Our time in Venice was very short (and made shorter by a train delay from Florence), but that really didn’t bother me one bit. I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of Venice. We added it to the tour because Paul had never been, and I was hopeful this visit would change my previously formed opinion, but it did not. It seems that everyone has a strong feeling about this city – they either love it or hate it. For me, it’s far too touristy, the food is sub-par, and something about it feels a little forced. It certainly has a mystical quality to it, but it almost feels as though you’re on a movie set rather than an authentic foreign city.
That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy our time there, but we both agreed it really wasn’t worth the visit when there are so many amazing places throughout Italy to spend your time (and calories). For the sake of positivity I’ll focus on the places in Venice we enjoyed most, including our hotel! Hotel Ala was some of the best lodging we had on the trip with updated rooms, wonderful service, a huge breakfast spread, and a killer rooftop.
BREAKFAST + COFFEE
Caffè Florian we mostly stuck to breakfast and coffee at our hotel since the options were so varied, but I wanted to at least try the famed Caffè Florian. If nothing else, you can sit right in Piazza San Marco and listen to the live music. Although the coffee was good, it is so incredibly overpriced (we paid nearly $40 for the two of us) and we were basically swarmed by pigeons until we hurried out of there. You’re probably better off listening to the music as you walk by and snap a quick photo.
MEALS + LIBATIONS
Trattoria da Fiore we stopped in here for lunch one day after hunting for any restaurant that didn’t seem like a tourist trap. This spot had a great, small menu and had more Italians than Americans inside. We sat in the cozy back room and each enjoyed great wine and pasta. Side note, they also had an amazing bread basket.
Da Raffaele owned and run by the same family as our hotel, this restaurant was the clear winner for us. We wound up a little early for our reservation, in an effort to not have too many happy hour drinks, and they happily accommodated us with complimentary prosecco while we waited a few minutes. We sat directly on the water where gondoliers chatted as they floated by. Our server helped us select a great bottle of wine, I then had tomato basil gnocchi, Paul had bolognese, and we shared unbelievable tiramisu. The food was fantastic, but the experience and service were even better.
Aciugheta we initially stopped here for a quick drink since it shines as a wine bar and apertivo spot, but ended up staying for dinner. I had a surprisingly tasty pizza and Paul had decent gnocchi, though it was nothing to write home about. I wouldn’t come back explicitly for the quality of the food, but we were able to sit outside on a warm night and they had great wine selections.
Tarnowska’s American Bar this was the bar inside our hotel, where we chose to have drinks before dinner one night. You can call down and request they deliver drinks to you on the rooftop terrace, but we opted to go down and pick them up ourselves. The bar itself has a lot of character that almost tempted us to stay, but we carried our drinks up top where we had the terrace all to ourselves. I would definitely recommend this place even if you’re not staying at the hotel.
PLACES TO GO + THINGS TO DO
Ca’Rezzonico this was hands down my favorite museum of the entire trip. It’s dedicated to 18th century Venice and is primarily filled with beautiful decor and furniture. The entire interior is so stunning, I couldn’t stop taking photos! The cherry on top? Since we arrived before they even opened, we were quite literally the only people inside.
Rialto Market our pass through the Rialto Market was a little agitated by the sheer number of tourists, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I would suggest going early in the morning when there’s mostly locals doing their daily shopping. The displays were impressive and would definitely pick up a few tidbits if I found myself there again.
Burano my original plan was to spend the majority of our only full day visiting the island of Burano, but after a train delay got us in later than expected, we didn’t want to miss out entirely on seeing Venice. Burano is just a short ferry ride from Venice and is known for lace-making and its cute, colorful houses.