Venice is a beautiful, romantic city, full of canals and gondolas, dueling orchestras, and historical sites. This was Gloria and I’s second stop in Italy after visiting Milan and we were excited to visit the islands and experience a different side of Italy.
To get from Milan to Venice, we chose to book a train to Venice through Italia Rail, which cost 19 euros and took about 2.5 hours.
As for housing, we spent the night at Generator Venice which was 56USD per person in a 16 bed mixed dorm. This was also the same hostel that Sharon stayed at when she visited Venice! One thing to note about Venice is that it’s pretty pricey because it’s such a huge tourist destination (it’s the 28th most visited city in the world). Some pros about this hostel though was that it had a bar, which made it really easy to meet other travelers, and a dining area where you could easily get breakfast. It was also situated next to a restaurant with the best squid ink pasta I had in Europe.
To get to the hostel (the brick building in the middle in the picture above), we took a water taxi from the Santa Lucia train station stop to the Zitelle stop. For water taxis, you can buy passes at booths near the train station. The passes can be purchased depending on your length of stay. For example, a 24 hour pass costs around 20 euros. The water taxis are also a great way to get a nice tour of Venice.
This was the restaurant where we had the delicious squid ink pasta. It might have been so good because we were pretty hungry and tired after busing to the train stop from our hostel in Milan, taking the train to Venice, and then taking a water taxi to Generator Venice. Also, it’s pretty hard to beat a lunch with a view of St. Mark’s Basilica. Since Venice was the one place in Italy that didn’t come with numerous food recommendations, I was happy that we found a decent, non-overpriced place to eat at.
After recuperating our souls with food, we walked around Venice and explored the hidden alleyways. Another nice thing about staying at Generator Venice was that it wasn’t on the main island, it was on Giudecca island. This allowed us to avoid the huge touristy areas and provided an opportunity to become acquainted with our surroundings and meet some locals.
I loved the detail on this building so much that I took a photo with it (I’m going to do that a lot on this trip, you have been warned). I like how the door is a sea blue, with iron detailing. This lies in sharp contrast to the wooden, carved door on its left side. I also appreciated how the windows are protected with iron, but it’s not your typical, straightforward design. You can tell that the artist who created it spent a lot of time paying attention to both the function and aesthetics of it. Also, the bright pink flowers in the windowsill soften the strong iron window and demand your attention. Then right on the other side, the home is made of brick! It was beautiful.
After spending a couple of hours walking around Giudecca, Gloria and I took a water taxi back to the main island so we could go on the classic gondola ride.
I love how modern our gondolier looked like, complete with an earpiece and boss sunglasses. I know that going on a gondola ride is super touristy but it was worth it to go through the smaller canals and see parts of Venice where there was no walking access. If you’re planning on going on a gondola ride, I highly recommend sharing the ride so you can split the cost. Also, make sure you agree on the length and price before you start your ride. Our ride lasted an hour and we paid about 25 euros each. The gondolas increase in price after 7pm so beware of that!
After we got dropped off by the gondola, Gloria and I headed towards Piazza San Marco to listen to the dueling orchestras. If you’re wondering what to see in Venice, definitely save some time at night to see these orchestras play. You can enjoy the orchestra from a cafe (these are also unsurprisingly pricey) or you can enjoy them from the square. Personally, I enjoyed standing and watching them because as one orchestra stops and another begins, you can simply walk over to the next orchestra instead of being tied down to a table at a cafe.
The next day was our final day in Venice as we were heading back to Milan on an evening train. In the morning, we visited the famous Basilica di San Marco and Palazzo Ducale. We also wanted to visit one of Venice’s 118 islands, the Murano island, which was famous for glass blowing. Once we arrived at Murano, we continued our squid ink pasta kick:
Even though this restaurant was fancier than the one next to our hostel, the squid ink pasta wasn’t as good, which just goes to show that sometimes it’s the less flashy, cheaper restaurants that have the better food. After Murano, we took the water taxi to the San Michele island, an island that is a cemetery. The cemetery was peaceful and hauntingly beautiful, with its sculpture-like gravestones and well-manicured greenery.
After exploring Murano and San Michele, each very different from Giudecca and the mainland, we boated back to Giudecca to claim our backpacks from the hostel and begin the journey back to Milan. Our plan was to spend the night in Milan and then the next day, we would be off to the third stop of our Italy tour, Cinque Terre!
Side note: As a planner, something that kept me sane throughout this Asia/Europe trip was creating an itinerary and packing list. The itinerary helped me keep all the dates, cities, flight times, housing, and relevant transportation information straight and the packing list ensured that I would have everything (like bug spray in Cinque Terre) so I wouldn’t be caught off guard. If you also like being prepared, making these lists could be useful! Planning ahead can also help you travel cheaper and fly cheaper.