Monday, 28 April 2014

Italian Tale Part 3: Venetian Beauty

Venice was a dream. Utterly unlike any other place I have ever seen, the entire time we were there it didn't stop feeling completely surreal. We stayed at a camp site in Mestre and had to take a bus from the train station to see actual Venice which meant we walked a hell of a lot. My sister joined me for the first two days in Venice and my friend from university was with me for the last two days and Pisa. I had such a fabulous time here. Again, following the same procedure here were my favourite places and things to do. I hope you enjoy reading it.




Venetian Beauty

Camping Jolly
Camping Jolly was our hostel, and also a camp site. It was quite cool we had a little cabin to ourselves which was nice, the bathroom was clean but the shower fluctuated between boiling hot and freezing cold. There was a restaurant/bar as well where they serve a buffet breakfast for five euros. We didn't take advantage of that because we wanted to eat out. They also did cocktail buckets for fifteen euros which were ace. 



I did have trouble connecting to the wifi though, a problem specific to iPhone 4S's and that was annoying, but there are computers in the reception. It was a good place and only ten euros a night. One major flaw was that after midnight you won't be able to get back in unless you have service on your phone but we just climbed over a fence and it was fine.





Piazza San Marco
It was described by Napolean as 'the most elegant drawing room in Europe' and is probably the biggest piazza I have seen in all of Italy and the only piazza in Venice; the other squares are referred to as campi. Piazza San Marco is the place during Carnivale season which takes place around Shrove Tuesday (and I sadly missed). It  is huge and busy and white, with lots of neat little restaurants that boast plenty of outdoor seating and an awesome live band which play alternatively soft and loud lively music which is just joyful; I love it.  The Campanile, Basilica San Marco and Doge's palace can all be found either in or very near the Piazza. 





Shops
Venice have such an amazing array of shops. We wandered into a lace and linen shop that that had book marks, necklaces, doilies, place mats, everything possible made out of lace and linen. It was adorable and bizarre, all this hand-stitched woven lace made into useful delicate items. 



Furthermore, glass is a big thing here and of course so are masks so each fancy shop dedicated to those two things are a must-see because there are a million and one cool amazing masks in a fantastic range of colorus: green, gold, black, white, each one more ornate and elaborate and glittery than the last. I am still so gutted I missed Carnivale season. These masks, however, especially the most awesome ones cost around €900 and the glass whether they are morphed into tiny sweet little birds or giant clear vases or beaded necklaces cost anywhere from €40 to €400. So yeah, if you want something bring your Am Ex.





Vaparetto
 I got a 72 hour pass for the vaparetto which is essentially a bus on water. There is a man that lets everyone on and off by unhooking a gate for everyone. It was like being in a completely different dimension for a few days and it was the best time. Every journey was so stunning it was impossible to keep your eyes from the water it's like you are being entranced because it looks like the whole city is suspending on a floating jewel box. It's surreal and gorgeous and indescribable but I finally understood what people meant when they told me Venice reminded them of Disneyland it's just more than what you could ever hope for. We spent as much time as possible on this strange passport wanting to see as much of this bizarre city as possible and I don't regret a minute.






La Strada Nova
This was a strip of shops in Ca D'Or which contains the only McDonald's in Venice but also a myriad of souvenir shops and other shops such as Lush. I was really surprised to see a Lush in Venice but we found one in Pisa too. Who knew Italians went crazy over handmade soap? There was another Grom on this trip which we took full advantage of, apple pie gelato is my favourite gelato.



The Hilton Hotel (Skyline Bar)
In Guidecca, there is a place called The Skyline Bar. We had no idea where to find it specifically and we set in search for it at half one in the morning. We walked to a beautifully lit up building which turned out to be a hotel - The Hilton it turned out - intending to ask for directions only to realise that the Skyline Bar was the hotel's bar and it closed at 1 am and opened at 5. Me and my friend went the next day to check it out but it wasn't very impressive the view was nothing special, for a place called The Skyline Bar it should be a lot higher to justify the name. But, we did hang out in the lobby downstairs where there are seats, the decor makes you feel like you're in a modern, expensive living room and no-one dais anything to us while we read our magazines and deliberated what we should do for the rest of the night. Also, the sofas in the lounge are so comfy you feel glued to the seat and you just don't want to move.








Basillica San Marco
The Basilica has five huge domes and a rich history. The mosaics are particularly beautiful as is the Pala d'Oro which is the marvellous altarpiece, made in the tenth century, it consists of 250 panels adorned with both enamels and precious stones, breathtaking to perceive. The entryway has incredible blue and gold ceilings, to go inside the Basilica it  costs five euros but I would say it is worth seeing although it all depends on your own personal preference.





Rosso Pomodoro
The first place we ate at Venice, i ordered gnocchio...something which is supposed to be dumplings with meat sauce but is actually more just boiled potatoes with a lot of cheese and meat sauce it was good but not that filling. My sister got a cone shaped pizza that had stuffed crust and the portion was great as it filled up both of us and the house white wine was really good. The staff were sweet and attentive and the place was busy with both tourists and Venetians, the place was recommended to us by the woman who worked in the magnificent lace and linen shop.



Grom
There are Groms all over Italy but we only ventured in one in Venice, and it was about time. Grom is known for using natural, fresh ingredients and although it is slightly more expensive but everything is a good size and the gelato is simply fantastic. Additionally, Grom has a bigger range of flavours than most other gelaterias for instance apple pie gelato can only be found here. Their flavours change as the seasons change. I got salted caramel, apple pie and crema di grom, it was delicious.



Rialto Bridge
I am not entirely sure why everyone loves this bridge so much, but it is massive and old, and there are shops along the bridge which is worth noting. It is a very busy place and it does photograph well.




La Mela Verde
La Mela Verde which is ranked number 8 for restaurants in Venice on Trip Advisor. I had three scoops for three and a half euros. I ordered vanilla, cherries and cream and Venetian cream the cherry one was my favourite it was delicious and moreish. 




Alfredo's Fresh Pasta to Go
In Castello there is a highly renowned placed called Alfredo’s Fresh Pasta To Go, I still think about this place today. I paid €7 for pasta with ham, cheese, parsley and white cream it was seriously delicious. All other pasta made by anyone in Italy or the world pales in comparison. The guys working there were surprisingly young, cute, polite and efficient and surprisingly none of them were called Alfredo. We ate out pasta on a nearby bridge and we like to think we started that trend.







Gelato Fantasy
Another great place to get good gelato. This gelateria faces the street rather than being an actual shop. It was priced very well and the staff were quick. I had Venetian cream and cheesecake gelato for two euro fifty and it was good. We went back to Gelato Fantasy and ordered more flavours, they are all good.







Caffe Florian
Caffe Florian is also in the Piazza, it is said to be the place where Bryon, Dickens and Proust used to hang in the nineteenth century. I didn't go there personally, but just in case there are any literary buffs out there this is a place you should check out.



Café Noir

A revolutionary bar in my opinion. We walked past Café Noir in a hunt for cocktails and I got a strawberry dacquiri an Ieva got a mojito. The place has popcorn and crisps as well and you can take cocktails to go! On the way to the Skyline Bar, we wanted to see the view at night (also unimpressive) I got a coca strawberry - which was really good rum, coke, lime and strawberries - to go and it was a work of art.







Bad Things
Venice at night is perfectly dead, vacant, silent as a grave. It is eerie and cool in equal measures. Everywhere was quiet, there were a few scant people around, mainly couples with luggage or men dressed in army gear. We walked aimlessly during these wee hours  and I marvelled at how flat Venice is. It felt like a ball room after Rome and Florence, even the buildings are just flat similar to a cartoon it's actually pretty funny. We checked and saw that the one returning to the bus station was at half four and then we randomly found a park and while we found the park we discovered that there was another vaparetto stand still running and there was a vaparetto going in our required direction in fourteen minutes ( it was three in the morning) so we meandered through the park and looked at statues discovered a play ground and obviously jumped at the chance to go on the swings because we are five year olds at heart. As long as you can amuse yourself and you're in good company the fact that no one else is around isn't a big deal at all, as long as you don't spook easy.





 Another moment that is seared into my brain for the rest of eternity is a man masturbating in broad daylight, no big deal. It was at the Ferrovia vaparetto stand and a man had his penis out just bulging out of the unzipped gap in his jeans his testicles were worryingly swollen and he must have been looking at porn or sexting someone because he was just stroking it in broad daylight in full view, shades on, he didn't give a damn. I couldn't believe this, it was so unexpected and vulgar that at first I thought my eyes were playing tricks. A woman even asked him a question and she either didn't notice or was deliberately avoiding it. I can't believe no one said anything because everyone seemed oblivious or were just turning a blind eye. Maybe it's typical in Italy? Maybe people just don't care. 



So that ended on a weird note. I loved Venice, it's a beautiful city suspended on water and though I would detest living there I adored being able to see and admire it at my leisure. Gondolas are ridiculously overpriced so I wouldn't recommend that but just use your eyes and you'll be glad you went. 



Hope you liked this post, it makes me sad to remember all these places, I wish I could write detail by detail everything that happened each day but that would be utterly ridiculous and would probably result in me impulsively booking another ticket to Italy ASAP. Nearly finished now. All my links are below and I wish you all a good week. Remember Mondays are fine, it's your life that sucks.

Next and Last stop: Pisa.

Kiran xxx


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