Be My Valentine…in Venice, Italy

Two words to describe Venice, Italy: Absolutely Magical! From the impressive architecture and winding cobblestone streets to the mystery and wonder of being transported by boat along the blue lagoon.

The trip to Venice was a surprise present from my love last year and I wasn’t disappointed when we arrived and started our romantic long weekend away. We went during Valentine’s weekend, one week after Venetians had celebrated their traditional Carnival, and we had a small glimpse of what was left of the festivities. Not only was this a trip to celebrate Saint Valentine, but also to celebrate our “half anniversary” together (of 1 1/2 years), which happens to be on February 13th. Today marks our 2 1/2 years together – we’re romantics and we know it.

I’ve put together the itinerary we did via photos that showcases our ventures around Venice and surrounding islands to give you a great starting point to planning your own getaway in the hopefully near future. The weather was chilly with a mix of sun and rain during our weekend there, but it really didn’t bother us and I’d go back during the winter months again. It was also less crowded since Carnival just finished and even though there were lots of tourists around, you could still find yourself to be the only one on the street. So I’ll say that Venice is a destination you can visit all year round.

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Before leaving the airport once arriving, we went ahead and and purchased round-trip tickets to use for the waterbus to enter and leave the city, and it was a better deal than paying more for 2 separate one-way tickets.

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Besides the waterbus, you also have the option of taking a water taxi like the one in the picture, or if you want to be fancy you can hire a private boat to take you into Venice. This was our view while waiting to take the waterbus to the main stop at San Marco’s Square. No matter which option you choose, it will be such a fun, new experience to have. Can you imagine living in a place that uses boats as the only mode of transport?

After getting off the waterbus we headed towards our hotel to check-in and plan our day. My love found a great package via which included a free room upgrade (to junior suite), a private boat ride to Murano island and an exclusive tour of a Murano glass workshop and enormous gallery.

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About to hop off the waterbus and step into the wonderland that is Venice. The sun was shining and it was nothing but beautiful views all around. So much character and charm this city holds! And please, DO get lost within the canals  and curving streets – you’ll always find your way back but it’s so much fun to turn left instead of right and see what you’ll discover. As the saying goes: “go off the beaten path”.

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This is what Venice looks like with every turn you take – crossing over a little bridge, looking at boats old and new docked next to their owner’s residence. Or you will walk by gondola’s taking a break with their owner’s on the side of the bridge. I liked saying hello to them to try out the little Italian I’ve picked up.

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You can find churches of all sizes throughout the city, each elaborately decorate with its own unique architectural style and I truly appreciated looking at each one we came across. This particular church was right by our hotel, so we got to stop and admire it every day.

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One entrance to our hotel: Duodo Palace. As the name suggests, it’s a renovated Palace from long ago and inside is very authentic, including a canal side entrance. We took our included boat ride to Murano Island using the canal side entrance by just taking a step from the hotel lobby and into the boat on the water. It was definitely a little piece of luxury!

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The view outside of our enormous junior suite upgrade. You could hear the bell tower ring at every hour, the last being at midnight I believe. I love seeing pieces of other people’s lives just by taking a look at what’s on their patio or balcony.

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After checking in, we headed back out to explore the grand Piazza San Marco and all its lustrous structure of shops, columns, pillars, like the eye-catching San Marco Basilica in the picture above.

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Piazza San Marco – Views of San Marco’s Basilica and the Bell Tower within the plaza. It is a must to go inside and take a tour of the basilica.

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Another view of Piazza San Marco – the boards you see were used during Carnival the week prior but people could still walk on them to get around in some areas, maybe to avoid wading around when the “acqua alta” – high waters – occur from heavy rainfall. We saw a little bit of this in a couple areas but nothing like in photos I’ve seen. Also, public executions used to take place in between the two columns in the distance and is bad luck if you walk in between them. I saw very few people walking in between the columns and I didn’t even try!

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As dusk begins to fall, we continue our walk, stopping at several vendors and tourist shops to see what they offer. I loved all the Venetian masks and tried to find another that would match one that my love already has, but I couldn’t make up my mind in the end. We’ll just have to take a new trip back so I can find the perfect one, perhaps we could return in the Spring?

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A classic view of gondolas bobbing up and down on the water with island views covered in churches and bell towers as a waterbus passes by. Watching this view along with listening to the sounds of the lagoon was pure bliss and relaxing.

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Our first take of Venice by night. It was so beautiful with the lights shining down on the blue lagoon. There is an essence of calm and security when you walk along the wide paths by the water. The city is very safe, even when walking back to your hotel past midnight.

Words of Wisdom: Ask locals and hotel staff for restaurant recommendations. It’s the best way to enjoy the same dishes as the local residents and to avoid any disappoint or potential food poisoning – which happened to me when we decided to eat cheap one afternoon but chose the wrong place to go to. I felt so sick and so weak we couldn’t enjoy our last full day completely. Thankfully by the end of the afternoon I was feeling much better before heading to the airport. You live and you learn!

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                                       Our starter dish that we shared, full of fresh seafood with amazing flavor. Simply Yum!

Some advice on the food in Venice: it's going to be expensive, but good. We asked for a recommendation from our hotel and they were able to make us a reservation at an amazing and authentic Venetian restaurant in the Rialto neighborhood.

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Seafood pasta. So Good!

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The next day on our private boat ride to Murano Island, famous for its glass-making craft. We had a tour of the workshop and the grand showroom filled from top to bottom with glass figurines, statues, and jewelry of all shapes, sizes and cost. Fun fact: Our guide mentioned that Leonardo DiCaprio had his Oscar award duplicated into a glass figurine from the workshop. I ended up buying a pair of glass turquoise earrings that were most likely overpriced since I purchased them directly from the workshop. You can find the exact same in one of dozens of tourist shops for much cheaper on the island or anywhere else, and for much cheaper.

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Once arriving after our private boat ride to Murano, we entered into the workshop of the well-known glass-making family business. As we watched a live demonstration of a small horse figurine being made, our tour guide explained the entire process to us step by step as the artist was creating his newest work. Afterwards, we were guided through numerous rooms that displayed all different types of glass art – all shapes, sizes, cost and aesthetic you can imagine.

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Earlier in the day we saw a flier for a mini opera concert at the hotel and decided to make a reservation and go after our island hopping. It was very nice and included a ballerina, harpist, and opera singer all dressed in classic attire and entertained tour group of about 20 people inside this lovely conservatory building about a 20-30 minute walk from Piazza San Marco.

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It was nice to visit another side of Venice that had more greenery and park areas. It was pleasant to have an evening walk before heading back to the hotel for a light dinner.

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The only site we made it to on our last day was a visit to the Fenice Theater. As I was recovering from food poisoning I had to constantly sit down, so I decided to let my love go ahead and tour around the theater while I sat in the audience to take a few pictures. You can book to see an opera here, there are performances several times during the week. We had thought to go to one, but decided it wasn’t really in our budget. I highly recommend to tour through this beautiful structure which has caught fire and burned down at least twice before.

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Fenice Theater – view of the exclusive balcony seating area made for emperors and royalty.

Until next time: Go.Get.Inspired!!!

Inspired by…Quote: “Where there is love, there is life” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Disclaimer: ALL pictures are taken by myself and are not to be reproduced without my knowledge and permission.