Overnight in Venice

After our trip to Verona, Chad and I separately but nearly simultaneously reached the conclusion that for our Venice trip we did not want the curfew of having to catch the last train back. So, we used some credit card points to book a hotel. We decided to prioritize location so it would be convenient to return to for any needed breaks. There weren’t tons of hotels available when we booked a few days before the trip, but we were pleased with the one we chose (Lanterna di Marco Polo, review below).

Arrival and Lunch

The train to Venice from Padua is very easy – the fast regional train only takes 28 minutes to reach the Santa Lucia train station and leaves at least hourly. We chose a late morning train so we could enjoy walking around Venice a little before lunch. 

Walking out of the train station you get a view right away of the Grand Canal. When we visited Venice before 11 years ago, we came by bus from its mainland suburb, Mestre, and I don’t remember our first glimpse being so spectacular. We knew right away we were in Venice and in for a magical trip.

View from in front of the Santa Lucia train station

We crossed two bridges to begin our walk in Giardini Papadopoli, a small park just across from the train station. We found a bench to have a quick snack and apply sunscreen and then we were off to meander through the maze of small streets and across countless canal bridges. We stayed primarily in the Santa Croce neighborhood and then over to San Polo. 

We so appreciated our spontaneous Verona impulse to start with a sit-down lunch that we wanted to do that in Venice. And we knew that would be a good way to spend the rest of the time until our hotel check-in at 2 p.m. We were traveling light but still had a full-size backpack for Chad to carry plus me carrying the travel backpack that is normally on Chad’s back. I wanted a place with seafood and a canal view and we made a great choice to sit down at Taverna da Baffo. The food was excellent – pasta with frutti de mare for Chad and cuttlefish in ink with polenta for me, though we shared both. The highlight was a table of gondoliers next to us and we spent most of lunch speculating about gondolier life.

Aperitivi and Dinner

The walk to our hotel was also pleasant with lots of canal crossings and twisty-turny streets. The check-in process at the hotel was just using a numeric code to enter and finding our key on the table. We took a nice long break in our room to reserve our energy for nightfall and then went back out about 6 p.m. to check off a few sights and find a place for our aperitivi.

Clock tower and Basilica San Marco later in the day

We briefly checked out a unique bookshop I’d seen on Atlas Obscura but it was crowded and in COVID-times we are anti-crowd, so we ditched that and headed to Marco Polo’s house. When we found it, it didn’t look like much but Chad happened to catch a photo of a gondolier passing by pointing it out to his passengers as I stand there confused as to which building it is (there was a sign I hadn’t seen yet).

Jaime in front of Marco Polo’s house, with gondolier pointing it out to his passengers

Then, drinks time. There was a recommended bar very close to the Marco Polo house that serves a Venetian specialty, cicchetti, which are small open-faced sandwiches usually with fish. Although the bar didn’t have whiskey so Chad had to settle for wine, we enjoyed our little sandwiches and the courtyard where it was located was charming.

By the time we finished, dusk was starting to fall, which was the time we knew we’d especially enjoy wandering around Venice. This time we focused on the Cannaregio and Castello neighborhoods. We checked out a couple restaurant options I’d researched for dinner, but none seemed right. We didn’t want a place that was too bustling and it is common in Italy for the tables to be very close together. It was our night out in Venice and we didn’t want to settle.

Finally we started walking back to our hotel and past a restaurant I’d discounted in my earlier research because it was tagged as an oyster bar. But it appeared charming and the menu looked good. They only had five outdoor tables, which was the vibe we were looking for, but unfortunately the one they were setting was for someone else. However, when the manager heard us inquire about it, she offered to set up another table for two outside within five minutes and we could enjoy a glass of complimentary house prosecco while we waited. It was an easy decision to wait! 

The service was very good with a free starter of creamy polenta with mushrooms (similar to a really great dish I’d made at home the night before but far better!) and limoncello at the end. Both meals we ordered were excellent – Chad had pasta with duck sauce, which he’d been wanting to try, and I ordered pasta with scallops and a pistachio pesto. We did a lot of trading our plates back and forth because the dishes were so good. After dinner, of course, we found a gelateria. 

We went back to the Piazza San Marco after dinner, which is magical at night and enjoyed a bit more walking along the canals and tiny streets and bridges and all of the things that make Venice so unique. But eventually we ran out of steam and were glad to have our hotel close by to return to.

Breakfast and Departure

The next morning we woke up and had some coffee in our room because I’d brought along our portable kettle and some mugs and supplies from home. Then we checked out, finally meeting the hotel manager.

We planned to stop at a cafe for breakfast during our walk up to the train station. Italian breakfast is pretty much just espresso and a pastry. There is a cafe right outside the hotel we stayed at, but I wanted to get a little farther afield. We walked through the San Marco and San Polo neighborhoods getting closer and closer to the end of the island and the train station but not finding the right cafe for us. However, as with dinner the night before, we didn’t want to settle. We finally walked upon a cute patisserie with several tables available out front. 

We were glad we waited for this choice. The woman inside was very friendly and explained the fillings of the different croissants. I chose cream-filled and Chad chose jam-filled and we got a cappuccino for Chad and a macchiato (espresso with just a little milk) for me. It was all very charming and the perfect end to our time in Venice. I bought our train tickets home on the Trenitalia app and we headed up to the train station in plenty of time to choose a good seat.

Summary

This day in Venice was very different from the one we spent there 11 years ago. We didn’t ride any vaporettos and visit any of the other islands. We also took far fewer photos this time. But we fell in love with Venice all over again and decided that at some point in our future we’ll spend a full month here. There is no city in the world like it (though New Orleans has some similarities) and it is a favorite for both of us, especially Chad. It may be years before we come back, but when we do, it will be for a much longer visit when we can live like Venetians.

Our room at the hotel

Review of Lanterna di Marco Polo – Great location, clean and easy – We just had one night for Venice so wanted a hotel with a central location. This fit the bill perfectly. Check in was easy with the instructions sent beforehand via email. Our room was ready when we arrived at 2 p.m. and was clean. Nice to have a mini-fridge in the room. Good AC, which was needed even in September! Wish there was a kettle but they offer breakfast in the morning for a fee. We chose to go to a cafe instead. Room was small but charming and definitely clean. The staff was very friendly in the morning when we checked out and paid the tourist tax. Lanterna di Marco Polo worked out really well for us and I’d recommend it.

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