I’m not usually one for playing the tourist; I’d much rather go and explore the less travelled areas when I’m abroad. Sometimes, however, it can be fun (and I really think necessary) to do; especially when visiting Venice! It would be ridiculous to go to Venice and not explore St Mark’s Square and see as many canals and bridges as possible. So, on a recent trip with my boyfriend, we set off to do just that and embrace our inner tourist!
As soon as we had checked into our gorgeous hotel, we immediately went to explore St Mark’s Square. It was honestly like two children in a sweet shop – we just wanted to see Venice! First up was the incredible Bridge of Sighs. This is pretty difficult to get a good photo of to be honest as you’ve got to fight past all the tourists (a major drawback of touristing!) to even get close to a good viewpoint, but in the name of good blogging and photo taking I persevered!
Since by this point it was too late in the afternoon for us to go into Doge’s palace or up the clock tower, we decided to just take a stroll instead. We wandered down the canals, over bridges and passed many a gondola on our way. Eventually we ended back where we started, though I couldn’t even begin to tell you our route – we wandered aimlessly just enjoying the surroundings!
Unfortunately for us, the basilica was half covered in scaffolding when we saw it, but it was still a hugely impressive sight. What a building! It’s really stunning both inside and out, so I’d really recommend waiting in the queues to get in and see it. Top tip though – if you want to go up to the viewing platform (right where the horses are above the arches), they charge 5 euros per person. They don’t tell you this until you get to the top of the stairs!
The whole of St Mark’s square was absolutely rammed with tourists (and pigeons) so it’s pretty hard to get a good holiday snap without a million people in your photo, but sometimes these sights just have to be seen! Even the cafes under the arches look incredible (if a little pricey). I really wanted to go to Café Florian, which is right on St Mark’s Square and very famous for its location, drinks and live band, but neither the budget nor the time we had could quite stretch that far. In fact, I think this an example of when a tourist trap should actually be avoided; we had some great drinks in hole in the wall bars and I honestly think they were better than sitting with a group of other tourists.
In a fit of getting lost, we actually managed to stumble into Rialto Bridge, one of the most iconic sites in Venice. Once again, although rammed with tourists, it made for an incredible view down the grand canal.The sun was just setting as we got there, which was just as beautiful as it sounds. The sky was a beautiful pink and I couldn’t resist the temptation to snap another thousand photos! As we wandered back to the hotel (as our stomachs told us we were very hungry!) I managed to capture the sunset, and took what might be my two favourite photographs. Ever.
The next morning we were up bright and breezy and ready to visit Doge’s Palace! It’s a truly spectacular building and I’d really recommend a visit and a tour if you can. The history of the building is wonderful and the art took my breath away; gorgeous is the only word to describe this place. I have to admit to having a strange fascination with prisons, so the opportunity to visit the prisons in Venice was a bit too much to resist! The ticket for St Mark’s square covers the prisons, and it even allows you to cross the Bridge of Sighs itself, so it’s definitely worth a trip. Strange to think that what used to be a punishment is now a tourist attraction!
Another tourist “must” when visiting Italy? Ice cream! After seeing a few of the sights, we popped into what turned out to be a rather local establishment selling gelato and coffee and indulged in what was easily the best ice cream I’ve ever had! We had chocolate and stracciatello – which was OH wow SO GOOD.
As the evening was closing in, we headed back to the main square and into the Basilica (the queues were huge when we were there in the morning so decided to come back a little later in the hope that they were shorter – they were). I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve seen some stunning churches when I’ve travelled but this really was up there. It’s a stunning building in itself, but since it was Easter Sunday the next day the church really was looking incredible.
The next day, we headed up to Burano to see those famous colourful houses – a real must if you’re ever going to the city!
So next time you’re travelling, don’t always shrug your shoulders at tourists, sometimes you just have to embrace being one of them, you are after all, on holiday! Venice was one of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited, I already can’t wait to go back.