now, while neither of us were really to clued-up on rome, the same cannot be said for venice. captain charley had been waiting much of her adult life to get to the floating city, so walking out of the train station (after being entirely ripped on within - read more on that in a minute) had her tearing up and giddy beyond words. the train from rome was just under four hours long - comfortable, but very long. we were very happy to get off and stretch our legs, pick up a map and figure our way out. it was almost three and i wanted to try to make it to the hotel as soon as possible so we could dump our bags and navigate our way around while there was still sunlight left.
the instructions from the hotel's website were pretty simple to follow, and with our basic navigation skills put to good use, we managed to find the right water bus to take us to lido island, where our hotel was. it was apparently a 45 minute ride, which ~seemed like it would be annoying to do twice a day, but really, the train station is the furthest point from the hotel, which we would find out on other days, and with so much to see along the way, the 45 minutes (if that) really sped by.
we made it to lido island and the minute we saw our hotel - the grande albergo ausonia & hungaria, we squealed. it was the most gorgeous hotel we'd ever seen, and the images from trip advisor and the website did it absolutely no justice, so we spent those first few minutes just taking photographs of ~everything and just being in absolute awe of the beautiful art deco mansion. the trip to the hotel was super easy - one water bus and a short stroll, though the same cannot be said about the actual experience itself.
we'd spoken to the tourism centre inside the station - who deal with tourists, to organise our travel around the islands for the next few days, i'd shown them the name of the hotel and where we were staying, and they basically shrugged and said "you should be ok to use the 48 hour ticket". should be? ok, well, for 30euro for two days of travel, i kinda wanted to make sure it was the right ticket. satisfied that it ~was the right ticket and it would cover all our water bus and ferry needs for the next two days - except travel to the airport, because, well, because we were on a package holiday and a close airport is unheard of on package holidays, we begrudgingly paid the 30euros and got on the water bus.
we double checked that it was the right bus, then took our seats under the deck as it set off. a ticket inspector came to check tickets a while later (we never saw this again during our stay, what are the odds), and took one look at charley's ticket, looked her up and down, then asked "italiano?" she shook her head. he said "you did not validate your ticket. you need to validate your ticket before you get on the bus". we explained how we'd bought 48 hour tickets and were not explained this from the man at the ~tourism centre (where they deal with tourists), and he said "it doesn't matter. right now your ticket is not valid and you are riding for free. that's a 70euro fine"..........
well, he clocked our absolutely mortified faces and then calmed himself down a bit and offered to let us just by single tickets for the one trip to lido island - another 7.50euro on top of the 30euro, instead of fining us, in hopes we had learned our lesson. we had. most definitely, and our tickets were very valid after that. it was an annoying shame though, as that trip was the only reason we needed the 48 hour ticket and not the 24 hour one. an expensive lesson to learn: validate your tickets, guys!
after we'd checked in and dumped our stuff in our preeeeeetty room (which had the most amazing floor tiles in the bathroom), we headed outside to explore the island. as with rome, we were not staying in the centre of the city, so where we were was a lot more suburban, and a lot less busy. we walked the back streets and looked in restaurant windows, keen to find something to eat. as with the other days, we'd snacked on breakfast food throughout the day, and were hungry for some real food. it was about five and not a lot was open just yet, so we enjoyed the sights of the pretty pastel buildings and churches in the neighbourhood before settling on a restaurant directly opposite the hotel when we could wait no more.
ai do mati pizzeria was so close to the hotel that we could still get on the wifi. genuinely, it was empty, it was open, and we were uploading photos onto instagram like mad women. the menu was lengthy to say the least, and we decided then and there we would be back again; there were too many options on their menu that we hadn't seen elsewhere, that we had to try it all (seriously, we didn't see penne or ravioli or tagliatelle or gnocchi or anything like that in rome - only spaghetti!). that time though, we settled on pizza and a seafood spaghetti, with a glass of wine to wash it all down. waiting for us back in the room was a chilled bottle of prosecco, so, start as you mean to go on, eh! after wandering down to the lido bay to watch the sunset, we grabbed some gelato (of course we did) and headed in to plan the day ahead.
after an incredibly hearty breakfast (seriously: everything) we jumped on the first water bus we saw going to the main island (validate your tickets!), and hopped off at san zaccaria; this was central to a lot of the things we wanted to see that morning. we started at the bridge of sighs (well, when it wasn't crammed with tourists!), then wandered along the canal snapping pictures of doge's palace and the intricate lattice and lace detailing of it, before heading into piazza san marco. astonished by the line of people wanting to get into the opulent basilica, we decided to settle on listening to the bells toll inside the piazza before moving on to our next exploration.
it's a damn shame though, because i would have liked to see inside that church. if the insides are anything as luxurious as the outside, i bet it would have given st. peter's a run for its money. the golden detail and the royal blue paintwork gave st. mark's an added touch that none of the other churches had really offered. outside of the granite and marble statues, eventually they all seem to feel the same. well, the same cannot be said for this "church of gold"; there's none other to compare it to.
from there we wandered across the island, admiring the beauty of the sinking buildings, snapping pics of the gondoliers as they navigated their way down the narrow canals, spying the fresh cannolis in the bakery windows. we ended up at the rialto bridge at one point, though it's not where we were trying to go - that's not to say it wasn't ~not where we were trying to go, but.. we were free-styling it, aiming for the north-side of the island, so jump on a bus to the islands of murano and burano.
the rialto bridge was under construction, from what we could gather. also, it's now covered in advertising, which is super disappointing, as that definitely is not what the punter's want. excuse the pun. it's possible the advertising was up simply to detract from the scaffolding up around it while they do whatever it is they're doing to it, but it was disappointing. we kept on wandering, and eventually made it to the right stop to get to the islands. i will do a post on these islands separately, else this one won't ever end, but in short: incredible. want to live there.
by the time we'd finished exploring the islands and were back on the mainland, we were coming up to six, and so we headed back to the safety of our lido beach - where we actually watched the sunset, while being caught up in a lovely sandstorm which left sand in ~all the places, despite being covered from head to toe (inside my tights? how?). we weren't kidding about wanting to eat every night for the rest of our lives at the restaurant across the road from the hotel, and even after considering a few others on the way back from the beach, we still settled on ai do mati for the second night in a row. no complaints here; have the gnocchi with butter and sage, it will change your life.
on our last day, it was our mission to make it inside a church. foolishly, i made us get off the bus one stop too early which had us walking around in circles for about an our trying to find a way across the river to san maria della salute, which is very south of the island, and across the widest part of the river. my bad. along the way though, we discovered both the san moise and santa maria del gilio churches, which we'd not seen the day before, so... #everycloud.
i mean, there are certainly worse places to get lost in, but we were super frustrated trying to find this one bust stop to cross the river. after literally walking back and forth up and down the same side alleys for about twenty minutes and coming up with nothing but private charter boat hires and gondolas, we tried this one ~super narrow alleyway that ~literally just about fit us and our luggage, and that genuinely led us to the bus stop at the very end of it. i wish i'd taken a pic of the ridiculousness of it, because there's no way you'll know what i mean, unless you've ever tried to find giglio on your own while in a rush.
well, it was worth the wait. san maria della salute - for a "minor basilica" is up there in my list of "really nice churches". who has a list like that? still, it's italy. they love a church in italy, but this one was something else. it's the one you probably recognise from everyone's vanice snaps from ever, as it's the one you can see from the water as you round the bend to piazza san marco. it's nothing special on the outside - i mean, kinda domey and pointy and statue-y but once inside, the colour and the artwork and the tiling is what really impresses. blacks and oranges and purple tiles pop amongst the marble and sterile grey of the stone carvings, and... woah. just really pretty. would recommend. except, wiki tells me it's one of "the plague churches", so...maybe don't.
after that, we wandered around that side of the island a bit and did some souvenir shopping before heading towards the bus station for our airport shuttle. not before getting in one more slice of pizza before hand, of course. we sat along the canal, watching backpackers pile of buses and out of the train station, giddy with the excitement that we'd had not 48 hours earlier. we were honestly so looking forward to getting to venice, and it at no point disappointed. well, maybe the ticket error on our first day dampened things a bit, but they certainly didn't stay damp for long.
we had such great weather the whole time we were there, and with such amazing accommodation, beautiful views, and a great mate to experience it all with, i really could not have asked for much more. and what's more, i've rekindled my love for pasta! i rarely eat the stuff, but now it's all i want to eat. i'm not sure it'll be anywhere near as good here in london, so i'm saving myself for when i'm back in italy in the summer, then i'm going to eat ~all the pasta.
a huge shout-out to charley for being a fab adventure buddy, and for letting me boss her around the one place she'd always wanted to visit. if she had half as good a time as i did, she had a ball too. (i hope)