We just got back from our two week tour dell'Italia, and I wanted to share our experience while everything is still fresh – although I don't think the beauty of this trip will ever fade in my mind! We started our travels in Venice, and slowly worked our way down the country, eventually flying out of Rome. I'm so glad we did this – we avoided backtracking to the same location and got to cover a lot of ground without feeling rushed. We almost left Venice off our itinerary after hearing so many love it/hate it stories, but the second we landed I was sooooo glad we didn't skip it.
Arriving in Venice was a surreal, totally breathtaking experience — it almost feels like another planet. Our water taxi cruised down the canals toward our hotel, while we gawked at the architecture, boats, and gondoliers. My jaw was on the floor. It's a sheer boater's paradise and we were in love!
We stayed in the Castello neighborhood and loved the area — Venice was a lot more walkable than we imagined, so we enjoyed being close to everything but far enough away from the more crowded areas. The hordes of tourists we were warned about actually didn't end up being an issue, possibly because we went towards the end of the season. Most of the day trippers hang out near St. Mark's Square, so if you wander beyond that area you can definitely get some peace. The streets became super quiet at night, which felt so romantic and a little eerie. The sounds of the water lapping up against the buildings while you weave through the dimly lit cobblestone streets...it's like walking through a novel.
A gondola ride was a cheesy-but-gotta-do-it sort of thing and it actually really enjoyable — the gondola in front of us was carrying a singer and accordion player, so we had a classic Italian soundtrack during our ride!
We only spent a few days here so we made the most of our time — we were able to see all of the landmarks; St. Mark's, the Rialto Bridge, and the Bridge of Sighs — and still enjoyed everything without much of an itinerary. Some of our favorite discoveries were found just wandering the streets without a plan. I wasn't sure if we'd end up lost at some point, but we realized the island isn't really big enough to be totally lost. To help, though, we used an app called Maps.Me which allows you to download city maps offline, so you don't need to use wifi or data to access them.
On our first night there, we had dinner at a little restaurant and heard live music playing nearby, so afterwards we walked over to find a band throwing a legit outdoor concert (like not a street performer situation). Their crew was serving cups of boxed wine for a few euros a piece, so we hung out and danced to their 80s cover songs – it was sooo fun! They had quite the crowd going!
One of our favorite stops was for mid-day aperitivo at the Gritti Palace bar. We had a few Bellinis and snacks along the Grand Canal and got recharged for the day. On our last night, we had a beautiful sunset dinner at Riviera, which I highly recommend for a creative, fine dining experience right on the water (literally, the waves were splashing our feet a bit as the tide rose)! The owner was out and about, talking to guests and clearly took great pride in his menu and ingredients — my favorite thing was the burrata with basil ice cream (omg)!
Venice was definitely a surprise to us both — we weren't sure what to expect but it charmed our pants off. It's legitimately not a real place. We had many conversations about purchasing one of the beautiful teak water taxis but we couldn't find any for sale in the states...haha! It was hard to leave but we headed off to Florence, which will be the next recap. Thanks for coming along with us, and you can catch the rest of our photos under the hashtag #offshoresociety on Instagram!