Scene 1: Travel day Garda to Venice -1 ferry, 4 feet, 1 train and a water taxi.
After 3 nights it was time to leave Garda and move on to our next stop: Venice! But first, a ferry ride from Garda to Peschiera. (Why Peschiera? Because that’s where the train station is.)
How do you know what time the ferries depart and where they go? Just reference this easy to read, simple ferry schedule that’s posted. It clearly states what time the ferry departs and where it goes, right?
Clear as mud.
We gave up on trying to read the schedule and just asked the guy in the ticket booth. Much easier than deciphering the schedule.
18 Euros later we had our tickets to Peschiera.
The 9:00 ferry arrived and departed right on time. Here is the view of Garda from the ferry as we were leaving.
Dooley Bear was excited to be on the ferry and on his way to Venice too!
One, cold, hour later –
We arrived in Peschiera, Italy.
From the ferry dock, it was a 10-minute walk to the train station.
We were two hours early for the train we booked, but lucky for us there was another train leaving in 5 minutes. Unfortunately, there weren’t any seats available in the standard class, so we had to upgrade. The upgrade cost approximately 30 Euros. Well worth the cost considering we would be arriving in Venice 2 hours early.
When the train rolled up, we couldn’t believe how long it was. We learned you have to be super quick when boarding because when it’s ready to leave, the doors just shut and it’s gone.
There is no “Belize time” allowed when traveling by train.
We pre-purchased all of our train tickets online at http://www.trenitalia.com/ which made it very easy on our travel days. The cost for all of our train tickets for the entire trip was about 290 Euros.
Here’s Ronnie enjoying the first class cabin on the 1 1/2 hour ride to Venice. On this trip, the train reached speeds of up to 84 mph.
When we stepped outside of the train station, we couldn’t believe our eyes. It was so surreal to see and feel the energy of Venice.
We turned left out of the train station and within a few minutes, found the taxi stand. You waited in line just like you would for a car taxi, but instead, you were standing on a dock waiting for a boat. A beautiful, James Bond style boat.
We hopped in a taxi and enjoyed the 30-minute ride to our hotel. The cost of the taxi was 80 Euros and it was so worth it.
Boats of every size and speed were zipping around.
It was total chaos. But somehow it felt organized.
The chaotic traffic was very similar to traffic in San Pedro, Belize. But instead of bicycles, golf carts, cars, taxis and trucks, there were gondolas, private boats, water taxis, vaporettos and delivery boats.
Views from our taxi on the ride to our hotel.
Passing by gondolas on the way to our hotel.
Once we left the Grand Canal, we made our way under the Bridge of Sighs and to the dock of our hotel. We stayed at Hotel Al Ponte Dei Sospiri which has a private boat dock.
That balcony just above the white awning was our suite.
We have arrived! It was so cool pulling up to a boat dock at a hotel. This dock even had a fancy red, velvet rope! Our driver rang the doorbell and a cheerful concierge met us to collect our luggage and check us in.
Scene 2: From Airbnb to are you kidding me, a gourmet dinner and music under a full moon.
This is the “street” entrance to the Hotel Al Ponte Dei Sospiri.
The helpful front desk manager checked us in and we were immediately escorted to our suite. We booked the Ducale suite and WOW!
We went from Airbnb to are you kidding me?
The Hotel Al Ponte Dei Sospiri is by far the most elegant hotel we have ever stayed in. But we figured, when in Venice, why not treat yourself to the best! The room was perfect. Comfy bed, gorgeous Murano glass chandelier, plush bathrobes and slippers and a one-of-a-kind view of the Bridge of Sighs.
The hotel was thoughtful enough to have this bottle of prosecco chilled and waiting for us.
We enjoyed the prosecco as we unpacked and enjoyed the iconic Venice view.
Time to hit the sidewalks of Venice for some exploring.
We stopped into Wine Bar HK and enjoyed a couple of glasses red wine while watching rush hour traffic cruise by on a gondola superhighway.
Strolling through the sidewalks of Venice in search of a highly recommended restaurant: Luna Sentada.
We found Luna Sentada and didn’t even get lost once along the way. (Full disclosure: our hotel was only a 5-minute walk from the restaurant.)
Time to order wine!
The restaurant had outdoor seating along the water, but they also had this gorgeous indoor dining room. We chose inside since it was chilly outside.
Happy with our tasty wine choice, it was time for dinner. Lisa ordered scallops with pasta in pesto sauce and Ronnie had the beef fillet. Both meals were phenomenal.
Based on our friends’ recommendations, we saved room for dessert. And we are so glad we did! Their tiramisu came with a side of frozen coffee. This was by far the best tiramisu we have ever had.
On the walk back to our hotel, we heard music playing and went to explore. We ended up in St. Mark’s square. In the square, there were 5 different bands/orchestras playing. Each band took a turn playing a few songs. But the coolest part was every few rounds, the bands would all join in together and play the same song.
And all of this beautiful music was taking place in St. Marks Square, under a full moon. Amazing.
Scene 3: Breakfast is served, crazy crowds and a gondolier named “Iceman”.
The next morning we were greeted by the happiest and kindest room service waiter. He didn’t just deliver our breakfast. He made sure everything was perfect. Which included delivering us extra cappuccinos without us even asking.
After breakfast, we took the 5-minute stroll to St. Mark’s square. When we arrived we were completely shocked at the crowds. We have never seen that many people, in one place, ever.
Everywhere you looked there were people taking pictures of people taking pictures of people. We think that every selfie-stick ever manufactured was in the square that day.
Pictures of people taking pictures of people.
Our mission for the day was to ride in a gondola. Our hotel suggested that the best place to cruise was starting at Rialto Bridge. We wandered from St. Marks Square, through the narrow sidewalks and over to Rialto Bridge.
The Rialto Bridge.
The bridge was packed with people, but we were able to walk through the maze of selfie-sticks and snap this picture.
Ronnie is gondola ready!
Lisa is dressed to gondola!
The prices are regulated which is nice since we don’t like to haggle. The set price for a 30-minute gondola ride is 80 Euros.
The gondola safety instructions are clearly posted.
Mind the gap!
Our gondolier’s name was Iceman. How do we know?
His gondola told us so.
Our gondolier, the Iceman.
It was so cool cruising down the narrow waterways of Venice.
There were even “street signs”.
Some of the bridges were so short that the Iceman had to lean the gondola so we could actually fit under them.
Marco Polo’s home in Venice, Italy. We wonder if he invented the game Marco Polo by shouting out his window at boats as they passed by.
We enjoyed every second of our gondola cruise and highly recommend that everyone should do it at least once.
Riding in a gondola really works up an appetite. So it was time to find another highly recommended lunch location. This time we were off to find Osteria Enoteca San Marco. We walked past this cool dragon on the way.
Well, that was easy to find!
Osteria Enoteca San Marco was a casual, yet extremely chic restaurant near St. Marks Square. It was such a treat to escape the noise and craziness of the busy sidewalks. Ahhhhhhh.
They had an extremely thick wine menu – let’s just call it a wine book. All of the food we ordered was so flavorful and cooked to perfection. The waiters were all very friendly and attentive.
After lunch, we confidently took to the sidewalks to walk back to our hotel. We didn’t need a map! We haven’t gotten lost yet!
As we were walking, in what we thought was directly to our hotel, we ended up passing by the same shop not once, but twice!
But the benefit of getting lost a few times is that you discover special hidden gems about a city. In our meandering, we discovered this workshop:
Ever wonder where the gondoliers buy their oars and forcolas?
They don’t order them from Amazon.
Or from a store called “Forcole R Us”
They visit an artisan called a remeri. This master woodworker custom designs each forcola based on the size and abilities of each individual gondolier. So interesting.
This is a forcola that was on display outside of the shop.
We continued our wandering tour –
And ended up at a quaint, casual pub called Magna, Bevi, Tasi.
This place was exactly what we were looking for. They had a wide variety of cold beers and very reasonably priced food. It was perfect.
We interrupt this vacation to bring you a 60-minute beer break.
Scene 4: James Bond hotel pickup and an overpacked train.
Our time in Venice had ended too quickly. Venice was one of our favorite cities and we will return. But for now, we have train tickets to Florence. So, off to the train station we go!
Our super-cool taxi pulled up and we said goodbye to our elegant hotel.
Venice taxis. So much cleaner and fancier than Chicago taxis!
Cruising down the canals of Venice.
One last selfie in the land of selfie-sticks and gondolas.
The great thing about traveling by train is that you don’t have to arrive 2 hours before your train departs. Just show up with enough time to locate your train on the schedule, find your train, and board.
Note: Bathrooms are NOT free in the train stations. Always carry 1 Euro coins with you!
No first class for us this time. Man, these people had a lot of luggage! It’s as if they packed not knowing they would be riding on a train.
But either way, our seats were very comfortable and there was plenty of room for our luggage above our seats.
Lisa was so proud that she finally went “modern” with her boarding passes.
Ciao Venice! It’s off to Florence we go!