Recapping our 3 days in Venice, Italy. Where to stay, eat and visit!
As soon as we stepped outside of the train station in Venice, I was awe-struck. I’d seen plenty of pictures of Venice but to witness it firsthand was completely different. No cars. Only boats. No roads. Only canals. My mind was blown. Before we left for Italy, I heard a number of people who said they didn’t love Venice because it was too crowded. While I totally agree that there are areas of Venice that make you feel claustrophobic, the charm and the quiet tucked away canals make it all worth it. I personally found it to be super charming and romantic.
Took the train from Lake Como –> Milan –> Venice (about 4 hours). Arrived at our bed & breakfast, B&B Corte Campana. This place was recommended by Rick Steves as a more economical lodging choice but Venice is expensive no matter which way you slice it. The place was tiny, only 3 bedrooms, and ours had a private bathroom down the hall. It has a very old, traditional Venetian feel to the decor. Aka if you want new and modern, this ain’t your place. But the thing that made this B&B stand out so much were the owners. Ricardo and Grace, husband and wife, run the B&B and they gave us the best local food recommendations that we otherwise would have never known about. They’re also just very lovely people – they’ll hang out with you during breakfast and chat about your plans for the day and will give you tips on transportation, dining, etc.
After we checked-in, we were hungry and ready for an appertivo. We walked toward the famous Rialto Bridge, crossed it and veered to the right to find a quiet spot on the grand canal with 4 bars in a row serving cicchetti (Venetian tapas). Rick Steves had recommended this spot for a good place to get a drink with a view.
After appertivo, we walked around St. Mark’s Square and decided to get pizza at Rossopomodoro, which specializes in Neapolitan pizza. This was probably my favorite pizza of the entire trip. It was topped with San Marzano tomatoes and coarsely grated parmiggiano reggiano. It was perfection. The heartburn I had later that night? Not so perfect. 🙂
Everything we read and heard about what do in Venice said the same thing: the best thing to do in Venice is to get lost. So that was our mission for day two. Visit the Frari Church (which Rick Steves has a free audioguide tour for) and get lost along the way.
But first I needed fuel. Breakfast in Italy was like a snack for me so I would usually be hungry for an early lunch. We headed to one of Ricardo’s recommendations for Venetian small plates, Bacarando in Corte dell’Orso. It’s tucked back away from a main pedestrian walkway so be sure to pin it on Google Maps before venturing out. We almost couldn’t find it.
But thank god we did because it was AMAZING. So good that we went back a second time the next day for dinner round 2.
They had a wide variety of skewers, crostini, flatbreads, and my favorite, these potato cups (the item in the back that has tomato and mozzarella on top). It was a base of shredded potato and then they would top it with different proteins and condiments. So good!
We went back for more. The tomatoes were SO flavorful. Just simply sprinkled with oregano and drizzled with balsamic.
After lunch, we ventured along our mission of getting lost in the city. The annual historical regatta was taking place the weekend we were there so it was fun to see the teams out on the canal practicing.
I don’t know what this church is below lol but I thought the contrast against the clouds in the background looked really cool.
After allowing ourselves to get lost among the winding alleys and canal ways, we set out to find Frari Church, one of the most prominent churches in Venice. I would say if you are going to listen to Rick Steve’s audioguide, it’s worth visiting; otherwise, I think you can skip it.
After the church, my post-concussive syndrome symptoms were starting to flare and I couldn’t handle the noise and stimulation of the city so we went back to the room for some peace and quiet. Eventually we ventured out for dinner and went to another one of Ricardo’s recos, Al Vecio Canton. We got the steamed mussels and clams which were loaded with garlic and lemon, just how I like them. We went early enough that we didn’t worry about making reservations but you might want to make them the day of if you’re planning to eat around 8-9pm.
Then we split the seafood risotto because Ricardo said it’s the best in Venice. It was pretty delicious but I didn’t try any others so I can’t say it’s the best but I trust Ricardo :).
After dinner we went to St. Mark’s Square to listen to the dueling piano bars. It’s like the OG Howl at the Moon lol. If you’re in Venice this is a must because 1. it’s free to listen (if you stand), 2. it’s a beautiful way to experience St. Mark’s Square lit up at night, and 3. it’s fantastic people watching.
We started the day off visiting St. Mark’s Basilica (we almost left because we were intimidated by the line but it moved pretty quickly). Rick Steves has a free audioguide for this church as well. For me, the views from the top of the church were worth the visit but I hear you can get just as good (if not better) views at the bell tower just across the square.
After the church, we set out on a half day trip to Burano, an island of Venice known for its colorful houses and lace making. But on our way to catch the ferry boat, we stopped at the coolest little bookshop. This place was piled high with books of all languages and filled with many, many cats lol (my kind of bookshop). But the best part was seeing the stack of old, weathered books outside in the back.
I was very happy we visited Burano. I would say if you have 3 days or longer in Venice, definitely venture off to the other islands like Murano and Burano. Murano is known for glass making and that is the island we heard most people telling us to visit but Ricardo and Grace said it’s industrial and not the prettiest to walk around and admire. They said if we were going to pick just one island, we should head to Burano. And given that it was the one of the most colorful towns I’ve ever visited, I’d have to agree with them.
Yes I did wear the same outfit two days in a row lol. The one thing about visiting churches in Italy they take modest dress v. seriously so your knees and shoulders have to be covered otherwise they will turn you away or make you put something else on to cover you. And this was the most lightweight thing I brought that fit the bill so outfit repeat!
We ate lunch at a restaurant Grace recommended that Anthony Bourdain ate at during an episode of No Reservations. RIP dear Tony. 🙁 We ordered the calamari (which some Americans behind us tried to order a side of marinara with and the waiter said no that’s for pasta lol).
And we shared a caprese salad. I could literally eat these every day for the rest of my life. Until I get heartburn again. Damn you tomatoes and your acidity! I actually had to stop eating tomatoes for a few days because of my GERD and it made me super sad.
That evening when we got back to Venice we had appertivo and then went to find a gondolier to take us on a gondola ride for our last night. Well just our luck it started raining as soon as we went to find one and apparently once it starts raining, all the gondoliers stop for the evening. So lesson learned: don’t wait until your last night in Venice to take a gondola ride. Don’t worry though, we took one the next morning before we left ;).
For dinner we stopped at two cicchetti bars, our modified and lame version of a “cicchetti crawl”. But we went to this super cute cicchetti bar called Osteria Sepa that only serves local wine on tap and apparently only hires super cute staff :). It’s okay, Steve is well aware of the crush.
The next morning before we checked out, we went to check our super touristy item off the list, the gondola ride. We went right as they open at 9am and we were in a bit of a rush to catch our train so when the guy told us the options for pricing (80 euro for 20 minutes, 120 euro for 40 minutes and 160 euro for 60 minutes), we pushed back but then finally caved when he wouldn’t budge. Here’s what you should pay: 80E for 30 minutes during the day and 100E at night time. When we brought this up to the guy, he insisted that these were the only options and that every other gondolier would tell us the same.
The gondola ride was lovely once I stopped fuming about the fact that he scammed us.
And here he is. If you see this man lol, run, run far away to another gondolier.
After that, we packed our bags and were off to Cinque Terre! One of my top two favorite spots we visited in Italy. Stay tuned for the recap!