Ahhh… Venice, Italy. What a dream it was to be able to visit! Here’s my getaway guide to visiting Venice and Murano in 2 days! Yes, you CAN see Venice in only a few days!
Venice (like Greece) was another city on my list of “must visit destinations while living in Poland.” Since our time living in Europe is quickly coming to an end (NOOO!!!!) we had to fit this trip in ASAP! So, like many of our other trips, we purchased a ticket via RyanAir for under $100 and off we went. However, unlike our other trips, we now had baby H in tow! Let me tell you though, traveling with a baby was SO much easier than I thought it would be. Anyways, back to Venice.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of Venice as I have heard some people hate it and some love it. I, personally, really really really liked Venice and it does top my list of my favorite cities I have visited. Here’s why.
Remember that we visited in March – the off-season – so the island was not mobbed with tourists, which I think is the key to actually liking Venice (and pretty much anywhere else touristy). Plus, March isn’t too hot so the city doesn’t smell (?)… I have heard it does? I have no idea. No smell when we were there that’s always a good thing 😉
Our hotel was not in Venice – we stayed in Murano, an island north of Venice. (I will talk about that more as our trip unfolds).
No cars! This was by far the number one reason why we liked Venice as much as we did. Did you know that there are NO cars on the island? Nope not one! Even the taxis are boats! You absolutely HAVE to travel by boat here in Venice. The taxi stands are even docks! And, for that, no other city can compare.
Even though it was chain store galore in Venice, let me say that I still found wandering the streets, eating the local cuisine and tasting the local wine while getting lost in the canals every bit as relaxing as I imagined it to be. Even with an occasional crying baby 😉 And with that I say if you have the opportunity to visit Venice: GO!
GETTING THERE: Let’s talk for a second about how we actually arrived in Venice.
From Wroclaw, we flew into Bologna, Italy and caught the high-speed train to Venice first thing in the morning. This was SOOO easy. Easier than I could have even imagined. We eventually found a space on the train to park our huge stroller without having to stand the whole time. (FYI look for a handicap sticker on the outside of the cars and ask the conductor for permission to sit there beforehand.) The train was just about an hour and 20 minutes.
From Bologna Centrale station, we arrived at the Venezia St. Lucia train station where our hotel had a private charter boat waiting to pick us up (for free) and…we now arrive at reason #1 why we chose the hotel we did….
Because with canals come bridges… lots of ’em.
Imagine for a minute that you are us: 2 big bags and a big stroller in Venice: the land of BRIDGES. Do you really want to be carrying all your stuff up and down stairs looking for your hotel in ‘close to everything/hard to navigate San Marco? Uh no thanks…
Our hotel picked us up just around the corner from the station and dropped us off right outside of hotel reception. Easy-peasy. This in-and-of-itself saved a few hours of frustration. Plus, it’s not like we had to get picked up in some gross hotel van…nope we are talking a super nice boat, which brings me back to the reason I love Venice so much! A nice boat ride along the water made it much more pleasant to stay a bit further. Not to mention, we were able to afford to stay at a very nice hotel for the same price as staying in some crappy room in San Marco 😉 When you’re traveling with a baby and heading to bed earlier than you used to, you start to care more about where you are staying. Opting for a comfortable, king-sized bed will win. every. single. time. Ps. I am getting old aren’t I? 😉
As I am sure you have gathered, our stay at LaGare Hotel Murano was fabulous!!! I would recommend it to anyone. In addition to pickup and drop off to the train/airport, guests can also coordinate to be dropped off at mainland Venice for free during operating hours. But, if the hotel boat is booked, there is a water taxi stand right outside of the hotel that runs all night. It’s not an issue getting there at all, so don’t let that detour your decision from staying here. Plus, when I booked our hotel, I somehow got the “Murano Experience” package and we got free tickets to the glass museum in Murano (which was just OK).
Below is a look inside the museum. It was worth a stroll in the museum to see what is considered to be signature Murano glass before we made our own glass purchase.
If you didn’t know, Murano is the home of Murano Glass – handmade Venetian glass. It’s SO beautiful and ranges greatly in cost. (Of course, my favorite thing was a $4,000 bowl… ha maybe next time.) My advice is to go to Murano via water taxi and visit the shops, but steer clear of the tours. We bought a few beautiful vases and glass jewelry from some local artists hidden away from the crowds. Purchasing here felt authentic and real. (I will post some photos of what we bought in a separate post.) We also visited a few of the shops that the tours visit and they felt forced and salesy – it wasn’t enjoyable visiting these shops so I can see why the tours I read about have a bad reputation.
You don’t need long in Murano – a few hours is really it (tops). There wasn’t even much for restaurants here so be warned. But, if you have the time it is worth a little shopping trip. Italy just makes you want to spend, spend, spend – so be careful! 😉 Here is a look around Murano – not much here really but that also means there are no crowds. Plus, it is still on the water. A relaxing little spot, worth the 20-minute water taxi ride from Venice.
After spending an afternoon in Murano, we ventured to Venice. We spent about a day and a half total there and I honestly felt that it was long enough. It was just enough to sample the city and short enough to not feel obligated to pay 80-100 Euro for a gondola ride (Yes, they are THAT much!!!) We actually went to Venice without plans. We didn’t know how baby H would do so we didn’t want to leave thinking, “It’s too bad we did’t get to do X.” Instead, we wanted to leave thinking, “Wow. Look at everything we did,” which is an attitude I would recommend having if you are traveling with kiddos. Not to mention, Italians LOVE babies. If you want to take a trip with a baby, go to Italy. No one judges you when they cry. It’s wonderful.
Now, I didn’t love everything about Venice…. What I didn’t like can be summed up in one comment I overheard from a fellow tourist: “So Venice is just one big shopping mall now, huh?” Yes, Venice seems to have lost the Venetian charm that I think the island once had and for that reason, I don’t feel a strong desire to have to go back, especially during high tourist time. But, you can find some pretty unique stores if you look.
During our day and a half trip in Venice, we saw many of the touristy sights just by walking around, such as:
St. Mark’s Basilica,
The Rialto Bridge, which crosses at the narrowest point of the Grand Canal and was built in the 16th century,
And the Bridge of Sighs that connected the old prison to the interrogation room.
Near the Basilica, along the waterfront, we spotted a very unique painting that we purchased to add to our art collection. If you remember, we have been collecting handmade paintings at nearly every city we have visited but this is is my absolute favorite! The empty space is where ours was hanging! It’s awesome and a bit abstract.
We found that the best thing to ‘do’ in Venice is just wander the streets day and night. Get lost. Take photos. Find hidden shops. Keep your energy up with espresso shots 😉 You won’t regret it. Here’s some photos of us doing just that:
Don’t you just LOVE this photo of the gondola operators taking a break in the city.
And, I like these photos of the Grand Canal – they just feel so enchanting to me 🙂
Well that’s it for my post about Venice – there isn’t much to recommend other than just go, wander, get lost. Oh, and eat Pizza. And, remember, you can experience Venice without a Gondola ride in under 2 days.