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Monday, May 9, 2016

24 Hours in Venice

Venice is one of those unique, ridiculously beautiful destinations which truly has to be experienced at least once during your lifetime. I've been lucky enough to visit twice before but this visit was Dan's first and I'm happy to say that my third visit to Venice was my most spectacular and memorable! It's difficult to explain the grandeur, beauty and charm of Venice with its 100 small islands, car-less streets, endless beautiful canals and spectacular marble palaces which seemingly rise out of the water and so I think that this quote perfectly describes the magic of Venice:

"Venice is the consummate magician. It makes marble palaces vanish into silent fogs, labyrinthine calli (streets) disappear at the whim of moody tides, and can even turn the most pedestrian of people into fantastical, masked creatures. Just like its world-famous Carnevale, Venice thrives on mystery and awe, from the secret passageways that riddle Gothic Palazzo Ducale, to the esoteric powers of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, to the inexplicable radiance of Titian's Assunta altarpiece. After countless sojourns, I am yet to tire of the place. Some spells are simply too hard to break" - Cristian Bonetto.



We arrived into Venice quite early from Florence where we'd spent an amazing four nights. We caught a vaporetto (water bus) from Piazzale Roma into St Marks Square. There are a number of transport options to get into Venice including private watertaxi's but we happy with a vaporetto. Our tickets cost €7.50 each and gave us an amazing view of the entire Grand Canal as we cruised along on our way to St Mark's Square.









It was too early to check in we dropped off our bags at the hotel and set off with the intention of getting lost and exploring as much of Venice as we possibly could. Armed with a map we wandered down to St Marks Square which is a must for anyone visiting Venice, we marvelled at St Marks Basilica and the Doge's Palace before walking along the Grand Canal to the Bridge of Sighs. As I'd been to Venice before I was the tour guide on this occasion and whilst I can't promise all my facts were 100% correct they were along the lines of what I could remember from my school trip to Italy back in 2007!






After the Bridge of Sighs we decided we needed to head off the busy streets and away from the masses of tourists and so just took small turn after small turn which I truly think is the best way to explore beautiful Venice. We came across gorgeous canals, beautiful houses, small churches, cute little restaurants and a few incredible bakeries which were full of locals buying their daily bread and so of course we joined in and picked up some delicious treats for lunch at a fraction of the price that we would have paid closer to the centre of Venice. We walked for hours and hours and for most of it we hardly saw any other tourists. If you're visiting Venice it is obviously essential to visit the main sites but I also think the best way to see Venice is to let yourself get lost among the small, windy streets and you'll truly find some of the most beautiful places and some of the best photogenic places in all of Venice. Venice also feels very safe (other than of course, pickpockets in the main touristy areas) and no matter how many turns we took we still had no problem finding our way eventually back to St Marks Square.





Once we'd made our way back to St Mark's Square we headed to our hotel, the beautiful Westin Europa & Regina, located right on the Grand Canal, which we honestly think is the most incredible hotel in all of Venice! We were lucky enough to have been spoilt with one of the best rooms in the hotel which was enormous, elegant, luxurious and had the most incredible views of the Grand Canal. It was a very surreal experience to be standing on our gorgeous balcony overlooking the Canal, drinking the finest Prosecco and having people wave to us as they drifted past on their gondolas or motored past on boats! It's probably the closest either of us have ever felt to being celebrities and most likely the only time it will ever happen!






It was ridiculously tough to drag ourselves away from our gorgeous room and balcony but we had a Gondola Ride & Dinner booked and so we dolled ourselves up and headed out. We'd booked a tour with SIT Italy which included a 30 minute private gondola ride and three course dinner at a restaurant in Venice. Our gondola meeting point was less than a 5 minute walk away and as soon as we arrived we were whisked onto our private gondola and set off along beautiful, hidden canals that were clear of traffic and other gondolas. Our gondolier was very friendly and took the time to point out a few sites but also gave us time to relax and enjoy an incredibly romantic ride (and of course the bottle of prosecco that we'd packed)! If you're heading off on a romantic gondola ride then make sure you pack a bottle of bubbly & some glasses (or even plastic cups)! Our ride continued along the beautiful Grand Canal and as it was around 7pm the waterways were so much quieter and smoother than they were during the day and our ride was relaxing, romantic and truly a must do in Venice! Dan initially thought the gondola ride may be too touristy, not worth the expense and a bit of a gimmick but even he said as soon we began our ride how glad he was that we'd booked it as it is certainly a Venetian experience not to be missed.













Our gondola ride finished at Le Maschere where we would be dining for the evening. We bid our goodbyes to our gondolier and headed inside. It was a lovely restaurant and we had a wonderful three course meal and drinks that left us feeling incredibly satisfied (and stuffed)! There's more about our fabulous gondola ride & dinner on the blog here!





After dinner and some limoncello to end our wonderful evening we had our waiter point us in the direction of St Marks Square which we were surprised to find out was only a few blocks away, as our gondola ride had really confused our sense of direction. Dan was very sweet and my night ended with beautiful roses to end a very perfect date night! We enjoyed our balcony and night views of Venice for a little bit longer before jumping into bed for a perfect sleep in our Westin Heavenly Bed!




After our heavenly sleep (Westin truly don't lie), we had a delicious superfoods breakfast in the restaurant which also had beautiful views of the main Canal. We then sadly said goodbye to our beautiful room before checking out and heading back on a vaporetto to Piazzale Rome for our GoOpti transfer to Ljubljana in Slovenia!



After three incredible weeks in Italy, Venice was the perfect finale and now we're really excited for a new country and especially excited for Slovenia which has been on our bucket list for a very long time! Our 24 hours in Venice was busy, exciting, romantic and truly felt like we'd spent a great deal longer than just 24 hours in this magical city! It is a destination like no other and one that should be experienced at least in your lifetime!



Have you been to Venice, the majestic city built on water? We'd love to hear about your experiences there! x

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