Do you ever spend time daydreaming about your next trip or vacation… your anticipation growing with each day that you’re closer to making your dream become reality? This sort of daydreaming is constant for me, and I’ve found that if you get lost in your perfect vision of what’s to come, nothing is as great as you’ve imagined…. that is except for Venice. Venice was better.
During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Venice was an empire unto itself, known as a major maritime power, a vital center of commerce for silk, grain and spice, and an important player in shaping the world’s conceptions of art and science. This city of marble palaces floating on a lagoon was once one of the richest cities in the world, and is now one of the world’s oldest tourist and cultural centers. It’s also one of the most popular spots to visit in all of Italy, which is quite impressive given such intense local competition (Florence, Rome, Milan, etc, etc). Many ‘tourist destinations’ do not live up to the hype, and sometimes you realize why a place is so popular… because it’s so damned cool.
In the off-season, when we visited, Venice is romantic, moody and mysterious… a magical place where ancient buildings vanish into spooky fogs, and the streets are quiet, providing a secluded place to stroll. The city’s bakers are masters in the art of pizza for breakfast (known as pizzettes), and you can find my personal favorites at Pasticceria Nobile, a daily stop for us during our stay.
More than just pizza, Venice is an ultimate foodie destination. We enjoyed casual and classic Italian fare, our favorite restaurant being Osteria Al Cantinon, where the pasta is better than ‘to die for’– it is ‘to kill for’. We also splurged on a Michelin rated dining experience, enjoying a fancy meal and classy atmosphere at Bistrot de Venise.
Where we were truly lucky was in our accommodations, as we were able to immerse ourselves in true Venetian charm and elegance at the luxurious Boscolo Hotel Venezia. This antique building, dating from the 1600s, was once owned by a noble family, served as the French embassy to Venice, and is now a perfectly preserved example of Venice’s yesteryear.
We traveled by boat from the Venice Airport (certainly the best way to travel), arriving very close to the hotel’s main entrance. The Boscolo is situated directly on the lagoon and is easily accessed from one of the first stops along the boat shuttle route. The grounds of the hotel even contain a secret garden located in the back (the largest private garden in all of Venice), where private boat taxis can drop guests directly. We entered through the front door and stepped into the grandiose marble lobby, immediately captivated by atmosphere and enormous, Murano glass chandelier overhead.
The incredibly welcoming and friendly hotel concierge arranged a free, private tour of the Murano glass factory (a perk for all hotel guests, not just bloggers!). This was one of the best experiences of the trip! I was able to watch incredibly skilled artisans creating flowers for one of their unbelievable chandeliers, one intricate petal at a time. The process is fascinating and requires unimaginable teamwork! One man is responsible for heating up sand until it transforms into a glowing orb at the end of a metal rod. He then lets the hot glob of glass drip into place, where his counterpart begins to stretch and shape the glass, which quickly transforms into a petal.
This process continues until a meticulously crafted flower appears, at which point a third teammate brings it to the oven, and carefully lays it on the grates, to bake. After watching these artisans work their magic, I was given a tour of the showroom (sorry, but no pictures allowed inside!) which displays the most incredible pieces of glass-art imaginable, some of which are over six feet tall!
We spent much of our time in Venice enjoying our immaculate suite, with higher-than-high ceilings, detailed crown molding, and a glorious chandelier. The five-star staff were sensitive to every detail, making us feel like royalty during our stay. The Boscolo Venice seemed to become our own palace.
When I wasn’t busy playing ‘princess’, we enjoyed having the streets of Venice all to ourselves, especially in the more residential (less touristy) neighborhood of the Boscolo. The location of the hotel is perfect for experiencing a more local vibe. The streets and canals contain equally as impressive architecture, just without all the pushing and shoving.
Venice, however, is not just for basking in palatial glory. Venice is for exploring – for getting lost in an endless maze of alleys and canals, and for experiencing inimitable sites. Daily, we would wander away from the Boscolo (and our favorite neighborhood), to the more touristy part of town. The city is quite small and very walkable, being contained to the confines of a natural marshland will do that! Each and every time we walked, we were simply blown away by different locations around the city, especially the buildings in and around St. Mark’s Square.
Though at this point I’ve seen more churches than I can count, none have been as impressive as St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. This might be my all-time favorite building! The uniquely colored marble columns, detailed floor, and gold-tiled mosaic ceiling (covering every inch of the interior) absolutely blew my mind.
Given the popularity of Venice, no one should be surprised to learn that it’s crowded most of the year. During spring and summer, romance seeps from every street and canal as lovers enjoy gondola rides throughout the city. In late January, pedestrians turn into fantastical, masked creatures for the famous Carnevale Festival, a can’t-miss for worldly revelers.
In the fall and winter…. well, sometimes the quiet times can be the most special.
If you are lucky enough to visit Venice in the off-season, then you’re in for quite a treat!