Today, we take a short 2 hour ride into Venice, Italy. This will be the final stop on the tour. And it’s cool because this is another place that I first visited 20 years ago, like Budapest. I am excited to revisit some of my old memories of this place, and create fabulous new ones. We are staying in an area called Mestre, a suburb of Venice that is easily reached by a 20 minute train ride. We check into Hotel Mondial; it looks nice in the lobby but my room is very basic. It has a massive sliding door that exits to the parking lot. Luckily it also has a sturdy lock and a large thick curtain! We choose a place in Mestre for lunch….and of course I am eager for a bowl of pasta and a glass of red wine.
Then it’s on the train into Venice; arriving into an area I did not see 20 years ago. A large promenade, and many docks to accommodate all of the vaporettos (the water buses). Across the water stands the San Simeon Piccolo Church, its large green dome standing proud along the Venice skyline.
For those of you living under a rock, Venice is one of the main tourist destinations in all of Italy….and is considered to be one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. It is built on 118 small islands in a lagoon, and separated by 150 canals. Gondolas float along through the canals; the gondoliers belting out romantic operatic tunes.
There are a ton of people here. It’s the end of September and I thought it may be less crowded…..not really. I would hate to think what kind of mayhem awaits a tourist here in the middle of summer! But we brace ourselves and head into the heart of Venice and search for the main sights. It is very easy to get lost in Venice…its part of the fun. And we arrive at the famous Rialto Bridge…I missed this one last time I was here (I could not find it!), and it is worth the wait.
The views of the canals from the bridge are stunning. You really can’t take a bad photo here. Rialto is the oldest bridge in Venice; it’s quite steep and has rows of shops under the covered sections.
There is also a famous market here, but it runs much earlier in the day. And as you can imagine, this place is tourist central. Like pushing through crowds of people to see anything or take a photo. My nightmare. But hey, it’s Venice and my patience is a virtue!
We carry on, and eventually end up in St Mark’s Square. It is huge, and full of tourists and pigeons(you are no longer allowed to feed them, like we did 20 years ago haha) . It’s the only square large enough to be called a piazza – all the other squares are just mere campos. Many restaurants and cafes have outdoor patios here…Emily insists that we take a seat for a boozy coffee.
And says it’s her treat. Haha she definitely cringes when we get the bill…I think it was $30 bucks for one drink. But as we sit in the square, the beautiful St Mark’s Basilica is to the left and a 3 piece band plays a peppy song behind us…it doesn’t get much better.
It’s now time to climb the famous campanile – the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica.
There is a pretty long line to get in…and then a long elevator ride to the top because its 323 feet tall! There are 5 bells up top and they all have their own purpose. And wow…the view from up here is amazing! So worth the wait and the hefty fee.
Interesting fact: since all of Venice was built on soft ground supported by wooden piles, the yearly winter flooding has caused the campanile to subside and lean. They are currently fixing that, but it is still safe to climb..Phew!
Before meeting the rest of the group for our last dinner, Emily and I find a cute place that has a walk up counter where we can enjoy a spritz, a popular drink in Venice. It is Prosecco(white wine) mixed with Campari or Aperol(aperitifs).
For dinner, we end up at a place called Trattoria Al Gazzettino. It is very busy, as it’s one of the top rated restaurants in Venice. I choose pasta and wine…again. The food is great, the service is top notch.
Maybe a little pricey…but everything’s expensive in Venice. After dinner we wander back to St Mark’s Square and find a place close to the water for one last drink. It gets so quiet in Venice at night…it’s almost weird.
Back on the train, and I think my night is over…oh no. When we arrive back in Mestre, Vid takes us on a quest to find an Irish bar he’d read about. We can’t find it, so we settle on this other small pub we stumble upon. It seems like it’s mostly locals, and a fun atmosphere. We close down the bar and buy some bottles of wine for the walk back (like any of us need more wine). The direct route back to the hotel is blocked due to the train station being closed. I think I know the way, but someone in the group thinks she knows the correct way. I don’t want to be alone so I go along with it. And this leads to us being stuck on a massive highway overpass thing for close to an hour. Couldn’t find a taxi, walking through broken glass, rogue metal bars, garbage. NOT FUN. As you can imagine, I’m beyond mad at this point. But this story has a somewhat happy ending, as we eventually find our way back to the hotel. I sit outside and finish my wine with Vid on the front steps of the hotel. Didn’t go to bed until 530…omg what a night.
And that wraps up my Intrepid tour, Budapest to Venice. I think it is a fantastic itinerary…so many great places and just enough time to enjoy them. At times, the accommodation situation was a challenge and that would be my only real criticism of this tour. One more day to explore Venice and then I head back home to Canada.