Finally, I bring you…VENICE.
This was the last stop on our Italy trip and it definitely didn’t disappoint. We took the train again from Florence to Venice and the journey lasted around 2 hours. Tickets cost around €70 each but depending on when you book them, you could probably get them cheaper too. This journey wasn’t as pleasant as the Rome to Florence one because the first hour or so was spent going through tunnels. A lot of dark tunnels. After a while I started to feel really anxious because there was nothing to see outside the windows other than pitch black darkness. Every so often the train would peep out into the sunshine and I would see green fields and get excited but alas there would be another tunnel to follow. Of course my husband was not bothered by this in the slightest and was sleeping soundly in the seat next to me. Just to make you aware of this if like me the whole tunnel thing would bother you. Download something on Netflix if you don’t really like being on a train going through a dark tunnel for an hour – it will keep your mind off it! Thankfully I had downloaded Ojka on to my iPad and it kept me occupied…such an amazing film, by the way! But that’s another story.
After the two hour journey we got to Venice and it was truly something special. As the train pulls into the station you can see this great big canal right in front of you; a sight that you don’t see every day as you walk out of a train station. I’m used to Glasgow Central Station which has the Bank of Scotland opposite it. Wild.
Because of where Venice is geographically located it is pretty much surrounded by water which means there are no roads with cars. Now, I knew this before I went but it wasn’t until I got there that I thought about it practically. The main form of transport in Venice is by water. A private taxi boat or the public water bus. When I got there and saw the canal in front of me it sort of hit me then – oh wait, I have to sit on a boat. GULP. I should insert in here that I can’t swim therefore hate going on boats. I will go on them if they are quite big but small boats literally freak me out so I’m sure you’ve guessed that this caused a slight issue later on in this story. But, let me start with some practical advice about Venice!
As soon as you come out of the train station you will find an ACTV ticket kiosk right in front of you which is super handy. The ACTV is a vaporetto water bus which is the equivalent of buses and subways on dry land! You could also get a private water taxi to your hotel but they are absolutely extortionate. I had already found this out whilst looking up prices on the internet so we had decided that the vaporetto would be fine. Now, let me tell you that if we thought Rome was busy – Venice was twice as congested with tourists everywhere. We realised this within the first ten minutes! We bought a two day ACTV pass which allowed us to go on any of the water buses for 48 hours including the boats that go to other islands such as Burano and Murano! The 24 hour pass is €40 and the 48 hour was for €30. This genuinely was the best money we spent because we went to Burano and back and went all around Venice loads during the two days that we were there.Once we bought tickets we took the ACTV to St Mark’s Square (St Marco) stop as our hotel was just a 5 minute walk from there.
Few things to note about this experience:
· We had to wait around 45 minutes to get on to the water bus because of just how many people were waiting to do the same. I’m assuming it’s not like this when it’s not peak summer holiday season.
· It was absolutely roasting and we were all squished up together in this little hut that serves as the water bus stop. Kids crying, mothers screaming and me and Atteeq standing there with our three suitcases sweating our wee faces off.
· Once we got on to the water bus we couldn’t find a seat as again it was just packed so it wasn’t ideal because we were super tired but because it literally is a water BUS you don’t feel it moving around or anything so I was quite happy with the fact that although I had worked myself up about getting on to a boat, it was absolutely fine.
· The private water taxis driving past were literally ZOOMING past and I thought I would rather wait in scorching sunshine to get on to a water bus than to get a private water taxi that would bob around and I would probably just die on the boat.
· The water taxi took around 40 minutes to get to St Mark’s Square stop and a water taxi probably would have taken half that time. No regrets though. Of course the water bus takes much longer wherever you are going so if you have a tonne of money and aren’t afraid of going on small boats then the private water taxi is for you.
Venice is all cobbled streets and bridges and like I said there’s no cars to take you place to place so book your hotel wisely so you don’t have to lug your luggage around. Thankfully we got on to the water bus right out of the station and when we came off our hotel wasn’t a long walk away! We had booked the Westin Europa which is literally in the best location in Venice in my opinion because you get the most amazing view.
This view.We booked this hotel because it had almost perfect Tripadvisor reviews and the place certainly lived up to expectations. It was very central meaning we could walk to all the main sites or walk to the water bus station and get around that way. We spent a little while exploring the hotel and then went off to see Venice.
There are so many narrow winding streets that it does almost get a little claustrophobic when you’re walking through them just because of the amount of people that are there during the summer months. Other than this, I absolutely loved Venice and it was the perfect stop to end our holiday. We spent our last night in Italy sitting on the Grand Canal watching the sunset and it was just pure bliss.
Top and trousers – Zara
Shoes – H&M
Sunglasses – Aldo
Okay, so here’s the part about the boats that caused the problem. Our flight back to Amsterdam (on the way back to Dubai) from Venice was at 6.30am which meant that we needed to be there by 4.30am at the latest. We spoke to the Westin on the first night about how we could get to the airport and were told that the only way to get there from our hotel to the airport that early in the morning would be by private water taxi. Uh oh. Going on a super-fast boat in the DARK? Uh uh. Not happening. Other options were getting the ACTV back to the other end of Venice and getting a regular bus to the airport because there is a road there. BUT, the ACTV wasn’t running so early in the morning. I know it may sound silly but the thought of being on a small boat so early in the morning in the dark just freaked me out and it literally was the only way we could get to the airport at that time so we checked out of the Westin Europa after the first night and moved to another hotel in the Piazzale Roma area. It is right next to the bus station and it meant that we could wake up in the morning and get an actual car transfer to the airport on the morning that we left. We were gutted to leave the Westin Europa because it was such a lovely hotel but I was glad we changed because had I thought about the whole boat issue I would have booked a hotel in the Piazzale Roma area in the first place and just taken the ACTV to St Mark’s Square every day. Yes, it would have been around 45 minutes to get there every day but Piazzela Roma is the tiniest walk away from the train station. Hence, if you stay in this area then you are close to the train station and the roads to get back out of Venice via car or bus but if you stay in central Venice then you will be right in the heart of the city and won’t have to travel too far to get to the main places. FYI the private 30 minute water taxi from the Westin Europa to the airport would have been €180. Absolutely crazy right? The private car transfer from the hotel on the second night was €70.
My advice would be that staying near St Mark’s square is good if you’re there for a few days and want to be in the hub of everything. If you are there for a day or two then maybe it would be more sensible to stay near the train station or Piazzale Roma just so you can get in and out the city more conveniently.
A lot of you asked me about halal food too and let’s just say it’s again pretty much non-existent in Venice. We did however find a greasy kebab shop which was halal certified. I had lasagne on a disposable plate with a disposable fork and it was actually pretty good! Funny how normally I wouldn’t go near a place like that but after a week of Penne Arrabiata and Margherita pizza our hygiene standards dropped significantly. We needed MEAT!
I’m sure all those of you who follow me on Instagram and Snapchat know that I didn’t go on a gondola whilst I was in Venice. DUN DUN DUNNNNN!!!! I had absolutely every intention of going on one and getting that ‘sitting on a gondola on the Grand Canal’ picture but when I got there and saw those things rocking side to side I chickened out. I know, I know, I should have just faced my fear but I honestly don’t regret it. It looked so romantic but I was quite happy just watching other people sit in them.Overall, I loved Venice. It is exactly how it looks in pictures, if not even better.It’s quite an expensive city so prepare to spend a little more here than some other European cities. What I didn’t like about Venice was how water transport was the main form of transport and that if you’re staying in the centre of Venice and have an early flight, getting a car to the airport isn’t an option. It may sound silly to some of you but that is actually the main thing I didn’t like about the city. I know it’s silly because of course that’s just where it is located geographically so there’s not much we can do about it other than like it or lump it! I definitely liked it. Just next time, I will make sure we get a hotel at the edge of Venice next to a road where cars can drive around. On land.