A Weekend in Venice, Italy
Ahh, beautiful Venice! After deciding to squeeze in one more plane ride before our newest member of the family arrives, we were thrilled to plan a quick trip to Venice, Italy. Venice is a small city built on a group of 118 islands separated by canals and connected by over 400 bridges! You might conjure up visuals of gondola rides and romantic couples, but it's also a great place to visit historic buildings, eat incredible food, and explore the other islands.
After a quick 90 minute plane ride from Paris, we arrived at Marco Polo Airport around 9am. We took the ATVO bus (you could also take ACTV bus) to the main plaza, Piazza Roma Station - about a 16 minute drive. We walked 15 minutes to our Airbnb and dropped off our luggage.
Since our host needed a few more minutes to get ready for us, he recommended a cute coffee shop named Torrefazione Cannaregio. We had our first “brioche”: a croissant cut in half length wise and spread with strawberry jam, then topped with powdered sugar! I had a cappuccino as well. The entire first day was an exploration of wonderful Italian FOOD!
We went back to Airbnb to unpack and settle in. For lunch, we ran off to La Zucca – we booked a reservation in advance and requested to sit by the canal (per recommendation of a new colleague). After navigating the menu (there’s starters, first course, second course, and sides sections) we decided to each order a “first course” and a side.
I was excited about all the opportunities to eat what I typically consider “autumn” foods, of which I wasn’t sure if I would see in Europe… I ended up ordering a lasagna that was made with artichokes, pumpkin, and zucchini (incredible!!!!). Chris ordered a pasta dish with ground duck (delicious!).
We were completely satisfied with our meals and didn’t need the sides that came next, but we also ate an eggplant dish with feta and tomatoes and a dish of zucchini stuffed with seasoned ricotta and basil. Sipping on white wine from a carafe (a half liter for 5 euros!) we marveled at the wonderful meal and incredible atmosphere.
Chris had to work afterwards, so I took a book to the closest café and ordered an espresso and a chocolate cannoli. I haven’t had many of these but in my mind it would be light, mildly sweet, and creamy. Instead, it was SUPER sweet and sticky. Don’t get me wrong, I still ate the whole thing, but I didn’t feel the need for another during the rest of the trip!
We decided to explore another recommendation for dinner that night, Al Timon. Venice is known for its Cicchettis, their take on tapas. Toppings are served on sliced bread and vary from Romanian potato salad to full sardines with cheese to tomato spiced cod. We enjoyed a sampling of them, each 1 euro, for dinner. The next day we tried a similar place, Vino Vero, which served theirs on whole grain toast.
Friday morning (Chris’s birthday!) we woke up leisurely and walked to the famous Piazza San Marco. Walking through Venice is like walking through a floating maze – there are bridges everywhere and streets that look like doorways until you begin walking through them. A few streets felt more like tunnels!
We grabbed a piece of pizza each (ginormous!) for breakfast and ate it while enjoying the incredible views in the plaza. The plaza hosts Doge’s Palace, the Bell tower, and Saint Mark’s Basilica. We opted to enter the Basilica and the Bell Tower.
Seeing the whole island of Venice from high up in the Bell Tower was awe-inspiring and well worth the trip!
The Basilica was beautiful and full of stories – each dome had a story from the book of Genesis, and as you walked through the church there were saints and other stories depicted. We lit a candle for our baby and prayed for health for our little one and happiness for our current and future family.
After seeing these overwhelmingly incredible masterpieces, we decided to continue exploring the island. I had a piece of pizza crust leftover and shared it with Chris… although a seagull swooped in and grabbed my piece of crust right out of my hand with its beak!!! For the rest of the trip I eyed down each seagull knowingly and told it that I was more prepared now... so it better watch out.
We walked along the coast to the gardens on the southeast side of the island, Giardini della Biennale. The gardens begin with a large monument of a man and a lion (seemingly, his pet) and was surrounded by a small moat, filled with turtles! We counted 20 just in one spot, but there must have been 100 in there!
We walked to Ristorante Paradiso in the gardens for an Aperol Spritz and some water, then head back out to explore. Located along the park was a large outdoor architecture and art exhibit. There was a fee to enter and Chris and I love to just explore, so we opted not to enter the exhibit and just kept walking along with the aim to eventually get back to the area of our Airbnb. Hilariously, we found ourselves accidentally inside the art exhibit! We eventually realized our mistake and found our way out of it by back tracking. Completely pooped after walking 10 miles, we stopped for snacks and drinks.
We enjoyed the people watching – there were people of all ages on the island. Babies were pushed on strollers, couples shared licks of gelato, and groups of teenagers gathered together drinking Aperol Spritzs or wine. Some dressed to be comfortable travelling and walking, while others in pristine hair and makeup struggled to stay balanced on the cobblestones in their stilettos.
I never enjoyed people watching as much as I have since moving to Europe. There’s a different mentality when it comes to time and moving on to the next thing when you live here. Instead of hurrying to go see the next thing, I’ve learned to sit and linger and enjoy the two hour (or often longer) meals, the long breaks between seeing the waiters, and the need to request the bill. Chris has always been better at sitting still than I have, and it seems to come much more natural for him.
We returned to Al Timon once more for a few more Cicchettis and a glass of wine for Chris. For our final snack of the afternoon, we shared some chocolate mousse - then headed back to the Airbnb to rest a bit before our next long-ish walk to dinner.
We had heard magnificent things about Al Covo, a restaurant about 30 minutes away. They opened at 7:30pm, so we hurried to get there right when they opened. Though we made it there at 7:30pm on the dot, they were booked for dinner reservations… for the next six days. They welcomed us to come back in a few hours to see if we could get a table closer to 9:30p or 10p, but we were hungry! After asking for their recommendations, we instead went to Covino, right around the corner, and nabbed the last little outdoor table (inside was full too!).
They greeted us with homemade prosecco (yum!) and after asking their recommendations, we chose four plates to share. We had incredible calamari, a surprisingly fun and delicious mushroom dish, a red pepper pasta dish, and a dish of which we had no idea what to expect (it was titled “angryjack”) that ended up being a tasty white fish.
We shared the most creative dessert I’ve ever seen – a ricotta-style dessert cheese smeared across the bowl and jeweled with goodies, such as shaved chocolate, dried fruits and nuts, apricot jam, and more. We also had a wonderful chocolate sponge cake with obviously homemade whipped cream and nuts. WOW!!!! We toasted to Chris’s birthday and the incredible memories we were creating.
Our next plan was to hike up to the rooftop bar of the fanciest hotel on the island, Hotel Danieli (a Marriott), for a special birthday drink. We entered the lobby (wow, fancy… marble and chandeliers everywhere) and were sadly told that the rooftop was only open in the afternoons. No big deal – we capped off the evening with gelato instead!
The next day we started leisurely again and returned to our new favorite spot for breakfast and coffee - Torrefazione Cannaregio. This time I got a piece of cheesecake I had been dreaming of since seeing it Thursday, and Chris enjoyed a chocolate croissant (can you tell I love talking about food???).
We walked to the ferry dock, purchased an all-day ferry pass (20 euros each), and took line 4.1 (or 4.2, both get you there!) to Murano, the island known for blown glass. The boat ride stopped once briefly at a cemetery park that was on its own island, then continued on to Murano. The whole ride took less than 10 minutes!
Once on Murano, we watched a glass blowing demonstration (3 euros each) at Guarnieri Vetreria Artistica. The artist made a beautiful vase as well as a horse within about 15 minutes.
Afterwards, we walked around their gallery/shop and marveled at the pieces. Another shop was located just next store and we wandered in there as well. The owner could sense that we appreciated the glass, and we shared with him that we had dabbled in some glass blowing ourselves in the past. He offered to show us additional pieces on the second floor where about 30 artisans had their art on display for purchase. We walked through at least 6 rooms full of a diverse collection of glass sculptures, chandeliers, and drinking ware. Likely disappointing him by not buying anything, we thanked him graciously for his time and attention and made our way to the main street to find some lunch.
After sharing a salad and eating some seafood pasta, we popped into a few more stores. We realized that we both loved the idea of bringing home a small glass blown fishbowl (complete with a glass fish!).
We purchased one after checking a few shops for our favorite, then made our way to the ferry (line 12) to visit Burano, the island known for its colorful homes and beautiful lace. Before getting on the ferry, we stopped into the Church of Saint Peter and enjoyed the paintings.
Burano was beautiful, and the handmade linen dresses rivaled the beauty of the colorful homes. We sipped an espresso by the water, walked into some shops, and visited the church of Saint Caterina, which had similar styles as the church on Murano.
We took the 40 minute ferry ride back to Venice and had our last meal on the island. We had been eyeing a pizza place for a few days, and it sounded perfect. We shared calamari and each ordered a pizza at Ristorante Due Fratteli. We needed gelato one more time, so we walked along the main strip of the island until we found some. Nutella is the new flavor to beat!
We facetimed our family at home (my cousin's wedding was that night and we watched the ceremony!), then slept for a few hours before hopping on the 4:20am bus back to the airport.
We loved squeezing in this short vacation, and a few days in Venice was perfect for us. We are grateful for the ease of travelling across Europe from Paris and we can't wait to plan our next trip!