Day two of our trip to Venice started with an amazing buffet breakfast in our hotel’s grand ballroom. With an array of meats, cheeses, cereals, yoghurts, fruits, pastries and teas – any foodie (or like me – food lover) would have been in their absolute element, stocking up for a full day of walking around the beautiful city. A busy day ahead, we set off around 11AM to explore several of the cities grand churches and cathedrals.
With so many galleries, churches and places of historical interest on offer to look around, we had our sights set on a beautiful cathedral in the very centre of the city – which unfortunately didn’t allow photography, but did allow for an audible gasp once we’d stepped inside. Unlike many of the churches you get in the UK (unfortunately King Henry the 8th stripped the gold out of many of our places of worship), those in Venice are extremely lavish, filled with sculptures, paintings and gold centre pieces. It takes you a little while to register how absolutely amazing and awe inspiring these places are, and how much time and effort goes into maintaining such buildings which have stood for thousands of years.
You do have to pay a small fee to enter several of the churches dotted around the city, but it’s peanuts in comparison to how much time, work and money goes into keeping these places looking as amazing as they do. I think Max and I paid 3 euros to visit the church – and we would have quite happily paid a little more than that. Please note, if you do wish to visit these churches, they have a strict ‘respectable’ dress code in place, which involves covered shoulders and covered knees. As a sun-worshiper, I stuck to dresses and shorts throughout the trip – but made sure to carry a light jacket with me in case we wanted to visit a church.
Having visited St Marcs Square the day before (if I’m honest, I was a little underwhelmed as the place is so busy and full of tourists and sellers, the architecture is overlooked), there was just one more ‘main’ attraction to tick off our Venice checklist. The Rialto Bridge.
Easier to find that I thought (getting lost in Venice is inevitable) – following the yellow signs – like it’s fellow attractions, the Rialto was extremely busy and we ended up staying just a matter of minutes, to have a nose around and get a few photographs before leaving to find a quieter area for lunch.
It’s definitely worth visiting the ‘main’ attractions, but please note – they are a hive for expensive restaurants and pick-pockets, so if you fancy an affordable and pleasant lunch (but still with a great view) just weave your way through some of the back streets, and you’re sure to find the prices drop significantly (and the food taste not as frozen).
Before we arrived in Venice, we had been booked onto one of the Venice Dark Rome tours, which honestly proved to be invaluable to the success and enjoyment of our trip. Favoured by those who are visiting different parts of Italy and want to make the very most out of their experience, Dark Rome tours are affordable, informative and suitable for all ages. Hosted by guides local to the area (we had a fantastic guide who was so helpful, friendly and knowledgable), the tours give you a real overview of the city, including background knowledge you wouldn’t normally get.
The tour we had the privilege of being on (and it really did feel like a privilege, it was so fantastic) was the Secret Venice Tour With Gondola Ride by Night. For £52 per person, the 2.2 hour trip is split between a walking tour (with a local guide) and a pre-booked gondola ride (to save you haggling and bartering). Meeting at a central location in Venice, the tour gives you a lot of useful (and sometimes hilarious) facts about the cities origins, in addition to the opportunity to ask those burning questions which you may have (knowing my boyfriend, he had several).
After an hour and a half of walking, the guide dropped us off at the gondola spot where we boarded a pre-booked gondola with myself, Max and another family who were on the tour. Considering that normally, you would pay anywhere from 100 euros for a gondola ride after 8PM, it really is value for money having a tour that includes a pre-booked gondola!
The gondola itself is much rockier than I expected and not being the biggest fan of water, this unnerved me a little at first – but whoever said ‘Venice is best explored by boat’, I wholeheartedly agree. Floating down the weaving canals, past the tumbling houses of Venice is simply magical and I couldn’t have wished for a better way to spend our final evening.
Just before our tour, we stopped by the most amazing restaurant for dinner – which has beautiful views overlooking the grand canal, as well as affordable wine, pizza and pasta dishes. I wish I could remember the name of it – but it is located adjacent to the Accademia di belle arti (the white marble arch) just to the right hand side of the bridge. We managed to dine for two for 37 euros (2 pizzas, bread, service charge and wine), which is rather affordable for Venice prices – considering it had a breathtaking view. Venetians tend to dine at around 9 or 10PM, so the prices are usually steeper, and the tables are completely full at this time – so my recommendations are to eat earlier in the evening if it suits you.
After a full day of baking heat and exploring, we strolled past the canal as the sun set – got rather lost – and finally collapsed in a heap in our hotel room.