Venice – Venezia
The only thing I knew about Venice was what you see at Las Vegas at the Venetian Hotel… a couple of bridges over a pristine canal and some romantic gondolas with gondoliers dressed in striped red or blue T-shirts. I was completed awestruck at my first look of the real, authentic Venice!
Size and History
Venice itself is 500 square km, bordered by the Adriatic sea by 3 natural canals. Venice itself has 150 canals, connected by ancient bridges. How did Venice come to be? It was founded in 421 AD according to legends by those who fled mainland Italy from invaders like Attila the Hun. The area prospered as a trading center with ships sailing in and out of the islands. It is said that the body of St Mark was smuggled out of Egypt and brought to rest in Venice where he also became its patron saint.
Where to stay in Venice
We chose to stay outside of Venice for a number of reasons: Jamie needs a pool and Venice just doesn’t have many options. Venice is packed full of tourists and we preferred something quieter and not so touristy. We didn’t want to walk through the streets of Venice with luggage. Need I go on? We chose the Radisson Blu in Galzignano Terme. It’s a 40 minute drive by car into Venice. Once you get to Venice, you have to park at the harbor where all the cruise ships dock. You’ll pay 21 Euros per day but after you finish a long day walking the streets/canals of Venice, you can relax in the hot or cool mineral pools at the hotel. We also enjoyed the local restaurants with authentic homemade pasta and pizza and bought our daily wine supply and snacks at the local grocery stores. This a wine region known as Euganea and the local wines are just as good as well known ones. You’ll also see a lot of bikers on the road so beware!
How to Get to Venice
Take the autostrada to Venice and park where the cruise ships dock. After you’ve parked, go to the dock and buy your boat ticket. For 20 Euros you get 24 hour use of all public boats. We bought the daily ticket and used it for 2 days. Then when we left on the second day, we bought a single 7,50 Euro ticket which gave us 90 minutes of use–enough to get us back to the dock. You can buy 2-3- etc day tickets as well. Take the number 2 boat to Venice and you can get off anywhere you like. We got off close to the beginning and then walked all the way to San Marco square where we rewarded ourselves at the rooftop bar:
Rooftop bar in Venice
Try the Bar Terazzi Danieli on the top of Hotel Danieli on Riva degli Schiavoni, 4196. Between 3 and 6:30, you get the best view of Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore across the canal and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute to the right of the bar if you’re looking out to the canal. The view comes at a cost though… 25 Euros for a cocktail but well worth it to get out of the hustle and bustle of San Marco square.
What to wear in Venice
European women like to wear dresses and you’ll find out why… it’s so much cooler than shorts. If you didn’t bring one, buy one at the many shops… I saw quite a few for 10 Euros.Walking shoes are important and make sure they’re comfortable. Since there are so many quaint streets that you could travel down, choose a destination that you feel you could walk to, and head there. There’s so much so see along the way!
There are 118 islands that make up Venice but the most famous islands of Venice are Murano and Burano, detailed below.
Murano – Island of Glass
On our second day in Venice, we got there a little earlier than the previous day and took advantage of the 24 hour ticket to get to Murano Island. Take the number 2 boat from the dock and get off at Ferrovia (the train station). Then take the number 3 bus to Murano Island. We got off at the first stop and just walked up the canal and back down on the opposite side. We were able to watch a master glass blower create a horse and a hollow vase. It was amazing. He had been doing this for 60 years! The island is more low-key than Venice with fewer tourists crowding the streets. We went into the first glass shop we saw and were just amazed at the glass creations. Jamie saw a 5′ X 2′ glass mural with sunflowers… only $15,000 but they will adjust the power to USA if that’s what you need! We also found a nice family shop and bought some glass necklaces, artfully crafted and a great memory to bring home! The stores also sell charms for Pandora bracelets… Halfway through our walk we stopped at a little restaurant on the canal and had some … what else… pasta and wine. Most of these trattorias on the water charge a cover fee of 2,50 Euros per person so don’t be surprised.
Burano – Island of Lace
Again, after parking, get a ticket for the boats and take the number 2 boat to Ferrovia. Disembark and find the number 3 boat to Murano and get off at Faro. Then take the number 12 boat to Burano and get off at Burano.
Churches in Venice
There are 139 churches in Venice with the most famous being:
- Basilica of San Marco is found in San Marco square. It’s the most famous in Venice, also known as the Church of Gold not only because of the gilded mosaics, created by the Venetian goldsmiths but also since it was a symbol of Venetian wealth and political power.
- Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Built by Fransiscan friars, is an active church now known for holding special concerts during the year.
- Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. Translated, Saint Mary of Health, it was built as a thanksgiving for being spared huge losses from the plague. It is the largest church in Venice and overlooks the Grand Canal. The church also houses great paintings by Titian and Tintoretto.
- Church of Santissimo Redentore. This church, translated as “The Holy Redeemer” is located on the island of Giudecca, also built in thankfulness of health after the plague.
- Basilica of San Giovanni e Paolo. Built by the Dominicans, it is home to many life-size statues of Venetian personalities important to Venice.
Mineral Baths in the Abano region
Radisson Blu in Galzignano Termin
We stayed at the Radisson Blu in Galzignano Termin. Our first impression was that the buildings were somewhat tired and the pool could use some cleaning and upkeep. But… they had multiple pools available, they were never crowded, and they had a cool pool and a hot pool which is more typical for the area. After a long day of walking in Venice, the cool pool was much more refreshing. Plus, it was more appealing to a younger crowd. Our room overlooked the foothills and the view from our balcony was glorious in the morning and the evening. The hotel had ample parking and was relatively quiet. (We could hear our neightbors take a shower and flush the toilet). Drinks were available at the pool and snacks were compliementary (chips). You could reserve a lounge at the pool and it was available to us during our entire stay. Some of the cushions at the cool pool were very faded and could use some refreshing but there were ample lounges, even on the grass.
Hotel President in Abano Terme
This is a full service hotel, meaning that you can have full board, half board or just bed and breakfast. Prices are 120 Euros per person. I saw 235 Euros for 2 people per room. The pool is both indoor and outdoor and the temperature is the same hot 35 degrees all year round. Fine for the cold season, but not for me in the summer. The seventh floor has been completely modernized. The other floors have the original antique feel. There are 3 onsite restaurants including one where you can just wear your robe to breakfast. Services include a spa, manicure/pedicure salon and a tea room. Evenings have a selection of entertainment including a piano bar. Pets and children are welcome. Discounts are also available for children of different ages.
Abano Ritz Hotel in Abano Terme
This is a family run hotel, no the Ritz of the USA. It has an indoor and outdoor pool, both at 35 degrees celsius plus Sauna. Rates are 82-132 Euros per night.
Hotel Aqua in Abano Terme
This hotel kept coming up in our searches so we gave it a look. The pool is a little small to others that we looked at but it was also a steady 35 degrees of mineral water year round. There is a restaurant onsite and they offer free snacks midday in the hotel lobby. Full board includes house wine. Pets are welcome but not too many children were seen. Some rooms have been renovated but some are still old style. The people we met at the fron desk were very warm and welcoming. They have music every day. This would be a great winter vacation spot. Standard rooms with breakfast were 69 Euros.