The Vacay Chronicles: Venice

can't tell you how much hassle it was trying to decide on somewhere to go with our week off that doesn't a) have Ebola, b) have a high risk of terrorist attack, c) have the great combination of beach holiday and a torrential rain forecast for the week we wanted to go, or d) wouldn't let us in because someone only has four months left on their passport. (I know I made that sound like it's Matt, and I feel bad for that. 'Cos it's me.) 

But then something amazing happened. Someone at my sister's work was trying to re-sell their holiday they could no longer go on, so got an apartment in Venice for five days and flights for a lot less than we would usually have to pay. It was AMAZING. 

Ok, I'll try to do this fairly quickly and painlessly for you...

Where we stayed: we stayed on Giudecca, which is an island just to the south of the main city archipelago (I hope that's the right word). It was only five minutes or so from St Mark's Square but a world away, in a good way. St Mark's is VERY touristy, and feels a bit 'put on' - staged and not that authentic. Giudecca is authentic Venice - it's fairly residential and quiet, and not at all touristy. Italian people actually live here. 

What we did: Lots and lots of waling. Venice is amazing for exploring - you could spend weeks just ambling down little alleyways, across bridges and boat hopping between the islands. 

Boats - oh, so many boats! If we'd had time, we'd have spent a good couple of days just touring the city on the vaporetti. Such an amazing way to get around. Always on time (incredible when you think about the variables that can affect travel on water), friendly and helpful staff, and just a joy to be seeing the city from water. We fell in love with the vaporetti, and when we weren't on boats we were taking pictures of them, watching cruise liners go out or exploring boat yards clandestinely. Also, have you ever been on a small boat in a thunderstorm? We have. A breathtaking, forks of lightning across the sky, torrential rain kind of thunderstorm. I'll never forget that experience.  What can I say? We're boat people. 

We went to the main city, and went up the campagnile tower, to St Mark's Basilica and I went to the Palazzo Ducale (amazing). We also went to the northern islands to see the Ghetto, which was incredibly moving, but in a very low-key way - you go through a horrible dark tunnel into a square, where there were children playing and people living their lives in front of a holocaust memorial amongst buildings that had seen such incredible prejudice and horror. It was so sad. 

We went to Lido, which used to be a fashionable Italian beach resort. Sadly, a lot of it has now fallen into decay. It was really eerie - we got off the boat with loads of other people but, once we'd walked for ten minutes or so, it was deserted. We just found empty blocks of apartments, dilapidated buildings and overgrown gardens. We liked it. We wanted to explore inside the empty buildings but common sense told us that wasn't a great idea. 

We went to St Michele, where the main city cemetery is, which was very powerful. It's still tended by monks who live at the monastery there, and is well worth a visit. 

We didn't make it to Murano or Burano this time, but we've promised ourselves we'll be back for more. There's still so much we want to see of Venice, and five days just wasn't enough time. 

What we ate: gelato. A lot of it. Most of it average but we found a fantastic place on Lido that sold some incredible flavours. I got the walnut and fig. There are no words for how good that gelato was. No words. Sublime is the closest I can get, but that doesn't do it justice. 

We had some great seafood. THE best restaurant was across the alley from our apartment. It was SO GOOD. If you ever go, it's worth going to Giudecca for this restaurant alone. It's called Trattoria Altanella and has been in the same family for four generations. The current owners are two brothers - one is in charge of the wait staff (and is the friendliest person you'll ever meet) and the other is in charge of the kitchen (and is probably also super friendly, but we didn't meet him). The food was amazing - especially the octopus and the squid. And the sea bream. And the mixed fish. And the scallops. They just serve fish, you should probably be aware of that. But that suits us fine! 

Also worth a mention are I figli delle stelle and Ai Cacciatore, both on Giudecca. The food isn't cheap, but it's worth the money. And the house white wine at I figli is fantastic - we're currently trying to track it down to import some for home! 

Don't bother eating anywhere near San Marco. You'll most likely just get overpriced average food and expensive wine. 

Don't: fly Easyjet. £270 to change the names on our tickets (which were originally £150), dreadful customer service when making a complaint, rude cabin crew who tried to 'forget' our change (a trick I'm sure they pull every flight), filthy planes and ridiculous baggage policies. Definitely my worst air travel experience to date. Second place is also an Easyjet plane back from Barcelona. I'm done with Easyjet.  

More photos to follow, once I fix the ipad/iPhone synching error I'm 'enjoying'. 

I wish I could go back. But for now, all I'm left with is a lot of photos of boats, and some really gross looking bites all over my legs (I react veeerrrrrry badly to insect bites. As the photo below demonstrates...) 

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