Once my roommate Jasmine and I reached Venezia we met up with our friend Kim who had taken an earlier train into the city. The first thing we took care of was transportation so we got 3 day ferry passes that would allow us to travel all over the islands by Venezia’s public ferry system. Then Kim had found a hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop where locals could be seen munching on sandwiches and drinking wine. We then proceed to hop on a ferry and drop our stuff off at the Generator Hostel which was on an island directly opposite of St. Mark’s Square. Generator Hostel was my first hostel experience so I had been a little nervous to see it, but it turned out to be a pretty neat place with a very modern hipster-esque lobby and friendly atmosphere. Although it was pricier than some of the other hostels I think the vibe and location were well worth the extra cash I splurged on staying there. After dropping off our backpacks we made our way over to St. Mark’s Square where we were able to see some amazing carnivale costumes and take in the beautiful architecture of Doge’s Palace, Piazza San Marco and Saint Mark’s Basilica.
Afterwards we headed off in search of masks to join in on the festivities of carnivale; in our search for the best masks we wandered onto the Ponte di Realto a bridge overlooking the Grand Canal. Then before it became dark we headed back to the shore near St. Mark’s Square to get a Gondola ride. Although gondola rides are quite expensive €80 for 30 mins we decided to split the cost and go for it anyone because who knows when I would come back to Venezia. After having a beautiful (but expenzive) dinner by the grand canal we decided to look for Arsenale where our hostel clerk had said some festivities would be going on. Arsenale turned out to be very difficult to find and we got very very lost on the way there. So although google maps said would only take 15 minutes took us an hour to get there! Nevertheless we found some other lost tourists on the way and we all walked through the silent narrow streets of Venezia together. Arsenale ended up being kinda of a dud because we got late while we lost we missed the fireworks and all that was going on was a super cheesy 70’s band playing inside a warehouse.
So after rocking out to the music of our parents we decided to head home on the ferry. The ferry turned out to be an amazing experience as there were 5-6 guys dressed up in costumes and a guy with a saxophone who decided to start jamming out on our way home. The whole boat full of Italians began to sing and have loads of fun!
The weather was supposed to be pretty bad on Saturday so we had planned to have a late morning and explore the inside of the some of the buildings we saw the day before. During breakfast while we were talking we met another traveling American and talked about great movies, traveling and careers among other things. That’s what I love about staying at the hostel, people there are generally very open to meeting with others and sharing experiences. I ended up getting some great advice about Munich as she used to live there. After breakfast we went to explore the inside of Doge’s Palace which is known for having some of the best painted ceilings and wall (according a random art student we met at the hostel). The Palace was pretty incredible and I got to learn a lot about Venetian history and culture.
Then we headed to go up the large tower on Piazza San Marco. After waiting in a pretty long line we were able to take an elevator up the tower and see amazing views of all of Venezia. Although it was freezing cold at the top I think the view was worth it; as long as you are bundled up. Unfortunately Kim had only a light jacket so basically was shivering the whole time we were at the top. We never really expected Venezia to be as cold as it was, especially since we were walking outside all day we really felt the chill.
By the time we finished all of this it was about time for Jasmine to catch her train home so Kim and I went back to the hostel for a bit and defrosted until it was time for us to meet up Alyssa and Alice, two other exchange students also visiting Venice. We decided to find a bar for aperitivo but ended up getting pretty lost (noticing any trends?). After we sort of snacked and had some drinks, because we never actually found the aperitivo we decided to head over to Arsenale for the fireworks show this time. Since we took the ferry there we ended up getting the port just in time to watch the fireworks on the ferry right over the water. So basically we had the best view with heating since we were in the ferry cabin. It was amazing and the music sequence was spot on as well. Once we got off the ferry we headed inside the warehouse to see a pretty cool acrobatic show. So basically our Arsenale experience was waaayyy better the second time around! On the ferry ride home there was a pretty drunk looking family of Italian (parents were drunk not children) that ended up singing for the whole ride as well. Maybe drunk singing on ferries is a carnivale tradition or something?
While I was waiting for Kim during breakfast I ended up striking a conversation with two guys that had just got into Venezia the night before. One of them was a Brazilian named Paolo that was at the end of a 4 week Europe adventure and the other was an American named Keaton that had just started and was traveling for another 4 weeks. They both ended up joining Kim and I as we went to visit Murano (the island famous for glass working) and Burano (famous for having cute colored houses.) Actually Burano had been a suggestion from a family friend so thanks Revathi Aunty if you’re reading! Once we got to Murano we got to see a pretty cool display of a master blowing some glass into a dolphin and a vase.
Afterwards we took a long ferry ride into the super cute island of Burano. Where they had the most adorable little painted houses and picturesque canals. Basically it was the most photogenic spot in all of Venice, at least in my opinion.
Last but not least we headed with the boys to an amazing aperitivo we had found online at the Taverna del Campiello Remer. We enjoyed spritzes (the Venetian’s drink made of Prosecco, sparkling water and Aperol) and got all you can eat dinner for just €5. They had some incredible food as well; huge platter of risotto, pasta and bruschetta. If you are looking for a cheap place to eat in Venezia this is definitely where the locals are like eating. It was the perfect end to an incredible weekend in Venezia with amazing people.