After enjoying some gelato and exploring Sirmione we made our way back on the motorway towards our next destination - Venice!
Venice is another Italian city we fell in love with on our previous trip and were so happy to make the time to come back. This is somewhere that I feel should be on everyone’s bucket list. Forget what everyone says about it being too touristy and busy – ignore the places like this, and just go walk and get lost in the backstreets until you find one of the many hidden gems here!
Driving in Venice is clearly impossible. We parked our car in the main car park in Tronchetto. Prices for parking are obviously not the cheapest, but surprisingly cheaper than other places, for example, Amsterdam. Top Tip: some hotels like the Hilton Stucky Venice give you a 15%+ discount for the car park, but make sure you check when booking. From here there are many transport links to take you into Venice. We took the standard shuttle boat.
Out hotel for the following two nights was the Hilton Stucky Venice - a gorgeous hotel in Giudecca, an island across from the south of central Venice. The hotel is newly renovated but still in keeping with Venetian design. The service was the typical high quality that you can expect from any Hilton flagship. They even offer a free hotel shuttle boat that will transport you to and from San Marco every hour.
We arrived early, so whilst we were waiting to check in we enjoyed an iced coffee on their terrace next to the water, with a fantastic panorama of Venice. We were also offered a tour of the hotel facilities, and got booked to swim in the rooftop pool. Due to the COVID pandemic, there was a maximum occupancy of the pool and rooftop cocktail bar – to be honest, this only made it feel more special and exclusive, and were always given our preferred time at both.
After checking in to our really luxurious room and settling down, we took the free shuttle boat to Venice, and got reacquainted with the city we love. We had no plan, which was a nice change. We saw some of the main popular landmarks, enjoyed the late summer sun with a few aperos somewhere off the beaten path (we found Taverna to be quite nice), and finally settled for dinner before heading back for a nightcap before bed.
The next day we woke up early to take the first boat to Venice to shoot some content at Piazza San Marco before the crowds came.
For me, a must see of a trip to Venice is visiting Scala Contarini del Bovolo. Not too many people know about this tower and art gallery but you get an amazing view of Venice from up there! Due to Covid-19 you have to book your tickets online for around 5-10€. Our group split in two so we first got to see the small art gallery and learn about the history of Venice, and were then up to the tower to enjoy an amazing view of Venice!
You can wander around Venice’s alleyways for hours and hours, everywhere looks stunning and there are loads of cute restaurants and cafes. One restaurant where we absolute had to come back to this trip was Ristorante da Raffaelo in the San Marco district. The food is fresh and they have a great seasonal menu. The atmosphere is really romantic and the seating is all outdoors, perfect for a summer evening. Located next to a canal, you sit by, enjoy your food as you watch gondolas pass with the occasional echo of a gondolier signing their way under a bridge. This year the water was so clear, you could even see fish swimming in the canal.
Afterwards we spontaneously decided to take a gondola ride. Now, I'm not going to lie - it is expensive, but if you've never done it before it is toally worth it to see a different side of the city! You can pick them up from pretty mich anywhere in Venice, just look for anyone in the striped blue short and hat. They offer two tours, a short one (around 30 mins) for 80€ and a long one (around an hour) for I believe 120€.
When we came back to our hotel we had booked an hour slot for the rooftop pool. You can usually go whenever you like but as mentioned above, due to COVID you need to book your slot so the hotel can manage the people traffic.
This pool was definitely one of the highlights of our stay in Venice! You had breath taking views over the islands all whilst you sipped cocktails and topped up your tan!
Overall, we found Venice to be a great COVID-tour stop. Tourism levels had not yet picked up enough to make it as bustling as it was in previous years, which was a welcome relief. Every restaurant/café/hotel that we visited took COVID safety seriously, so we never felt in harm’s way and could still enjoy everything in a relatively “normal” manner. On top of this, the weather was a godsend. As one local said, it was an unseasonably warm end of summer – perfect for us!