First stop Venice

Stephen Bellingham on 14 August 2014
Our couple of nights in Venice before our European cruise made a great difference to the enjoyment of our holiday. We learned a lot about the pros and cons depending on the particular client.

Staying on the Lido proved good value and a new area for us both. We hadn't appreciated the ease of travelling by Vaporetto, and the fact that the frequent crossings run so regularly. Result!

Our bed and breakfast accommodation was also a good choice. Our host provided a tasty breakfast, a map of Venice (which after two days looked very well-worn) and lots of great tips for a short trip!

We really enjoyed the contrast of the hustle and bustle of Venice to the more tranquil Lido for our evening meals at the owner’s restaurant and a small family-run Pizzeria. Both were an excellent experience and a lot more reasonable than in central Venice. The nearby beach for a swim and chill out offered another bonus. We can imagine it gets quite busy at the height of the season, however at the end of May it was fine, albeit a bit chilly in the sea.

Meandering around led us to some amazing places in the back streets of Venice, via the local gondola repair shop, stunning mask and costume shops for the masked balls and oh so many photo opportunities. Once we had negotiated our way across the hectic Rialto Bridge, we explored the right bank of the Grand Canal wandering through the Erberia (vegetable market) and Pescheria (fish) where local restaurants and locals shop.

The next day it was off to the islands. Dotted around the lagoon they played an important part in Venetian history. Murano, perhaps the most well-known for its glass-making, still has much to offer. We disembarked on a later stop, thus avoiding the crowds. This gave us the opportunity to view in relative peace the quaint shops with exhibits from chandeliers to jewellery, local craftsmen at work, the rewarding Glass Museum and amazing Duomo di Murano Santi Maria e Donato with its Romanesque architecture. Do be careful though if purchasing that it is genuine Murano - it does take 15 years to become a master glass-blower and the results are unique!

A short journey took us to Burano with its picturesque canals and coloured houses. Away from the main drag, we saw few tourists and enjoyed the beauty and tranquillity. Hand-made lace is still sold here, however can be expensive when compared to modern-day methods.

Our final stop for the day was Torcello, a nature reserve with spectacular Byzantine mosaics in the seventh century Cathedral. In bygone days it was a very important island with a population around 20,000. Little remains with just over a dozen inhabitants, a couple of places to stay and a few restaurants. The Locando Cipriano still owned by the Cipriani family, has hosted many famous guests and it was here in 1948 that Ernest Hemingway wrote part of his novel Across the River and Through the Trees.

A large proportion of visitors spend just a day visiting this unique city without staying overnight. Although we have both been before, we found a couple of nights did not even scratch the surface - we could quite happily have stayed a week. I guess we will be returning.

On our final morning we took a leisurely trip along the whole of the Grand Canal to the Cruise Terminal - a great way to say Arrivederci Venezia!