Adult Sandcastle. Corfu, Greece.
Forgotten history in Palermo, Sicily
Statue in Palermo, Italy
Market in Palermo, Sicily
An Italian card game! Scopa!
I moved to Venice, Italy in September of 2011 and over the last six months I have experienced so many magical things in this city. Really, I can’t imagine another city like this one. Every day I discover something else new and breathtaking if I take the time to stop and turn. Imagine a city without cars, motorcycles, or bikes where the only options to travel the city are by foot or water-bus (vaporetto). I could spend hours talking about bridges in Venice for example, or door knobs, or drying clothes on the line.
Here I will give you to share with your friends a one-day guide to make the best of your trip to this city, my second home! Of course I advice you to stay as long as you can. ;) Find me on couchsurfing.org.
From the train station, Ferrovia. Hop on the waterbus in front, line 2, that goes to Rialto. You could pay 8 euro for it, but this line is short so they will probably never check. Personally I take this when I have a lot of luggage and have never been checked for a ticket. Act like you own the boat, and everything will be fine. I mean, don’t raise a pirate flag and climb on top yelling the boat is yours. This would be very destructive to your day in Venice as you will certainly be reprimanded and forced to spend one to two days in some shitty Italian police station dealing with bureaucratic bullshit with officials that don’t speak English very well. Yet, you would have a memorable experience in Venice and a good story, maybe not so bad.
On the vaporetto (water bus) fight for a spot in the back where there are open-air seats. Here you can experience taking a boat down the river and see all the old grand palaces along the canal. The price beats the 60 euro gondola. Just stick your face high into the air and sing “Volare” and it will be pretty much the same thing.
You can’t miss the Rialto stop…it is the first stop from Ferrovia, and also you will see the huge white marble bridge that is an iconic Venice site. From the stop walk to the left and climb to the top of the bridge. Stop and appreciate the view. Warning: it will be very crowded and also don’t buy anything in this area because it is all over-priced and low quality, unless you don’t like money. In that case, feel free to buy Venetian masks and gifts from home. Typical Venetian gifts: mask, Murano glass, miniature gondolas, shirts with rats on it, and squishy tomatoes and pigs (toys) you can throw on the ground really hard.
When you are done writing love poems from the top of the bridge, turn around and go back the way you came and walk towards a large shopping street. If you like shopping Promod to the left is a good store. Eventually, walk to the right towards San Marco. Brave the labyrinth of Venice and attempt to follow the signs to get to San Marco. Note: A map is a good thing to get in Venice, but be very attentive as many streets finish onto a canal, and thus a dead-end. Always in Venice you are so close to where you want to go, but so far. It is better just to appreciate always directly where you are.
SAN MARCO. This is the biggest square in Venice. Enter the duomo (church) for free and look at the the glimmering gold ceiling. You have to pay to see the treasure and to climb the clock tower. Don’t do either of these. Why would you give money to see more money? Also, there are other less-known locations where you can get a birds-eye view of Venice (we will see this at the end.) In San Marco there are also some really nice museums that are about 8-10 euro entry. Remember to ask for student prices if you have a student card. For example, right now at Museo Correr there is a nice exhibit of Klimt. Also there is the Doge’s palace to the right of the church that you can go check out. Pretend you are really fancy for a brief moment. In the piazza you can play with pigeons, or as I prefer watch people play with pigeons. Resist all temptation to buy anything here, it will be RIDICULOUSLY expensive.
Now walk towards the water and you have the option to go to the left and see the gardens, the only green space in Venice. But honestly, if you only have one day this can be skipped. It is a really relaxing place to go and sit on a bench or play soccer and the only field of grass in Venice.
Next walk to the right along the water and follow sings for Accademia (another bridge in Venice, what a surprise!) Honestly, this bridge though is really interesting and rivals the more celebrated Rialto. To get to Accademia work your way always away from San Marco. Ask for Campo S. Stefano.
Campo San Stefano is also a very interesting place for two reasons. One there is a gelateria when you first enter to the right called Gelateria S. Stefano. Go inside and get a gelato da passeggio and don’t sit at the tables (you pay more for a table in Italy.) Instead sit on the statue in the center or on one of the benches. Another oddity of this campo is the crazy store to the left. You can’t miss the neon lights. For those brave of heart, enter the store and check out all the weird things they have to offer. Don’t be fooled though, these things are very expensive. Next walk past the crazy store along the church and a big museum to arrive at Accademia.
From the top of this wooden bridge look towards the lagoon and take it all in. You will see a round church called Maria della Salute. This church was built for a Saint that saved Venice from Plague. Once a year the Venetians have a festival for her and build a temporary floating bridge that goes to the church. Everyone in the city goes to the church and lights a candle for the Saint and for health. The church is very beautiful inside. After praying and lighting your candle and listening to old men singing there is a fair of balloons, donuts, and sweets. This seemed odd to me, that you would eat a bunch of junk-food after lighting a candle for your health. Maybe the prayers that day will protect them from obesity so they can eat whatever sugary delights they want.
Now cross over Accademia and go to the left and follow signs for the Guggenheim museum. This museum is very good for contemporary art. But there is another very nice thing this way. Walk as far as you can to the left looking for Il punto della dugana. This is the end of the island, completely surrounded by water. Sit here and smoke a cigarette or watch some seagulls. On this point there is a statue of a little boy holding a frog. It is from one of the Bienalle at Venice, a yearly exposition of contemporary art from around the world that happens every Fall.
Now you might be tired, and probably really hungry. So turn around and walk towards Zattere along the water. You will pass Gelateria Nico where you can take your second gelato of the day! As before, resist sitting at the table!!!! Keep walking along the water and find Pizzeria Ae’oche where you can sit down and eat a good pizza for 7 euro. There is a really large variety here and you can sit outside as well. After the pizza keep walking straight and enter the student district where the prices are better and you can have a drink!!
You will have to turn to the right and pass different parts of the student university. I suggest the cafes here because the prices are better and the coffee is good. Students need coffee. In Italy they have a developed coffee culture. Take an espresso and put some sugar in it (I drink without). Drink the hot, bitter energy quickly to give you some energy to go drink some Spritz!
Now find your way to Campo Santa Margherita where all the students hang out. Here you can try cichetti (Venetian tapas) or tramezzini (sandwiches). Don’t forget the Spritz!!!!! Spritz is a drink made with a bitter base, prosecco, and sparkling water. For the base you have three choices: Aperol (sweeter), Campari (stronger and potent), or Select (a mixture of the two.) A spritz is not complete without an orange and olive inside. Don’t pay more then 2.50 for a spritz as a rule, you can find them even for 1.50, but generally they are 2 euro. In Campo there are many bars and young people hanging out in the square. Try a lot of different places and then take a pizza slice from Pizza a volo.
For Venice, the bars in Campo close at midnight. There is a law that mandates this due to noise levels that bother the residents. It is a pain in the ass when you want to party, but these people have to live here so we have to respect their desire to sleep after midnight.
At this point you can go home, or you can go to the only disco in Venice called Piccolo Mondo. I don’t recommend this place, but if you want to pay 10 euro and dance then go ahead. It will close at 4. It is near Accademia.
Now when you are leaving Venice make sure to head to Piazzale Roma to the left of the train station. Here is where you will find the only cars in Venice. Go to the parking garage and take the elevator all the way to the top. From the top you can get a view of the whole city for free and as a plus, they have free bathrooms here!
In Venice I suggest you to connect with someone from Couchsurfing that knows the city. They will be able to show you their life here and you won’t get lost, at least not as much (after six months I still get lost sometimes in the more residential areas.)
If you are here in Venice for more then a day you should make sure to see Cannaregio and the Jewish Ghetto, a part of the city I find to be the most beautiful. On Misercordia there are some really good bars and restaurants with decent prices. Check out Paradiso Perduto for a very Italian experience. They have live bands on Sundays and Mondays.
Also you can take the water bus to visit the cemetery island where you can take amazing pictures. There is also the islands of Murano, Burano, Giudecca, and Lido. There are way more, but these are the four principal ones. Murano is not so beautiful, but famous for its glass making. Burano is very colorful and has home-made lace and it is a good place to walk around. Giudecca, eh, you can leave this behind. Finally Lido has THE BEACH!!!!
Anyways, come to Venice, drink a spritz, and enjoy getting lost in a city that in 100 years may be submerged in water.
Here are some of my very good friends in Venice and some Couchsurfers that came to visit. This is from Easter!! We ate lots and lots of food at the house of my Italian friend then went out in the city. Really good memories and my favorite Easter by far.
O invece un latte macchiato con ristretto…
One of my favorite places in Venice. Remer is an ostaria in a small hidden square right next to the grand canal. On Saturday nights you can buy a drink for 5 euro and have an all-you-can-eat buffet of pastas and random appetizers. Take your food and drink and sit on the pier with you feet dangling over the grand canal…amazing.
Hungarians do desserts, really well :)
A really cool synagogue in Budapest
My frineds and I in Budapest
An unmarked Holocaust memorial along the Danube in Budapest