by Janis / 0 comments - Orginally published:2nd March 2021

Reminiscing and longing for the Venetian canals

Having time to reflect and also rummage through some of our photos from previous memorable trips. I stumbled upon our weekend break to Venice, the city of romance, charming piazzas, waterways and of course, gelato.

Venice may be bustling at times, and yes, there is a possibility that you may pay over the odds for an Aperol Spritz in St Mark’s Square. However, there is a reason for this. Venice is stunning and incredibly unique, and perfect for an Italian mini-break.

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Our Memories

These consist of Our Highlights, Our Pleasures, Our Treasures, Things we would do differently, Our Disappointments & and other Points of Note. You can click on a title to jump to that section and then click on that headline to return here

Where's Venice

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Piazza San Marco

St. Mark’s Square, yeh, I suppose it goes without saying really; however, Piazza San Marco truly is captivating. You’re entirely swathed with beautiful architecture striking intricate façades and colonnades and porticos that are mesmerising.
I loved strolling all-around Piazza San Marco; it may get rather busy at certain times of the year; it’s a matter of choosing your timing.

A view overlooking the bustling Piazza San Marco, with the colonnades to the left and the Campanile to the right with the Basilica di San Marco in the background
The bustling Piazza San Marco, Venice

I managed to avoid shopping in the luxury boutiques as I was lured away by the enchanting Basilica di San Marco, Doge’s Palace and Campanile.

Taking a stroll along the Riva degli Schiavoni is a must, the stunning view across the lagoon with gondolas bobbing up and down, you honestly feel like you are watching a movie; it is so iconic.

Canals and waterways of Venice

The bustling canals and waterways of Venice are the flowing arteries that keep Venice thriving. I could sit on the edge of Venice’s canals and while away hours watching the gondolas gracefully drifting by.
The view along the Grand Canal in Venice, complete with gondoliers, towards the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute from Ponte dell'Accademia
The view from Ponte dell'Accademia

The Grand Canal is a sight to behold, especially at the canal entrance where the Basilica di Santa Maria Della Salute sits. You feel that she is protecting Venice from anyone who wishes to enter.

The view from the Ponte dell'Accademia facing down to the mouth of the Grand Canal is breath-taking. One after the other, the pastel-toned dwellings that line the canal are so picturesque.

One thing I would say is that it isn’t difficult to find peaceful canals to stroll along. Venice has so many meandering waterways that if you just wander a few lanes back or take a different turning from the crowds, you’ll be amazed at how tranquil Venice can be.

A little more info

Why not check out Venice & its lagoons from Discover Italy
Gondolas, with the interior covered with blue protective layers moored up on the edge of St. Mark's Square square, with the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in the background.
Moored gondolas at dusk, Venice

Visiting Murano and Burano

One of my highlights from our weekend trip to Venice was visiting the islands of Murano and Burano. They were beautiful and so quaint and picturesque.
I would mention that as you need to catch a Vaporetto to the islands, head there early; the waterbuses get full very quickly.
The island of Murano is the closet of the two to Venezia and is famed for its delicate and colourful glass; it has been Venetian glassmakers' home since the 13th-century.
Yes, you guessed it, a pair of glass drop earrings were coming home with me; it would have been rude not to.

A view overlooking the Canal Grande di Murano towards San Pietro Martire on the island of Murano
The view of San Pietro Martire on the island of Murano

There are a few individual islands that makeup Murano and all linked by attractive bridges and snaking canals. The multicoloured shops, restaurants and homes that line the canals are incredibly pretty. Vivid wooden shutters are thrown open to the waterways below, and charming little boats are waiting to give you a ride.

After Murano, we were onto Burano, a smaller island; however, it certainly wasn’t lacking in charisma and allure.

Laundry hanging from brightly coloured homes, packed together, along a canalside on the Island of Burano
Real life on Burano

The vibrantly painted houses are unique; you just wander around with a constant smile on your face; they are so attractive and uplifting. Burano is reasonably small, so we strolled around a large part of the island, criss-crossing waterways and winding our way around the back lanes.
Take a peek at my tip for catching the Vaporetto back from Burano in the ‘Points to Note’ below.

Guided tour of three Venetian islands

Forget the Vaporetto and hop on a boat trip from Venice to Murano, Torcello & Burano with a guide.
Enjoy a full-day guided walking tour around the three islands, with time to spare for yourself.

Venice and its bridges

Just like the many canals in Venice, they come hand in hand with the network of bridges. Some grand, some elegant, some tiny and some just built to do the job of getting from A to B; they all serve a purpose.
The Rialto Bridge across the Grand Canal of Venice at dusk as the lighting starts to come on.
The Rialto Bridge

One of Italy's most historic and eye-catching bridges has to be the Rialto Bridge; it is beautiful. Constructed in stone in 1591, the Rialto Bridge is incredibly unique and, as you can imagine, quite popular with tourists.

Lined along each side of the bridge are shops attracting your attention; however, step behind them, and you get a wonderful view along the Grand Canal.

The current Rialto Bridge, along with its wooden predecessors, has been welcoming footsteps for centuries. With the Rialto market on the canal's eastern bank, it soon became a busy thoroughfare during the 13th-century.

Where we stayed

Our accommodation while we were in Venice, was at the wonderful Al Ponte Antico Hotel, with a great view of the Rialto Bridge

The view to our private patio area at the Al Ponte Antico Hotel in Venice, overlooking the Grand Canal

It was our bit of luxury for the break, we had a room that overlooked the Grand Canal & it even had its own pontoon.

A water taxi navigates between Gondoliers in front of the Rialto Bridge in Venice
In front of the Rialto Bridge

The Ponte dei Pugni, otherwise known as the Bridge of Fists, is located just off the Grand Canal along the Rio de S. Barnaba and is famed for its 17th-century fistfights.
Rival Venetian clans would fistfight on top of the bridge, with the aim to knock your challenger into the murky canal below, ughhh.
Although the Ponte dei Pugni is a reasonably small bridge, it is worth taking a detour to see it and the vibrant surrounding lanes. Just adjacent to the bridge is the colourful floating fruit and veg stall.

A pair of gondolas and the fruit & vegetable barge by the Ponte dei Pugni or Bridge of fists in Venice
A pair of gondolas in front of the Bridge of Fists

One bridge that can't go without mention is Ponte dei Sospiri, The Bridge of Sighs, built in 1603.

The enclosed limestone bridge spans the Rio di Palazzo. It connects the interrogation rooms at Doge' Palace with the New Prison and such an icon to Venice.

If you're not floating beneath the Ponte dei Sospiri in a gondola, then the finest view is from the Ponte della Paglia footbridge.

The white stone 'Bridge of Sighs', over a canal, connecting the Doge’ Palace with the New Prison.
The Bridge of Sighs

Venetian Architecture

Venetian architecture is so distinctive; when we were in Croatia a few years ago, it is so recognisable along the Dalmatia Coastline, where the Republic of Venice once ruled.
However, strolling along the Venice canal sides, amongst the tiny passageways and the elegant piazza’s Venetian architecture is so captivating.

The view of the Grand Canal in Venice, line with beautiful Venetian architecture on the right as we look towards the Ponte dell'Accademia
Venetian architecture along the Grand Canal
I love the mixture of the stylish and almost immaculate grand buildings to the weather-worn, tired and lived-in dwellings along the tiny waterways.

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Rialto Market

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Just opposite our hotel was the Rialto food market, and I’m never one to turn down a produce market on our travels. So, this was such a pleasure to visit and stroll around, watching the locals squeezing the fresh fruit and veg, ensuring they got the best quality.
A fruit and vegetable stall at the Mercato di Rialto, Venice, Italy
Strolling through the Mercato di Rialto

The Rialto food market is wonderful to visit, even if it’s just for the location. As it is positioned by the side of the Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge as your backdrop.
It certainly puts a different perspective on your daily food shop.

The Gondola boatyard

While we were meandering around some smaller canals and lanes, we spotted a Gondola boatyard, 'Squero San Trovaso'. It was such a surprise to see and so gratifying that these traditions still continue. The craftsmen are handing down their trades through the generations.
We were witnessing a glimpse into a piece of Venetian history.

The Gondolas boatyard on the canal edge. Here you can see several boats being worked on in a traditional setting.
Overlooking the Gondolas boatyard

Water taxi from Venice Marco Polo airport

If ever there was a brief moment that Gary felt like James Bond, it was when we were travelling from Venice Marco Polo airport to our hotel in one of the stylish wooden-panelled water taxis.
A beautiful wooden veneered water taxi in front of the Venetian palace of Ca' d'Oro
A beautiful water taxi in front of the Ca' d'Oro

Heading across the lagoon, you truly felt like a million dollars with the wind in your hair, sunglasses on and not a care in the world, only the adventures that lie ahead.

Have a browse through our 16 Very good excuses to visit Venice post; I’m sure you’ll be tempted.

Cemetery Island

Surely it says something about me if one of my pleasures while visiting Venice was to the Isola di San Michele the Cemetery Island.
You know me, any opportunity to visit a cemetery, I’m there. Luckily enough, Isola di San Michele is on the Vaporetto route to the island of Murano, so we hopped off and had a little wander around at the historic mausoleums and crypts.

A view of the cemetery island of Venice from the quayside at Fondamente Nove
Cimitero di San Michele, Venice
When you are nearing the island and getting closer and closer, it is quite an extraordinary sight to see the isolated walled cemetery standing so remote.

Mmmm Gelato

Nobody does ice-cream like the Italians. There is genuinely something comforting and an element of indulgence when you have an ice-cream in Italy.
The sun doesn't need to be shining, and it doesn't even need to be warm. All you require to immerse yourself into that gelato paradise is a beautiful, heart-warming view, and you have it all.
I didn’t even give Gary a chance to take a photo; I ate the evidence.

UNESCO “In Danger”?

There are so many beautiful and unique sights to see in Venice; it's a city like no other. I'm so pleased to know that it still remains on the UNESCO World Heritage list and not on the "In Danger" list.

A Venice Gondola trip

You may think this is obvious; however, prior to visiting Venice, I said to Gary, I'm not going on a Gondola; I thought it was a bit gimmicky, to be honest.
No sooner we were in Venice, and I thought this looks fun, relaxing, and a magnificent way to see different city districts.

A view from inside a gondola as it travels down the Grand Canal in Venice
A perfect view of Venice

Also, it gave such a different and stunning perspective of Venice. It’s a great way to explore the little canals and buildings you could never see on foot. It gives you an appreciation of the elegant Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture that line the canals.
So, yes, I was won over; I absolutely loved it, and the only downside was that it didn't last long enough.

Aperol Spritz

When strolling around the lanes of Venice, you’ll often see folk kicking back at a café or bar appreciating a vibrant orange bubbly tipple.
So, Gary and I took the view of ‘When in Rome’ or Venice, let’s try out an Aperol Spritz for ourselves. We weren’t disappointed.

Two glasses of Aperol Spritz with a bottle of Prosecco, a bottle of Aperol, a soda syphon and a bowl of crisps in our garden
Aperol Spritz in our garden

Now every time we re-create this refreshing drink in our garden at home we are transported to the banks of the Grand Canal, with the view of the Rialto Bridge by our side.
That’s one of the things I adore about travel, is the memories that it evokes years after you have returned.
If, like us, you cannot wait to return to Italy, then follow the simple steps in our Aperol Spritz post and enjoy.

Venice’s quieter streets

Your initial thoughts about Venice may be that it's busy, too many tourists and that you can't escape the hustle and bustle; this definitely isn't how we found Venice.
A look along a quiet canal in the early evening as the golden hues descend in Venice.
A quiet spot in Venice
Sure, if you’re visiting St. Mark’s Square or the Rialto Bridge, then it’s going to be hectic at times. However, this isn’t the case everywhere, when you wander away from the tourist spots it’s so easy to find quiet, charming piazzas, peaceful canals and lanes where all that can be seen are washing lines fluttering overhead.
A couple joins a gondolier for a journey along the quiet canals of Venice.
Gondoliers on the quiet canals

One district that we enjoyed strolling around was the Venetian Ghetto, the Jewish Quarter. It was designated the Jewish Quarter from the 16th to 19th centuries and is still the centre of the Venetian Jewish community today. The history and architecture around this district of Venice are fascinating.
So, my advice is, go and get lost in Venice, you’re never too far from the Grand Canal.

Lunch in Burano

If you’ve decided to head across Venice lagoon and visit the islands of Murano and Burano, I urge you to stay for a spot of lunch.
We couldn’t hold back any longer once we had reached Burano. We had a delightful stroll amongst the colourful waterways and wandered around the quieter residential lanes.

A handful of tables & chairs laid out canalside of a small, family-run, restaurant on the island of Burano
Canalside dining in Burano

I initially believed that the bustling canal-side restaurants would be full of tourists; however, that wasn't the case. You were rubbing shoulder to shoulder with locals, too, and we had one of the creamiest and most indulgent shrimp risottos that we have ever enjoyed.
Once again, a memory that I will always hold dear.

If you're lured by beautiful architecture and meandering waterways I urge you to visit Venice. I found this DK Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide invaluable, they're extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into a voyage of discovery.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our wanderings around Venice, now you can grab the revised copy.

One for next time

This is difficult, as I loved our time in Venice. Although it was our first time, we wanted to see as much as possible around the city. So, as the weather was dry during our March visit, we spent most of our time strolling the waterways and lanes and taking in many external sights.
Next time I would venture more inside to see some of the striking internal architecture.

Allow more time

One of the highlights during our visit to Venice for me was heading off to the surrounding island within Venice Lagoon.
We visited three islands; however, given more time, I would have loved to visit more.

Resting your weary feet

One thing that Gary and I did notice was that there were very few benches or street-side seating around Venice. I suppose that they would like you to stop at a café or restaurant; however, sometimes you just want to rest for 5 minutes and then get a wiggle on.

Returning on the Vaporetto from Burano

The nearby islands are accessed by Vaporetto (water bus), which can get very busy on your return journey to Venice. If so, from Burano, catch the Vaporetto onto Torcello (the next stop), stay on the boat, and it will turn around and complete the journey in reverse. This should cut down on your queuing.

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