29 Apr 2017

#BreadLife Backpacking: The Venetian Man

Finally, it is time to make a grand return to this blog after discovering that it is almost close to impossible to blog during the hectic semester. Now that it is over, it is time to resume my long overdue posts, so do bear with me a little.

So I guess I should start the next spurt of posts with the first destination of my 2 week long backpacking trip around Central Europe: Venice!

#BreadLife: A term that one of my friends in my exchange group came up with (HI JUNWEI) and it means to eat bread for every single meal because that's just how poor you are to not be able to afford other food.


And so, the next few posts would be just focusing on various cheap ways to get by travelling in Europe in general.

Getting to Venice
Anyways, we took a flight out to Venice from Bristol via Ryanair. This is not a shameless plug to advertise for them but I do always prefer to fly by Ryanair whenever I'm flying out of the UK as they are
1. cheap
2. more relaxed on the number of baggage you bring onto the plane as hand carry.

Of course you shouldn't abuse the system too much and bring on like 5 big bags, you will be screwed for sure. But I'm talking like a backpacking backpack and maybe a small duffle bag/daypack. Yeah, that's fine. Oh and I absolutely love it when they announce towards the end of the boarding process that they are going to check-in our bags for freeeeeee yayyyyyyy

I digressed... but anyway. There are two airports that you can fly to when visiting Venice:
1. Treviso
2. Marco Polo

Marco Polo Airport would be a better choice as it is the airport nearest to Venice. However, we chose to land at Treviso instead because timing, because CHEAPER. (Two students travelling on a tight budget ahem)

From Treviso Airport, the cheapest way to get to Venice would be taking either the ATVO, or Barzi Bus Service. Tickets are both €12 for one way, and €22 for two ways. Here's a website if you want more information on the bus timetables and where the bus brings you to.

We took the Barzi Bus Service as it was the next available service when we arrived. However, instead of bringing you straight to the Piazzale Roma in Venice, where it is apparently more convenient to get to places in Venice(?) (ah, I will come to this later, this is where it gets interesting), it brings you to a parking island called Tronchetto, where you can also take a Water Bus but I guess you'll have to walk a bit longer? I'm not sure. But it was not really THAT inconvenient, so it was fine by us.

an example of a Vaporetto stop
how it looks like onboard a vaporetto
views from the vaporetto

Getting Around Venice
The main mode of transport around Venice is this amazing invention called the Water Bus/Vaporetto. It is similar to... our MRT system? So there are different lines and you can transfer lines to get to different places in Venice as not all the tourist attractions are on the same line.

Venice is actually made up of 118 islands, and its "mainland" is made up of 7 districts: Cannaregio (good gelato!), Castello, San Marco (where the square is), Giudecca (mainly residential, where we stayed), San Polo (Rialto Bridge), San Croce, Dorsoduro (pretty Basilica!)

If you are still blur, here's a map for your reference:

Its good that you get a 1 to 7 day tourist card when visiting Venice as prices for single water bus rides can be shockingly high! It's even better if you are aged between 14 to 29 as you would qualify for the "Young Person's Travel Card". It would be combined with the Rolling Venice card and you can check this website for some promotions that they are having.

There is no need to preorder the card from the website as you can just get it on the spot at the ticket office in some office building opposite from the Vaporetto stop in Tronchetto. It is €22/person for 72 hours of unlimited usage on the Vaporetto. However, please do note that the people in the ticket office may not speak Italian (the lady got pretty impatient with us when we failed to speak in her native language, sorry not sorry) so... Google Translate shall be your best friend, yay!

A pretty helpful app when we were there was "iVenice". It provides not only information on Vaporetto arrival and departure timings, and how long the journey would take you, and also minimum and maximum tide levels. However, this app does not let you search by location, so it was a little inconvenient, as you needed to know the nearest Vaporetto stop to the attraction you want to visit. So, use this app with Google Maps :)

we've reached!

We stayed on the lovely island of Giudecca at the Generator Hostel. The Vaporetto stop (Zitelle) was just a few minutes walk away from the entrance of the hostel, and also there was a direct line from Tronchetto to the hostel, and the famous San Marco Square! How convenient? It was safe for two girls to return to late at night as it is on the main street of Giudecca, next to the canals. Oh and that was also my first time staying in a hostel!

On our first night there, we walked all the way to the end of the island and back to the our hostel... and as a result I got attacked by many hungry mosquitoes and itched for the rest of my backpacking trip. What a way to start...

Giudecca is a majorly residential district of Venice

It was damn embarrassing meeting this bunch of hotel staff welcoming some VIP guests (??). As you can see in the earlier photo, I was wearing a replica of the striped top that they are wearing (Why did I choose to wear it on that day??) and people actually walked past me and gave me weird looks as to why wasn't I joining my "italian colleagues" to be part of the welcome party...

No I'm actually just an innocent camera wielding tourist, thank you.

We had pizza, then gelato while overlooking the calming Venetian waters that evening (thats when I got bitten ugh). But nonetheless, a great way to end the day.

Overall, we stayed for 2 full days in Venice.

Places to Visit

1. St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) /Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) / Basilica di San Marco / Bridge of Sighs / Campanile di San Marco (Clock Tower)
Vaporetto Stop: S. Marco

 I am actually GLAD I came back for a second trip to Venice and gave this beautiful city a second chance as the last time I was there, my trip was REKT with floods. Please refer to disastrous photo below of my 2012 Winter Trip as the entire St Mark's Square was flooded and we had to walk around the piazza on raised platforms.

LEL. Anyway, we were blessed with amazingly hot good weather for the days we were in Italy so yes, the photos turned out very well! :)

St Mark's Square is the heart of Venice where you will see most tourists and scammers trying to sell you umbrellas when it rains, and selfie sticks when its sunny. Do go early, as there will always be a queue to enter the Basilica di San Marco before the place even opens for the day at 9.30 a.m.

*Do note that it is prohibited to enter a Basilica with your shoulders and knees exposed so... either wear long pants and a shirt with sleeves, or bring a shawl or something to cover, if you would like to visit. Some Basilicas are nice to provide shawls, but in stricter places like the Vatican, you'll just be denied entry. 

It costs €5 to enter the Basilica, and the hours are from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Nov-June) and 9.45 a.m. to 5 p.m. (June-Nov)

The views from the Campanile (clock tower) are amazing, especially at sunset. We planned our trip so that we could wind up there at the end of the first day to catch the sun setting over the winding alleys and canals.

It costs €8 to go up the Campanile. Hours are 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. (summer), 9:30 a.m. - 5:45 p.m. (winter), and 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. in shoulder season.

2. Rialto Bridge
Vaporetto Stop: Rialto

This is regarded as the "main street" in Venice where you can see how the Venetians live and work. More towards the work side... as we saw the loading and unloading of goods to be distributed to shops, and we actually saw toilet paper rolls being unloaded from the boat. Pretty interesting sight to behold as goods are usually unloaded from trucks or lorries in the mainland, but in Venice, everything from humans to goods are transported by boats.

The Rialto Bridge is REALLY packed at noon. So if you do want to get a good photo, go early in the morning when it's not that packed. Oh and also, watch out for the pigeons and seagulls as I got shat on by one while going up the bridge. Talk about bad luck. -.-

3. The Grand Canal
Vaporetto: Any water bus that runs on lines 1, 2, 13, 15.

Keep in mind that a gondola ride in Venice, costs €80 – €120 for a trip. It is only worth it if the whole boat is filled. So if you go with a small group, it is really too damn expensive and really not an option if you are on #Breadlife.

A good and cost-effective way to get good shots of the famous postcard-worthy Grand Canal would be to take the Vaporetto from Rialto stop, in the direction towards S.Marco stop. Go to the back of the Vaporetto and you would be able to snap many decent shots while you are making your way there. The best part about getting the unlimited pass is that you can hop on and off as and when you want especially when you see a hot Italian that you want to chase after! It is said that the no.1 line on the vaporetto system is the most scenic.

4. Hop on and off to random beautiful places in Venice that you spotted on the Vaporetto
Vaporetto: Anywhere

the beautiful Basilica Santa Maria della Salute that we always see from the doorstep of our hostel, in Dorsoduro district
we saw these cute elderly singing praise outside the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute

I keep speaking of this "pretty Basilica" since the beginning of this post and yes, this Basilica caught our eyes since the first day we arrived in Venice. We saw it on the Vaporetto and Sheri was like "We need to go visit that, can we add that into our itinerary??" 

This pretty Basilica is actually the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute (wow long name) and it is on the eastern tip of Dorsoduro. The Basilica is a 17th century Roman Catholic church commisioned by plague survivors to thank God for their salvation. 

Basilica Santa Maria della Salute
Vaporetto Stop: Salute
Admission: Free
Hours: 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon & 3 p.m. to 5.30 p.m, 

one of the recommended gelaterias on Venice, Cà d'Oro

I find that the best way to tour Venice is to dérive around its beautiful alleys and just roam freely with no destination in mind. That is the beauty of Venice as there are just so many bridges, alleys, canals and views just waiting to be discovered by those who seek it. We have chanced upon so many picture-worthy alleys, mini piazzas and Basilicas until we see no point in remembering its name, but decided that it will just be a beautiful fragment of our memory and impression of Venice.

Visiting Venice in August-September is great, but the weather at around 12 noon to 2pm is not great at all. That is in my opinion, the best time to take cover indoors or under shade and have a gelato break. We had so many gelatos during the Italy leg of our trip, one mandatory scoop every day.

5. Take a trip out to surrounding Islands if you have the time!
Islands to consider: Burano, Murano, Torcello (we picked Burano because we mainstream)

i am considering to return and do a series titled "doors of Burano"
unedited raw shot of Sheri struggling to finish her food, this photo depicts her headache towards the huge pizza of her very accurately.

Vaporetto Stop: Burano
How to get there: Take Line 12 from S. Zaccaria stop (next stop down from Piazza San Marco stop) If I'm not wrong, the 3 day unlimited pass includes Burano, but if it doesn't, a single trip costs €6.50, and it takes around 45 minutes to get there.

I first got to know of Burano the day after I left Venice when I was there for the first time. "Perks" of travelling in a tour group when you have limited time to fully immerse yourself in a place. But yes, it took us pretty long to get there from the main part of Venice, but boy, it is pretty worth spending a whole day there to slowly roam the alleys all over again like what we did in main Venice. 

Food there is generally slightly more expensive than back in Venice but the locals there survive a lot on tourism so... that explains why. However, if you are feeling rich and would like to splurge, try their seafood. Many of the blogs I sourced my information from recommended this restaurant called Al Gatto Nero

Burano is famous for it's handmade lace. However as we are on #BreadLife here, we didn't do much research on it, and we didn't buy any. Because good quality + handmade lace costs a bomb. 


With that, this sums up 2 full days + 1 evening + 1 morning in Venice. We left the next morning after the Burano day with slight sun burns and two gelato-filled bellies to the train station at Ferrovia Vaporetto Station, to catch our train to Florence! And that, will be for the next post. Stay tuned!

- M.

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