Month

June 2017

A Day Trip to Murano and Burano

If you’re looking for the perfect day trip from Venice, then you don’t have to look any further than two very small islands in the Venetian lagoon. We explored the islands of Murano and Burano, and it was the best way to spend half a day. Both communities are tight-knit, but they are still very welcoming to visitors. They’re all eager to share the culture that they’re so proud of.

Our private tour guide met us in the lobby of our hotel and whisked us away on our own water taxi. It was so nice to have such a knowledgeable guide to answer our questions and explain the history!

Murano

Murano, the larger of the two islands, is famous for their glassmaking. Glassmakers originally set up their businesses in Venice, but their furnaces caused too great of a fire risk. In the twelfth century, all glassmakers were forced to take their business out to the island of Murano. Centuries later, Murano glass is one of the most sought after in the world. We toured B.F. Signoretti, one of the oldest glass making factories in Murano. The artists were so talented and their showroom is unbelievable! I bought a small (and I mean small) Christmas ornament for $30. I fell in love with a gorgeous silver vase, but for $3200 I was fine to leave that in Italy! Needless to say, I was terrified we were going to break something!

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Keep your eyes peeled for real Murano glass throughout the town! Glass flowers decorate window sills and hand rails. Don’t miss the giant glass sculpture in the town’s square!

Be aware of all of the counterfeit glass claiming to be “real Murano glass.” If the price seems reasonable, then it’s probably fake. Look for the Murano glass official seal to know if the product is authentic.

Burano

Murano looks like a fairytale village because of its brightly colored houses all over the island! Legend states that when fishermen were returning home from a long fishing trip, they wanted to spot their houses from as far away as possible. Besides being a fishing village, Burano is famous for handmade lace.

Women start the art of lace making at a very young age. They attend a school specializing in lace production and then seek apprenticeships. Unfortunately, lace making is becoming a lost art. The specialized school has closed down, so no one is being taught anymore. Young women are pursuing other careers since lace making is tedious work without much compensation. We were fortunate enough to meet the youngest lace maker still alive, and she’s 65 years old! We watched her work on a small design that would later sell for about $500. That sounds like a nice profit, but each piece takes several years to complete. And since each lace maker specializes in only one type of stitch, the profit is then split between everyone that worked on that piece. Of course, I found a tablecloth I wanted… until I saw the price tag of $8,000!

I’m glad we took the time to visit Murano and Burano. If you’re in Venice longer than 2 days, then this is a worthwhile add-on to your trip!

Venice in Pictures

I went a little picture crazy in Venice. I couldn’t help it! Everything looked like it was straight out of a fairytale. I tried to fit as many pictures as I could in the Venice Travel Guide post, but I still had some left over. This post is devoted solely to pictures I took during our three days in Venice. Oh, and sorry for all the window frame/doorway posts. I got obsessed with all the unique windows and old doors, and I couldn’t stop! I hope you enjoy!

For the next blog post, we’ll leave Venice and explore some of the smaller islands in the lagoon. Thanks for reading!

Where to Eat in Venice

I have to admit that I dropped the ball in Venice. For some unearthly reason, I tried to be spontaneous. I didn’t research as many restaurants, but the good thing about Italy is that good food is not hard to find. Now, we might have ended up at some overpriced tourist spots, but the food was still exceptional.

Venice specializes in a few regional dishes that you have to try: seafood risotto, homemade pasta cooked in cuttlefish ink, tiramisu, and an Aperol spritz. Being near the sea, the seafood in Venice is a “must-try”!

Ristorante Florida

After flying for over 15 hours, we finally landed in Venice! Getting from the airport to the city center is not easy. So even though our plane landed on time, we still had to wait over an hour for the Alilaguna shuttle boat to take us to our hotel. Long story short… we missed our lunch reservations. In fact, the restaurant was closed by the time we even got to our hotel. No worries though… we were in Italy! We did, however, make a rookie tourist mistake. Instead of taking the time to find another restaurant, we settled on the first thing we saw. Give me a break… we were starving and exhausted at this point! We did get pretty lucky with Ristorante Florida though. The restaurant has a fantastic view of the Rialto Bridge, and the food turned out to be pretty good (albeit overpriced). The fried shrimp and calamari appetizer was perfectly crispy without being oily. Our linguine Bolognese was a great “first Italy meal.” Of course we had to try the traditional cocktail, Aperol spritz. It’s made with prosecco, Aperol, and soda water. Not my favorite, but you’ll see this brightly colored cocktail EVERYWHERE. It’s worth trying at least once.

Al Chianti

This was such a great find! Fortunately, I did do some research on this restaurant beforehand, and it turned out to be one of our best meals in Venice. It was a tiny hole in the wall without much seating, but we had reservations and were able to grab a table outside. I continued my Bolognese theme with spaghetti Bolognese, Matt ordered lasagna, and we shared an order of tiramisu. Definitely order their homemade tiramisu!

Trattoria alla Rivetta

Trattoria alla Rivetta was hard to find! Tucked almost underneath a bridge, it’s the perfect spot to watch gondolas float by. It was near our hotel, and we had heard good things about their calamari so we decided to give it a try. I ordered the pasta cooked in cuttlefish ink. I love trying new foods, but I have to tell you that I hated this dish. Not because of how the restaurant prepared it, but because I was eating cuttlefish cooked in its own ink! Yuck!!! It was briny, fishy, and salt-wateryish all at the same time. I wouldn’t have liked this dish anywhere, but Venice is famous for it so I had to give it a shot. Matt’s fish lasagna sounded strange, but it was deliciously creamy and cheesy.

Ristorante Al Vagon

I’d been dreaming about romantic dinners alongside quiet Venetian canals, and Ristorante Al Vagon made it a reality. They have outdoor seating so that you can be as close to the canal as possible. The food was simple enough so that the natural flavor of the ingredients shown through, but not so simple that it was boring. We shared a plate of fried seafood. This included tiny little fish that I’m guessing were anchovies(?). Matt was not a fan of those, but he loved the other seafood in the dish. I ordered gnocchi in a tomato sauce, and Matt (once again) had lasagna. I think I need to apologize for how many times Matt ordered lasagna. If you were hoping to see a wide variety of Italian food, then just ignore his menu and look at mine. In his defense, every lasagna he had was fantastic! Can’t say I blame him.

Caffe Quadri

Visiting Saint Mark’s Square in the evening is a must! After dinner, we settled in at Caffe Quadri to listen to the orchestra play. Matt had a coffee, and I had the thickest, richest hot chocolate I’ve ever had. They bring out melted chocolate and steamed milk and allow you to mix it yourself. I mixed mine heavy on the chocolate side, but that’s what vacations are for! It was such a relaxing evening (even if the hot chocolate was $12!).

Trattoria alla Madonna

Located near the Rialto Bridge, this restaurant defies the rule of not eating near a tourist hot spot. Trattoria alla Madonna was reasonably priced, and our food was wonderful. We started off with spider crab served in the shell. The presentation alone was worth ordering! I had seafood risotto (again, another famous dish in Venice), and Matt had lasagna… y’all thought I was joking about the lasagna didn’t you?

Antico Caffe Ristorante Al Buso

Here’s another example of my lack of planning in Venice. We didn’t have reservations for dinner so we thought we would walk along the Grand Canal until something caught our eye. This is so not my style, but we didn’t have another option. However, Venice just does not disappoint! We found Antico Caffe Ristorante Al Buso right underneath the Rialto Bridge. I actually spotted the table I wanted to sit at before I even looked at the menu. The view was breathtaking! So you can say we picked this restaurant based on atmosphere alone. Our meal was delicious though! Matt and I shared an order of seafood risotto that was incredible. There was so much seafood in the dish and the rice was cooked perfectly. And what better way to end a meal than with coffee and Nutella pie??

Harry’s Bar

Harry’s Bar is famous for inventing the peach Bellini. Matt and I have had an inside joke about peach Bellinis for years so when I found out they were invented in Venice, I knew we had to visit Harry’s Bar. The bar was crowded and the servers were all dressed in white tuxedo jackets. Please do not go to this bar unless you REALLY want a peach Bellini. Because it was special to us, I didn’t mind paying almost $20 per tiny drink. Eek!

We loved Venice so much, and the food was one of the main reasons it was so memorable for us. This was our first European destination either of us had been to, but it lived up to all of our expectations. I took so many photos in Venice that I think next week I’ll devote a post to some of my favorites.  In the meantime, read about what all there is to do in Venice. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Venice Travel Guide

Venice, ItalyVenice has been my dream travel destination since I was little. I remember being amazed that they had canals instead of roads and boats instead of cars. I couldn’t wait to see this place for myself!

We just returned home from Matt’s graduation trip, and even though we are still a little jet lagged, I can’t stop day dreaming about Venice. We didn’t spend a lot of time in Venice (only 3 days), but you don’t need to be there long for this beautiful city to steal your heart.

Where To Stay

I had three requirements for all of our Italian hotels… free wi-fi, our own bathroom, and air conditioning. Oh, and Matt said he wanted each hotel to provide breakfast! We were so pleased with Locanda al Leon! Venice is notoriously expensive, but Locanda al Leon is reasonably priced and in a great location. This hotel is over 500 years old, but has been renovated to include modern amenities. Our bed was comfortable, and we had the cutest room key! It’s a family owned business so the customer service is top-notch. The staff was quick to assist us with directions, a map, or just a sincere “buongiorno!” We even received a bag of cookies on our last night… so thoughtful! Locanda al Leon is located just a few blocks from St. Mark’s Square, which was perfect for us since most of our tours were near there as well.

Our only complaint about this hotel would be the noise level. Since it’s in such a great location, it’s across the street from a popular restaurant/bar with outdoor seating, so we could hear people talking and laughing until 3 AM. Normally that doesn’t really bother us, but since Venice was our first stop in Italy, we weren’t used to the time zone change, and we had trouble sleeping anyways. Besides that, we loved this hotel, and we would definitely stay here again.

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To truly experience Venice, staying in the city is a must! Venice turns into a totally different town after the cruise ships pull out of the harbor and the day trip tourists leave. You definitely want to be around then! Once the crowds leave, Venice transforms into the sleepy, quiet fishing village that it’s been for hundreds of years. It’s the perfect time to take a walk through St. Mark’s Square or explore the canals.

Locanda al Leon Venice Locanda al Leon Venice Locanda al Leon Venice

What To Do

St. Mark’s Square

St. Mark’s Square, known as Piazza San Marco to the Italians, is the central square in Venice. The political (Doge’s Palace) and religious (St. Mark’s Basilica) centers for the city lie on either side of the piazza. If you’ve seen pictures, then you’ve probably seen all the pigeons that invade during the day! Don’t worry, getting pooped on by a pigeon is considered good luck in Italy. The square is extremely crowded during the day due to the massive amount of tourists that descend upon Venice, so go very early or in the evening for the best experience. Street performers and musicians entertain throughout the day, but our favorite was the “dueling orchestras” in the evening. Grab a seat at one of the cafe’s outdoor tables and listen to the orchestra play. When they take a break, the orchestra at the cafe across the square starts up their performance. I couldn’t believe how talented these musicians were, and it was so fun to watch them play songs back and forth.

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Don’t walk in between the giant columns! It’s considered bad luck because public executions used to be held between them.

Large crowds are easy targets for pick pockets. Watch your bags and wallets at all times!

St. Mark's Square St. Mark's Square St. Mark's Square St. Mark's Square

St. Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark’s Basilica is the most famous church in Venice and it’s located in St. Mark’s Square. Mosaics cover the outside, and the architecture is stunning. Unfortunately they don’t allow any photos to be taken in the interior, but trust me when I tell you that everything shimmers with tiny gold mosaic tiles. Don’t miss the Pala d’Oro installed on the high altar. Images from Jesus’ life are featured on the altarpiece using gold, silver, pearls, and hundreds of gemstones.

St. Mark's Basilica St. Mark's Basilica

Doge’s Palace

The Doge’s Palace is where the Doge (or Duke) of Venice lived. The inside is crazy! Every room (walls and ceiling!) is covered in these gorgeously painted frescos. Because the palace was also considered the “courthouse,” it connects to the jail by the Bridge of Sighs. Criminals would walk across the bridge to stand trial or await sentencing. We were able to cross the famous bridge and see the jail cells. The conditions were horrible in the jail, while just on the other side of the bridge, the Doge’s Palace was the epitome of Venetian wealth.

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Watch your head! People were much shorter when these buildings were built!

Doge's Palace Venice Doge's Palace Venice Doge's Palace Venice Doge's Palace Venice Doge's Palace Venice Doge's Palace Venice

Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs spans the canal between the Doge’s Palace and the jail. We were able to see it from the inside during our Doge’s Palace tour, but we also got an up close view when our gondolier took us right under it.

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

Climb St. Mark’s Campanile

The Campanile, or bell tower, in St. Mark’s Square gives you the best view of the city! I use the word “climb” loosely since there’s an elevator, but the view is fantastic no matter how you get to the top.

St. Mark's Campanile St. Mark's Campanile St. Mark's Campanile St. Mark's Campanile

Get Lost

You’re going to get lost in Venice so you might as well enjoy it! There’s no avoiding it. We got lost every day. We even walked down a street on our map only to find it dead-end at a canal. Give yourself extra time to get places and don’t be afraid to ask for directions. Everyone was very friendly to us and always eager to help. Bring your camera because every corner you turn is postcard worthy!

Venice, Italy

Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge is the oldest and most famous bridge that spans the Grand Canal. It was completed in 1591, and is now known as one of the top tourist attractions in Venice. There are a few shops along the bridge, but once you’ve taken your pictures, there’s not much else to it.

Rialto Bridge Venice

Gondola Ride

Do not talk yourself out of taking a gondola ride! It is so expensive and overpriced and worth every penny. Matt and I bought a bottle of wine for our gondola ride and had such a relaxing time. Our gondolier took us to the quiet, smaller canals and then he finished up our ride by taking us out to the lagoon and returning via the canal under the Bride of Sighs. A gondola ride is the quintessential Venetian touristy thing to do, but I don’t even care. We loved it!

Gondola Ride Venice Gondola Ride Venice

Libreria Acqua Alta

I had seen pictures of this cute little bookstore, and I really wanted to try to find it. It’s hidden away down a narrow alley that opens into a courtyard. Because of the tendency for flooding, all of the books are piled in bathtubs, gondolas, or anything to keep them from touching the floor. There’s no organization to the store, but this is the kind of place that doesn’t need organization. On the back patio, they’ve made a staircase out of books. If you climb the book “steps” to the top and look over the wall, there’s a great view of the canals.

Libreria Acqua Alta Libreria Acqua Alta Libreria Acqua Alta

I’ve heard all of the horror stories about Venice (it stinks, people are mean, food’s gross), but we never experienced any of that. I’ve smelled worse things in New Orleans, the Venetian people were proud to show off their culture, and oh em gee, the food!!! To read about all the restaurants we ate at in Venice click HERE! Thanks for reading!