The Meandering Canals and Bridges of Venice, Italy

Stop number six on our nine week summer vacation across Europe brings us to Venice, Italy!  After a two hour train ride from Milan, we arrived in Venice’s main train station around noon.  Quick trip recap leading up to Venice: we flew to Milan from Seville, Spain on a super cheap two hour Ryanair flight.  Earlier in our trip, we visited Lisbon, Portugal, then flew to Malaga in southern Spain before taking a bus to Granada, Spain.

Venice is one of those cities that everyone has heard about. Mostly good stuff. Some not so great stuff. It routinely appears in articles like “Top 5 European Destinations Everyone Must Visit”, so it’s a must see if you find yourself in Europe with time to spare, right? I’ve also seen Venice on several “Most Overrated Destinations in the World” lists.  How does one reconcile these two starkly contrasting ideas? Could Venice appropriately fit on both kinds of lists? I wanted to judge for myself so I made sure to book a couple nights in Venice so I could experience all the good and the bad that this canal-filled enclave has to offer.

Two nights seemed like a good bet.  I figured if I love Venice, I can always visit for a longer period on subsequent trips to Europe. If I hate it, I’ll be moving on to the next city in under 48 hours so the downside is limited.

You’ll have to read on to get a full report of my feelings on the city, but in summary I have concluded Venice fits best on the “must see” list due to the unique presence of canals and architecture that we didn’t see elsewhere in Europe.

 

The Grand Canal runs right down the middle of Venice.  It’s like a road paved with water.

 

Lots of canals, lots of bridges

 

Getting Around Town

Venice has to be one of the most pedestrian friendly cities in the world. There are no cars in the city because there are no roads! While there are tons of canals, the boat traffic on the water is physically separated from the pedestrian thoroughfares.

As a result, getting around town is a simple affair if you have two feet and the ability to walk a mile or two at a time.  From the train station, the Piazza San Marco and surrounding tourist attractions are only about a 30 minute walk (that will take you an hour or two because of all the cool buildings and canals you’ll have to admire along the way!).  Another 30 minutes and you’ll be at the far opposite side of Venice.

One of the many canals only accessible by boat.

Given the winding ways of the sometimes-dead end streets and the narrowness of some alleyways, you’ll get lost along the way. Which is half the fun of exploring Venice.  And you’ll undoubtedly struggle to find a way to cross the canals that frequently appear in your path.  Google Maps Walk Mode with GPS enabled is your friend in Venice.  And gelato. If you get tired, stop for some gelato and life gets better.

We chose to walk everywhere since we had a decently located Airbnb not too far from the main attractions of the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, and Piazza San Marco.  Dining was a breeze since there was a good takeout pizza place exactly 34 seconds walking distance from our Airbnb (I decided to time the walk after making several trips to this particular restaurant and thinking how short it was).  Kids love pizza; dad is therefore awesome.

Piazza San Marco. The largest open space in all of Venice.

 

The Rialto Bridge connecting the two main islands of Venice.

 

For those not up for walking, there are a few other ways to get around.  The water taxis will take you wherever you want to go but they are super expensive compared to land based taxis.  For a short trip you’ll pay USD$30-40 and there are upcharges for extra passengers, luggage, and waiting.  Slightly cheaper than water taxis but still expensive are the vaporettos, or water buses.  A single fare is USD$9 while a day pass with unlimited rides is slightly more affordable at USD$24.  If you’re staying for extended periods, multi-day passes work out to be almost reasonably priced on a per day or per trip basis.

Gondolas are another option to tour around the city but aren’t explicitly designed to transport you from point A to point B.  Fares vary but expect to pay USD$80-100+ for your group for 30-45 minutes.  This was a tempting use of $100 until Mrs. Root of Good reminded me about her and the kids’ severe motion sickness.  Boats and calm stomachs do not play well together in our family (and motion sickness meds lead to drowsiness).

Gondolas waiting to give you a tour on the Grand Canal.

 

The Bridge of Sighs. A popular spot for gondola-based sightseeing

 

Lodging for two nights with Airbnb

Lodging in Venice isn’t cheap.  Hotels for two or three people were $125-200+ per night and we would need two rooms for the five of us.  And those aren’t the really nice hotels nor are they conveniently located.

We managed to find a small one bedroom apartment with good reviews for USD$166 per night through Airbnb.  The living room came with a sleeper sofa (where we slept) while the bedroom offered a large king size bed for the kids. The bathroom was nice and spacious.  I don’t know if it was the fault of the owners, but we noticed a lingering sewage smell during our time in the apartment. It could be the city’s public works or it could be the apartment’s plumbing issues.

Bridge across the canal right next to our apartment.

Although the apartment came with a full kitchen, we didn’t cook while there. Instead, we relied on easy to prepare foods from the nearby grocery store (yogurt, fruit, pastries, cheeses, meats, and bread) plus ample takeout from the nearby restaurants.

Overall the apartment was a decent place to stay for a couple of nights, and proved to be a good value versus hotels (but very expensive when measured against the other places we rented in Europe).  If you want to give Airbnb a shot, click here to take $40 off your stay through this link.

Just another alleyway on the short path from the train station to our Airbnb. With my bookbag on, I had a hard time turning around in this passageway.

For budget travelers, one alternative to staying on the island of Venice itself is staying on the mainland. Hotels and restaurants are much cheaper just across the bay on the mainland’s “Mestre” district.  Trains run every few minutes from the mainland Venice Mestre train station to the Santa Lucia train station on the island and it’s only a 10 minute ride that costs less than USD$2.  You can wake up in a nice modern (inexpensive) hotel on the mainland, eat breakfast at a reasonably priced restaurant, then hop on a train to the island for a day of sightseeing.  Walk everywhere (or catch a water bus), see everything, relax, eat some gelato, and take the train back in the evening for a relaxing (and cheap) meal on the mainland away from crowds of tourists.  Rinse and repeat if you want multiple days touring the canals of Venice.  We opted to stay on the island itself for the experience, and I’m glad we did. But if you have a limited budget for a few nights in Venice you can really stretch your dollars by staying just across the bay on the mainland (where everything is half price).

It would be easy enough to stay on the mainland and come down to the waterfront in Venice on a day trip.

 

Grand Canal

Food in Venice

Though we stayed about 10 minutes away from the touristy parts of Venice, we were still within a few minutes of dozens of restaurants, bakeries and a small grocery store.  What can I say? It’s a small island so everything is necessarily nearby.

The neighborhood Co-op grocery store was our go-to place for fresh fruits and yogurts for breakfast and a container of gelato for dessert back at the apartment.  Prices were noticeably higher than everywhere else we visited in Europe but not out of line with the higher end grocery stores in the US.

The pizza place around the corner from our apartment was so inexpensive, convenient, and tasty that it quickly became our staple meal. I wouldn’t encourage eating pizza for most meals in general, but if you’re only in Venice for two nights and you love pizza, it’s a treat.  Just pretend you’re back in college.

Pizza from the corner pizzeria near our Airbnb. USD$12 for a mega-sized 18″ one topping pizza made from scratch (a few bucks less for the cheese-only version). More than enough cheese, pepperoni, and crust to stuff the five of us for under $25.

 

Mrs. Root of Good noted that we were near the water and therefore the seafood might be better than average in Venice.  She was busy resting her feet (we walked everywhere, remember?). Out I went in search of a restaurant that would sell me a few take out trays of some marine-based life form fried, sauteed, and/or steamed to perfection. This is harder than it sounds as apparently “take out meals” aren’t a thing at the fancy little cafes and restaurants lining Venice’s canals.  They have culinary standards and it would be insulting to stick their art-like dishes in a cardboard tray, or something.  To further complicate matters, it was only 5 pm and many restaurants close during the slow stretch between lunch and dinner with dinner starting at 6 pm or later.  Eventually I found a place that would stoop to my low cultural standards and slide their finest crustaceans into a to go tray in exchange for a few medium-sized euro notes (or a nice shiny credit card that offers reward points, in my case).

At USD$25 for the two plates, I think it’s still cost-competitive with US pricing for seafood and pasta though the portions were small by US standards. It was good but the pizza was better!

 

Gelato!! A trip to Venice wouldn’t be complete without a stop at a gelateria. We tried a half dozen flavors and thought some of them were outstanding. A large 3-4 scoop cone or cup was USD$3-4.

 

Nice quiet afternoon stroll along the Grand Canal.

Thoughts on Venice

First off, the negatives. Venice suffers from its own success.  It’s beautiful and everyone wants to visit which means you get to enjoy the company of tens of thousands of people, many of whom are just visiting for the day from one of the mega-sized cruise ships docked in the busy port.  The impact of the crowds is highly variable. On our first evening in Venice the crowds weren’t bad at all because everyone leaves in the evenings. It was almost quiet in places.  Even in the middle of the day, it was relatively quiet near our Airbnb since we weren’t in the middle of the main touristic areas and several minutes away from the Grand Canal that transects Venice.  But the most often visited sections of Venice were swamped with hordes of humanity walking penguin-style in the narrow canyons between the elegantly decaying buildings.

The Rialto Bridge area and the Piazza San Marco were the most cramped areas during the middle of the day.  We visited those places then moved on to quieter spots.  Some visitors chose to dine right next to the Rialto Bridge at one of the many sidewalk cafes. I don’t know how they enjoyed their meal given the urgency of thousands of people pushing their way along the sidewalk right next to them while the mild sewage stink of the canal danced a duet with the lingering clouds of cigarette smoke from the crowds passing nearby.

Looking down from the top of the Rialto Bridge. Both sides of the bridge are lined with shops.

The city is also slowly sinking into the bay (or is the sea level rising??) which makes the decay more evident. The ground level in many buildings is no longer habitable by humans (only by the canal water).  We didn’t notice any flooding when we visited but I understand it’s a big problem when high tide coincides with other environmental conditions.

What I’m saying is that I found the architecture and canals of Venice worthy of visiting in spite of the crowds of my fellow tourists making the experience less enjoyable for us all.  There’s nowhere else quite like Venice in all of Europe. Even the canals of Amsterdam (where we also visited) don’t compare to the sight of the tight-packed houses and shops lining the canals in Venice.

I’m 100% glad that we decided to spend a couple of days in Venice. It was one of those cities we considered cutting from our 14 city tour across Europe since it often made the “overrated tourist trap” lists.  I still think it’s a tourist trap in a way, but with merit. It’s amazing. Around every mundane corner is a picturesque winding alleyway with a narrow bridge crossing a murky canal. It’s definitely worth a 2-3 day visit if you find yourself in this part of the world.

Will I be going back some day? Yes. Hopefully in the off season when it’s less crowded.

How can you not love this place?

 

 

What is your preconception of Venice? If you visited, how did you like it? 

 

 

Check out the whole series (so far) of our nine week European family vacation:

 

58 comments

  • Venice is on my list of places to visit. It looks absolutely amazing. My wife on the other hand has visited before and she rated it as one of her most overrated city. So I guess it’s true when you say it falls in both the most see and most overrated cities rankings 🙂

    • I totally get the negative reviews claiming it’s overrated. I liked it but not sure I would want to spend a ton of time there. Definitely unique in its beauty though.

  • I’d love to go there sometime. Were you able to see the MOSE project while you were there? I saw it on some cool Engineering projects TV show. It’s designed to protect the city from flooding. Overall Venice certainly seems like a great city to visit for an Engineer.

    It’s interesting how different cultures evolve. I couldn’t imagine restaurants closing in the middle of the day here, or a city without cars, Although I suppose Mackinaw Island here in Michigan also has no cars.

    • Didn’t see the MOSE project. I just read about it a couple days ago while researching for this article. Sounds like a super expensive project for limited value.

      The restaurant closing thing was fairly common across Europe. Def. a cultural thing.

      The no cars wasn’t too weird because there are other places where small areas of the center of town are car free. But it’s a 2×3 mile island with no cars. Pretty neat when you think about it.

  • Nice Justin! I absolutely love Venice…. to me it’s one of those places that you hear about and see and you think “can it ,em>really be like that? All those canals?” And then when you get there you realize it’s even more like that! It’s kind of a caricature of itself.

    I think the reason I love it so much is what you mentioned at the beginning – no cars. When you spend a week on Venice walking around enjoying life, it’s peaceful. You can walk down any street and you stop looking to see if you’ll be run over and killed by a 2-ton box of metal. It’s bliss in that regard.

    Great pics!

    • Leading up to the trip to Venice, I remember sitting on my couch at home in Raleigh and Google Streetviewing through the streets of Venice all along the canals. Just smiling the whole time because it looks so cool even in virtual form. The real deal is even cooler of course. It’s like a real world DisneyWorld but way bigger.

  • Nice and honest review of the city, we might end up there too this spring, so this is rather useful! Thank you. Pretty pictures too!

  • Great post and nice pictures. Venice is such a cool city.

    I hear you on the lists you mentioned. Some people love Venice and others consider it an expensive tourist trap. I have no qualms with Venice from what I’ve heard from others, but I do think I’d prefer Florence between the two.

  • Thanks for addressing every side of a visit to Venice! I don’t think it’s in my future; it looks beautiful but I worry I might be soured by the overall experience, and would prefer to keep it idealized, if that makes any sense.

    That said, if you haven’t been there, you might check out Bruges someday. Seems like it’s much of the experience and romance with far fewer tourists and less expense. Also ridiculously gorgeous. https://photos.app.goo.gl/z3YXm62yV3Fz93y23

    • I know what you mean – you don’t want to ruin the myth with the reality. 🙂

      I have heard of Bruges. There was a movie set there not too long ago. Looks nice though more similar to Amsterdam than Venice.

  • Venice was my favorite city from our trip to Europe this summer and we were in a lot of different countries.
    Thinking about going back in a few weeks.

    How does your wife and your kids do on the cruise ship if they get motion sickness? I have put off a cruise for that reason. We took the private water taxis and it wasn’t an issue for me at all.

    • They take the seasick meds (the “less drowsy” version) as needed. Which is every day for Mrs. Root of Good and one of the girls. They do well with that but it does lead to drowsiness. Didn’t want to suffer through the drowsiness and lethargy while trying to squeeze in sightseeing in Venice!

  • Great information, Justin. As you suggested, visiting Venice during the off season may be even better. The canals look lovely. Does the water in the canals smell bad? Any issue with mosquitoes? I like to visit it someday.

    • I didn’t see any mosquitoes really, which was surprising. The canal water was pretty gross looking. Full of algae. Some smelled fine, others stunk mildly of sewage. A bigger stinky problem was public urination since they charge almost USD$2 to use the public toilets.

  • Venice has slightly less crowds occasionally but no true off season…
    With that being said, walking around the far reaches, the other islands, and especially walking in the rain, you catch a glimpse of what it was like before the hordes of tourists and back when it was the center of a maritime trading empire…
    I’m glad you all enjoyed it… Amsterdam and Bruges are lovely canal cities too as folks have mentioned, but completely different.

    • I kept thinking about the history and its glory days 400+ years ago. The wealth was apparent from all those impressive old buildings lining St Marks Square and the grand canal.

  • I’m from Venice and now living in Rome 🙂 Happy that in the end you liked my city, even with its drawbacks.
    Personally I love it but of course I’m biased. It’s also very different now compared to when I was a child (uhm… more than 40 years ago). Crowds are much much bigger, and local people are moving away to the mainland because house prices go up and everyday shops close to make way for bad quality restaurants and souvenir shops selling made-in-China “Murano” glass objects 🙁
    Anyway, I still find it has a magical atmosphere at night, with the fog or on the very rare occasions when it snows. It’s a very nostalgic and melanchonic place (it that a word?).

    As for avoiding the crowds, I would recommend going out of season – if you can call it that way, it’s always full of people – in November or January-March, excluding the Carnival period.
    As you said, even in the most packed days you can easily find areas with less people just by moving away from the main tourist attractions. I personally like the Madonna dell’Orto area.

    It’s a shame you did not try the tramezzini, a triangle-shaped sandwich that you can find almost everywhere in Italy but is very different in Venice and its surrounding, with a much bigger filing that makes it resembling a small mountain. It’s hard to describe, you can see a photo here:
    http://www.grillivenezia.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Tramezzini.jpg

    Sorry for the long comment, I could write pages on Venice 😛

    • The word is “melancholic” – a melancholic place. Yes, I see that. In wikipedia Venice was described as experiencing “elegant decay” – it looks prettier over time as it shows its age.

      I didn’t see the triangle shaped sandwiches while there. It seemed like 90% of the restaurants served pizza or some form of seafood pasta.

      • You can find tramezzini in bars, not in restaurants. They are a sort of cheap and quick lunch (if you buy 2-3 of them) or just a snack in the middle of the day. They cost less than 2 euro each and I usually feel full with of them in my stomach so it’s actually quite cheap as a lunch! 🙂

  • One of my favourite things about Venice is the pedestrian-friendliness. It’s so nice to not hear or see a single car around. And of course the canals were just gorgeous.

    Like you, I wasn’t a big fan of the crowds either, but that happens anytime you go to a frequently talked about travel destination.

    Glad you guys enjoyed your time there!

    • Yes! It was a blast. And not needing to worry about kids running across the street in front of cars was nice too. But after leaving Venice we were happy to be headed to slow paced, low key Slovenia.

  • Venice is beautiful. Everyone should go before it sinks in the next few decades. Looks like you had a ton of fun, Justin!

  • We went to Venice for part of our honeymoon for 4 days. On the last day when we had to get to the train station in the morning to go to Cinque Terre, we were informed that there was a public transportation strike so none of the water buses were running. We were staying near St. Mark’s square and it would have taken us at least 1.5 hours to get to the train station while carrying our suitcase. We weren’t very impressed at all. Fortunately, we found a few other tourists and hired a water taxi together.

    Venice is very pedestrian friendly for sure but I was not a big fan of the crowds, especially at the popular Venice spots. I found it was actually really lovely to take a stroll in the evening when most of the tourists are gone (seemed that not many ppl actually stay on the island).

    • We enjoyed a nice quiet stroll the first evening and were surprised that there were no crowds. Then the next day we headed into Tourist Central and found all those crowds we were missing.

      Too bad about the transit strike. At least the taxistas kept operating.

  • I adored Venice! I don’t think it’s possible to take a bad photo there. I went 2 years ago on a tour in August and we stayed 2 nights in a hotel a block away from the Piazza San Marco. We were gone during the day and just came back in the evening, so we didn’t have to battle too many crowds. It’s a shame you didn’t get a gondola ride – it was one of my highlights.
    Like you, I’m planning on going back.

  • I visited Venice as a 16 year old – it was amazing! I remember having very similar thoughts then and it’s a memory my dad and I will always appreciate.

  • Beautiful pictures from your journey Justin! While I hate crowds, I definitely think Venice is on our must-travel destination list.

    Those canals look gorgeous!

    Was there enough to do for your kids? Did they get bored of looking at old buildings and canals?

    My boys are pretty young, and I doubt they could appreciate Venice’s great beauty. We’ll probably have to wait a few years.

    • I think they enjoyed it pretty well since there’s a ton of variety and you’re constantly going up and down bridges over canals and winding through passageways. The long walk back to the apartment on the 2nd day was exhausting I’m sure (google said 25 minutes; 1.3 miles I think, but it took longer). Gelato pit stop helped. Your kids might like it if they enjoy being near the water and exploring. It’s like being in a video game.

  • Venice is on my bucket list, though future trips to Europe are going to have to wait until our family gets better at traveling. My 1 year old is not at all interested in screens and so long periods of sitting (I his case 30+ minutes) can quickly turn ugly. The kid just wants to be on his feet running and climbing, and I can’t blame him. Also, the importance of nap time make it critical that I keep my expectations simple while I have kids under 4.

    I’d be interested in learning how you coped when your kids don’t want to be in a car/plane anymore.

    • “I’d be interested in learning how you coped when your kids don’t want to be in a car/plane anymore.” Cookies? 🙂 That was our kid’s favorite word when he was 2 and we were driving the ~16 hours over 2 days on the way back from Quebec City in Canada to Raleigh. Cookie Cookie cookie!

      It’s tough at 2. A lot easier at 3. And by 4 our little guy was a champ. Being out of diapers and getting to the point of being able to let you know more than 2 minutes ahead of time when it’s time to go potty is a big deal. Also speaking enough to communicate what’s bothering him is helpful (tired? hungry? itching? too much noise? too hot/cold? feet hurt from walking? etc). And the naps get so much less important as they get older.

      We lucked out on the plane to Europe and back. 8 hours each way but our little guy did fine at age 5. They have the seatback tvs and games and he slept a lot (the trip to Europe is overnight therefore a lot easier IMHO). We didn’t attempt any long flights before age 5. The only other longish flight was 4 hours nonstop from Charlotte to Mexico city at age 3 and it was easy. A few snacks and a drink or two, a couple trips to the bathroom and boom we’re in Mexico by lunch time. The most stressful part of the flight was walking what seemed like 2 miles through the airport terminal in MEX, then his nose started bleeding profusely right as we exited the airport!

  • Looks like an amazing trip and now I am hungry for pizza. Venice is definitely on my list.

  • I have followed your blog for a while now, always reading your monthly financial updates, which I really like. This is the first travel post that I have read (I’m not a huge traveler), and I have to admit that it is pretty inspiring to think that I can have fun, long vacations around the world without ruining my financial goals. The pics are great too!

    • We are surprised at just how cheap traveling can be if you aren’t in a hurry. When going into early retirement, I kind assumed something like spending the summer in Europe would be a budget buster and something that’s more of a “once in a lifetime” type of trip. Now that we’ve done it and we know it can be done for $8500 out of pocket (or maybe $15000 if we paid full price for plane tix instead of using frequent flyer points for free flights). We could literally do this kind of trip every year with our $10,000/yr travel budget (if we laid off the cruises during winter 😉 ).

  • We loved Venice this past summer. We lucked out as it wasn’t too hot. We did rent a nice 2 bedroom in the center of everything for a reasonable price. Wondering around was fun. Thank god for google maps and the fact it will work on my phone without cell service or we would have been constantly lost!

    I have to admit I expected better food from all the stories you hear. It was awesome but it seems to all be commercialized.

    Loved exploring all the Churches and neat architecture. I didn’t notice any smell while we were there but I know people talk about it. I think they have updated their garbage collection system.

    I was shocked by how expensive though water taxi’s are. Also getting out of Venice airport is a chore.

    • Google maps offline + GPS on phone makes modern exploring and traveling so much more fun and simple! It’s easy to get lost and not worry about it because you can always follow the little blue dot on your phone screen.

  • Venice looks awesome, and I hope to get there someday. The water does look a little questionable however we do know where the fish go to the bathroom, so…
    It’s probably one of those places we would visit just for a few days due to the expense, and take a lot of pictures for memories!

    • I hope it’s just fish bathroom usage making those canals so green and murky… 😉

      Yes – definitely a place to visit for a short while and take lots of pics.

  • I loved Venice. I didn’t think it was crowded at all when we visited in 2003. We stayed in an apartment near San Marco. It was awesome. I really enjoyed Venice at night when a lot of the tourist were gone. It was a magical place.
    I remember thinking that food was expensive, but it’s probably because I was really cheap back then. Your food expense sounds pretty reasonable.
    We didn’t do the Gondola ride. Next time…

    • It’s definitely one of the more expensive places we visited but by avoiding dining in the most touristy places, we managed to eat pretty well without paying a ton of $$.

  • Good read. Can you indicate the name of the pizza place you referenced? We are going in May and would like some budget friendly options.

    • It’s called “Pizza 2000”. Very small hole in the wall kind of place. No real dining room but they have a couple of barstools and maybe a tiny table inside the tiny ordering area. There are some courtyards and benches nearby or you could sit in some doorways and eat like I saw some folks doing.

  • We went to Venice during the rainy season, and for us it was a great decision. Prices were much cheaper on everything and it wasn’t crowded. But bring your sense of adventure. Everything floods, but the locals are used to it. For example, small elevated walk ways were put up in Piazza San Marco for people to walk around when it flooded. The water recedes each day after a few hours. For us, we don’t mind walking around in the rain and I really don’t like crowds, plus I’m pretty frugal so it was great.

    • Sounds like a good trade off for you! Less crowds, more rain and flooding. That would be a tough trade with us and our 3 kids. They would be soaked within 2 minutes!

  • I am so wary of the smell. Katherine Hepburn permanently damaged her eyes when she fell into the water with her eyes open for a film.

    I do wonder what the place will be like in 10-20 years. So much is changing about our cities’ interactions with water.

    • That sounds so gross. 🙁 I’d hate to fall in the water but can’t imagine it is that dirty! Regardless, I’m glad none of us made an unexpected journey into any canals while in Venice.

  • My wife and I visited Venice in May of ‘16 during a 6 day trip to Italy. It’s definitely a beautiful place to go, but like most said a lot more enjoyable at night when the crowds are gone. I didn’t think the smell of the water was very noticeable to be honest. We stayed in Mestre and took the train to the island both days and it was a short trip to save some money. I highly recommend a little place called All’ Arco for a cheap lunch. They have really good/cheap sandwiches and wine and is a small family owned place with a friendly staff.

    Having said all this, it didn’t compare to Florence. I can’t imagine there’s a more beautiful city in the world than Florence. Also, Rome is a city everyone should check out if you’re in Europe in my opinion. There’s just so much history and really cool sites to see.

    • I need to spend more time in Venice, particularly in night. Didn’t see a ton of the cool places at night on our short visit.

      And thanks for the recommendation on Florence. I keep hearing good things about it.

  • Used the Hilton Honor Reserve Card for two free nights at the awesome Venice Hilton, http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/italy/hilton-molino-stucky-venice-VCEHIHI/index.html. Skipped the traditional touristy gondola ride, and for the same price took gondola rowing lessons for my family of five in less crowded canals and the lagoon.

  • I really miss Venice. In 2013, my company sent me to Pisa for a 3-week training program. I used the weekends for day trips to other cities like Rome and Florence. But it was Venice that I fell in love with.

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