Living a life in Venice
In the strong words by Indiana Jones “ Ah Venice” !! It is a strong statement to say but I couldn’t say it any better. I originally went to Venice in 1998 with my family and I remember my 8 year old eyes loving this wonderful place that was a maze, beautiful, quiet, unique and wet (as I thought it was a puddle so I wanted to show off my new boots we bought for winter, only to discover I was running through a flooded San Marco Square) I also remember the pigeons, as a treat we use to go into the square after lunch with left-over bread and place them on our arms and head to feed the pigeons, there are many a good photo of that but what I remember the most was my laughter and joy of discovering this incredible city.
It has been on my bucket list to revisit the city for years. Mum and I have been wanting to go to Venice Carnivale for an age so we finally said 2019 is the year. It was perfect timing as I was going back to Australia to be a Bridesmaid for my Best Friend’s Wedding, so Mum and I caught the plane back home to London and went to Venice asap.
It was perfect to fly over the Alps during winter as the snow capped mountains were stunning to see. Such a nice juxtaposition to the hot summer we had in Australia.
We went from the airport over to the quay for all the taxi/buses and boats into Venice. There are water buses from the airport that take you into the heart of Venice. We had prebooked a Water Taxi to drop us off ar our hotel in Venice which I would suggest for everyone to do. Not only is it extremely convenient but it was the perfect introduction to Venice as we got to speed across the lagoon and see the Grand Canal from the water.
We arrived at our hotel and WOW we did well with this booking. We stayed at the wonderful Sina Palazzo Sant’ Angelo right on the Grand Canal. It was the perfect location with San Angelo Water Bus Station 10 metres from the front door, San Marco Square a 15 minute walk away and the Ponte di Rialto a 10 minute walk away.
We were so spoilt as we were welcomed into our room with Champagne and Chocolate. A dressing room just the right size for our Costumes for Venice Carnivale, a jacuzzi in our Italian marbled bathroom, cosy dressing gowns to lounge in (and slippers which I have no idea where they are hiding in my house at the moment), not to mention the amazing breakfast we had every day. We felt like Queens living in this Palazzo.
Now a point I love to make when I travel somewhere new is; How do I live like a Local? Where is a local place to eat? How to visit this city without a map?
We had fun doing this for sure. Especially as the mist would fall on those cold nights and we strolled around the alleys finding our way back home. It was a perfect week in Venice with my mum for sure.
To live a life in Venice was easy for us as we got into the routine of Italian life and as Italian language filled our mouths again we were quickly speaking Italian to each other and using expressive hand movements. First thing to do was to wander to San Marco Square which gave us an understanding of the streetscapes and how to walk the street aka keep to the right, walking up and down the bridges & canals and turning down little streets. The trick to not getting lost all the time is by looking up on the buildings as they have arrows that point you in the right direction.
Once we got to San Marco Square the memories came flooding back to us; of all the beauty, the smell of the canals that are low, the gondolas floating in the water and the stunning buildings looking down on us. We were finally here and ready to enjoy the city.
We started of course with our love of food and we found amazing local places for food from local dishes to cakes and limoncello.
Ristorante Piccolo Martini - one of our highlights with amazing, delicious local produce. It has the feel of being in a local’s home with such a selection of traditional Venetian cuisine. I loved the Tuna Pizza, it just tasted of Venice.
Caffe Florian - The famous Cafe in the heart of San Marco Square. It is iconic of Venetian architecture as it looks ancient on the outside but has a wonderful rococo interior, It was made even better with people enjoying it with Venetian Masks on. The scrumptious Cakes really being the cherry on the top.
Hostaria Galileo - it was quiet hole in the wall and not at all what we thought it would be, but we adored it here. The waiters were so nice and we had such a delicious meal and only served the best of Venetian food.
Taverna La Fenice - Hidden underneath the shade of the iconic Teatro la Fenice which hosts some of the most spectacular shows. This restaurant takes you back to a bygone era where you can imagine people from the 18th Century dining here after a performance. Mostly locals come here with a large selection of local cuisine.
Giacomo Rizzo - Do you love pasta and cooking Italian, well this is the place for you. With such a huge variety of amazing different types of pasta made locally along with tomato sauces, oils, olives it is a feast for your eyes as you think of the feast you’ll get to eat later.
Nino & Friends - You will be instantly drawn to this chocolaterie by the chocolate waterfall in the front window. With such a selection of different treats from chocolate with hazelnut, pistachio, orange rinds even limoncello chocolate. Yummo! just treat yourself.
Bar Pasticceria Ballarin - The perfect place to live life like a local enjoying cake and coffee. It is the ideal place to enjoy a delicious espresso with one of the 100s of choices of cakes. You need to try the Carnival Venetian cake Frittelle, which is a pastry dumpling with raisins inside with sugar on the outside. Yum!
Grom Gelato - A place that sells the most creamy gelato. It is unlike any gelato we have had and we got to have cream ontop, come on! Talk about sweetness overload.
Aperol Spritz - You can find it in every bar you go to, it is the locals’ favourite drink so you must try it out. My mum sure did every day.
We loved walking around Venice, being able to walk off our huge meals and see the architecture of the city. As we turned a corner we would find a unique masterpiece of construction but most importantly the little shops that nested at the base of the buildings. We had such a shopping spree but we made a strong point of only buying local Venetian work or Italian as now it is fashionable to buy the cheap imported products (most masks that are locally made have a stamp noting it was made in Venice). When in shop do check and ask if it is made locally, as the shop owners want to sell you the real deal. As an artist myself I only want to support local artist. Here is a list of our favourite places we discovered.
Libreria Acqua Alta - A book shop that is really hidden in the streets, it kind of jumps at you. It sells a selection of artwork from the area, along with 2nd hand books and books on the history of Venice. We are both in love with history so it was incredibly hard not to buy books as all we could think was “Baggage Limit” but we got some amazing local artworks. The shop is incredible beautiful with a courtyard of a book staircase which is a bookworm’s fantasy. With a Gondola in the middle of the shop and a cat working the till, it is a highlight to see.
Paper Mache Venezia - One of the oldest Mask shops in Venice, this place has been making hand made & painted masks for a very long time. It is covered in a huge variety of unique masks, some simple & some covered in painted of the Grand Canal. If you want a traditional mask and a locally made one this is a great place to discover.
Gioie - Now this was a true gem. My Mum bought a Venetian watch 21 years ago made of Murano Glass and it has been her favourite thing for years, so we had to get another one and I bought one too at this amazing shop filled with the most stunning Murano Glass treasures and Glass Jewellery. With treasures ceiling to floor and a kind shop owner you will feel like a local every time. Now I couldn’t find a link but it is close to San Marco Square and next door to the shop below. Gioie; San Marco, 2429. 30124 Venezia.
La Ricerca - I have a love of books, the joy of opening them up for the first time, buying a journal and a lovely pen to write with. Well if you are the same as me this is a great place to visit. With books hand woven together made of the finest paper, hand marbled covers, wax and wax seals with charming pens. It will make you need to write about everything.
Venice Leather - Face pressed against the window saying “oooooh!” There is such a variety of beautiful handbags, some small or large, some in the colours of the rainbow. We did buy a few things that’s for sure. If I am buying a leather handbag in Italy, I want it made out of leather, something unique and well made. It ticked all of the above and I got to support local artist!!
Rialto 79 - One of the highlight jewellery and glass beads experiences we had in Venice. All the glass is made in Murano and each piece is unique. The lady who runs the shop makes some of the jewellery in the shop as well. We spent so much money there but we were so happy to as each piece was spectacular, not to mention the kindness of the shop owner. We loved spending time there.
La Moretta - This Mask shop is so charming filled with gold & silver lace, pearls and feathers. Every piece is a magical artwork and must be bought (if you have unlimited baggage allowance). When I go back to Venice I will be buying the biggest and most fabulous one.
The real thing to know to live life like a local is the mode of transport. Going up and down the Grand Canal and around the islands is by using the Vaporetto (water bus service) . Tickets can be bought at most docks (the smaller ones haven’t got the ticket booths, you can buy them in advance at any dock with a booth and remember to activate them as you board the bus). It is easily to use with frequent services, it really is a fantastic service. But if you just want to get to the other side of the Grand Canal instead of walking out of your way to a bridge grab a Traghetto. The Traghetto is an easy and cheaper way to cross the water with a single trip costing 2€. Traghetto docks are located up and down the Grand Canal, see this link. It is the way to truly experience local life.
I loved the way of life on the water, if you are up early enough you can see all the deliveries being made into the island as they negotiate their way around. Building works being thrown into a boat or a man pushing a trolley filled with all manner of crates. I wanted to share a fun fact I learnt which all makes sense on the front of a Gondola at the stern is an S Shape which is noted as the Grand Canal, with six teeth symbolising the six districts of Venice. The tooth that sits on the other side of the S Shape is the island of Giudecca. The curved top is the Hat of the Doge who governed the city of Venice for centuries.
Winter is the best time to visit as it is the low season. Sadly now a thing that effects the whole of the Mediterranean Sea is the cruise ships. Come Summer time the streets are unmovable in Venice as hordes of tourist fill the streets of Venice, making life hard for locals and for sight seeing. I feel that visiting in winter allows you to really see what a true life in Venice is all about.
We spent our days strolling around each corner bend and alley way, day & night. We got to see so much of this world which was so charming and an escape from the world we are use to. It transported us to another time, where I could imagine the frolicking of carnival in the streets, the long dresses being trailed behind, the beauty of each house with palace interiors and almost a simple life of pleasure. I loved the architecture of the buildings with incredible juxtaposition of the centuries and modern-day as the city slowly falls apart. Venice was on our bucket list but we both feel like it is going to always be on our bucket list and we can not wait to come back as soon as possible.
Remember to take your time and be Italian or Venetian, enjoying the simple life of strolling around Venice taking in all parts of this unique city on its 118 islands in the middle of a lagoon that was an incredible seat of power for 100s of years and enjoy the richness of everything around you. It is by far one of the best cities in the World.