Italy -Sept 2022- Day 1

Hey Guys!

My hubby and I planned a last minute trip to Italy after my sister decided to cancel our trip to Norway!

She was scared off by the fact that so many airlines were cancelling flights & since she had put so much time and research into the trip, she felt it was best we put it off and go another time.

However, with that being said, my sister and her hubby is currently on a trip in Germany so I’m not sure if I should be offended or not! 😉

After my sister decided to cancel, I asked my darling husband if he would like to go to Italy because I am not scared of the possibility of a cancelled flight!

Since he had mentioned that we could possibly go next year to celebrate 35 years of wedded bliss, I figured why put it off, let’s celebrate 34 years of wedded bliss instead!

He agreed to go and my planning and research began!

I have been to Italy twice before but my hubby has never been so most of the places he wanted to go, I had already been to.

It did make the planning a slight bit easier since I had already been but there was still A LOT of research involved!

I only had two months to plan this trip and we were renting a car the entire time so that in itself was stressful!

On one of my prior trips to Italy, my step mom had rented a car for a few days and she ended up being scammed. Car rental companies in Italy are notorious for scamming people!

They will claim you damaged the car by putting a tiny scratch on it or that you messed up something on the car and then they will try and charge you hundreds of dollars in damages!

Tip: When you rent a car in Italy, I highly recommend you take pics and video of the inside and the outside of the car, check the tires, make sure the tank is full, etc

So, after much research and booking and cancelling about 20 rental cars (no joke), I settled on a rental car with Hertz at the Venice airport.

I booked directly through their website and purchased their Super Coverage insurance.

I highly recommend you book directly through the car rental site and not a 3rd party site like Travelocity, Booking, Expedia, etc.

I also HIGHLY recommend you purchase ALL insurance….especially one that covers the excess.

Most people are unaware of excess ….Excess is the sum that the renter agrees to pay in case of a claim on the insurance policy. So, even with insurance, you could still have to pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars if damage the vehicle.

With Hertz’s super coverage insurance, if you were to total the vehicle, you would walk away owing nothing.

So, after finally settling on a rental car, I booked our airline tickets. I usually use 3rd party sites to book my airfare but since there were some airlines cancelling flights, I read it was best to book directly with the airline.

If an airline overbooks a flight, I’ve read that they will boot those who have booked through 3rd party sites first. Not sure how much truth there is to that but I didn’t want to take any chances.

With that being said, I have never had any issues booking my hotels, rental cars and airfare through 3rd party sites.

I also read not to fly into any of the New York airports because they were a mess…so, I booked us on a flight with American Airlines and had a layover in Philadelphia.

I had also read to give yourself plenty of time during your layover in case there is a flight delay or cancellation….that way, the airlines have more time to get you rebooked on a different flight.

We flew out of Nashville on Wed, Sept. 14th at 11:30 am and arrived to Philly at approx 2:40 pm. We departed Philly at approx. 7:30 pm and arrived in Venice the next day at 9:30 am.

Tip: Read here for Italy’s travel requirements – Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months beyond your planned date of departure. So, if you are departing Italy on Nov 5th, 2022, your passport must not expire until at least Feb. 25th, 2023 or later.

We headed straight to Hertz to pick up our car….the car rental companies are located on the 3rd floor at the airport.

Click here to read where you go to pick up your rental car at the airport

Thankfully, no one was at the Hertz rental counter when we arrived so it took less than 5 mins to pick up our car!

I had read reviews where some people stood in line for 2 hrs waiting to pick up their rental car!!

Once we found our car and familiarized ourselves with it, we headed to the parking garage about 20 mins away from the airport.

The cost for our midsize vehicle for 10 days with the super coverage insurance was approx. $1100.

Tip: The steering wheel is on the left and you drive on the left just like we do in the US

Tip: Read here for everything you need to know about driving in Italy

Even though we wouldn’t be needing our car for the first two days of our trip, I felt it would be easier to go ahead and rent the car now instead of having to go back to the airport and rent later.

There are other car rental companies you can rent from besides the airport, but their hours vary and since we would be leaving Venice super early on our 3rd day, I didn’t want to deal with trying to rent a car that day.

Tip: If you are traveling by train click here

There are a few huge parking garages located near Venice…we parked at Piazzale Roma AKA Parcheggio Comunale Venezia. It’s a 10 story parking garage and cost 35 euros a day.

Tip: If you are driving, put Parcheggio Comunale Venezia into your GPS to get you there

Tip: Read all about the parking garages here

Once we arrived, we had to pull a ticket at the gate and then we were told to go to the 10th floor!

The parking spaces were made for mini coopers….they are tiny! Get the insurance people!!

After parking and figuring out how to get out of the garage, we put in our hotel’s address to get us walking in the right direction!

All I can say is, whatever you do, download google maps app and then download offline maps of the places you will be visiting….we would have never made it without Google Maps!!

That also reminds me, using your phone in Italy requires you to have a data plan unless you only plan to use your phone while on WiFi.

Since we were driving, I had to have data. Last time, I used Verizon’s International Plan. You pay $10 a day for a limited amount of data each day.

This time, I decided to go with an electronic Sim card....I had never used an international Sim card and really didn’t want to have to take out my Sim card and replace it with an Italian Sim card.

So, I found what’s called an Esim. You basically download the Esim to your phone and then turn it on once you land in the country you will be visiting.

I purchased mine through the Airalo app. It costs approx. $16 for 10 GB of data. It worked perfectly!

Ok, back to Venice…as we were walking in the direction of our Hotel, the Hotel Colombina, we saw a private water taxi coming towards us….he asked if we needed a ride to our hotel and of course, we said yes!

The cost was 70 euros…it would have taken us 35 mins to walk to our hotel but we had two backpacks and two carry on bags so we didn’t want to walk.

Tip: If you book a water taxi from the airport, it’s 140 euros. Click here to read more about the water taxis…you can also take a bus and walk or take the public water bus.

Tip: Click here to prebook your transportation from the airport to your hotel or to St Mark’s Square

We absolutely loved the private boat taxi!!  It was worth every dime and I would definitely recommend you do the same if ever traveling to Venice!

On the boat!

Going through the canals of Venice….so incredible!

Out in open waters heading to our hotel…it took about 15-20 mins to get there.

Pics along the way to our hotel

A shot of St Mark’s Square from the boat.

As we were headed to our hotel, we went under the Bridge of Sigh.

The enclosed bridge was built in the 1600’s and was used to transport prisoners to their jail cells. It is one of the most popular things to see in Venice.

You better be watching your head going under some of these bridges!

Headed down the canal where our hotel was located.

A shot of our hotel, the Hotel Colombina.

I booked most of our rooms through Booking.com.

The taxi dropped us off right at the front door of the hotel…so cool!

Since it was too early to check in, the hotel allowed us to drop off our bags so we didn’t have to drag them around with us.

After dropping off our luggage, we headed to Doges Palace.

Prior to arriving to Venice, I had booked skip a line tickets on the GetYourGuide app so we wouldn’t have to stand in long lines.

Tip: If you download the app, you can access all of your tickets on the app so you don’t have to keep up with paper tickets.

Thankfully, we didn’t have a scheduled time to arrive….we could show up anytime during business hours (10 am – 5 pm) and go through the skip a line line.  We paid 66 euros for our tickets.

Tip: Last admission to the Palace is 1 hr before closing time

Arriving to St Mark’s Square….our hotel was a 3 min walk to the Square.

Doges Palace is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

The original foundations date back to the 14th and 15th century while some of the other wings of the building date back to 1340 and up to 1565.

The Doge of Venice, sometimes translated as Duke, was the chief magistrate and leader of the Republic of Venice between 726 and 1797. Doges of Venice were elected for life by the Venetian nobility.

The Doge’s Palace was the heart of the political life and public administration of the Venetian Republic.

The Palace housed not only the Doge’s apartments, the seat of the government and the city’s courtrooms, but also a jail.

During the second half of the 16th century, the construction of new prisons were linked to the Doge’s Palace by the Bridge of Sighs.

The rooms were so incredibly ornate!!

We spent approximately one hour touring the Palace….it’s huge!!

Some pics of the inside

Read reviews here

The jail that was added to the Palace

Tip: You can also do a secret tour of the Palace…read more here.

The last view the prisoners would have of the city as they were being taken to the their jail cell

After leaving here, we headed to the Libreria Acqua Alta...which is a bookstore.

On our way, we noticed the water had risen in St Mark’s Square!

The city puts up wooden boardwalks when the water rises

High water depends on the tide cycle (the alternation of high and low tides happens every 6 hours): when there is “acqua alta” on the streets this lasts only a few hours during the peak of the high tide (usually 3 to 4 hours).

Walking the streets of Venice.

Arriving to the bookstore.

The quirky, self-proclaimed “most beautiful bookstore in the world” is composed of a number of over-stuffed rooms stacked wall-to-wall with books, magazines, maps, and other ephemera.

Due to Venice’s constant flooding, however, these picturesque piles are all placed inside bathtubs, waterproof bins, and in one room a full-size gondola.

The name itself even means “Book Store of High Water.” When the local waterways rise to fill the store, the water can rise inches off the floor, which would destroy the collection.

So many books!!

Read reviews here

We couldn’t miss having our picture taken on the stack of books!

After leaving here, we headed out to find something to eat.

On the way, we passed a bakery and couldn’t pass up buying a delicious pastry!

After the bakery, we passed the local market selling fruits and veggies.

We decided to eat at Trattoria Ai Leoncini Pizzeria….you can’t go wrong with pizza in Italy!

I ordered the caprese pizza and the hubby ordered a pizza with mushrooms and prosciutto….so delicious!!

After lunch, we headed back to St Marks Square (known as Piazza San Marco to the locals)- we had a 3:00 timed entrance for the St Marks Basilica.

Tip: You can purchase skip the line tickets for this also and I highly recommend it!

Tip: If you purchase tickets for the Basilica on the GetYourGuide app, please be aware that you will have to pick up an actual ticket at the Venice Tours Assistance Point. It’s located at a newsstand at the end of St Marks Square.

After picking up our tickets, we had a few minutes to kill…so, we walked around St Marks Square….it was still partially flooded with water so we decided to take our shoes off and wade through the water!

A few pics of us in St Marks Square

At 3, we headed to get in the skip a line line to start our self guided tour of the Basilica.

The tour included an audio guide of the Basilica but we chose not to listen to it.

They were doing renovations to the Basilica…it’s a constant battle trying to keep up these old, historic buildings.

We were able to go right in with our skip a line tickets! The price was $39 for both of us and well worth it!

Originally this building was to be an extension of the Doge’s Palace, however the construction of the Basilica of St. Mark, which began in 828 and ended in 832, was made to house the body of St. Mark the Apostle brought from Alexandria to who they named protector of the city.

The works of the present basilica began in 1063 in Byzantine style to represent the power of the prosperous Venetian Republic.

The church has a Greek cross base with five domes. It became the cathedral of the city in 1807 and has more than 4,000 square meters of mosaics, many of them belonging to the 13th century, and 500 columns of the 3rd century.

It is located in the St. Mark square, next to the Doge’s Palace, and has always been the center of the public and religious life in the city.

The Basilica is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe and around the world!

I could not stop taking pictures of this place…it was so incredible!

Read reviews here

After admiring the church for about 30 mins, we headed to our next stop, the Rialto Bridge.

The bridge is a 7 min walk from St Marks Basilica.

This place was packed out!! Actually, all of Venice was really crowded!!

The Rialto Bridge is the most famous bridge in Venice. It was the first of four bridges that span the Grand Canal.

The central stairs are lined with shops and vendors and that’s one reason it stays so busy!

The two other stairs, on the north and south sides of the bridge, offer those iconic views of the Grand Canal, with gondolas, water buses (vaporetti), and commercial boats trolling past day and night

The current bridge was built between 1588 and 1591, after the last of the previous wooden versions gave up the ghost in 1524.

You definitely don’t want to miss taking your picture on the bridge!

After leaving the bridge, we decided it was time for some of that famous Italian gelato!

I had researched the best ones in Venice so we decided to go with the one that had the most reviews….Suso Gelatoteca.

The line was a good indication that it was a very popular place!

The flavors they offered

I ordered two scoops …one was pistachio and the other was tiramisu.

My hubby ordered the traditional pistachio and a chocolate flavor.

It definitely lived up to the hype…it was delicious!

After our gelato, we decided to head back to the hotel and check into our room.

Our hotel was only a 6 min walk from Suso.

We stayed at the Hotel Colombina due to its proximity to St Marks Square.

We booked a Jr Suite with canal views….I had wanted a room with a balcony but they were already booked.

Our room was beautiful!

It was beautifully decorated in 18th century Venetian style furnishings and decor.

It had a huge bathroom, a TV, a king size bed and a twin size bed, a desk & chair, two chairs and a small table and another chair by the window that overlooked the canal.

The hotel had left us a complimentary fruit basket!

Our view from the windows

You could see the Bridge of Sigh from one of the windows!

The first thing my hubby did was take a nap!

After resting for a while, we headed back out to walk around.

A picture in front of the gondolas on the Grand Canal

As we were walking, we spotted the Bridge of Sigh so, of course, I had to take 256 more pics of it!

Vendors set up all along the Grand Canal

Click here for the top 20 attractions on the Grand Canal

Statue near the Grand Canal

We found ourselves back at the Rialto Bridge

The views from the bridge can’t be beat!

After leaving the bridge, we headed to the T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace.

The terrace is located inside a shopping mall.

You can book your tickets online here. The tickets are free but you must have a reservation to gain access to the rooftop.

Before we left, I had checked to see what time the sun would set in Venice the day we would be going to the rooftop. I booked our reservation as close to that time as possible and was so glad I did!

The views were breathtaking!

After the terrace, we headed to find something to eat.

We decided to eat at one of the outdoor cafes in St Mark Square.

Tip: Cafe Florian is the most popular outdoor cafe in St Marks Square. It opened in 1720 and is the oldest cafe in the world!

Read reviews here

Sadly, we didn’t end up eating at the Cafe…even though I had it on my list, I didn’t realize it was in St Marks Square.

We ended up eating at Caffe Aurora which is near the Cafe Florian.

We decided to order a sandwich and a pizza to share.

The restaurant reviews aren’t that good …actually, its rated #1235 out of 1286 restaurants in the Venice area!

However, we felt the food was satisfactory…it was the views and the music in St Marks Square that made it such a unique and enjoyable experience.

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel and sat outside on their jetty for a while before heading to bed.

View from our hotel window

Thanks for reading!

Stay tuned for Day 2 in italy!

Update: Read Day 2 here, Day 3 here, Day 4 here, Day 5 here, Day 6 here, Day 7 here, Day 8 here, Day 9 here, Day 10 here and my post on my 16 Day Trip in Italy here

 

 

 

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