[Wow, sorry for the incredible delay, guys! Oh well, better late than never. Here is the conclusion of our trip to Europe!]
I was particularly excited about visiting Venice, since I wouldn’t be working at all and it was the only city this trip that I hadn’t previously visited.
We arrived at Venice Marco Polo Airport in the late morning and had to decide how we would get to our hotel: a private water taxi (most expensive at €55 per person and quickest), a shared water taxi (still fairly expensive at €30 per person), or a water shuttle (least expensive at €15 per person and biggest time suck). We decided on the water shuttle, which would allow us to see quite a bit of Venice from as we made our way around the main island towards our hotel.
Travelers’ Tip: Do some research on the public water shuttles, Alilaguna, prior to your trip. You’ll need them to get to and from the airport, and to the other islands surrounding Venice. Trip Advisor had a nice writeup of your options upon arriving at Marco Polo.
After a 90 minute water shuttle ride, we finally arrived at our hotel, the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice. The hotel was beautiful and we were very pleased with our stay. We even had a partial view of the water from our room. While I didn’t find the hotel itself to be incredibly pricey, the restaurants located inside were severely overpriced. The hotel is located on the island Giudecca, which is across a main waterway from Venice. The hotel provided a complimentary shuttle that was handy, but didn’t run at all times of the day, so we had to be cognizant of when we needed to leave and return to the hotel.
For our first night in Venice we had booked a food tour through Venice Bites. The VB team is a husband-wife duo who moved to Venice about a year ago from LA. The food tour was not only delicious but informative: Adam and Maya taught us everything we needed to know about restaurants (stay away from photo menus!), food (Venice tapas are called cicchetti), wine (house wine is the best and cheapest), and other tips and tricks for dining in Venice. I am so incredibly thankful that we did the tour on Day 1 or I think we would have eaten a lot of lackluster food (and paid more for it!). Highly, highly recommended.
Travelers’ Tip: One of the first things we learned when we arrived in Venice (even before the tour) was about sitting fees. If you sit down at a restaurant, you’ll be charged 2-3 euro per person – just for sitting. Apparently this is common in other parts of Europe as well, although I have never encountered it before. Because of this, in many of the osteries when people come in for cicchetti or wine, they just stand around at the counter or really any space they can find. The counters can often be crowded with people eating, not waiting to order. If this is the case, you kind of have to muscle your way in, saying “Mi scusi,” and claim some space. Because we were visiting in the off season, we never found any of the dining establishments all that busy, but it’s good to keep in mind.
Because of the amazing food we ate in Venice (thanks to the Venice Bites tour!), I want to call out a few restaurants specifically: Ca’ D’Oro Alla Vedova, Osteria dal Riccio Peoco, Un Mondo Divino, Naranzaria, Taverna al Remer, and Trattoria Storica were our favorites! And don’t forget dessert at Suso Gelateria (try the Opera or the Monet, which are their specialties).
Travelers’ Tip: Many of the places above are small, family-owned restaurants that take their food and service very seriously. In a lot of these places, we were warned that we really needed to finish everything on our plates – if we didn’t, the chef more than likely would come out and demand to know why we didn’t like his cooking. Clean plates for everyone!
Unlike the two other cities we visited on our trip, Venice was not a hot-spot for tourist attractions. We spent most of our time there walking, eating, or drinking. There were a couple historic sights that offered tours, but we were content to view them from the outside.
And no, we didn’t take a traditional gondola ride, although we did ride across the canal in a gondola during the food tour — that was more than enough gondola for me.
Leaving Venice to fly back to the states was a constant source of stress for me. Our flight left at 6:30AM and I had no idea how we were going to get to the airport. The ACTV lines didn’t run that early and we weren’t thrilled at the prospect of spending 100 euro on a private water taxi. We ended up leaving a note with our hotel to try and find someone we could share a taxi with to the airport at 4:30AM – and thankfully we found another couple leaving on the same flight as us. Split two ways, the taxi only cost us €50 total and we were driven directly to the airport.
Travellers’ Tip: don’t attempt to leave Venice super early or super late if you can help it – it’ll be much easier and less stressful (and cheaper!) to leave during the daytime when the ACTV is running!
After a busy layover in Amsterdam, we returned to Detroit tired but content. This trip was definitely not a relaxing one, but we saw and experienced some of the best these three cities have to offer.
With each trip I take to Europe, I learn more about international travel. I feel more comfortable and confident being in foreign countries, getting around, talking to people, and trying new things. I know I am incredibly lucky to be able to experience these things and I’ve promised myself that I will try to see as much of the world as possible while I am allotted these opportunities!