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Inside: Everything you need to know to plan the perfect visit to Italy’s most romantic destination.
I visited more than 150 countries prior to meeting my husband, Dave, last year. But there are two places in the world that I purposely avoided in all those years of solo globetrotting.
I guess you could say I was “saving” them in the event that I ever had a honeymoon.
The first is Venice.
The second? The next stop on this Round-the-World honeymoon extravaganza, Santorini.
Sure, I’ve had ample opportunity to visit to both Venice and Santorini on previous trips. And I’m not sure exactly why I felt the need to save them.
After all, I didn’t save Tahiti or Fiji or the Maldives (though I’m now dying to re-visit all of those with Dave). But there was just something about the romance of Venice and the legendary sunsets of Santorini that made me want to see them with someone I love.
And I’m so glad I did.
Because now that day has finally come! Dave and I are off to Venice today…or so we thought.
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Cinque Terre to Venice
After a blissful few days exploring Cinque Terre, we carefully check the train schedules and decide on our route to Venice the night before departure.
The next morning, we arrive at the small station in Riomaggiore in plenty of time for our 9:40am train to La Spezia. As we search for the platform, we quickly discover that it’s been canceled due to a rail strike.
It’s the second strike this week and not an uncommon occurrence during the summer months.
The next train to Las Spezia leaves in an hour. But as we research our connection options from there, things are beginning to look bleak.
Our original train was scheduled to arrive in Venice by 4pm. Our new options don’t arrive until at least 7pm, and that’s if we make all of our connections with no delays (unlikely from what we’ve seen so far today).
We finally arrive on the next train at the larger station of La Spezia. Once off the train, we join a ridiculously long line to speak to someone at a ticket window and see what our options are. The station is an absolute zoo thanks to the number of train cancelations and delays.
Forty-five minutes later, the best option they can offer is a train with just an 8 minute connection in Parma. If we miss that, we’ll be stuck there for hours.
The search for a new plan
Determined to find a better alternative and leave the chaos of the train station behind, I whip out my phone and start researching car rental options.
It looks promising so we take a taxi to the local Europcar rental office. They’re out of cars but luckily there’s also a Hertz office just down the street. They have one car left and we jump at it.
Driving to Venice
The drive takes approximately 3 ½ hours through beautiful countryside. By 4:00pm we arrive at our hotel, the Doubletree Venice North, about 15 minutes north of the city.
Since we’re traveling for several months on this Round-the-World honeymoon, Venice is one stop I chose to use some Hilton points and save a little money.
And the fact that we booked a hotel outside of Venice turns out to be an advantage now since the Doubletree also has free parking.
Parking in Venice
Luckily, driving in and around Venice turns out to be pretty easy. And thanks to a tip from the concierge, we find ample parking right on the island near the train station.
Due to the somewhat remote location of our hotel, having a car is now a huge plus.
After checking in to the hotel, we hop back in the car and head into the city. We’re excited to explore a little and find some dinner.
What is Venice known for?
Founded in the 5th century, Venice is undoubtedly one of the world’s most unique cities.
Comprised of 118 islands set in a marshy lagoon, the city once thrived as a great maritime power.
Today, Venice is considered an architectural treasure thanks to its abundance of vast marble palaces set along a labyrinth of canals.
Venice’s Grand Canal
The most famous of these canals is the aptly-named Grand Canal which functions as the city’s super highway. The Grand Canal is packed day and night with water ferries, taxis, gondolas and speedboats.
And the #1 thing on my honeymoon must-do list in Venice is a gondola ride on the Grand Canal.
We’ve all seen pictures of Venice but I realize immediately that every photo I’ve ever seen pales in comparison to the watery wonderland before my eyes. Pictures just do not do justice to this remarkable city.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I’m in love from the start.
St Mark’s Square
We wander the narrow alleyways following the curve of the Grand Canal in search of Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square.
While Venice’s Grand Canal is just as spectacular as the name implies, for me it’s the back canals that are the real heart of the city. We cross tiny bridges spanning quiet, narrow water lanes with only the occasional gondola gliding by.
Eventually we arrive in Piazza San Marco just as the sun begins to set. We stare up in amazement at St. Mark’s Basilica and the iconic rose-colored bell tower and the stress of the train strike earlier today melts away.
The Rialto Bridge
After a stroll through the sea of pigeons the square is famous for, we head back toward the Rialto Bridge.
The oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge is easily Venice’s most famous bridge. Completed in 1591, the Rialto Bridge’s stone arch was designed to allow the passage of galleys. Today, it’s one of the most recognizable landmarks in Venice.
At the base of the bridge we stumble across a tasty spot for dinner with a postcard-worthy Grand Canal view.
It’s a perfect introduction to Venice and we can’t wait to return tomorrow to see more.
The Unbiquitous Venetian Gondola Ride
You have to do it, right?
I mean you can’t come to Venice (certainly not on your honeymoon) and not take a gondola ride. So, of course, that’s at the top of our list for Day 2 in Venice.
With a 5pm flight to Athens tonight, we start the day by returning the car on the island and storing our luggage. By the time we’re done, lunch and a gondola ride are just about all we have time for before heading to the airport.
I’ve heard for years that gondola rides in Venice are very expensive. So I’m slightly concerned about how much it might cost to check this little adventure off our bucket list.
But as it turns out, it’s not too bad.
How much does a Venice gondola ride cost?
Luckily, the gondolas of Venice operate on fixed prices. It’s 80 EUR for the basic gondola experience which lasts 25-30 minutes and hits all the major sights.
So, there’s no need to haggle or worry that you’ve paid too much.
If you’re looking for a longer ride, you can easily negotiate that with the gondolier in advance. It’s also worth noting that rates are higher at night (120 EUR). So, if you’re on a budget, it pays to take your gondola ride during the day.
We choose a gondolier near St. Mark’s Square (though you can find one just about anywhere) and head into the Grand Canal for our tour of Venice by gondola.
The Venice gondola experience does not disappoint
Often in my travels I’ve been disappointed to discover that some of the most popular sights or activities don’t live up to all the hype.
I’m happy to report this is not the case with the gondola ride through the canals of Venice!
Though I admit, sharing this romantic ride with my husband on our honeymoon may have put a rosy glow on the experience. If I’d done the ride as I’ve done so many things in my life – on my own – I can’t say for sure if it would have held quite the same appeal.
But I must say, Dave and I just loved it.
Our gondolier points out the Bridge of Sighs before we glide swiftly under it. I playfully remind Dave that tradition dictates a kiss under all the bridges (as if we need an excuse). This, of course, brings an extra amount of fun to the ride.
It’s 30 minutes of total honeymoon romance and worth every euro in our opinion.
With our gondola ride complete, it’s time for a quick lunch before catching the ferry to the airport.
Tonight, we move on to the next stop on our honeymoon tour, Greece.
It’s been an incredible two weeks in Italy and I will always cherish the fact that we got married in this beautiful country. There is possibly no more romantic place in the world.
But for now, we must move on…next stop, 24 Hours in Athens and then off to Santorini!
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