Ciao bella! I was just going over last week’s schedule and realized I visited eight countries in nine days! Is that amazing, or what?! Most of them were thanks to our Adriatic Sea cruise on Seabourn which I wrote about it in the last newsletter. But I didn’t get to feature the most important port… Venezia! Venice, Italy is where our ship and many others begin and end their cruises so I have some great info including money-saving tips. I also have a perfect place to spend the day outside of Venice and Italy for that matter. It’s one of Europe’s secret destinations and for sure a hot spot.
12 Things You Never Knew About Italy
On top of that our very own Jennifer Dombrowski who’s an American and living in Italy wrote a great post on 12 Things you never knew about Italy. I can pretty much guarantee you this post will save you money on your next trip to Italy.
London to Venice
In case you weren’t following me on Facebook or Twitter I met my fiancée Natalie in London’s Heathrow airport and we flew an hour and 25 minutes together to Venice on British Airways. What’s nice about British Airways besides the fact that they have friendly flight attendants, is that you get to fly in and out of Heathrow’s Terminal 5, which is one of our favorite terminals in the world!
We arrived into Venice 30 minutes early and there was no wait at immigration. (TIP: Sit on the right-hand side of the plane for the best views.) What’s crazy is that Italy is so adamant on collecting everyone’s passport information when checking into hotels or using internet cafés, yet they don’t require any immigration forms to fill out when entering the country and the passport control doesn’t even look at your passport. They quickly swipe it and then stamp it.
Venice Airport to Hotel
As you know, Venice doesn’t have any roads so you can either take a water taxi for 110 euros (1-4 people) or a Vaporetto (a 230-passenger water bus) for seven euros per person. On my last visit to Venice, I made friends with our guide named Cinzia and her boat captain husband Luigi were kind enough to pick us up in their water taxi. She met us in the airport and escorted us on the 500-yard walk from the terminal to the boat launch. From there it’s about a 25-minute trip into the city.
Vaporetto tickets can be purchased at most stops, at tabacchi and at Hellovenezia offices. Single tickets are valid for an hour but you can get ones that are good for 12 hours to seven days. See this link for more info.
When Cinzia found out that Natalie had never been to Venice on the ride to the city she asked if we wanted to make a pit stop in Murano. Of course we did as Murano is a series of islands about a mile north of Venice and it’s famous for its glasswork. We stopped by The New Murano Gallery, which is owned by their friends for a quick tour. It’s not one of those massive factories where they give huge tours, it’s much more laidback and upscale – as you can see from their photo gallery a lot of celebs shop there. Prices ranges from 300,000 euros to 20 euros. They ship all around the world with eight days of insurance post delivery.
Tours are available from 9am to 5pm but they can make a private visit.
Our first stop in Venice was at Metropole Hotel. The first thing you will love about this hotel is that’s located right on the grand lagoon so our water taxi could pull right up to its private canal entrance. For those taking a Vaporetto, the bus stop is a half a block away. Hotel Metropole is affiliated with the Preferred Hotel Group so you know it’s nice. Actually, it’s rated four stars and has 67 rooms/suites.
The hotel has a ton of history. It started out as orphanage and Vivaldi taught music here. Then in 1910, it became a hotel and the current owners wanted to make it stand out from the competition so they made it like a museum. Each of the three floors has a different theme with museum-quality pieces throughout the hotel and in the room. We had a some antique hairbrushes and hand mirrors in a glass case in our room. Our floor had the largest collection of crucifixes I think in Europe. Even if you don’t stay here, just pop your head in and see the cases in the lobby filled with crucifixes, corkscrews, evening bags, nutcrackers and more.
Better yet, eat at their Met Restaurant. Their chef has a Michelin star and they have a unique concept going on right now where he offers two different styles of each item on the menu. Traditional or contemporary. It’s a little confusing and expensive but the food and service are great. But my favorite meal was their breakfast buffet that had everything from the usual breakfast dishes to tomatoes and mozzarella. I loved sitting in their courtyard citrus garden sipping my cappuccino and filling my belly with Italian pastries.
BTW: I paid for this hotel using American Express Membership Rewards points, which is why we were able to stay at such a swanky hotel. Here’s more info on how you can use American Express Membership Rewards points and get into airline clubs using your AMEX card. Here are all my pictures of Hotel Metropole in Venice.
Tour Guide For Venice
One of the best parts about the hotel is its location. It’s just two blocks from San Marco square so its in the heart of Venice. We were fortunate to have a tour guide because having her you can cut the lines. We hit all the usual tourist attractions. Later that night Natalie and I wandered around on our own and got lost multiple times on purpose. We loved it. Below is a list of the tours Cinzia (firstname.lastname@example.org) offers:
Her most popular tour is Essential Venice and Relaxing Venice and other tours are: Venetian Highlights, The Sunset Tour and The Islands Tour. Cinzia and her husband also have an extra apartment available for rent for 120 euros per night + 50 euros for the cleaning.
What I don’t like about Venice
The only thing I didn’t like is when we were in the tourist zones there were lots of foreigners selling laser pointers, flying helicopters and roses. The roses guys really bummed me out. You can be having an intimate moment and they walk up and offer you a rose. When you say no, they put it on your lady and say, “give me something.” I wanted to say, “how about a black eye?” but instead I smiled and said ‘sorry’ and pretended to put in on the ground and then they grabbed it with a perturbed look. One thing that surprised me is the city closed down early — around 11pm even on a Friday.
Prata di Pordenone
Our Seabourn cruise ended up in Venice and instead of spending another night in the city we decided to see how the locals live in the countryside. Our friend (and contributor to JohnnyJet.com) invited us to spend the night in her extra bedroom in the small town of Prata di Pordenone. It’s an hour train ride from Venice and costs only $7 each way. Just be sure to wait in the Biglietti ticket line and not the Viaggi e Turismo. The latter was really a travel agent that had just one slow person working who charges an extra 8% to book your ticket. Meanwhile, the Biglietti line was quick moving and had no extra fees. It seemed like a scam to me since none of the tourists knew about the official line until some nice man told everyone.
Jennifer’s husband Tim is in the U.S. Air Force and they have a base with 5,000 Americans a couple towns over. The town she lives in has few Americans and we had so much fun walking around, going to the farmers market, grocery store, gelataria and restaurants. Here’s a link to all of my Prata di Pordenone, Italy photos.
What was even more fun was when Jennifer asked us if we wanted to go to Slovenia for lunch. Slovenia?! It was just a 90-minute drive and instead of going to Koper, where all the cruise ships go, we drove an extra 15 minutes to Piran. Piran, Slovenia is an amazing spot and not many Americans know about it. They all go to Koper but I’m sure that’s going to change because on our flight home I was reading the July issue of Travel and Leisure Magazine (I’m highlighted on page 58!) and they have a whole feature on Slovenia including Piran! Our trip to Slovenia was like our trip to Europe, too short but incredible. Here are all my Piran, Slovenia photos.
The whole thing was like a dream including flying home on British Airways as we got to spend a couple hours in Heathrow and see all the excitement building around the Olympic games. Here are the photos from our flight back!
Good to know: Timeout’s 20 Great Things to do in Venice.