It all started on a rainy Sunday afternoon in May. I have been so wrapped up with work lately that the first thought of a possible adventure suddenly grabbed me hard. So, K and I (K wishes to remain mysterious) started to review options. I knew I will have 2 weeks off (nobody wants to stay in Budapest when the concrete melts) hence the arts club I manage shut for refurbishing.
After exploring the train possibilities in Europe, it became clear that going by car is the way to go. As I have never been to the magical parts of Italy (sorry Milano!) I’ve finally set the agenda: Budapest – Venice – Rosignano – Chianti – Budapest. A few glasses of wine later the idea was born: cruising in Italy with a Cabrio (ie. a convertible) is the must-have part of this tour. I will not get into how I owned a cabrio for a week, but eventually I rented one to make the trip. For the title’s sake I will refer to it as the purple cabrio I previously had my heart set on for months. Number of Pinterest map boards and last-minute 5am online shopping sprees later, (see previous post) 29 July has arrived and I was ready for Italy to take me in. Here is how it all happened….
1. stop: VENEZIA
The city of romance. I researched this city on travel blogs mostly, only to find out the best way to breath in the Grand Canal and this unreal place built around it is to get lost in it. So that’s what we did. We arrived after a 6 hour drive to Tronchetto (parking cost €21/day), the car park at the entrance of Venice just around 11pm. Running to make the last Vaporetto (the most awesome public transport vehicle but sadly doesn’t operate after midnight*) we purchased a 48h travel card (best option to use the machine at the stop) and settled down at the front where there are about 5-6 open air seats – beats any sightseeing boat. *K thinks there is an after-midnight service but no proof so if anyone has confirmation on this please share…
I booked us accommodation in Generator hostel, a groovy place for hipsters where they offer private rooms too. In high season a shared 5 bedroom suited my budget better so I signed up for the hostel experience for a ‘mere’ €40 per night.
Have to admit that the common rooms sported awesome design features with a big oval bar built in the middle, but nothing prepared me for having to search for my bed in a dark room with only using the light app on my phone whilst strangers snore in chorus. Truth to be told albeit having brothers and sisters I have not stayed in a hostel before… Here the layout was nicely done but the beds were ridiculously small & placed too close to each other (as I was climbing up to the top bunk on the ladder I almost stepped on the face of the guy sleeping in the bunk below…). Nonetheless, as I stepped out of Generator the next morning I found myself on Guidecca island facing Saint Mark’s piazza breathing in the fresh breeze of the rain hitting the sea. It was magical.
When you only have one day in Venice…
…you take in as much as you can. Venice truly is tiny compared to European cities (find city map here). We arrived to San Marco Piazza with a ‘Vapi’ and as expected the square was crowded with tourists. Since most of it was under 15cm high water anyway, we decided to start exploring through one of the side bridges ending in a cobble-stone street. As there are so many landmarks and museums to visit it is hard to make a list. Every 5 minutes another church or square appears that is worthy of looking at. We wandered into many buildings to find chapels, unexpected exhibitions, then set out to find Palazzo Grassi to find a spot I read about: a tight street going all the way down to the canal: Corte dal Duza Forza. We bought a nice bottle of Chardonnay in a supermarket (cost €10) and after enjoying the street music we found what I was looking for. A spot completely unvisited with white steps going down to the canal with beautiful view all around as the canal turns. We sat down to take it all in whilst tourist boats crammed full with Asian tourists were swimming by – I couldn’t help but notice that they all seemed quite jealous… The sun was back at this point with full glory. The icing on the cake was the exhibition house next door – it was an awesome collection of architecture and design history part of the Venice Biennale.
After our extensive tour of the island we stopped for an Aperol Spritz aperitivo at a bar near the Rialto Bridge (note: if you take the drink at the bar it costs much less than if you sit down!) during happy hour which in Italy means that most bars roll out complementary fresh pizzas and other snacks…almost as good as dinner. If you are still hungry, as we were, stop at any street stalls selling wonderful fruit and dried fruit selection considered exotic in many countries.
We walked around a bit more afterwards then returned to Guidecca only to find that most restaurants close around 10pm so we settled for an unknown place and got some pizza – it was horrible. I suggest you research where you go to eat and if your budget is restricted check this out: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2009/jan/21/cheap-restaurants-venice-food-italy
The next day we decided to go on a boat ride on the Vaporetto again and got off at Isola di San Michele which is where Venetians bury their loved ones. The landscape and the greenery is gorgeous – highly peaceful. As we returned to our car parked in Tronchetto and drove out of Venice we looked at each other and we knew: we will be back again…
Venice bucket-list or what not to miss when you visit:
- La Scuola Di San Rocco
- Guggenheim Institute
- The Lido – definitive scene from many films!
- Glassmakers at Murano (boatride)
- Coffee at The Danielli (dinner is not cheap!)
- Bellini at Harry’s Bar (supposedly the original!)
- Gallerie dell’Accademia
- San Marco square at night (when it’s empty)
2. stop ROSIGNANO / TUSCANY / FLORENCE (coming soon…)