My daughter and I have just come back from a last minute, 48 hours in VENICE. We literally booked it the day before. I made the decision based on the fact that I might well be climbing into a cardboard box filled with hay in the loft and shouting “WAKE ME UP WHEN IT’S ALL OVER” to my children before hibernating for the entire winter. We wanted to try and get a quick blast of what it means to travel somewhere amazing without having it ruined by a two week isolation period on our return.
The thing is, in my opinion, going anywhere with your children for a holiday is fantastic because you get time with them and a shared experience to make those memories we will all treasure forever. It’s not always easy to get all of them at the same time these days and naturally it’s easier with my daughter as we can share a room so it’s cheaper! But it’s a very special time when you are both at the stage of enjoying walking, talking, eating, drinking and laughing! Incredibly special and long may it last.
It proved to be the best spontaneous decision I’ve made in a long time. Venice is unbelievably beautiful as everyone knows, but more so right now when it is practically empty. Very few tourists now the kids have gone back to school, let alone excess tourists, no unpleasant smells, clear water, no pollution, no cruise ships…absolute heaven. It’s back to what it probably looked like 100’s of years ago. My jaw just kept dropping practically every time we turned a corner. The Basilica!! OMG!! I’d specifically done no research on what to do because I quite like being lost in a city and simply discovering it along the way. This worked very well because my daughter is the homing pigeon out of the two of us and so she and Google guided us around the winding paths with ease.
Italy’s infection rate is still thankfully low and so we knew it wasn’t going to be going on the quarantine list any time soon. So off we rushed. The flights are ridiculously cheap at the moment, as are the hotels and after a quick two hour flight, I was happy to justify the expense of a magnificent speedboat ride into the city from the airport because there really is no better way to get the full sense of what you are about to experience. By lunchtime there we were in the middle of VENICE. Somewhere, unbelievably, I had never been before.
Dans l’avion – not ideal – especially the second one my daughter took when I was dozing:-
It blew my mind. The city is absolutely stunning. The architecture, the canals, the Basilica, the food, the people, the wine, the weather, the company, the literally everything. Definitely all the more special because it felt like a proper escape in light of the current situation and we just felt so gloriously grateful to be there.
We stayed in The Carlton on The Grand Canal, a small but perfectly formed hotel that did what it said on the box. They kindly upgraded us for free to a room that had a stunning canal view. They also have a great roof terrace. Apart from that we spent very little time there other than sleeping off our full-on days.
Our breakfast at The Carlton outside in the glorious sunshine:-
The general atmosphere in the city seemed to be very relaxed, with the squares and canals almost deserted. I was worried everyone would be stressed, given that Venice is almost exclusively focused on the tourism industry, but the locals seemed pretty chilled and welcoming and even the water taxi drivers seemed happy chatting to their mates. The Venetians have been used to receiving up to 30 million visitors annually, so with no cruise liners and no American, Japanese and Chinese tourists, the numbers must have dropped by around 60% I would guess, maybe more. The city couldn’t have looked more beautiful and despite being careful what you wish for, because of course it needs the tourists, the lack of visitors meant Venice felt calm and serene. Like it could breathe again. They all mentioned trying to find other ways to bring money to the city or certainly a more sustainable form of tourism moving forward.
The Italians were looking as gorgeous as ever, they seem to be disciplined and respectful about wearing masks and sanitising hands, taking it all in their stride. We watched a graduation ceremony in St. Mark’s Square where every student had to wear a mask, even whilst their photo was taken holding their certificates. Sad. But at least they were able to hold the ceremony IRL. The celebrations afterwards involved small groups eating outside with their parents or drinking in the sunshine along the canals. They weren’t too raucous and they seem to do social distancing better than we do! The only surprise was a mad young woman who approached my daughter whilst we were both taking photos and tried to lick her. Licking someone is not good at the best of times, now at the worst of times, it should be a criminal offence. Very strange.
Anyway, you can see for yourself from some of the photos how empty it was, even in St. Mark’s Square:-
Grand Canal from the Rialto:-
So what else did we do?
Walked everywhere. Drank Aperol’s. Ate in some splendidly authentic local restaurants, namely Estro, a small contemporary restaurant and Trattoria da Ignazio, a more refined traditionally typical Venetian restaurant (more on those separately). Had cocktails at the Gritti Palace. Visited Harry’s Bar (underwhelming). Had coffee on St. Mark’s Square (f’g expensive but got to be done). Went to the fish market near the Rialto. Took a public Gondola across the canal. With the pavements so empty there was no need to hire a Gondola. Had lunch in various places on the canal. Visited a church. Went to the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition. Ate gelato and spaghetti bolognaise and pizza. Drank more.
Food for the soul indeed.
Our mode of transport for the duration – she wasn’t always two steps in front of me:-
Coffee on St. Mark’s Square. You can see why you get charged a massive premium – it’s just not all about the coffee!:-
Me looking like Worzel Gummidge and short next to my gorgeous daughter:-
We experienced Death In Venice By Tiramisu and Aperol’s. What could be more perfect?
Italian food is my favourite and of course from the sublime to the pizzas, it did not disappoint:-
The only real bit of culture we did was visiting The Frari Church (Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari). One of the most prominent churches in the city. It holds many grand monuments and paintings, including two large pieces by Titian:-
Ca’ d’Oro, one of the older buildings in the city, meaning “Golden House.” Best surviving palazzo in Venetian Gothic architecture. Looks very similar to the Doge’s Palace, almost Arabic in style:-
Looking pretty chilled, with very little to do. We resisted the temptation to go on one though, preferring the opportunity to stroll leisurely through the streets without the crowds:-
The fruit, vegetable and fish market was fascinating to see, on every morning:-
This makes me sad. I don’t think we should eat octopus, they’re too clever! Hoping I’ve got that wrong and it’s something else, but don’t think so:-
I even fell in love with the lamp posts:-
The Gritti Palace for cocktails:-
The Danielli Hotel, featured in a Bond film:-
Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition – well worth seeing:-
View from the top of the department store – you can book a slot to go up on the red escalator:-
SO loved it.