As Truman Capote stated ‘Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liquors in one go’.
As a chocolate lover, I can very much agree with Truman here…
We arrived in the warm afternoon sun at the main station of Venice and the only place where cars are allowed. At first I was a little sceptical due to all the tourist shops, but when we turned a little corner to get to our hotel suddenly the much talked about romantic beauty of Venice welcomed me and stole my heart immediately. I found myself in a real life postcard image and couldn’t hold back on taking my camera out and never putting it back into its bag.
The hotel we picked was a small B&B and we loved being a little bit off the main tourist roads, but there are many grand hotels if you are looking for a true lavish experience in Italian style. The hotel was located in the north of Venice – a quieter area at the tip of the ‘Cannaregio’ area.
Most of the Hotels are decorated with these wonderful cinematic wallpapers and ornate bed frames to whizz you away into a romantic Venetian dream…
On the first night we headed out to find a restaurant that was recommended to us by friends (Italian themselves – always the best advice); Al Timon. I would not hesitate to recommend it myself if you are looking for a true Venetian experience, surrounded by locals and a true challenge with menus only in Italian.
Whilst we waited for our dinner with a few Aperol, we soaked in the atmosphere of the sunset over the canals listening to the locals, who were sitting on the canal boats next to us drinking wine and romanticising, oh how I wish I was an Italian…
The food was outstanding, a big plate of sliced meat and lots of grilled vegetables and chips and I recommend to come there hungry as the sharing platter is massive.
Even though it felt quite warm during the afternoon (especially when you come from London) you should definitively take a jacket, as it gets quite cold as soon as the sun sets.
We fell, full and content (and maybe a little drunk – red wine just tastes so much better in Venice) into bed on the first night but then the local mosquitos began to feast. So if you are attracting mosquitos like a living sugar cube (like me) then make sure to take mosquito spray.
Despite all the mosquitos I woke up truly relaxed, and that’s when I realised why Venice is so truly romantic: For the first time there were no cars, no noise, just the quiet movement of water and a few seagulls (a true holiday feeling), and that is also why I recommend to stay away from the main tourist streets which also saves some money.
After a relaxing breakfast at the canal front, our first day was devoted to exploring the city and to just get a general feel for the different areas and distances. It was quite fascinating how there seems to be one main tourist flow from the north to the south of the city. You won’t even need a map, you just follow the stream like ants. This route navigates through small passages filled with shops and gondola passageways, including a great stop for shoe lovers!
Due to my other half’s love for trip advisor we always dined very well. And here are a few places we would recommend:
Dinner at Al Timon (try the Chateaubriand with vegetables)
Pizza to go at Antico Forno (perhaps one of the best in the world, very unassuming and great value)
Dinner in the courtyard at La Caravella (expensive but worth it, reservation at night is a must)
Lunch – La Zucca, traditional Italian food
If we weren’t relaxing next to the canals with full bellies and a bottle of red wine in the evenings there are plenty of entertainment offers in Venice: from theatre to music and comedy. We decided to go to a jazz bar with great live music. It was a very nice night and a little break from all the super romantic lights. (It can get too much for the men sometimes, bless them…)
My favourite part of the trip was exploring the little side streets – lose yourself in the whimsical surroundings off the main tourist roads and discover the hidden gems of Venice. It’s never too early for an Aperol in Venice…
I would highly recommend getting a travel pass on the water bus. It is very simple to get from A to B and much cheaper than any Gondola. You will have great views from the water too. As charming as the Gondola chauffeurs were, we left it to our feet to explore all the little side streets. I would recommend taking a guide for Venice as there is a lot of history in the different areas of the city, and you will get lost some times if you are just wondering around.
One of my favourite areas was around the Peggy Guggenheim museum, called Dorsoduro. Here you can find everything that the artist heart strives for: from local art to bookshops and antiques. If you want to purchase any artwork you should ignore all the tourist traps and come straight here, a wonderful little area to discover the uniqueness of Venetian art.
If you want to take a break from the busy streets around the main tourist attractions and just enjoy a little bit of holiday feeling I recommend to walk along the river front towards the Parco Delle Rimembranze. It’s very quiet here and you can enjoy a gaze back to the hustle and bustle of San Marco Square. This area is also where all of the Venetians live. It was quite sad to realise that actually nobody lives in the centre of Venice; it’s all hotels or attractions for tourists, which I count as one of the negatives of Venice. The mass of tourists with brightly coloured clothes ruining one or two photos and the lack of authenticity sometimes, as you feel that mostly everything is tailored for the tourists. There are not many people living there who do not work in the tourist sector.
My favourite part of Venice was something that is truly spectacular for tourists but worrying for the locals… the rising tide.
As some of you might know Venice is slowly but surely sinking, so make sure you arrange a visit while you can. One night we were walking around and were wondering about the pedestals that were arranged throughout the city and the main tourist streets. A few hours later we did get an answer…
As the tide was rising, water slowly began to flood the streets. We were more amused and interested by it than scared, but make sure you don’t stay out for too long, otherwise you might have trouble getting back as the water does rise so high on some pavements that you can barely walk on them.
We were at the time in San Marco Square and what happened due to floods was something spectacular and like a delicate present for my lens and me: the reflection of the arches and old ornate street lamps in the slow rising water where like a poem for me. This was one of my highlights, and definitively an exciting trip home to the hotel at the other end of the city.
We were really happy to come in April as it was already quite warm and a lot of people advised us not to go in summer as it gets too hot and muggy not even thinking about all the mosquitos!
Leaves me to say, our trip to Venice was a wonderful experience. I would recommend it to anyone who loves quirky (and romantic) places for a city trip out of the ordinary.
London based Fashion and Lifestyle Photographer Ella H. has been published for her portrait and editorial work in various magazines. Originally from the German countryside, she started photography in her early years discovering the wonders of the world through her lens. She loves travelling around the world capturing the different characteristics and people that make every place unique.
*All images are credited to Ella H. Photography