As the temperature gets colder and colder, I find myself thinking often of Venice. When I first arrived on this magical island, I could not keep my jaw from dropping at the fairy tale ambiance around me. I took on a romantic persona, traipsing through the canals of sinking Venice and drinking spritz while balancing a skewered olive between my lips.
I pretended I was a princess while walking through the Piazza San Marco, always stopping along the way for a little cone of gelato. Italian men cooed as I walked by, and I certainly did not tell them to stop. The people, food, architecture, and museums are enough to keep you occupied for weeks, but to see the real Venice, I recommend doing the following:
1.) Stay at A Venice Museum (S.Polo 2812, Calle del Traghetto, Venice, Italy)
My hostel was in a prime location; it was far from tourist traps but totally accessible to all of the main attractions. Not to mention, it is located in a former palace, and the high ceilings and chandeliers give it a luxurious feeling that is rare in hostels. My friends and I took part in a free dinner every night, thanks to our lovely Italian host, and met people from all over the world. Alberto was an amazing cook, and by the end of our stay we were back in the kitchen, throwing pizza dough in the air and patiently stirring risotto. Nothing better than a free cooking lesson in Italy by a handsome Italian man – who adored us and called us his pattatinas.
2.) Buy a Vaporetto pass
We frequently hopped on the vaporetto just for fun! Who knows where we’d end up? We rode with the locals on their way to work in the morning, reading their paper and sipping their coffee, passing picturesque buildings along the canals.
The traghetto was another mode of transportation we indulged in. Instead of paying hundreds of euro for a tour around Venice in the expensive and touristy gondolas, we took the traghetto (we loved emphasizing the ghetto) one way across a canal for a mere fifty cents!
3.) Go to the islands!
We stopped at Murano, in hopes of getting a tour from an artisan glassblower. When the saleswoman apologized and said the artist was not working that day, all we had to do was flash our young, disappointed “oh-no” faces, and out popped an old man with hands, which spoke all too well of his métier. Then, out of a little blue glob-I didn’t even blink-he presented me with a beautiful glass horse. Each piece was unique and the artist had boxes scattered around his atelier, marked for Nordstrom in New York or Macy’s in Las Vegas. It was a real Italian family business, and I left with a beautiful glass blown ring.
4.) Eat at All’Arco (Calle dell’Arco 436 San Polo)
All I had in my hands was a torn up piece of paper given to me by my French teacher, with the address of an authentic Italian restaurant. Walking through the fish market, I remember struggling through Italian and thrusting the paper in his face, asking a gentleman to direct us the right way. Tucked behind the Rialto Bridge, this treasure is a must for lovers of authentic Italian chicheti.
Good luck and buon appetito. When in doubt, follow the gondola men! (They will lead you to the real Venice.)