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Emily Jablon: Daraius and I went to Europe in September to celebrate our 2nd anniversary for ~2 weeks. It was my first time in Italy so I was very excited! In Italy, we visited Varenna on Lake Como, Milan, Venice, and Rome.
Since we were in Europe, we visited a friend in Strasbourg, France and also spent a night in Zurich. We started our trip with a one day layover in Chicago to see friends!
Our Anniversary To Italy – Trip Report Index:
- Part 1 – Planning & Introduction
- Part 2 – Park Hyatt, Chicago
- Part 3 – One Day in Chicago
- Part 4 – Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
- Part 5 – Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge, London
- Part 6 – Under the Channel to Strasbourg
- Part 7 – Hotel Cathedrale, Strasbourg
- Part 8 – What did we do in Strasbourg
- Part 9 – Eating in Strasbourg
- Part 10 – Park Hyatt, Zurich
- Part 11 – 10 Hours in Zurich
- Part 12 – Hotel Eremo Gaudio in Varenna, Italy
- Part 13 – What to do in Varenna, Italy
- Part 14 – Eating in Varenna, Italy
- Part 15 – Park Hyatt, Milan
- Part 16 – What Did We Do in Milan
- Part 17 – Eating in Milan
- Part 18 – Hilton Molino Stucky, Venice
- Part 19 – Around the Hilton Molino Stucky & Free Shuttle Boat Details
- Part 20 – What we did in Venice
- Part 21 – Eating in Venice
- Part 22 – Waldorf-Astoria, Rome Cavalieri
- Part 23 – Eating in Rome, Part 1
- Part 24 – Emily’s Best Meal Was in Italy!
- Part 25 – Rome Cavalieri Imperial Floor
- Part 26 – Activities in Rome
- Part 27 – Activities in Rome – Where to Go, What to See, How to Save Time
- Part 28 – Virgin Atlantic Flight from Europe to US
- Part 29 – Conclusion & Blog Giveaway
Here’s what we did in Venice:
- Doge’s Palace
- St Mark’s Basilica
- Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square)
- Traghetto ride (a cheaper gondola ride)
- Slow boat bus tour
- Venice at night
We learned of many of these activities from the Rick Steves’ Italy guidebook.
We loved walking around and getting lost in the evening and night in Venice. The crowds had disappeared, and it was very romantic to be alone and hear the lapping of the water and the lights reflecting from the buildings and canals.
Activities In Venice
1. Doge’s Palace
We arrived early at the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice, but were told our room was not ready yet. So, we left our luggage and went back to the main island for some sightseeing.
We started by touring the Doge’s Palace which was the residence and government quarters of the Doge, or ruler of Venice.
The tickets were 16 euro each (~$22), though there may be discounts.
The courtyard of the Doge’s Palace was very large and could hold a lot of people. We were glad there were only a few people visiting!
The Doge’s Palace was spectacular, and it was difficult to imagine that the government operated out of such beautiful quarters (especially since we had just gone to the local BMV before our trip!).
Once inside, we admired the beautiful entryway, and then climbed the Golden Staircase.
The Golden Staircase was meant to show visitors the Doge’s wealth and power.
Then we went into several different government rooms which had amazing ceilings with ornate sculptures…
and artwork on the walls.
The Doge’s Palace was used as a government building as well as a residence for the Doge. However, we didn’t see any living quarters, such as bedrooms.
We also saw a collection of what were once state-of-the art weapons.
We made a quick stop outside the famous Bridge of Sighs and actually passed through the bridge when we were inside the dodge’s palace.
2. St. Mark’s Basilica
The next day, we toured St Mark’s Basilica, one of the most famous churches in the world.
Dress code was strictly enforced here (no short shorts, tank tops, etc), but men and women receive free cloths (like sarongs) to wear on their shoulders or around their waist if they need to cover up. However, I would not rely on this since it could change at any time!
Restoration work was going on so you couldn’t really see the entire church without scaffolding.
There is no entrance fee to the church.
I loved the architectural details in the old church.
You could spend all day touring the building and still find something new to appreciate!
We also went into the treasury which had some nice old challises and bowls, jewelry and other war booty. It was 3 euro per person and it came with a free English audio guide. Daraius didn’t care for it much, though.
3. Piazza San Marco
After St. Mark’s, we went to Piazza San Marco, which is located just outside of the church.
Inside the square, there were lots of wonderful buildings, such as St. Mark’s Clock Tower.
There were many cafes in Piazza San Marco that had live music.
There’s also a tower in the square, St. Mark’s Campanile, but we never made our way inside. Actually, we stood in line, but didn’t wasn’t moving, so we bailed out.
I imagine it had some pretty views on Venice and its canals!
Instead we went for gelato at Caffe Lavena which is on the square. They had beautiful chandeliers.
There were a lot of flavors but we shared a gelato to keep our costs down!
4. Traghetto Ride
In the afternoon, we went for a traghetto ride, which is an extremely short and cheap gondola ride across the canal. Regular gondola rides last ~40 minutes and cost 80 euros or ~$109.
We learned about the poor person’s gondola ride from the Rick Steves’ Italy guidebook.
It cost 2 euro or ~$3 for a Traghetto ride across the canal. But the ride is only 2 to 3 minutes!
We thought this might be at least a 5 minute boat ride, but it was only across the water to the opposite side!
It was a 2 euro ride, so at about 1 euro per minute it is probably the cheapest way to get a ”gondola” experience.
Maybe it would have been worth paying the high price for an actual gondola!
We wanted to save money so tried the traghetto.
Rick Steve’s writes that you’ll look less like a tourist if you stand. We tried standing, but I’m sure the camera gave us away! It was fun but wobbly!
5. Slow Boat Bus Tour
The buses in Venice are actually boats that take you around the stops on the canal and rivers. We decided to take the route suggested in the Rick Steves’ Italy book, which highlights interesting sites around Venice!
We took a water bus from the Hilton Molino Stucky to the train station and switched to the #1 slow water bus at the train station.
We wanted to sit in the front, but it was blocked off with boat equipment and chained up.
The back of the boat had no views, so we decided to stand towards the front of the boat for the tour. We started in the evening and it was dark by the time we finished. It was very romantic!
It took about 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete the trip.
Along the way, we saw some homes with beautiful Venetian Gothic architecture. Many were former palaces that have been turned into government buildings or museums, like the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia (Natural History Museum).
Some have seen their ground floors flooded and others have taken great care to ensure theirs don’t get flooded.
and lots of gondolas.
It was really romantic to be on the boat at sunset.
Before our last stop, we passed St. Mark’s Square and saw the Clock Tower, dome of St. Mark’s Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace.
6. Venice at Night
Walking in Venice at night was much more enjoyable than during the day. It’s very romantic when it’s dark, the light bounces off the water and the street musicians come out to serenade lovers!
It is less busy because the tourists who visit for only a day leave in the evening.
After the boat tour, Daraius and I walked to the Rialto Bridge,
and then to the Rialto Market where we discovered a carnival shop.
We liked our evening slow-boat tour so much that we took another ride along the grand canal. It was nice seeing the beautiful homes along the canal, and some of them we could see inside, which were richly decorated and had ornate chandeliers.
We really liked Venice in the evening and nights, but I didn’t like the crowds during the day. Daraius doesn’t mind crowds as much as I do. But I felt that Venice was more crowded than India!
I always wanted to visit Venice since I was a child, and miles and points helped me get there!
Families would really enjoy Venice because there is lots of stuff for kids to do. We liked the romantic atmosphere of Venice in the evening after the crowds left!