Venice February-March, 2017
Wondering why many airbnb apartments were filling up faster than I could search, discovered that Venice’s Carnivale is on – excellent time to visit!
The Carnevale di Venezia is a world-famous festival. Especially for the continual parade of stunning masks and period costumes, which takes place for a couple of weeks each year in this beautiful timeless city.
Southern Italy to Venice
Buses from Cosenza to this airport are pretty regular (although not on a Sunday). The buses back from Lamezia to Cosenza are not efficient. If you just missed a bus during the day, then a wait of up to 2 hours is not uncommon.
With an online Ryan Air check-in and boarding pass, it was just the bag drop-off and a wait in the queue for Immigration; although I’m not sure why as this is a domestic flight.
For some reason, my partner was signalled out for a passport check and the Immigration Officer didn’t bother with me. A couple of other officers saw that I was standing around waiting and enquired if we were together; he then collected my passport for checking.
The Immigration Officers were very nice and friendly, and we chatted advising we were living in Italy. Again, amazement that we would swap Australia with Cosenza, which is the usual reaction.
Venice Treviso Airport
Driving along the countryside revealed a shroud of heavy fog, which helped to set the scene of romanticism approaching Venice.
On arriving at the bus terminal and catching the Vaporetto (public water bus) Line 1 in the Lido Direction, had a few stops before the ATVC Marcuola stop. The meeting point for Laura (apartment’s owner) to take us to our home for the next nine evenings.
The fare is expensive at €7.50 for 75 minutes and I would rather walk everywhere. You can buy travel cards, which work out more economical.
Carnivale di Venezia – held yearly
Ending forty days before Easter on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Martedi Grasso (fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras), the Christian celebration of Lent ends the Carnival, the day before Ash Wednesday. This year, Carnivale is held on the 11th-28th February.
A little background on masks
The wearing of masks in Venice dates back to the 13th-century, although the original motive for wearing a mask is unknown.
Masks were worn for various reasons the obvious one being anonymity. Such as open masks from the nose down so that people, men especially, could go out drinking, eating, and partake in skulduggery without being recognised.
A poignant mask and the one I purchased as I found the story behind the mask fascinating, was worn by Plague Doctors.
Typically, the beak extended about 30 centimetres in which was placed herbs, dried flowers, spices, or a vinegar sponge. This not only kept bad smells at bay, which was thought the cause of the plague, but also for the doctor’s protection. The mask’s eyes had glass openings for safety. A wide-brimmed leather hat was also worn by the plague doctors, which indicated their profession.
This costume was a sign of imminent death and so, terrified people. Regardless, the plague doctors were required under their agreement to wear this costume whenever attending to plague patients.
The opulent period costumes at the carnival will leave you craving to hire a costume and join in the ever-changing parade throughout Venetian alleyways.
Wow, the historical costumes back-dropped against ancient Venice are just incredible…step back in time with all the lavishness of fashion and elegance – amazing!
Absorb yourself amongst a living theatre of spectators and masqueraders.
Costume judging takes place every morning at legendary St Mark’s Square and only managed to see one. Much fun but very busy and crowded.
Hearing many German and French visitors dressed in their elaborate costumes walking the alleys of Venice, it’s as if they are living in the 17th and 18th-centuries; and often would gladly stop to pose for a photo.
The only problem is that as soon as masqueraders stop and you hold your camera in place, a swarm of heads with cameras, phones, and iPads appear from nowhere to also take photos. Very challenging to take a photo let alone a candid photo during Carnivale.
You can expect to see busking, costume judging each morning, street walkers on poles, dancers, live music in bars, activities for children, arts, theatre, and much more during the Carnivale.
Ancient palaces house fancy-dress balls if you wish to participate.
Masqueraders exude widespread magnificence and grandeur, which is a feast for one’s eyes. The mystery and intrigue is trying to work out whether the masquerader is male or female.
Venice turns on a fantastic show for everyone, so the vibe is one of loads of fun but also amazing as a spectator.
With little change in six hundred years, 435 bridges still link 121 islands, which still provides endless waterways and walkways (calli), to explore Venice by boat or on foot.
No cars is the one thing I love about Venice. And depending in which area you stay, it is very quiet and serene at night.
The romantic charm of Venice draws around 20 million visitors to Venice each year, although its population is less than 60,0000. I think these figures speak volumes.
Venice is gorgeous as ever and there are so many beautiful sights – it’s not a myth. I’ve only listed a few popular ones here as this blog is already quite long.
Although some things have changed since 2009, others haven’t.
One thing that is more noticeable is the amount of Asian (especially Chinese) tourists here and there are even 2 Asian restaurants on the main strip.
A McDonald’s and a Burger King also ‘grace’ the main strip. What a horrible surprise and really distraught about these establishments here but not really surprised. Money talks…
Many Golden Arches’ adverts are plastered on bins around Venice – really spoils this ancient city and so disappointing.
Venice’s most famous area and where main monuments and sights are located in the main districts (Sestieri): Castello, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, San Polo, Santa Croce, and San Marco.
Had another lovely day wandering around the alleyways and districts, getting lost, and taking loads of photos.
Always very busy but much more so during Carnivale.
The Rialto Bridge is a good vantage point for photos, if you can manage to squeeze your way on to the bridge. Evenings are a little quieter than during the day as many day-tourists have returned home.
Murano and Burano
Didn’t make it to these two lovely Venetian islands on this visit. Thought I would still mention both as they are great destinations – I loved the day trip out there in 2009.
Murano is world-famous for its glass-making craftsmen whilst Burano is renown for hand-made lace and its brightly colourful buildings.
If you have some time, these two islands make for a pleasant day trip and the Vaparetto ride is relaxing.
St Mark’s Square
Although this square is busy with visitors, it’s extremely busy and packed during Carnivale; especially around 11am when the costume judging takes place.
The square is a beautiful and a famous part of Venice but beware, it is famous for ripping off tourists if you even have just a coffee here – prices are prohibitively expensive.
Although the Venetian Ghetto was the first ghetto established in 1516, before this date existed political restrictions on Jewish rights and residences. This is still Venice’s Jewish centre today.
A favourite spot in Venice for its relative quietness, if that’s at all possible at this time of year. As this area is just that little bit off the Venetian tourist trail and further out, you can experience pockets of quietness in this part of Venice.
Typically, accommodation is also cheaper here and better value-for-money.
Apartamento Maddalena Cannaregio – A room with a view!
The front gate leads into a well-manicured garden courtyard and up to massive timber doors with brass knobs.
Walk through this door and an ancient columned stone-tiled area awaits. On the right, is another closed but smaller quaint courtyard. On the left, a wide glass door frames a vista of the Grand Canal with Gondolas gliding quietly past; a living Italian Renaissance painting. Pontoons lead out over the Canal, which is a great spot for taking photos.
A set of high wrought-ironed gates and more heavy timber doors is the entrance to the apartment’s foyer. Leading up several very aged stone steps and through to yet another heavy timber door with brass ancient handles, which opens to the kitchen.
The authentic 14th-century Venetian apartment is beautiful and just like stepping back in time. Ornate plaster surrounds you on ceilings and walls. Authentic original art adorns most walls. Laura (owner) mentioned restoration is necessary every 5 or so years as Venice’s damp eats into the paintings and plaster.
From the lounge room window, the ever-changing view of the Grand Canal is gorgeous and it’s lovely to just sit, and have coffee whilst watching Venice go by; a shifting painting.
The nine-night stay is for my partner’s birthday present so I wanted a special authentic Venetian apartment, with a memorable view. The location is also excellent.
Note: If you use a non-Euro credit card when booking with airbnb, take note of your final charge. Airbnb charges an additional 3% conversion fee on top of the stated charge. This conversion fee is hidden in the final total and not itemised. I did email airbnb with regards to itemising this extra charge for transparency, but still waiting for a response.
Even though the apartment has everything required to make meals, still managed to eat out quite a lot. Remember, if you want to save money, then stand up and eat lunch at a restaurant/Bar as sitting down at a table is much more expensive.
- Spaghetteria 6342 a le Tole Pizzeria – Definitely my first choice for Venice! Having had the best meal in Venice by far here, had to return just one more time. This place is an addiction.
The glassed kitchen with busy chefs and the continuous opening door to the kitchen is hectic throughout the night. If you don’t reserve a table, you won’t get in; it really is that busy. As cuttlefish and its ink is one of Venice’s food trademarks, try the Sepia freshly made pasta with scallops (€16) – an amazing experience. Other pasta dishes such as the Tagliolini Gamberoni (€13) is also delicious. The pizza (€7.50+) is delicious. The pasta dish with veal cheek so tender that it just fell apart, washed down with a bottle of Merlot – scrumptious. Followed this up with the most delicious Tiramisu with berry coulis topped with a flake of chocolate (desserts €6+). The service is excellent, the food is amazing, and the ambience is pleasantly loud and unpretentious. Some sort of live music (musician with an instrument only) is on and everything flows smoothly in this very professional restaurant. Cover charge is €2/person. All pasta is handmade and in-house.
- Magnum Venezia (Malileo SAS di Camoli D) – For €5 you can experience a Magnum ice-cream drizzled with wonderful toppings, covered with anything from Goji berries, chocolate chips, nuts, M&M’s, and much more. Add €0.50 to this price to wash your ice-cream down with an espresso. Super busy and great to watch as staff create your personalised Magnum.
- Capatoast (Via Cannaregio, 3102) – An excellent place that just sells massive toast with delicious fillings. A huge meal in itself, you won’t need anything else. This place is small but super busy with locals and foreign tourists. One of the cheaper eats in Venice, and not hard to see why it is so busy. Toasts (€4.50+), hot chips (€2.50), Cappuccino (€1.50). Great staff and music in this cute little modern café.
- Vyta Santa Margherita (Venezia Santa Lucia railway station) – Wonderful coffee (€1.30), snacks (€3+), cakes and pastries (€2+). The cheapest in Venice.
- Relax 8 Caffe Caffetteria (Venezia Santa Lucia railway station) – Loads of seating and free wi-fi with order. Good coffee (€1.30) and cakes (€2+), snacks (€2+). New, clean, and modern. Toilets are free if you buy something.
- Pasqualigo Ristorante-Pizzeria (Cannaregio 2288) – The first night’s meal in Venice and not too bad. It seems that many restaurants are either run by Pakistani, North Africans, or Chinese. What happened to the Italian Chef? Good pizza (€8+), nice dessert (€6+), half-litre carafe of house wine (€7). Good service, nice restaurant. Don’t forget the 10% service charge at the end. Typically, in Venice you are charged Cover and Service charges. Some establishments charge one or the other, and some charge both – check the bottom of the menu.
- The Wild West (Strada Nuova, 3660/A) – For a burger or fix other than pasta or pizza, then this is your place. Decorated in wild west fashion, if you can get past the country music of which I’m not a big fan, then you’ll have a pleasant meal. Good service and food. Wine (€4+/glass), Meals (€8+), Beer (€4.30), service charge is €2 per person.
- Majer – A franchise found throughout Venice. Serves great coffee (€2.60), pastries (€1.25+), snacks, Muffins (€3+), and provides a seating area.
- Bar Ciak (San Polo, 2807/C) – Prices advertised on the outside window are not the same as when you sit down: forgot about this point. It’s a lovely pub and not too dissimilar to an old-world English pub. Very busy with tourists: house wine (€4/glass) and an average Panini (€5). Still, it was warm and cosy on this chilly overcast Venetian winter’s day.
- COOP Supermarket (Via Cannareggio 3660) – Pick up cheap pre-made and yummy eats, groceries, and most things you need if you’re in a self-contained apartment; and keeping costs down.
- COOP Supermarket (Via Cannareggio 1976) – Another well-stocked supermarket in which you can buy almost anything and much cheaper than prices on the Venice’s streets.
- Despar (Cannaregio 1939/1952) – Good supermarket to stock up at but a little more expensive.
Shops of interest
- Art Marco Venice (Salizada S. Antonin, Castello 3486) – You can’t leave Venice without buying the obligatory mask but beware, there are many Chinese copies sold in the main tourist streets in Venice. This tiny shop barely large enough to fit four people standing, hand-makes their own masks from paper mache. Kastroit (artist that paints the masks) is both charming and friendly. He will look after you and sell you a mask at a fair price, which comes with a receipt and guarantee that it is genuine.
- Computer Fix (Castello 6662/A) – Thought I’d throw this one in as this was the only place open to get some documents printed from a USB stick and at €0.50 per B&W page, not cheap.
- Libreriaa Toletta (Dorsoduro 1213) – For all books Italian. This shops also sells greeting cards if you’re desperate as I am for a birthday card.
Having first visited Venice in 2009, I can’t believe the changes since eight years’ ago.
One main change is that many of the then Italian-run restaurants are now run by either Chinese, Albanians, or Arabians. What happened to the Italian chefs in Venice?
Most of the food around the popular tourists areas are the same expensive prices for the same tasteless meals dished up. It’s disappointing. Lucky we had our own self-catering apartment and could buy fresh ingredients to make our own food.
It feels great to be back in Venice – love the vibe here and the labyrinth of alleyways to easily lose yourself in, which happens a lot in Venice.
The saying goes something like this: if you haven’t been lost in Venice then you haven’t really visited this city. Although, these days with Smartphones and Apps, I wonder if many visitors still get lost.
I did see (as we had) many tourists with paper maps. Let’s face it, you don’t always have internet connection.
Escaping the hoards in Venice with a day trip to Trieste
Venice is not the place to be this weekend as just too many tourists flooding in for the last frantic weekend of the Carnivale.
Time to get out.
A train trip to Trieste sounds like a perfect escape for the day, especially as this city is only about two hours away from Venice.
Finally, time to say goodbye to a quieter Venice, walked with our backpacks to the bus station, which is about one kilometre from the apartment – needed the exercise after the wonderful food.
Caught the comfortable bus back to Treviso airport and waited.
If you need food and a place to sit whilst waiting in Treviso’s Departures, then Bricco isn’t too bad: pizza slices (€4.70), coffee (€1.30), Brioche (€1.40), and other snacks are also offered.
Returning to Cosenza
Ryan Air was on time for the return journey, which is always a great start, and arrived to Lamezia Termine on time.
It’s great to be back home in Cosenza. I do like the feel of this city; the way people chat the day away, and generally live life.
The warmth of today is like someone has flicked the Summer switch on, so lovely and sunny. Also glad to get back into the swing of the gym after twelve days of feasting – gaining weight at an alarming rate, but hard not to in Italy.