Monday, 7 July 2014

Discovering Venice

As all famous cities are mid Summer, Venice is a gaggle of tourists and tacky souvenirs. So if you’re not into group tours of more than 50 people following around a red umbrella raised above some unenthusiastic man's head (I have no idea why people find this an exciting prospect) then don’t follow the crowd, discover the real Venice.

Myth busting- Venice is expensive, smells of sewage, and is full of sleezy Italian men.  Walk the tourist route and yes you’ll pay twenty quid for a microwave pizza, get a few stenchy whiffs, and those risqué shorts and strappy top will attract a good few romantic invitations. So opt for a local haunt, avoid the dustbins, try to avoid the school holidays... maybe go in Winter and wrap up warm. A year of living in the sinking city and you realise that if you dress and act like a tourist then you’ll get the tourist experience, but don some jeans, trainers, and an unstylish purple shiny puffer jacket and the locals welcome you as one of their own.
Drenched in rich culture and history, Venice is architecturally inspiring and atmospheric. After a wander around St Mark’s square and a vaporetto ride at sunset you’ll realise that it’s more fairy-tale than the Magic Kingdom.
To me Venice signifies sensational wines, timeless fashion, delicious food and cultural beauty. Oh, and a drunken Erasmus year spent ‘studying’ the local bars.

Considering a day in Venice?  Have a look at my day plan:
  • Begin the day early with a visit to a coffee and pastry shop. Tonolo, a local favourite hidden away by the university in Dorsoduro, serves fantastic coffee, miniature cakes and pastries which are so popular they often sell out by mid morning.
  • Beat the hoard of tourists spilling off the cruise ships by getting to St Mark’s basilica as early as possible, ideally 9am at the latest.  Soak in the beauty and opulent design of the city’s most famous church. If you have time, go to the top of the bell tower opposite for spectacular views over Venice.
  • Hop on a vaporetto (waterbus) to Ca’ Rezzonico and choose one of the local eateries to get a platter of ham and cheese accompanied by a glass of wine (don’t worry, drinking wine before midday is totally encouraged!)

  • Grab a gelato from the best ice cream shop in existence, Grom. You will have walked past it not long after you got off the vaporetto. Take full advantage of the free tasters while deciding your flavours. Enjoy this in the bustling square of Campo Santa Margherita which is an ideal spot to people watch.

  • Unless there is a particular gallery you want to see or if you’re feeling flush and fancy a cheeky gondola ride, I would spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the streets taking photos, getting lost and indulging in a few more drinks. Maybe stop for a few cicchetti (snacks),or  try a Mozzarella in Carrozza (fried Mozzarella sandwich)  unless you’re on a diet!

  • Jump on a vaporetto (waterbus) to Rialto bridge and take a snap of this must see bridge in its daytime madness.

  • You will have noticed everyone sipping on a fluorescent orange beverage... this is not lucozade. If you haven’t already had the pleasure, I introduce you to Spritz- sparkling white wine or wine and soda, with aperol (or campari if you have no tastebuds). Have one at Muro bar by Rialto bridge.

  • Find another local eatery and order a pizza. (Send me a message if you want a few recommendations) Wherever you end up, just make sure you don’t get a tourist menu as they are always poorer quality!

Got longer than a day? Try these too...

The small islands of Murano (famous for its glass) and Burano (famous for its lace and brightly coloured houses). Great for photographers and beautiful at sunset .
Lido beach. A great place to get away from the hype with a bottle of Fragolino.
Visit some of the many art galleries Venice has to offer.
Doge’s palace in St Mark’s square.
Go to the opera.
Giudecca’s women’s prison.
San Michele-The Cemetery island. A weird suggestion but really quite impressive.
Send me a message if you want any more tips!