What we did
We walked – a lot. With only 24 hours in the city we knew walking would be the best way to experience the city, which is so visually pleasing. (It’s worth noting that Venice feels very safe, even in the smaller streets at night, in the dark, and there isn’t any traffic on the pavements at all.)
We set off after breakfast around 10am, walking from the hotel to have a quick look at the outdoor market stalls before heading off to the San Marco area (one of the main tourist areas) via waterbus. We wanted to tick the ‘sights’ off so that we could spend most of our time simply soaking up the atmosphere.
We reached San Marco around an hour later and it was packed with tourists – not our scene at all, so we went swiftly through the square to marvel at the San Marco Cathedral (worth a look if you love architecture or have an interest in religion) but we moved on quickly to avoid the throng of people with their selfie sticks.
After that we simply spent time exploring the tiny streets (all pedestrianised as the transport system uses the canals), finding dead ends that met the canal (little nooks and crannies for water taxis to make their drop offs), and discovering both tourist shops and authentic Venetian boutiques. Of course, we ate lunch, and late-afternoon we found shade beneath a bridge to enjoy a pistachio ice cream and bottle of water, watching the world go by on boats and gondolas.
For us, 24 hours wasn’t enough time in Venice. There was more we wanted to see (such as Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, the Peggy Guggenheim museum, and Burano) and it would have been nice to spend more time exploring – and eating!
What we ate
Well, what didn’t we eat? We stuck to classic Italian food – pizza, pasta, gelato – and tried three restaurants in our 24 hours.
The first was Ai Tre Archi, located opposite our hotel on the other side of the canal. It was busy – always a good sign – and we could eat outside even at 9pm. He had carbonara with pancetta, I had fusilli with pesto and cherry tomatoes. Both were delicious, and a welcome treat after travelling all afternoon and evening. (Dinner was around 60 euros.)
The second was for lunch the next day. A peaceful pizza place in the prettiest plaza, Biarraria La Corte was recommended to me by a friend I met on a press trip – Madeleine is just lovely, and knows great food as her father has a very popular London restaurant. Of course, she was right – the pizza was light and fresh, everything you want in a pizza. You almost don’t feel guilty it’s so good. He had pepperoni, I had mozzarella, basil and tomato, and both were scrumptious. We also ordered chips and salad but, alas, we couldn’t eat it all no matter how much we tried. (Lunch cost 53 euros.)
(Side note: the staff were happy to box up any leftover pizza, which could come in handy as an afternoon snack or cheap dinner by the canal, should you be so inclined as to resist enough of it at lunch time.)
Finally was dinner on our last (well, our only) night. It was recommended by our hotel, a restaurant called La Bitta. We went by water taxi (costing us 60 euros, ssh, don’t think about it) so we could get there before 9pm (most places close the kitchen at 10pm) and when we found it we were a little disheartened; it was indoors (we wanted to make the most of alfresco dining), quite dark, and could almost have been a little pub or bar in any British village or town. We almost left, but with it being so late we stayed – and were we glad we did!
Determined to eat Italian food the entire time spent in Venice, we both ordered the tagliatelle and it was HEAVENLY. The portion wasn’t huge, which was fine because of our huge lunch, and it’s probably how you’re supposed to eat pasta rather than a huge bowlful that makes your tummy stick out for days. We enjoyed and savoured every single bite.
This restaurant is definitely one to visit when in Venice. It’s a family run place, with a hand-written menu each evening, and the service was amazing – friendly, welcoming, professional. I’d go back in a heartbeat. (Dinner cost 34 euros.)
After that dinner we had a gelato from Grom Gelato, just around the corner. He had chocolate and pistachio, I had chocolate and vanilla, and they were amazing. (They also cater for vegans/gluten free.)
Where we stayed
On the recommendation of PR friend we booked a superior double room at the Carnival Palace, a 4* hotel in the Cannaregio district. With a Venetian-inspired décor in modern, subtle hues of white and grey, it enough to set the mood without feeling old fashioned. The room was spacious, the bathroom, clean and fit-for-purpose.
At 150 euros a night, Carnival Palace was pretty mid-range, but it was exactly what we wanted – a decent hotel where we could relax for an hour or so and have a good night’s sleep.
If you’re just looking for a place to lay your head in between adventures, go for something a little cheaper. Likewise, if you want the full canal-view experience, expect to pay more.
- When you arrive at the airport, look for the waterbus/taxi signs – they’re light blue and easy to spot. The waterbuses and taxis leave from the floor above arrivals and there you’ll find the ticket office with a helpful attendant who thankfully spoke English.
The water bus cost us 15 euros each (single journey) and took around 25 minutes from airport into Venice. Luckily, our hotel was one of the first stops so if you’re further south in the city, the journey might be more like 30-40 minutes. Be aware you have to deal with your own luggage, and only around 20-30 people fit on one boat.
- Buy a daily waterbus pass. They’re 20 euros each but you can take any water bus, anywhere, all day long. It’s an efficient and cost-effective way to get around for just a day or so.
- The gondolas are all the same price, so don’t waste time bartering or looking for a cheaper one. 80 euros will give you half an hour on the canals but due to the nature of the water traffic isn’t guaranteed to take you anywhere in particular. So don’t take one expecting to get to your next destination – take it for the experience, the enjoyment, the romance, the photos.
- Water taxis do have varying fairs and both the taxi station and prices can be found at the main water bus station, Ferrovia (it’s also where the train station is located). They vary from 12 to around 100 euros depending on how far you’re going. We paid 60 euros and were on the taxi boat for around 10 minutes. However, it was worth it because it was the one time we felt truly part of Venice – in the heart of the city, with the canal beneath and all around us, the incredibly beautiful buildings on either side, with no distractions.
- Watch out for average restaurants. Do a bit of research beforehand and take the time to find the good recommendations because the good places are seriously good! Also, walking around finding the nice eateries is a great way to see Venice, and makes lunch or dinner even tastier after a stroll through the streets beside smaller canals. Obviously, canal-side experience is lovely but do take the time to go back a few streets for a better (and cheaper) culinary experience.
Images: Kris Miller.