Venice

Top 20 Things to do in Venice

Venice is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world.  It’s unlike any city I have ever visited and I need to go back (sooner rather than later!).  I still have so much left to explore – including the Lido – but I have compiled a list of my 20 favourite things to do in Venice (so far!)

Rialto (4)20. Wander along the Grand Canal

Every visitor to Venice needs to do this.  It’s not the quietest of areas but it’s stunning!

DSC_014719. Visit the Giudecca

This has to be the quietest area of Venice.  It’s the bit at the south of Venice, and there’s a super short boat ride required to reach there.  Admittedly, there’s not really anything to do here (it’s mainly residential and hotels – there’s a hideous Hilton hotel here.  Seriously, it does not fit in with Venice at all) but it’s a nice area to relax and get away from the crowds.

Gondola Ride (5) Edited18. Gondola Ride

This is sort of a ‘must-do’ thing in Venice.  Everyone knows about gondolas.  My recommendation would be to find as many people as the gondola will allow, as it is 80 Euro per gondola, not per person.  I went on a gondola with my Mum and we found an American family to share with – it saved us heaps!

IMG_113417. Bovolo Staircase

I wish this had been open when I went to visit but, alas, I had to make do with looking through the gates.  This staircase is gorgeous and surprisingly difficult to find (I think I wandered around the area for a good half hour before I found it – I was determined!)

Rialto (12)16. Ponte di Rialto

I’m glad I saw this the first time I visited Venice, as it was covered in scaffolding the second time I went!  Fortunately, this meant it wasn’t so busy, so I got a proper look at all of the little shops on the bridge – all the super expensive little shops!

San Barnaba15. San Barnaba

I know this as the Indiana Jones church.  It was featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (which made me happy) and now is home to a da Vinci museum (which made me even happier!)

San Marco (8)14. St Mark’s Square

Everyone who visits Venice has to visit St Mark’s Square at some point – even though it’s packed.  And, true to what I’d heard, there are a lot of pigeons (tourists in Venice seem to love pigeons – and seagulls – which baffles me.  Pigeons are so common in Scotland and seagulls are the spawn of Satan – I’m not even kidding…).

Ca d'oro (3)13. Ca D’oro

This is a stunning palace in Venice.  It got its name, as it used to have a lot of gilt all over its walls.  It’s a bit more subdued nowadays but the mosaic flooring at the entrance took my breath away.

DSC_089312. Have a Spritz

My favourite drink ever.  I fell in love with this drink the first time I visited Venice.  I have tried (and failed) to make it at home – I’ve tried all sorts of recipes (I even succumbed and bought one in Verona) but no Spritz can hold a candle to those in Venice.  Personally, I prefer Aperol to Campari, as it has a sweeter taste, but I wouldn’t say no to either!

DSC_061611. Isola di San Michele

This whole island is a cemetery and it’s completely unique to any cemetery that I’ve ever visited before.  There are graves in the walls, as well as tombs.  I think the thing that surprised me the most was that they even had ground burials, which I wouldn’t have thought they’d do, with the frequency that Venice floods.  Igor Stravinsky (the famous violinist) is buried here, too!

DSC_041510. St Mark’s Basilica

I didn’t go inside St Mark’s Basilica the first time around but I’m glad I went back and went in the second time.  The mosaics are super detailed!  I paid to to upstairs and around the outside, which was lovely as well – people had taken books up with them and were just chilling on the roof!  I wish I’d thought to take a book up with me but I wanted to explore Venice more!

DSC_03369. St Mark’s Campanile

This gives you an amazing view of Venice and the gorgeous orange rooftops – try and aim to be up there for the bells!  That was an amazing experience!

Palazzo Ducale (3)8. Doge’s Palace

I would definitely recommend splurging on the tour where you can visit everything – the palace is pretty and all, but I enjoyed seeing the prisons – and Casanova’s cell(s) – and going over the Bridge of Sighs more!

Venetian Masks7. Buy a Venetian Mask in Venice, some Murano glass in Murano, and some lace in Burano

Because I said so 🙂

IMG_11646. Visit Libreria Acqua Alta

The best bookshop in Venice, there are books everywhere.  I mean everywhere – they are in bathtubs, in gondolas, even staircases have been made out of books.  I love the fire escape as well.  It’s basically an arrow pointing out into the canal – I hope you can swim!

IMG_10865. Visit Paolo Olbi’s shop next to the Ca Foscari university

One of the true masters left in Venice, Paolo Olbi makes all of his work by hand.  Watch him make a notebook and definitely buy at least one (I may have bought three…) – the price is definitely worth it!

Venice4. Visit San Giorgio Maggiore and go up the belltower

I personally think that this is the best view of Venice.  You can pretty much see all of Venice from here – and it’s so quiet that you’re allowed to operate the lift to the top by yourself!

Murano Glass Museum3. Murano

Murano is similar to Venice but there are glass shops everywhere.  And not tacky glass shops – the work is beautiful!  I watched someone make a glass flower and I loved it so much that I got 20 Euro off the price, as the man was really pleased that I liked his work.  I’d also recommend visiting the glass museum and also gawk at the amazingly over-the-top chandeliers that are in pretty much every shop.

Leaning Campanile Burano2. Burano

Burano is my favourite of the islands.  It’s pretty small but the colours are amazing!  The lace museum and the leaning belltower are must-see’s (although you can’t actually go inside the tower).

DSC_03111. Get lost

What better way is there to see Venice?

Is An Interrail Pass Worth It?

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My first trip abroad alone!  As I mentioned in an earlier post, my (sad) reasoning for finally deciding to travel solo was the fact that I turn 26 in October (sad face) and Interrail tickets seem to double in price.  So, I bit the bullet, got over my fears of travelling alone (sort of – I was still super nervous until I was actually sat on the plane), and booked.

I chose the Interrail Italy Pass, which cost me around £170 at the time ($244 or 215 Euro), for 8 travel days.  I’d heard pretty decent things about the trains in Italy and I wasn’t fussed about 1st class, so I booked everything 2nd class (which saved me about £100!).

I’d decided to travel Italy by train, as I’ve been told that train travel is the best way to get around Italy (plus, I was desperate to go back to Venice!).  Those people were not wrong – trains in Italy are amazing and they get you into the centre of each city or town you arrive in!  There are noticeboards all over the stations, which tell you each individual stop, and the time the trains are arriving at each stop.  The people who worked at the stations were also happy to help if I needed (but everything was so straightforward that this hardly happened).  I would definitely recommend travelling Italy by train.

But would I do it again with an Interrail pass?  That I still haven’t decided, and here’s why:

IMG_0814(Double-decker trains in Italy!  These were a novelty for me)

First things first, if you do decide to go Interrailing, you must choose between an Interrail pass and a Eurrail pass.  Simply put, an Interrail pass is for people who live in Europe, and a Eurrail pass is for people who don’t live in Europe.  As I live in the UK, I chose an Interrail pass.

I chose the Italy Pass with 8 travel days, as I wasn’t sure how many trains I was going to need (I officially knew I was going to be travelling for 6 days, so I used my 2 leftover days for all of the trains around Cinque Terre).  On a travel day, you are allowed to take as many trains as you want, which is extremely handy.

A lot of trains in Italy (and other countries) require seat reservations.  This was a bit of a pain, as it meant that I had to pay around 10 Euro just to reserve a seat for at least half of my trains (trains in Italy are strict.  If the train requires a reservation, you are not allowed to just hop on and stand in the aisle, or at the end of the carriages – you need to have a reservation.  And if you are caught without one – or without a ticket on a non-reserved train – then you get an on-the-spot fine of around 200 Euro).  So keep in mind that this has the potential to get very expensive.  Visiting certain cities (like Milan) require you to get a reservation for every train you catch going into and out of the city, so if you were to visit the Lakes (which is roughly a 30 minute journey), you would be paying 10 Euro on top of the ticket price, just for one journey.  Unfortunately, seat reservations are not included with the Interrail pass, so do your homework beforehand and look at the regional train websites (like TrenItalia) and work out if it would be cheaper to just buy an individual ticket (for some reason, it’s cheaper to buy some tickets individually with the seat reservation included, than to just buy the seat reservation).

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I wouldn’t recommend an Interrail ticket for Eastern Europe, as my friends who have travelled by train there have told me that the trains are so cheap that it wouldn’t be worth it – and when I visited Prague last year, I found out exactly how cheap everything was (except trains, which I didn’t have time to try out).

However, travelling in Western Europe, yes, having an Interrail Pass certainly does make things easier (less tickets to carry around), the pricing works out roughly the same as buying individual tickets (but if you were to do this, buy in advance as, obviously, trains get more expensive, closer to the date of departure!)

I’m definitely going to travel Italy again by train, but next time I think I will try buying individual tickets, just to see if the pass was actually worth the money (it was definitely worth the experience, as I loved every bit of it!)

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Rome to Venice – April 2016

So, I finally worked up enough courage to go abroad alone!! (This is a huge deal for me, as I am a very shy, introverted person).  I’m so glad I finally travelled alone, though – it was incredible!  I found myself opening up more and talking to locals more than I usually do when I’m abroad.  I even found that some restaurants gave me money off my food (or let me skip the cover charge) if I practiced my Italian with them – but I think the blonde hair helped as well!

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Seriously, Italian men love blonde women.  It was a bit surreal.  Most of the time, it was the odd comment, or ‘bella‘ as I walked past them in the street but I did have one creepy moment when I was walking to the train station in Pisa and I walked past a guy sitting on a bridge who looked at me and asked ‘Like fucking?’.  I gave a little eye roll and replied ‘no’ – what, did he actually think that that line would work and I would be all ‘take me now!’?  Nope!.  Anyhoo!  I walked over the bridge and was almost on the other side when I glanced over my shoulder – the guy had followed me!  As soon as he realised that I had noticed him, he kept repeating ‘Like fucking?’ over and over and over, no matter how many times I said ‘no’.  Eventually, I stopped, turned around, and gave him the best glare I could – and, surprisingly, it worked!  With a grin, he wandered off, and I never saw him again.

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But, other than that, everything was great!  There were some moments – like when I saw the actual Shroud of Turin – when it was literally just me (which I wasn’t expecting.  I was expecting having to elbow people out of the way to see anything), and I managed to get in for free, or really cheap – admittedly, this only happened twice, but it was really nice!

Vernazza

During my two weeks, I visited Rome – where I saw the Colosseum and the Vatican – and my hotel was literally right next to the Capuchin Bone Church – which was fascinating.

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Pisa – I took the cheesy tourist photo and, no, I’m not going to post it on here, as it’s really bad… Also, make sure to check out the Cathedral and the Baptistry and surrounding buildings – they’re exquisite!

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Cinque Terre – I loved it here.  It was so cute!  And it was literally all hills and stairs.  I climbed the stairs to Corniglia in 25 degree heat, only to reach the top and realise I could have gotten a bus.  On the way back down, I decided to count the steps.  382!!  I climbed 382 steps in 25 degree heat!!  My cold, Scottish skin was literally melting when I reached the top – I’m not used to the heat.  On an unrelated note, Manarola was definitely my favourite town – and it was the town I was staying in!

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Turin – Like I mentioned above, I saw the Shroud of Turin!  I also visited the Egyptian Museum – the second biggest in the world, after Cairo.  Plus, my hotel was amazing!  It was surprisingly cheap and the room was huge!  And filled with so many plants!

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Milan – I had booked tickets to see The Last Supper months in advance.  I showed up at the museum for my scheduled time – only to see that the museum was closed, due to the staff being on strike!!  I was absolutely gutted!!  Luck happened to be on my side, however, as there was someone actually working there and they came outside just as I was away to leave – and I managed to get my time switched to the next day!!  The painting is bigger than I thought it would be – but it was amazing!!  Also, if you are in Milan, I would definitely recommend going on the roof of the Cathedral – it’s incredible!!

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Verona – Verona is adorable!  And the views from the bridges are amazing!!  I saw Juliet’s balcony – which was packed!!  I pretty much spent the day I was there walking through the city – it’s absolutely beautiful!  And the fruit is amazing!

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Venice – Ah, Venice.  How I missed you!  I think I walked all over the entire city (or at least, it felt like that, with the amount of times I got lost!).  I also visited Murano and Burano again (I love Burano).  And this time, I visited the Isola di San Michele – which is literally just a cemetery on an island.  It was really interesting.

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I’m so glad I did this and proved to myself (and my family and friends) that I could do it.  I’m already thinking of other places to visit (hoping to get another Interrail trip in before I turn 26 in October!!)

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Total miles travelled: 3962 miles/6377km (Just under 4000 miles!! Whoop!!)

Venice 2013

I thought, since I’m not going away until the end of March, that I can’t just not post anything, can I?  So, until then, I’m going to post about my previous ‘adventures’ – of which there are, unfortunately, not many.  But, I’m determined that that’s going to change!

My first trip abroad in five years.  The last was to Paris just before I started university and, I have to admit, my style was horrible then.  Stripes with camouflage?  In Paris?  What was I thinking?  I like to think that my style has improved.  I mean, it can’t get much worse than stripes and camouflage, can it?

Murano Statue

So, my first trip in five years.  I was super excited (I sound like a kid writing that).  I went with my mum and, the moment I stepped off the plane and the heat hit me, a huge grin spread over my face and I started melting.  Admittedly, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to go to Venice in July – I would have preferred spring or summer time, since Italy in summer is hot – but I was still at college and I only had two weeks off in the middle of July (I also had a week off in April but I hadn’t thought about travelling then).  Sure, I was going to melt.  But I didn’t care.  Because I was abroad.

My mum and I got a waterbus to the main island and I was instantly in love with the place.  No cars, boats everywhere, the walls of the buildings crumbling slightly from where the floods had reached them – I loved every bit of it.

Gondola Ride (5) Edited

The first couple of days, my mum and I did a few touristy things – St Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace (I saw Casanova’s cell which was interesting – the ceiling was really low!), we climbed the bell tower (and we were up there when the bells went off, which was cool – boy, were those bells loud!) the Ponte de Rialto, and I just fell more and more.

The gondola ride was really nice – we shared with an American family, as the price is per gondola not per person.  Sort of wish that we’d just paid the extra money and had the gondola to ourselves – that family hated everything!  While my mum and I loved all the history around us, the family (especially the daughter) were unimpressed by everything.  They kept complaining that there weren’t enough chain stores and insulting the gondola profession (to the gondolier!).  This only caused my mum and I to be more enthusiastic about everything and extra nice to the gondolier, which he seemed to appreciate.  Seriously, that family are what give American tourists a bad name…  But I wouldn’t let that ruin my holiday!

On our last day in Venice, we took a boat ride out to the smaller islands of Murano and Burano.  We visited the glass museum in Murano (I now really, really want to attend a glass-making class – it looks fascinating), and had a little wander.  We ended up in a chandelier store and, if we were millionaires, we would have definitely ended up with one – they’re so over the top it’s amazing.  After this, we got a boat to Burano.

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I don’t think I’ve ever loved a place more than I loved Burano.  All those colours.  It was gorgeous.  We spent the rest of the day here wandering around, visiting the lace museum and eating gelato (obviously not in the museum!)

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And, ever since I left Venice, I’ve wanted to go back.  And now I am!  I can’t wait!