier!
From there, we walked around and the restaurant we wanted to go to was closed for the season. So, after exploring on this part of Venice, we went back to the tiny restaurant we saw with a piece of paper stuck to the window that had a menu written in marker. It was Al Vecio Marangon. We waited for a seat in the teeny room and wound up at a table for six, seated between two other couples. There was a large group of Italians taking up the remainder of the restaurant eating course after course of food! Since we’d already eaten a bit, I just ordered a vegetable antipasto platter, and Tim eggplant parm.
I know that sounds boring, but the flavor and texture of the veggies were amazing and the eggplant parm was the freshest Tim has ever had. The cultural experience of it all was the icing on the cake (or the sauce on the pasta?) and I highly recommend this place to anyone.
I ended the meal with a decaf espresso as Tim finished wine and they brought us some Italian cookies to top it off. While I don’t wear my fitbit much, I did on this trip just for curiosities sake. We were well above 30k steps and I can’t even remember how many floors with all of the bridges we walked over. Needless to say, we were exhausted and headed to bed so we would be energized for the next day.
I had packed emergency food of course, so in the room I had a small portion of oats with some PB and hemp seeds for breakfast before we headed out to see the area we’d walked in the night before in daylight.
It was beautiful! Here is the cool bridge you’ll cross to get to this part of Venice. It is where I spotted the Christmas tree in the distance the night before.
(#9) Walk around the Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute
This area was beautiful and at the tip past the Basilica you had a different view of the area than anywhere else. I highly recommend going both during the day and at night, though we had the benefit of the Christmas tree being up at night time. Be sure to walk around the corner and see both sides of that piece of land!
(#10) Strike a Pose!
I’m all about yoga everywhere, so obviously that is the first picture I have here, but there are so many cool places to snap pics that you may forget to take a picture with yourselves in them! You’ll want to remember you were actually there and that you didn’t just dream all of the sites 🙂
We grabbed sandwiches for the train ride at a cafe, picked up our luggage from the hotel, and took a (maybe too long) walk all the way around the grand canal to the train station. I loved the new sites we saw, but it was a bit much with our suitcases. I’m still not sure if we were to do it over again that we would have taken the water taxi across though.
If we had more time, we also would have headed over to the glass factory, a major attraction in Venice. Just another reason for us to return!