Sunday, March 31, 2013

Venice, Italy

Happy Easter!  Husband and I have been on holiday this past week in celebration of Easter and it has been wonderful.  We started our week off with a 7 hour road trip to Venice, Italy.  I have always dreamed of seeing Venice and I'm so thankful we finally got a chance to explore the sights. 

We tried our hardest to do Venice on a budget.  Can I even put those words into the same sentence?  Venice is known for being very expensive but here below are the details of our trip.

St. Mark's Plaza

Whenever I hear the word "Venice" the first thing that pops into my mind are singing men rowing a gondola down a narrow waterway.  I was shocked to learn that the average "off season" price for a 30 minute ride is minimum 80 Euros!  When I was quoted this price I nearly laughed in the guy's face, yet all around I saw tourists paying for this iconic journey but never a local.  Instead of dishing out this kind of cash, Husband and I used our imaginations while aboard the much cheaper water buses. There may have even been some self serenading.

 Water Taxi

The City of Venice knows you have to rely on them for transportation around the islands and it is a hefty price for tourists.  We bought a 3-day water bus pass which ended up being much more affordable than paying for individual boat rides or overpriced water taxis.  When the weather cooperated, we sat in the far back of the boat, out in the open air to admire the views of Venice seaside.

Rilato Bridge 
I probably spent more time than I should have researching hotels in Venice over the span of 3 weekends.  At first, I restricted my search to hotels on the main island, Venice.  Not satisfied with the hotels within our price range, I looked at places on Lido di Venice.  The island Lido is a 5 minute water bus ride from Venice and the boats depart every 10 minutes. Not bad at all!  In Lido we found that we got a better value and amenities for our buck.  

We stayed at Hotel Villa Stella.  I was nervous about booking Villa Stella because it is only rated 2 stars on and  However, on both websites the reviews (171 at the time) were mostly excellent with only a couple not so great ratings.  Husband and I took our chances, put our trust in past customers, and booked.  In the end we were so glad we did because Villa Stella was amazing!

I was extremely impressed with Villa Stella.  On several occasions we I was high maintenance and every time the hotel went out of their way to make us me happy. Our room was fairly large with a king size bed (not too common in these parts), a great breakfast every morning (with freshly made chocolate crepes), provided umbrellas when we did not have our own, sent us up cappuccinos when we walked in soaking wet one afternoon, and the best part...having our own private balcony.  Villa Stella had wonderful customer service and we would stay there again on a return trip to Venice.

 Morning Cappuccinos          

Hotel Umbrellas=Singing in the Rain

In Venice you can spend a lot on a meal or you can spend very little.  Our favorite meal was a 3 Euro pizza counter, Rossopomodoro,  a tiny joint with only two tables.  We just walked in off the street and enjoyed slices of a fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil pizza. 

Husband's second slice- Italian Sausage

Husband and I also loved Trattoria Alle Due Gondolette, a family run restaurant off the tourist's path, frequented by locals.  Gondolette is only open for lunch and the chef cooks a different menu every day depending on what is fresh off the boats.  When Husband and I ate there we had bread, wine, water, squid pasta, sliced beef, orange marmalade tart, and cappuccinos for only 15 Euros a person!  

I wasn't so sure about this at first, but it was delicious!

Sometimes when you are in a new place it can be nice to try local foods.  For our last dinner we actually went across the street from our hotel to a tiny local market.  We bought olives, cheeses, artichokes, and wine.  Husband and I put that with some bread and vegetables brought from home and enjoyed a tapas style meal in our hotel room.  We try to avoid fast food as much as possible on road trips because it is expensive (by fast food standards) in Europe and of course, that whole healthy thing.  To help with this, I always bring along fresh fruits and vegetables on road trips and try to book hotel rooms with mini fridges!

Do It Yourself Tapas!

I know I've bragged a lot already about Villa Stella, but there was an unexpected surprise upon our arrival to the hotel.  They offered us a free water taxi and private tour of one of the glass factories on the island Murano.  Husband and I knew going into our trip that we wanted to visit Murano because it is famous for the glass blowing.  We were thrilled with this opportunity provided by the hotel and the tour was one of my favorite parts of our entire trip!

Murano Glass Factory Tour

The second day in Venice, Husband and I visited the famous St. Mark's Basilica Cathedral.  There was a huge line of people waiting to get into the church, but seeing the mosaic tiles glistening under the lights was breathtaking.  We were there from 12:00-12:30, and then as Husband and I were leaving the church, all of the lights turned off.  Husband and I lucked out getting there when we did because the tiles are only lit for one hour every day.  The church does this to protect the ancient tiles against the light rays.  We didn't know this and could have missed out on the beautiful sight!  

If you ever visit St. Mark's Basilica, make sure to stop into the Treasury. Inside the Treasury, we were astonished to see a thorn and nail thought to be from Jesus' crucifixion.  When you see those artifacts in person, it is very difficult to wrap your mind around what is displayed in front of you.  This was such a special way to start off our Easter holiday!

St. Mark's Basilica Cathedral

The rest of the time we spent walking all over the island getting lost on back alleyways, sipping cappuccinos, and stumbling upon beautiful architectural features.  I think the best way to explore Venice is to get off the beaten path!  You can't get too's an island!

A Typical Venice Bridge Picture

Happy Easter,

1 comment:

  1. Looks like so much fun!

    For me, picking the hotel is always the most nerve-wracking part. There are usually lots of choices with trade-offs (no wifi but cheaper, not a good location but great rooms). I stress over it, and look at every review and website, and agonize and debate. And in the end, I don't think we've ever stayed anywhere that we didn't like! I don't know if that means the stress is worth it or if I'd be just as happy without the labored decision-making.

    Anyway, glad y'all had fun in Venice!


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