En route from Vienna to Rome we had one and a half days in Venice – it was an amazing little city to explore with some beautiful and magical spots. But we also got crowded out of some places by the masses of tourists and were caught by some bad weather…

IMG_0820

 

Day 1 We stored our luggage at the train station (after failing to find luggage lockers at the adjacent bus station), and elbowed our way through the touts and the tourists, slipping off the main route as soon as possible. Once away from the crowds we relaxed and enjoyed walking through the small passage ways and over the tiny bridges. The little window boxes and pocket gardens were in full bloom and the weather was perfect – what an amazing morning!

The courtyard of the Hellenic Institute - we didn't visit their museum of icons, but enjoyed the peace of their little garden

The courtyard of the Hellenic Institute – we didn’t visit their museum of icons, but enjoyed the peace of their little garden

 

 

We ended up at a little touristy pizza place (with the strange name of Crazy Cafe II), but enjoyed an easy and tasty meal there (and discovered Lemonsoda which became our drink of choice in Italy). We then ventured down to San Marco square, but were completely taken aback by the massive crowds and the long queues for all of the museums. I think arriving very early or late might be a good strategy – but our strategy was just to get out of there as fast as possible!

Saint Mark’s basilica in Piazza San Marco

 

 

It is worth noting that picnicking is not encouraged in Venice – according to one guidebook there is only one place in Venice for “legally” picnicking (the gardens just off Piazza San Marco). And don’t think you can sit down on the steps surrounding San Marco square – an orange-vested guard will come chase you away!

Crossing one of the 400-odd bridges in Venice

 

 

Leaving the throngs to stand in their queue we fled to the backstreets again. We really enjoyed the area around the Arsenale (a navy base; unfortunately this is were our camera batteries chose to die…), and rested in Giuseppe Garibaldi park. From there we headed down to the eastern extreme of the city, walking through the Giardini (where the Venice Biennale would open a week later) down to San Elena (which appeared to be a relatively tourist-free “normal” suburb).

A quiet street on Sant Elena

A quiet street on Sant Elena

 

 

With the evening approaching we caught a vaporetto (i.e. a water taxi; see info here) to the bus station – the trip was painfully expensive, but we were glad that we didn’t have to retrace our long route on foot and we got to see the Grand Canal from the water.

A vaporetto (a public water taxi)

A vaporetto (a public water taxi)

 

 

It was fairly easy to catch a bus to our “mainland” (Mestre) accommodation – again it was an airbnb place (and again a place we’d happily recommend). We found our room key in the postbox and were soon settled in (in fact we didn’t meet our hosts at all – but were glad to receive quick text message answers when we had questions for them!). We enjoyed an excellent supper at a local restaurant (Trattoria Pizzeria Da Piero) – Brigitte’s porchetta pizza was amazing.

Are they as tasty as they are beautiful?

Are they as tasty as they are beautiful?

 

Day 2 Our second  day in Venice was a wash-out, with rain almost the whole day (so much that some streets were flooding) – but the one real highlight was enjoying exceptional pizza and friendly service at Arte Della Pizza. If you are eating in Venice this cheap, fast and fantastic spot should be on your list. It is tricky to find, but worth the effort (and close to the train station too).

Cross the Rialto bridge on a rainy day

Cross the Rialto bridge on a rainy day

 

 

We ended up at the train station wet and cold, and were glad to be able to change into some dry clothes. We boarded our train as soon as it arrived – we had “super-economy” tickets that we’d bought two months in advance, so we couldn’t switch to an earlier train but which also meant that the trip was very affordable (and fast, with the train reaching 300 km/hr). We enjoyed chatting to two Americans who were travelling around Europe – we realized that they were the first other travelers that we’d had a proper conversation with since the start of our trip.

Lunch on a cold and rainy day at Arte Della Pizza - maybe the highlight of our second day in the city?

Lunch on a cold and rainy day at Arte Della Pizza – maybe the highlight of our second day in the city?

 

 

And before we knew it we had arrived in Rome… [stay tuned for our next blog post!]

A Venetian traffic jam

A Venetian traffic jam