Most of my friends who had been to Italy would surely recommend Venice as a must-visit city in Italy. A city that is known as a romantic place for couples, a city that is surrounded by sea and canals, no road for vehicles, only walkways for pedestrians and bridges to cross.
We reached Venice by high-speed train from Milan. The journey was about 2 hours and 25 minutes. The train ride was comfortable and fast. I bought the train tickets a few months ago before my trip and it was cheap (more than 50% discount on the original price). So if you plan to travel in Italy by high-speed train, do buy your tickets online earlier by 2 months, you will surely get a good deal. Because of the heavily discounted tickets, we could afford to sit in the premium class instead of the standard class coach.
When we reached Venice Santa Lucia train station, it was mid-morning. So lugging our luggage, we crossed a bridge to the opposite side of the train station and walk to our hotel. Do take note that Venice has a lot of bridges, so try to keep your luggage light so it is easy to manoeuvre to your hotel and to the train station.
To see this UNESCO World Heritage site, the best way is by walking and this was recommended to us by our hotel concierge. There are other ways, such as vaporetto (water buses) and gondolas. But by walking, you get to see the details of every architecture and enjoy the atmosphere. Slower pace but greater details.
Piazza San Marco
The first place that we visited was, of course, the central square Piazza San Marco. To me, that was the most crowded place in Venice. If you like to see the place of actions, this is the place to be. It is also the only piazza in Venice, the rest are called “campo”.
Piazza San Marco contains St Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile (bell tower) and the Torre dell’ Orologio (clock tower). At the square, I could see a lot of people gathered at the piazza, admiring the four horses at the rooftop of the basilica. The long queues of tourists, waiting to enter the basilica. People taking photos of the St Theodore statue on the western column and Lion of Venice on the eastern column.
While waiting in line to get into the basilica, my travel partner went to the nearby cafe to buy coffee. In Italy, if you drink coffee while standing at the counter or tall table, the coffee price is lower as compared to sitting down.
The highlight of the basilica, to me, it’s the rooftop where you get to have a bird’s eye view of the whole piazza. The view is just magnificent.
Next to the basilica is the Doge Palace. This gothic architecture from the 14th century used to house Doge’s apartment, public offices, courtrooms, prisons, stables and armouries. Over the years, it had had fires that damaged the building and reconstruction works done. Renovation works were commissioned too to expand the building. Because of the expansion, the palace had a new wing to house the prisoners. And there goes the famous Bridge of Sigh to connect the new prisons to the courtrooms.
I could understand why they named it the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri). When I walked past the bridge, though the window was small, I could see the beautiful view of the sea. To a prisoner who would be facing death or had been imprisoned for long, the small window at the bridge offered the view of freedom that one’s craving for. And so there goes the Sigh….
Another famous not-to-be miss attraction was the Grand Canal. The best spot to see the Grand Canal is at the Rialto Bridge. However, we used the water bus instead. Taking the water bus in the early morning had an advantage, i.e. the water route was not as busy, so we were able to get a better view of the canal and buildings. Moreover, I could get the best photos while travelling on the water bus. The sky was dark with a little red-orange tint when the water bus we took passed-by those lovely architecture on both sides of the canal. What a spectacular sight!
Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto)
The most photographed bridge in Venice, the bridge itself was lined with lots of shops. During the day, the bridge was crowded with lots of people trying to take photos and selfies. So be prepared to wait for an opportunity to take photos. Besides taking photos on the bridge, we also took some photos by the side of the bridge (there were side stairs towards the restaurants where you can get photos of the bridge) and on the water bus. If you could not get a nice photo, then consider taking photos from other bridges which also give you an equally good view of the Grand Canal.
The Church of San Moise
Due to the limited time in Venice, we did not visit every top spot in Venice. So some of them, we just settled for taking photos of them and admire them from far. Therefore, this church was one of them that we passed by while walking along the street of Venice. Beautiful architecture and photo-worthy church.
Gondola and water bus
The ever romantic gondola rides we saw on tv will make one wants to try and at least experience it once. But we chose not to as it was really expensive and the ride was very short. Moreover, we only had one day in Venice, so to make the best out of the 24 hours, we decided to take photos to remember the colourful gondolas. However, we did try the water bus or vaporetto. It was faster, more comfortable and a longer ride, for example, you can see the whole Grand Canal by taking the water bus from one docking bay to another.
San Simeone Piccolo Church
This church is dubbed the most iconic church in Venice because of its location. Passengers who travel by high-speed train to Venice will surely see this church from Santa Lucia Venice station. Due to the high green dome and Neoclassical facade, no one will miss this church from afar. This is the only church in Venice where the Mass is still celebrated in Latin.
Stay at Hotel Antiche Figure
I did mention that we travelled by high-speed train from Madrid to Venice. So usually I will try to book a hotel that is close to the train station for convenience and easy manoeuvre to drop our luggage. Therefore, staying at Hotel Antiche Figure is perfect. It is just opposite to Venice Santa Lucia train station, separated by the Grand Canal. By crossing a bridge and a few minutes walk, we reached the hotel entrance. This hotel is easy to find because it is located next to the iconic San Simeone Piccolo Church.
It is a small hotel that was restored from a historical 15th-century palace. It gave out a very cosy feeling but at the same time being treated like a royal kind of service standard. The interior decor was very much like being in a royal palace but on a much smaller scale.
The room was excellent. It was a Venetian-style room with a chandelier hanging from ceiling and paintings on the walls. To me, the most impressive of the room was the sound-proofing. My partner and I are light sleepers so we always try to get hotel rooms that have good sound-insulation windows or maybe high floor rooms to avoid being disturbed by noise.
Even though we were given a low floor room facing the train station and the busy Grand Canal, but the room was very quiet. I did not hear a thing when we were inside the room during the day or night. The walls were insulated with soft padding, curtains were those of the heavy and good quality materials and very good soundproofed windows I must say.
I did a test and opened the window a bit and suddenly I could hear the loud noise from the street below and water bus passing by the Grand Canal in front of the hotel. So 5 stars rating from me in terms of quiet and comfortable room.
The room was clean and well-maintained. However, as I mentioned that this hotel was small, so the corridor outside of the room could be rather narrow and the toilet was a bit crampy as compared to other hotel rooms we had been to. But the bedroom was spacious and the bed was comfy.
Breakfast spread was standard and average. So nothing to comment on that. Considered it a 3-star hotel with comfortable and quiet rooms, with prices from US$180 and above, I think it’s really value-for-money and a very good deal. Check out their rates here.
Food, Venetian Masks and Souvenirs
These are some of the interesting things that we saw while walking on the street of Venice. So if you need some inspirations for souvenirs, maybe these can give you some ideas.
Unfortunately, we only spend one day in Venice. If I could go back in time, I would have spent probably at least two days in this beautiful city.