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  • Writer's pictureCaylie Poola

WEEKENDER GUIDE: Venice, Italy

I have officially been in Florence, Italy for over 3 weeks. I cannot believe it, honestly. Time is flying by and the weekend travel adventures are fully underway. I have never felt more exhausted, excited and grateful in my entire life.


Study abroad by no means is always fun, easy and perfect. It can be hard and a huge adjustment to a completely new way of life, not to mention a test of budgeting, schoolwork, daily chores and basically just surviving in a place where English is not the first language. But I wouldn't change this for the world and I seriously urge if you can, to study abroad during your college experience, or just find a way to travel in general.


Here is the first of my many weekender guides, taking you on a summarized blog post of my weekend trips this semester. For some, a way to keep up with me and my travels, for others to collect great travel recommendations, and what I hope most, is that for many it can be a resource for your study abroad plans in the future. So please feel free to share these with friends/family you know who may be studying abroad or doing a similar experience! So, enough chit-chat, lets get to my Venice weekender guide already.


THE 3'S OF WEEKEND TRIPS

Do these to make the most of your weekend trips.
  1. Food: Try a particular food/drink specific to the place you are going - Venice is known for seafood so we knew we had to try some good seafood during this weekend particularly.

  2. History: Do something that is historically relevant to the place you are visiting. This could be a museum, a landmark, or maybe even both if you have time! In Venice we visited the islands of Murano and Burano. Murano is known historically for its intricate and beautiful glassmaking, so we made sure to check it out and grab some souvenirs to prove it.

  3. Culture: This can be anything. Something you can only do or that makes the place so special. In Venice, it was the infamous Gondola ride.



HOW I GOT THERE


If you are already in Italy, Venice is easy to get to by train, which is what my friends and I decided to do. We book all of our trains through an app/website called Omio which we have found incredibly helpful and easy to use so far. https://www.omio.com/


So the Friday morning when our train was scheduled to take off, all we had to do was take our weekend bags and our bodies to the Florence Train Station where we boarded our flight smoothly and took the direct train to Venice. It was about a 3 hour train ride and if you are looking to visit Venice from Italy you should be able to find a direct train from most major Italian cities. The train system in Italy so far has been great, it is an affordable and easy way to get around, even if you don't speak fluent Italian. We definitely do not. When buying train tickets or other transportation passes we typically have one designated person buy the tickets for everyone, and then we all Venmo. This became even more of a priority after Venice when some of us booked our tickets separately and were seated in different parts of the train alone, which no one wants to do.


PACKING


So far my biggest study abroad packing tip would be to bring two types of weekender bags. First, a roller carry on, and second an over the shoulder duffel or weekender bag. I was able to fit my weekender bag flattened in my checked luggage on the way here and it has proven to be helpful for shorter trips, especially the ones where we may be walking more and not going straight to an airport. Italian streets are rocky, and busy. Especially in Florence. So having my weekender bag over my shoulder, while a little heavy, was helpful in keeping my roller carry on wheels safely intact in my apartment. Generally speaking, If you can only bring one, the roller is definitely easier in most cases. I do appreciate having both though, and a nice bonus is one the way home when I *definitely* am in need of more luggage, I can check my second weekender bag instead of shoving it in my suitcase again. Most of my friends only have a roller carry-on however, and do perfectly fine.


The weekender bag I have (and love): https://beistravel.com/products/the-weekender-in-black


WHERE TO STAY


If you are planning on studying abroad, Airbnb might be your new best friend. Especially in a pandemic, having an Airbnb that is reliable, a super host and provides things like cleaning checks and communication is so important. And very stress relieving. When traveling with friends, we have found splitting Airbnbs to be extremely budget friendly and the best way to complete our travel plans.


When booking an Airbnb we look for a few things first (other then price obvi):

  1. Location: Where is the best place to stay for where we are going? Where can we stay that will let us walk most places and save money on Uber or Taxis. What area has the most to do and is safest?

  2. Super-host/Reviews: READ THE REVIEWS. Make sure people have nice things to say about their stay and that the place has enough reviews to prove the Airbnb has been functioning for awhile and the host knows what they are doing. It makes it SO much easier this way. A super host is always the most desirable choice because you know they have their s*it together and will feel 100% better about booking the place and spending your money on it.

  3. Number of Beds: Just because an Airbnb says it can fit 6 people, make sure it *really* can fit 6 people. Count the number of beds, and make sure the couch is *actually* a pull out. Nothing worse then getting to an Airbnb to realize someone has to sleep on the floor. This luckily hasn't happened to us (yet, fingers crossed) but I imagine it would be problematic.



The Airbnb we stayed at in Venice was amazing. The host met us at the ferry port we arrived in from the train station and walked us right there. He also had a place for us to leave our bags Sunday morning so we could enjoy half the day before we left without having to bring all our belongings around with us. He even left water and some Italian snacks in the apartment for us!


WHAT WE ATE


We arrived with a relatively open schedule, but made sure to plan for at least one nice dinner reservation at a place we knew we wanted to go for the Saturday night we would be in Venice. In general, having 1-2 reservations, a dinner and a breakfast specifically, is super helpful on weekend trips. It gives the day structure and eases having to find somewhere last minute, or not being able to go somewhere you wanted because there was a wait. And on Fridays or Saturdays, that might be the case. We ended up booking our dinner reservation at the same place the postcards we bought were painted in front of. It was magical and so special to us that we were able to sit at a place we'd have painted with us forever.


Budgeting for about 1 nicer *splurge* meal each weekend trip keeps us organized, and allows us to really experience the food of where we go, which was delicious in Venice.


Here is where we ate our nicest dinner in Venice: https://www.ristorantedaraffaele.com/


I had Truffle pasta and my first authentic Italian Tiramisu this night, it was unreal.


For Sunday brunch we found ourselves at a delicious place that had Japanese style fluffy pancakes. *AND* with no reservation. We all loved it and I had an amazing fruit plate on the side with about every fruit imaginable which I needed after all the pasta I have been enjoying.


Sunday Brunch in Venice:


Venice Happy Hour: A instructor at our school in Florence recommended we check out Osteria Al Sqero. Here you find a bar right on the water where you can grab some *very affordable* wine or aperol spritz to-go, along with little appetizer toasts with seafood and unique toppings on top called crostini. We grabbed some for ourselves and walked down the water where we sat with our drinks, watched the sunset and enjoyed each others company.


Happy Hour: Venice Style




The restaurant we ate dinner at Saturday night, behind my postcard.


WHAT WE DID IN VENICE


I recommend that to make the most out of your weekend in Venice, get the tourist day pass to access the ferry out of the main Venice port to visit some of the amazing Islands in and around Venice. We made the most of the day in Venice by waking up early and having in mind the two islands of Murano and Burano. The pass was under $25 and allowed for us to do anything and everything Venice had to offer via boat rides which were kinda crowded, but fun and time efficient!


MURANO: We visited the island of Murano first, about a 15 minute or so ferry ride from the main island we were staying on. If you are in Venice, you really should not miss visiting Murano. It is famous for its glassmaking, which is not only super cool to see, but was an awesome spot for us to get meaningful gifts to bring home for friends and family. As a bonus, I got myself some unique and very cute jewelry made out of glass here too, which I will cherish forever because it is handmaid and SO special to the area. Really anywhere in Venice you can find glass souvenirs, but going to the island where it all started and still happens was a great experience.



MURANO, ITALY


BURANO: The second island we visited was a little bit further then Murano, so we took the ferry from Murano to Burano (I know they sound super similar, stay with me on this). Burano is famous for its rows of colorful houses, and while super touristy, is something you have to see to believe. It is an instagram lovers paradise too. Finding food in Burano was a mission in of itself, and while we eventually got our Venice seafood fix at a place on the main strip, it would have been smart to plan a lunch reservation for Burano to save the time it took searching. There is not a ton to do here but walk around and appreciate the color, but honestly, thats all we wanted to do and we could have spent more time there if we had it.


BURANO, ITALY



GONDOLA RIDE: I think when the word Venice is thrown around, everyone thinks Gondola. And I mean, you're not wrong, I did too. This is why we had ours booked beforehand. We had our Gondola ride booked for Saturday evening before dinner which was overall a great time to go. Ifyou forget to book one in advance, I wouldn't worry. There were SO many Gondolas in Venice you would likely find one but having one booked and timed took away the wait and stress of finding one while we were there. I have to say, it went by so quick I only managed even a few photos which hurt my Instagram influencer wannabe heart for just a minute, but I will always remember it. It was definitely something I am glad I did but don't need to do 100 times again.




Venice was a dream. I feel so grateful to be experiencing and living this. Traveling is not easy, not even a little. And being abroad comes with its own challenges but weekends like this make it hard to find anything to complain about. This isn't nearly everything Venice has to offer, or every single thing I did, but it's a really strong start. I hope these tips help you out if you are hoping to make it to Venice, Italy one day.

See you next weekend.

XO Caylie




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