Our on our recent Thanksgiving family getaway to Italy, we spent three days in Venice, including Thanksgiving day! Dan and I have actually spent Thanksgiving in Venice before, and its a great way to spend the holiday. Here is a run down of what we did and where we stayed and ate over our three days, as well as lots of pictures to make you wish you were in Venice. #sorrynotsorry.
WHERE WE STAYED IN VENICE.
We stayed at Hotel Antiche Figure in Venice. Dan and I stayed at Hotel Antiche Figure in 2016 and really loved the hotel, so we went back! The main draw for us is that Hotel Antiche Figure is directly across from the train station, far away from the tourist crowds, and reasonably priced for clean rooms and a decent breakfast. We would certainly stay here again. This time, Dan and I lucked out with a canal view room! Book via the hotel’s website for the best prices.
WHAT WE DID OVER THREE DAYS IN VENICE
We arrived in Venice in the afternoon, taking the train East from Torino (with a change in Milano). We walked from St. Lucia Train Station to Hotel Antiche Figure (porters will take bags for 20 euro per load, which includes multiple bags). After checking in to Hotel Antiche Figure and having a small rest, we walked down to the Rialto Bridge area, where we would later meet up for a Cicchetti food tour. The walk was really nice, especially since it was sunny and surprisingly warm. We made a few stops for shopping, including a new pink coat for Betty!
Arriving at Rialto a bit later than expected due to photographs and shopping, we had about an hour to walk around Rialto before our tour. I had initially planned to jewelry shop on the Bridge, but there wasn’t nearly enough time. So I sat my parents at an outdoor bar, got some to-go gluwein, and walked over and around the Rialto Bridge. The views, as always, were stunning.
We met our Cicchetti tour group right on time. It was the 8 of us plus another couple from the US. I have a separate post on our Cicchetti tour, but in short, it lasted a few hours and visited about six different food and/or drink spots in and around Rialto.
Our second day in Venice began with an early morning waterbus, or Vaporetto, all the way down to St. Mark’s Square. Fermato Zaccaria to be precise, one stop past St. Mark’s. The reason for getting off at Zaccaria is that it puts you right in front of the Bridge of Sighs! Due to Covid, crowds were the lightest I’ve ever (and probably will ever) see! Needless to say, we all took lots of pictures. We also looked at some paintings in the area, which were really expensive for a street paintings, and then walked around the corner to Piazza St. Marco.
We then moved into St. Mark’s Square and explored St. Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile. Both lines were incredibly light, almost certainly due to Covid and it being November. Those who did not want to tour the Basilica and/or the Campanile enjoyed hot chocolate at Caffè Lavena on St. Mark’s Square and did a bit of touristy shopping. And, of course, everyone enjoyed a cocktail at Caffè Lavena here before we left! While very pricey for drinks in Italy, the drinks came with a nice spread of snacks! My parents said it was the best hot chocolate they had ever drank.
After our St. Mark’s adventure, which took a couple hours, we walked from St. Mark’s to the more local Dorsoduro area, crossing over the Accademia bridge. The Dorsoduro is Venice’s university district and is home to the popular Peggy Guggenheim Museum (a great one if you have time!). While its still a bit touristy, its nothing like the St. Mark’s area. The walk between the two areas is also very nice, passing by swanky shops and beautiful little streets, though still crazy touristy.
En route, we also fortuitously walked by the Poli Grappa Museum. Poli is Dan’s Italian great grandmother’s last name, and we had heard that there is a “Poli Grappa” popualr in the Veneto area. We hoped to find it on a menu, but never thought we would randomly walk by the museum! Of course, we stopped in (it was more shop than museum), tried a bit, and purchased two bottles to bring home!
Our walk ended with lunch at a favorite Cicchetti bar, Osteria al Squero. We first went herein 2016 and its located across from one of Venice’s only remaining gondola makers! While touristy, we’ve seen locals here too, and the prices are fantastic for Venice! We all enjoyed cicchetti and drinks.
We ended our afternoon with gondola rides and dinner at Ai Garzotti, a pizza restuarant very close to Hotel Antiche Figure.
PRO TIPS RE GONDOLAS: Gondolas are really easy to find in Venice – do not book one online in advance. You will see signs for “Servicio Gondola” all over Venice. You can find a gondola at one of these stops or just walk up anywhere you see a gondolier. Prices are set by the local government – 80 euro during the day and 100 euro at night. Rides last approximately 45 minutes and up to six people can fit in one gondola (the price stays the same). It’s customary to tip the gondolier, but not required.
Our last day in Venice was not spent in Venice proper, but on a day tour to the Prosecco region, about 1 hour via train outside of Venice. I have a whole post on this tour, but we visited 3 Prosecco producers and had a lovely, lovely lunch.
Since this was Thanksgiving day in the US, we ended our day with dinner in a private wine cellar at All’Amarone! It was an untraditional Thanksgiving, but the food was very good.
WHERE WE ATE IN VENICE
Eating good food in Venice can be tough; Venice has a lot of tourists, and many restaurants cater to the in-and-out crowd never to return. This results in not great Italian food (I say not great because I’m not sure there is such a thing as bad Italian food). Since we’ve been here a few times, we have managed to find a few good ones that we keep coming back to!
On our first night, we went on a Cicchetti progressive dinner tour. Cicchett are a type of Venetian tapas that the locals eat with a glass of wine at various Cicchetti bars. We took a Cicchetti tour in Venice in 2016 and it was one of the best things we did, so we repeated it this time around. It was a great welcome to Venice and a great way to experience Cicchetti without having to navigate the crowded and small bars yourself.
For dinner one evening, we visited one of my favorite pizzerias – Ai Garzotti! We ate here in 2016 and it was just as good in 2021. The highlight this time was their homemade unicorn cake!
We also visited one of our favorite Cicchetti bars, Osteria al Squero. Listed in many guide books, Osteria al Squero is directly across from one of the only remaining gondola factories in Venice. The food here is inexpensive and its always excellent, as are the drinks!
For Thanksgiving dinner, we dined in a new restaurant for us, All’Amarone. All’Amarone bills itself as a Cicchetti bar, but they have a broader menu than your traditional Cicchetti bar. We dined in their private wine cellar, which was quite nice. Our group got a variety of things, myself this pizza!
HOW WE GOT TO VENICE
We arrived in Venice via a TrenItalia train. As we were coming from Alba, we hired a van to drive us from Alba to Tornio (rather than take the local train), which has the largest train station in Peidmonte. This drive took longer than expected, but we made our train without a problem. While there are direct trains from Alba to Venice, we took the Frecciarossa to Milan Centrale and then transferred to Venice, with a 45 minute break between the two trains. This was not as hectic as we expected, but I would not call it easy. We managed to hit the Bistrot Centrale for some snacks between the two trains.
When we arrived in Venice, Hotel Antiche Figure is directly across the canal from the train station. We walked between the two. Looking back, I would have hired porters to carry our luggage.
STEAL OUR TRIP
TrenItalia: Trenitalia website. Tickets go on sale 90 days in advance.
Hotel Antiche Figure: Book through the hotel’s website for the best rates. Complimentary breakfast for all guests, including espresso breakfasts.
Savor Italy: Our Cicchetti tour company. We did the Venice Cicchetti tour.
Poli Grappa Museum: Via B. Gamba, 6, 36061 Bassano del Grappa VI, Italy. Open daily 9 – 19:30. More shop than museum.
Osteria al Squero: Dorsoduro, 943, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy. Closed Sunday. Open otherwise 10:00 – 20:30, closing at 16:00 on Saturday.
Ai Garzoti: o dei Garzoti, Fondamenta Rio Marin, 890, 30135 Venezia VE, Italy. Open 11:00 – 15:00, 18:00 – 22:30. Reservations can be made online. Recommended, as the restaurant is small with no outdoor seating.
Vineria All’Amarone: C. dei Sbianchesini, 1131, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy.
Prosecco di Marca: The Prosecco tour that we took.