Is there any place in the world more interesting and unique than Venice, Italy? How many other cities out there are comprised of 118 separate islands, joined by more than 400 bridges? How many places out there are more directly tied to the Renaissance, one of the more enlightened periods in human history? Given that and so many other notions, who wouldn’t want to visit this place? I had been there once before, but sadly I had no time to explore as the visit was only a few hours long. Now I had an opportunity to spend a full 24 hours here, but the only catch was that I had to find a Venice hotel within an hour or so. If I didn’t, I would have to jump on the next flight out because I wouldn’t have anywhere to stay. I got right to work, hoping that I’d somehow make this happen.
I grabbed my phone and found an app called HotelTonight. I hadn’t used it in the past, but I liked the way it looked and it seemed quite interactive. I searched for Venice hotels and was very impressed with the options that were available. I used the helpful information presented to make my choice for a hotel room in Venice, and then prepared for the booking process. In my experience, this was the part of the effort that tended to take a long time. That wasn’t the case with HotelTonight, though. I was stunned to have my room reserved and confirmed within a few minutes. I had done it – I had found a Venice hotel room and I now had a full day to explore this wondrous place.
Cannaregio was a good place to start for me, as it is what many feel is the best sestiere, or district, in which to see what life is like for Venetians who spend their lives here. Cannaregio has a very long history, as it dates back to the 4th Century. It is definitely off the path beaten by tourists and offers a very interesting look at what it’s like to go through your daily routine in such a stunningly beautiful place. I walked around for a bit and visited the old ghetto, as it used to be known, before taking it all in one last time and moving into the next sestiere.
From one extreme to another, San Marco is easily the most crowded sestiere when it comes to tourism, and that’s not an accident. St. Mark’s Basilica is here as is St. Mark’s Square, two of the more famous landmarks in Venice. I spent some time looking at the historic sites and then really needed a cup of Italian coffee, as it was the midpoint of the morning and I was ready to recharge my batteries. I found a café nearby and sipped on a cappuccino while watching all of the people encounter the beauty of Venice, no doubt some of them for the very first time. It was fun to watch.
Castello is a sestiere that brings things back to what life seems to be like for locals. There are very few attractions here, unless you enjoy walking down narrow Italian streets and looking at all of the classic residential buildings with balconies. I saw children at play, adults out sweeping their walkways and ultimately, a restaurant that looked locally owned. That was good news, because I was in the mood for some authentic Italian cuisine. Yes, they do make pizza here, as I found out, and it’s a bit different than what you find in the United States in that it’s lighter and simpler in terms of ingredients and toppings. It was also fantastically delicious.
It seemed that, when I ventured into Dorsoduo, I found the haven for culture and the arts in Venice. The entire city is extremely expressive in this regard, but this sestiere was where I found art galleries along the streets and museums that featured paintings from artists you may have heard of like Dali, Picasso and others. I also found some nice shops in the area, and that was fortunate because I had yet to purchase any gifts for the important people in my life. I found some quite easily and started looking forward to the final stop for the day.
I was glad that I would be ending my day in Venice in a sestiere that was dominated by local residents. That’s what I wanted when the day started and that’s exactly what I was getting. The entire area is so beautiful that the only way you can tell if it’s a touristy area or not is by the size of the crowds in the street. There were no crowds here, but there was another local restaurant that I hoped would be the ‘real deal’ in terms of local cuisine. It was. I ate happily and hungrily, and when I was finished I was more than satisfied.
As I made my way back to my hotel, I took Venice in for one last time, at least for this trip. I had already decided that I would come back here when I had more time. I would do so with the help of HotelTonight, as the app helped my find and secure a Venice hotel room in minutes. I couldn’t wait to return, and I couldn’t wait to find a room without dealing with the usual stress and hassle. It had been quite a day.