Wednesday, December 31, 2014

INTREPIDLY, FROM BERLIN TO VENICE (Part 6): Second Time's Still the Charm in Venezia

(This is the final post of my Berlin to Venice trip series via Intrepid Travel. Do send me an email at for any questions or requests for travel tips - i'm perfectly willing to help)

So, we come to the final stop of our trip, Venice. This was the only city in our tour that i had previously visited (two years ago); but i was still giddy with excitement as we boarded the train from Bled, bound for Venice. 

Yes, Venice is crowded, expensive, easy to get lost in, very touristy; and depending on the time of the year, flooding at Piazza San Marco is a very real concern. Yet, it has so much charm, and is unlike anywhere else on earth. 

Throngs of tourists at Piazza San Marco

Feed the pigeons at your own risk (in front of Doge Palace)

Unfortunately, our stay in Venice this time around was very short (it was the last night of the tour, and we all went off our separate ways the morning after) So, total stay was less than 24 hours. Tsk tsk. 

Unlike my event-filled first time in Venice, wherein i rode the gondola (a must-try for first-timers, in my humble opinion), visited the outer islands of San Giorgio Maggiore (best to go on a weekend and join the tour inside the monastery), Murano and Burano (colourful houses and general lazing around), and joined the Secret Itineraries tour of Doge Palace (worth the money), this time i opted to just walk around and take in the sights and ride the vaporetto (i.e. public water bus with fixed routes and time schedules) and get down on the stops that seemed interesting. I did have a list of establishments that i wanted to try, too.

The (in)famous Bridge of Sighs

Entrance of Hotel Danieli - where Angie and Johnny stayed in the movie "The Tourist"

Gondoliers waiting for tourists like YOU!
I had mentioned that taking a gondola ride is a must for first-timers to Venice, not that it is the greatest thing on earth. Far from it, actually. It is expensive and unromantic (the gondolier does not warble 'O Sole Mio' unprompted), and one is probably better off walking. But one cannot really form a definitive opinion about it, unless one actually tries it. So, try it!

5 Gondolas in a row

Empty gondolas with the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the background

Speaking of gondoliers, these guys sure do know how to have fun. :D Check out this photo taken by my tour mate Maia: 

The timing of our stop in Venice was rather auspicious, as the Venice Art Biennale (a biannual celebration of art, architecture, music, theatre, dance and cinema) was ongoing. Here is one art installation in front of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church:

(Our stay was also a week after the lavish wedding in Venice of that actor who appeared in 'Batman', 'Oceans Eleven' and 'Monuments Men', Clooney whats-his-name)

Venice is perfect for taking long, aimless strolls - you will definitely get lost. But not to worry, just check out the brown signages on the streets to orient yourself and know which direction you should be headed. 

To Piazza San Marco

To Piazzale Roma (square where the bus station is) and Alla Ferrovia (railway station)

To the over-rated tourist spot, Rialto Bridge
As for buying souvenirs, caveat emptor! i'd guesstimate that most of the trinkets, accessories and leather goods being sold in stores along the main tourist strip probably come from China. And if you see African-American men peddling designer bags on the streets, these are definitely 100% fake and it is illegal to buy from them.

In fact, some shops have taken the step to put explicit signs regarding the provenance of their wares:


And eat as the Venetians do. Rather than a full sit-down meal, you can try as many cichetti bars (known as 'bacari') as you like. These are similar to Spanish tapas (small plates), and you eat standing up in a bar. Just point to whatever you fancy (the food is typically displayed on plates behind glass shelves), and move on to another one afterwards. There are many of these establishments in the small streets surrounding Rialto Bridge. 

Calamari on the go
One discovery (thank you very much, New York Times!) was Suso Gelatoteca, located at Calle Della Bissa. It is very hard to give exact directions on where it is, but it is quite near Rialto Bridge. 

As it was 11AM and there were no other customers, i was able to have a brief chat with the owner (the lady above), and she said this was their first and only branch in the world. 

They supply some other gelaterias with the regular flavors - fragola, tiramisu, vaniglia, limone, etc.; but some flavors are their exclusive creations, and only sold here.These are the more expensive ones priced at EURO2.00 per scoop - Manet (salted pistachio with chocolate-hazelnut gianduia), Opera, Napoleone, etc.

I ordered a scoop of the Manet. The flavors just explode in your mouth! Really rich and tasty! I would have brought home a gallon if it were only possible. 

Here's the link to their website - they don't seem to have Facebook, Instagram or other social media presence.

If all this proves to be too tiring, dear tourist, i would recommend riding the vaporetto (buy a day pass to save money!) and sitting back and let your mind adrift as you sail along the Grand Canal. Take in the chilly weather, historical buildings, general atmosphere, etc. 


You are in Venice, after all. 

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