Last June I was lucky enough to go on an amazing 12-day trip eating and exploring my way through Italy! We started in the Tuscan Countryside and made our way through different towns and regions including Volterra, Ferrara, Venice, Sienna, Florence, and Rome. I decided instead of one huge post, I’d do a few smaller posts on different areas to keep them short, sweet and more targeted to each area! For my first post I’m starting with one of the most unique places we visited- VENICE. We were only able to spend 2 nights here and we split a little of the time time in the tiny town of Ferrara as well. Ferrara is about an hour drive away from Venice and was well worth the drive.
With canals where the roads should be, it’s only natural that I fell in love with this place. No matter how many pictures or videos you’ve seen, nothing compares to seeing this place in person. Beautiful narrow winding alleyways, gondolas with singing gondoliers and colorful buildings along the canals are everywhere you look. There’s no shortage of shops, gelato stands, seafood restaurants and unique architecture.
Where to Stay:
Aqua Palace Hotel // There could not be a more fitting name for this place. Getting there was such an experience in itself- when we first got into town we took a motorboat directly up to a platform where we walked straight into the front doors of the hotel on the canal. We were lead up to our room with the most amazing view ever. I didn’t get a great picture (WHY??) but you get the feel of how awesome it was from this one. The hotel was within an easy walking distance to everything, had an amazing view and was so beautiful, you can’t ask for much more.
What to Do:
Gondola Ride // Of course! There’s no way you can come here and not do it. Grab a spot in line and wait for the next designated gondolier to pick you up and whisk you away through the colorful buildings, under bridges and around the historic points of Venice. We had an amazing gondolier who was full of information, sang us a little song and even let me borrow his sweet hat. I felt like I was in a fairytale. 10/10 recommend. A ride will run you about $100 for 40 minutes for a gondola that can fit 6 people.
Motorboat Tour // The motorboat tour was like an extensive gondola ride. We got to see outside of the walls of the city and head on towards the open water, it was an awesome ride!
What to Eat:
Cicchetti // Cicchetti is the traditional small plate fare found all throughout Venice, sort of similar to the concept of Spanish tapas. Being from Florida, I’m used to eating seafood often but it was so interesting to see all of the different ways they prepare their seafood. Eating these small plates is a great way to taste test it all! We got scallops, fish, pasta salads and wine.
Al Buso // Have a canal-side dinner: After walking around trying to find a restaurant we wanted to try out, we opted for this adorable little canal-side seafood and pasta restaurant right at the foot of the Rialto Bridge. I saw carbonara on the menu and knew I had to have it- definitely enough for two to split. We ate massive mounds of delicious pasta and drank wine right alongside the boats going by. Definitely a great spot for a relaxing and casual dinner.
Ristorante Cantina Canaletto // Right around the corner from our hotel was this little restaurant serving pizzas, pastas, salads and wine and it was pretty hard to pass up after a day of walking around town. I had the roasted veggie pizza and it was delicious. How come all veggie pizzas don’t come with grilled zucchini!?
La Boutique del Gelato // Let’s be real- there’s no such thing as bad gelato in Italy. One scoop hazelnut, one scoop raspberry or strawberry was my go-to the entire trip.
What to Drink:
Spritz // We were wondering why EVERYONE had these bright red drinks and we soon found out it was the traditional drink of venice. Made with prosecco or white wine, aperol and some sparkling water, it was nice and refreshing! I still preferred wine, but when in Venice…
Other Must-See Sights:
Basilica di San Marco, St. Mark’s Square, Santa Maria dei Miracoli (Marble Church), Rialto Bridge
As I mentioned earlier, we also spent almost a whole day about an hour away in a little town called Ferrara. I went into this town having no expectations of what it was like, and I am SO glad we went. We had the best tour guide (email me for her info!) who took us around the entire town including boutiques, coffee shops, pastry shops, an amazing restaurant where we sampled fresh pastas and regional wines, toured through the Castello Estense, and had an interesting lesson about the painted frescoes at the Palazzo Schifanoia. It was such an amazing place!
What to eat:
Cappellacci di Zucca // This is a traditional ravioli-type pasta filled with butternut squash and parmesean and nutmeg in a butter and sage sauce. It was SO GOOD. We had some at Enoteca al Brindisi, it was amazing.
Coppia Ferrarese // Twisted sourdough bread first made in the 12th century in Ferrara and has continued to be a staple to Ferrara since. You’ll see batches of this bread throughout the town in all bakery windows and on all restaurant tables.
Caffetteria Ristoro Schifanoia // Stop by this eclectic bakery for some coffee and breakfast to eat in their garden! Go in spring to see all of the cherry blossoms in bloom.
Where to Sightsee:
Castello Estense // This medieval castle is a must-see while in Ferrara, it covers an entire block and is surrounded by a moat with a drawbridge- super cool and rich with history.
Ferrara Cathedral // This amazingly detailed white marble Cathedral can be found in the city center not too far from the Castello Estense.
The Umbrella Street // My favorite part! These colorful umbrellas go on for as long as you can see down the stretch. Ask a local to point you in the right direction!
How to Get Around:
Rent a bike! // Don’t worry about taxis or scooters, in Ferrara, bicycle is the way to go. Everywhere you look you see people peddling through town. If you’re staying the night, check with your hotel for free rentals.
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