You know all about the Grand Canal, the exorbitantly priced but must do gondola ride, St Mark’s Square and its magnificent cathedral, the Doge’s Palace, The Bridge of Sighs, The Ca D’Oro, The Rialto and La Fenice right?
These wonderful experiences have all been blogged to death, so I will leave those be.
Venice is an expensive city without a doubt and of course massively popular. This was my third visit following a few hours spent there during an inter-rail tour with very little money in 1987 and a decidedly more wallet bashing long weekend in 2005. Like Vegas it is a love/hate kind of place, but one that you must experience at least once.
It is possible to leave the crowds behind and get some true romance with a little bit of thought. At least this was the case in mid June 16 when we last visited.
First thing to do is to book your accommodation early to get a good selection. Look no further than Air BnB. For less than the cost of a two star hotel you can get a whole apartment overlooking one of the lesser but oh so quaint canals. The added advantage is that you will be just outside the centre and therefore able to shop and eat where the locals do.
A thirty minute gondola ride will set you back around €100. If you can resist the ‘when in Rome’ desires (or in my case in 2005 the wife’s prompting – I did succumb by the way!) another great way to float down the Grand Canal is to buy a one or multi-day pass and just go where the fancy takes you.
We paid €20 each for a 24 hour pass, a real bargain compared to the €7.50 flat fare single for a journey of up to 75 minutes. You could go all the way to touristic Murano and Burano too with the pass.
If you get on or off at the likes of Ferrovia (Santa Lucia train station), Rialto, San Marco or Academia you will be joining a scrum of people doing the same thing and will most likely have standing room only. Line 2 takes you down the Grand Canal past all of the main sights. Bide your time however and by San Marco nearly everybody has departed.
Grab those front seats out in the open, stay on when the boat docks at Lido and you will soon be turning around for the return loop. You now have prime seats for fabulous views of the iconic waterway and can enjoy watching the embarkation/disembarkation scramble at all the hotspots.
It’s hard to avoid a smug snigger, sorry if that sounds a little nasty! The round trip from Ferrovia to Lido and back is around an hour and a half and when you get back you can reward your ingenuity with a delicious gelato and macchiato.
In the evening get on board again, sail past the cruise ship dock in the open waters and get off at San Giirgio on the opposite bank. This area has some lovely churches and palazzos, but you have really come for the view. Settle down on one of the canal side cafes, choose your favourite cocktail and watch the sun go down. As the sun sinks, the colours change and you get some lovely pink and golden hues on the iconic buildings and across the water.
Point your zoom towards San Marco and toast your good sense to relax far from the madding crowd with an iconic view (and your loved one) for company.
If Music Be The Food Of Love…….
My second tip for a romantic interlude is Palazzo a Musica. This slightly decaying mansion is a delightful venue for opera, but with a unique twist. It is not what you would call cheap at €80 a ticket but like yourself it is oh so worth it.
We went for Verdi’s La Traviata on Saturday evening at 5. The Barber of Seville also plays on other days/times. The major difference here is that you are not in a grand auditorium but in an intimate drawing room, right next to the musicians and actors. At one point, Violetta sang right into my face. My heart raced then melted and Mrs Wilbur didn’t mind at all!
Act One ended with toasts, with the extras being some members of the audience who were handed glasses of champagne to clink with Violetta herself.
At the first interval we were invited into a second room for a gratis glass of bubbly overlooking the Grand Canal. Acts Two and Three were then held in other regal rooms in the palazzo, culminating in the heartbroken soprano dying right in front of my feet!
Moments earlier she had been kneeling in front of the transfixed lady who sat next to me, holding her hands and imploring her to tell her why Alfredo didn’t love her.
After the show was over we were able to pass on our praise to the performers on a one to one basis. We hung around for some photos of the palazzo and were quite amused to see Violetta and the violinists in their civvies as they headed off into the evening.
Our two days in Venice went in a flash. Despite there being many tourists we never felt hassled and we were able to get lots of people free shots by venturing out before nine.
We were also lucky enough to watch Italy v Sweden in the Euro Football Championships in a bar full of locals – great fun, especially when Italia got their winner!
Enjoy Venice when you do go, it is a fantastic experience. A decent amount of planning however is a must if you are to return as relaxed as you arrived.