Full of history and culture, I couldn’t wait to explore the magical city of Venice I had heard so much about.
We flew in to Marco Polo Airport and were lucky enough to be staying with an Italian friend of ours, in his home city of Padua, a mere 30 minutes west of Venice.
It was my first time in Italy, and staying with an Italian family was a truly authentic experience. We were privy to the ‘real’ Italy as seen through the eyes of locals as opposed to tourists. We had our own interpreter, personal guide and chauffeur all wrapped in one!
In total we spent two days in Venice — one in Padua and one in Sirmione, Lake Garda.
I had high expectations for Venice and, although I had been warned by tourists who had been there before, and by some Italians, that it was overrated, I wasn’t disappointed.
Like something off a postcard, it was as beautiful as I had imagined.
I soaked up every minute of this enchanting city, getting lost in its maze.
Walking through St Mark’s Square we witnessed a bride getting her wedding photos taken before we popped our heads inside the Basilica. As well as being thronged with people, the Square is also home to swarms of pigeons — so watch out!
No trip to Venice is complete without a glide down the canal in an iconic gondola. The traditional Venetian rowing boat allows you to sit back and relax absorbing the city from a unique viewpoint. Although the gondolas were expensive (€80 for half an hour) they are definitely worth the price tag.
A notoriously expensive city, Venice certainly lived up to its pricey ways. If you’re dining out for lunch or dinner you can expect to pay big bucks for it.
Although we did splash out and enjoy a waterfront lunch, we ventured off the beaten track when it came to dinner, discovering cheaper restaurants that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
As a self-confessed ice-cream lover with a weakness for pizza, I was in my element sampling some of Italy’s greatest offerings.
Weather-wise, Venice was exactly what the doctor ordered. We visited during the first week of September where temperatures reached a sizzling 33 degrees while we were there.
Two to three days is more than enough time to explore Venice, and so we spent a day in Padua and a day in Sirmione, Lake Garda.
Padua, home to the Basilica of Saint Anthony, one of the largest churches in the world, is a must-do even for non-believers.
There was no clicking of cameras in the Basilica and only whispered exchanges could be heard, allowing you to fully absorb the stunning architecture and peaceful atmosphere inside.
However, there is a strict dress code (which we didn’t know about) and, as we were dressed in shorts and T-shirts, we were told we needed to cover up. A small room located next to the Basilica hands out shawls in exchange for a small donation.
We spent the remainder of our day in Padua strolling through the city and admiring the University of Padua, which is Italy’s second oldest, and stopping off for ice-cream to cool down whenever it tickled our fancy.
The following day we took a quick car ride from Padua to Sirmione in Lake Garda (about an hour and a half) for a short day trip to bask in the glorious sunshine, swim in the lake and enjoy one of Garda’s most popular towns.
Sirmione is picturesque and, with its traffic-free streets, you can stroll at your leisure taking in the beauty of the place. I would have liked more time to explore the town and its history so it’s definitely on my bucket list to return again soon.
To truly enjoy an enchanting city like Venice, as well as its neighbouring cities such as Padua and Sirmione, put the map away, switch off from the outside world and allow yourself to get lost in what has to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world — Italy.