Faced with the wonderful dilemma of where to spend my birthday, I tossed around a few ideas. Amsterdam? Prague? An exotic island in Greece?
The possibilities being practically endless and not knowing when else in my life I would be spending my birthday anywhere I wanted in Europe â€“ I really debated this dilemma for some time.
I asked friends who had traveled in Europe before for advice.
If you could spend your birthday anywhere, where would it be?
Celest recommended Vienna, Austria and â€œnot just for the amazing ice creamâ€. She also recommended the Czech Republic and Paris of course, but she knew weâ€™d already been there.
Teena thought I would enjoy both Amsterdam and Prague, in entirely different ways.
When I asked a group of fellow diners in the UK where they would go, Nestor very authoritatively yelled out, â€œVenice!â€ He then went on to rave about what a wonderfully magical place it is. (I didnâ€™t find out until much later that he hadnâ€™t actually been there â€“ claiming he hadnâ€™t found a boyfriend special enough to go with.)
His enthusiasm got me thinking though and the more I checked out the discount airlines flights, the more sense Venice made. We were able to fly to Venice from London on Easyjet and then from Venice to Frankfurt on Ryanair. The flight dates matched up perfectly, the price was right and I was all set to book it until I realized how difficult it is finding accommodations in Venice. Especially reasonably priced accommodations!
I found a lovely looking B&B on Lido (a short ferry ride away from Venice) called Casa Delle Rose that was â€œonlyâ€ 90 euros a night. (Which was a lot more than weâ€™ve been spending on accommodations but is actually a very good price for Venice.) They only had a room available for 3 of the 6 nights though. Further seeking yielded the small and extremely well located Hotel Falier, right in the heart of Venice. We really splashed out on this place at 120 euros per night (including breakfast and wifi) but it was my birthday.
There are two airports in Venice – Marco Polo airport is about 20 minutes from the city and Treviso is approximately 90 minutes away. Easyjet flies into Marco Polo while Ryanair uses the Terviso airport.
We arrived in Venice without any kind of guidebook whatsoever â€“ our plan was to wing it â€“ with a little help from the â€˜net of course.
Arriving at Marco Polo, I awoke from my slumber just in time to see the scattering of islands that comprise Venezia with the waterway road network that snakes between them. There were dozens of motorboats following each other like ants, their path clearly marked.
There are two bus companies that provide transportation to the Piazzale Roma. A.T.V.O. (blue coach) costs 3.00 euros and has luggage facilities and seats for passengers (this is the one we took) and the A.C.T.C. (orange coach) without luggage facilities (okay if you donâ€™t have a backpack the size of a small elephant) and sitting/standing room, which is half the price at 1.50 euros.
Or, if you have buckets of money, you can take a private water taxi from the airport straight to your hotel for about 100 euros (for 2 people with luggage).
But then you would miss out on all the fun of navigating your way over the bridges, along the canals and through the â€œstreetsâ€ (alleyways!) of Venice – carrying the weight of a small hippo on your back â€“ for the very first time. And Iâ€™m not being facetious!
Venice is an absolute maze of bridges, alleys, old buildings and canals â€“ thatâ€™s the fun of it!
A reasonably short walk from the bus station, we managed to find our hotel without getting lost (which is a miracle in Venice!) When I saw our room, it was so pretty I had a hard time believing that this was only a 2 star hotel.
Feeling famished, we set off to find lunch and experience our first meal in Italy. Which was very exciting – since Italian food had been my absolute favorite since I was a kid.
We found a quaint pizzeria in a quiet courtyard and ordered our first pizza in Italy. Along with a tomato and bococcini salad and some house red – our meal was delicious.
When our bill arrived, we noticed there was a “cover charge” or “il coperto” and a service charge. The latter having been crossed out, we assumed it meant that it was up to us how much we wanted to tip. But paying a cover charge was a bit of a surprise until I did some reading up on it and discovered that this was simply how things are done in Italy. The cover charge ranges from 1.50 – 3.00 euros per person and is meant to cover the cost of bread and a glass of tap water (although no self respecting Italian would ever deign to drink tap water!) Some restaurants will state “no cover charge”, but overall, it just comes with the territory when in Italy and we got used to it.
Stuffed full of pizza, we sleepily sauntered back to our room for a much needed afternoon nap…and awoke a few hours later to the salient sound of opera drifting in through our window.