We splashed out in Venice, staying at the Molino Stucky Hilton. It was Easter weekend when we were there, so the city was buzzing with thousands of visitors. The hotel is located on Guidecca Island, a short 8-10 minute water taxi ride to Piazza San Marco – with a free shuttle provided for guests. The hotel’s location turned out to be a real blessing, as it allowed us to escape the crowds in the main area of the city.
Once a spaghetti factory, the building has been converted into a luxury hotel of around 400 rooms. On arrival, The Bestie and I were pleased to find a spacious air conditioned room with smart striped wallpaper, timber panelled doors, a modern Venetian glass chandelier and lovely black and white photos of Venice on the walls – plus a deep bath in the sumptuous bathroom – very impressive.
After freshening up, we headed up to the Skyline rooftop bar for what had become our evening ritual, a glass of prosecco (Italian bubbles). Being five storeys, the hotel is one of the tallest buildings in this area, providing great views across the waterways towards the heart of the city.
We sat on the colourful, funky chairs, sipping our drinks and complimentary snacks. At 20 euros (about $30) for two glasses of bubbles, it was the most expensive aperitif we had ever had, so we made sure to take our time, eat all the nibbles and enjoy the view!
At 6pm, we headed down to the jetty for our transfer into Piazza San Marco and an evening out in Venice.
The landing dock is about 150 metres north of the Piazza, so we enjoyed a walk along the waterfront, watching the hordes of tourists heading out of the centre at the end of the day. Tip: Evening is a great time to explore Venice if you want to avoid the crowds.
We strolled across an arched bridge and looked to our right to find the renowned Bridge of Sighs. Built in 1600, this bridge connects the Doge’s Palace with the adjoining prison. It is said that prisoners would sigh at their last view of beautiful Venice before being taken down into the cells for imprisonment. Naturally, we paused for photos with the bridge behind us. During the day, you can barely find a clear spot on the edge of this bridge to get a view, let alone get a photo without other people in it!
Along a little further we found the front of the Doge’s Palace and then Piazza San Marco – truly a beautiful sight, especially when bathed in the golden glow of the early evening. We walked past the Duomo (cathedral) and went on to look at some shops before finding a little pizzeria, where we enjoyed homemade lasagne and a glass of red wine. After dinner, we wandered a little more, relieved to have plenty of room to stroll and window shop – truth be told, we ventured inside a few too 🙂
About 8.30pm, we went back to Piazza San Marco, where we visited one of the local outdoor cafes for after-dinner coffee and dessert. As I’m not a coffee drinker, I enjoyed a hot chocolate, but it was quite unlike any other I’ve had before. It consisted of pure melted chocolate with a little jug of milk, which you add as you drink. It was delicious, and only a few calories! I was pleased I’d take a warm wrap with me, as it was a little chilly sitting in the square.
Many of the cafés have a bandstand where music is played in the evenings. The bands don’t compete with one another – each band plays 3 or 4 tunes, then has a break while the next band plays. We heard melodies such as, What a wonderful world, Always on my mind, We’ll meet again, Come fly with me, and of course, Some enchanted evening! It was just magical, sitting there taking in the atmosphere of Venice and watching the people.
You can stand and listen to the music here for free, but the minute you sit your butt down on a chair, it will cost you 6 euros – whether you order or not! This charge applies to all cafes in Piazza San Marco. In my opinion, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience you shouldn’t miss – just budget for it when you’re planning your trip. The world-famous Caffe Florian is nearby, but we chose a similar café which costs significantly less – and had a great experience at a fraction of the price. Go to Caffe Florian if you must (I hear it’s very stylish), but be prepared to pay extra for the privilege.
About 10pm, we strolled down to the water’s edge to board a private water taxi, which took us on a slow loop of the Grand Canal. I highly recommend you see Venice from the water by night – it’s cheaper if you do it via vaporetto (water bus).
We passed the landmark Church of Santa Maria Della Salute, drove under the famous Rialto Bridge and enjoyed watching the people on gondolas.
We saw inside many of the palatial homes, with their beautiful chandeliers, chunky timber beams and large paintings – it was fascinating, if a little voyeuristic. Some of the houses weren’t lit – obviously not everyone was home, but sadly some properties are abandoned due to the high cost of maintenance – I shudder to think what it costs! This boat ride was just so magical, I almost had to pinch myself to make sure it was actually happening.
Unfortunately, I didn’t capture many photos as my camera battery died at this time – grrrr – and I hadn’t taken my spare – double grrr – but it was a journey we’ll remember for a long time. The Bestie got a couple of shots in and then her battery failed too. I guess the batteries were a little overworked with all our snapping!
At some stage during the night, The Bestie lost the keys to her suitcase (which we’d locked up back at the hotel with the laptop inside it). We called the Concierge and they said they would send someone up to assist us – one of the perks in staying at a 4.5 star hotel. About 11.30pm, there was a knock at the door and a lovely young man who spoke next-to-no-English popped the lock open in about 10 seconds (so much for padlock security!). We thanked him with a tip of 10 euros and received a big smile and a flow of about 10 grazies in return.
By midnight, we were tucked up in our comfy beds, ready for sleep. We needed to be ready for another day of exploring Venice the following day, Easter Sunday.
The Besties Do Italy series details how Seize The Day Project’s Lyndall and her long time best friend ventured to Italy to celebrate a significant birthday – sans husbands and children. Shhh, don’t tell anyone they’ve gone!
Read more posts in this fascinating series here: