I've visited this beautiful island a few times before so I was prepared for a lot of walking, and this is exactly why we chose to go as our early year treat. January can be a hard month to get back into the swing of things, and after the over indulgence of the holidays, leave us feeling flat and fat, we decided to get over the hump and get walking.
My other half likes to walk in the Peak District despite having a dodgy leg from an accident. Me, well I'm only interested in walking if I'm so distracted with my camera that I don't notice I'm doing it (I also like to stop for a coffee when I need one if my back is aching from carrying my really heavy camera but in Venice even that can cost a bomb if you don't watch out).
We stayed in a really great Air bnb, on a square between Rialto and San Marco, it was a large apartment and whilst it cost us roughly the same as a hotel, my main reason was to self cater. I find that part of the experience of a place is to shop for food, all of a sudden a supermarket can be entertaining, a fruit and veg stall with unusual produce gets us quite enthusiastic to make our own meals. Simple salads bursting with flavour to accompany the most flavoursome parmesan I've ever tasted.
Like anywhere in Italy, the most basic food is top quality and the variety enormous. The little man who stood at the fruit and veg stall in our square was there from dawn to dusk with some real rarities like black tomatoes (wow they tasted so sweet). I didn't even know what some of the things were but if you can cook and like to try new things then Italy is a great place for you.
I think we could so easily live on tomatoes, salad, ham and cheese the parmesan and proscuto was to die for and that was just from a Co-op. Annoyingly the amazing deli near our flat was discovered too late on the evening before we came home, a great excuse for a return trip. They sold fantastic looking olive oil, porcini mushrooms and truffle infused oil.
If you don't read the menu outside every cafe and restaurant you can be badly stung, it is not unusual to pay over 9 Euros for a coffee, and 40 Euros for two tiny portions of Gnocchi. Yes we had a few shocks.
I really would suggest self catering in Italy for the reasons of health and cost, and while the rest of Italy isn't as expensive as Venice, the pound against the Euro is terrible right now, so make sure you change money before you go.
We did a mixture of tourist sights but mostly tried to get off the beaten track. The Guggenheim was stunning but cost 15 euros each to enter. Water bus is also pricey, from the airport it is 15euros each and every individual trip is 7.50 euros each way. You can buy a tourist pass which only run day to day, these are 20 euros for one day so I suggest you do all your water bus trips to Murano and Burano on the one day, with an evening going up the Grand Canal.
I didn't realise that it would be SO cold, it was -7 on arrival and most days it didn't get above 0 degrees, colder that Stockholm, but I felt that this had kept the hoards away, and it really wasn't too busy. I can imagine in heat and crowds it can get very claustrophobic.
A few of my instagram friends had mentioned the bookshop Libreria Acqua Alta and it was so extraordinary it has to be seen. The shop often floods, they have piled books in a gondola boat, a bath tub and made steps out of piles of books so you can see over the wall.
They have some nice cards and posters too.
Quite by accident, I was looking for one of the 'most beautiful churches' but instead found a vintage shop on the square behind it called L'armadio di Coco (Campo Santa Maria Nova). They have a great selection of things, a good haul of cashmere jumpers, accessories and menswear. On the 'beautiful churches' front, I thought that one of the best was Chiesa dei Gesuiti which is up near where the boats leave for Burano so worth doing en route. A lot of the churches charge money to get in so you may want to pick and choose which ones you visit. Pretty much they are all stunning.
We found that we ate out only at lunch times, as often we had walked so far we just needed an hour to rest and re-charge, then we enjoyed a good selection of fresh salads in the evening. I love the way they sell rocket in Italy, just a big box full of it instead of those silly little plastic bags that we get.
I'm not a fan of eating late in the evening and this way we could also do some gently yoga stretching at our spacious apartment to help our leg muscles from all those bridges!
While a lot of the clothes shops can be outrageously expensive, (and there are all the main designers here), the odd little independent can still be found like the little hat shop which has been there since 1901 and has beautiful bespoke hats for men and women. The owner is Guiliana Longo who sells everything from Gondolier hats to the maribou one that I bought, this miliner is a real artisan and such a sweet lady. The shop is on a little alleyway called Calle Del Lovo near the church of San Salvador and she has proudly been making her creations here since the late '70s.
I also found a wool beret to match my blush pink cashmere jacket and leather gloves from the vintage shop, desperately trying to keep styling in the freezing cold!
I'm going to be covering Burano on another blog post as it was so photogenic, it deserves it's own space. I also still have to go through all my photos again so watch out on instagram for those and some of the snaps I took on my phone. I will also post more photos showing some details and talking more about the colours and textures from a photographers point of view.
Visiting cities like this are right up my street, I love to explore, architecture, culture but mostly the opportunity to exercise more and eat healthy fresh food. Italy really has got all the boxes ticked for me and I really must try and get into the countryside there when it is warmer for the flip side of Italian lifestsyle. Off I pop now to www.to-tuscany.com as the other half is now smitten with Italy and plotting our return
Until next week, ciao - Janice