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Venice Carnevale: A Winter Day Trip from Padova

I have a love-hate relationship with Venice. Ok, I admit it. Mostly I hate it.

It’s a terrible thing to say about one of the world’s most unique places, but on the 2 occasions I’ve visited, the place was crawling with people, it was impossible to take a step in Piazza San Marco without bumping into another sweaty body, everything was grossly overpriced, and there was so much tourist trash on sale, my eyes started to bleed. And don’t even get me started on the rather interesting odour that permeates the entire city…

Ok, perhaps a bit harsh.

But when you have visions of romantic gondola rides on canals (by the way, it’s illegal for them to sing, so don’t even bother asking), eerily enveloped by mist and surrounded by gorgeous architecture, the reality can be a bit jarring.

And though it’s not quite Paris Syndrome, I did experience a fair bit of anxiety and tachycardia upon finding out how much they dared to charge for a scoop of gelato. πŸ˜‰

Anywayyyy…the point of all that is that I finally visited Venice and liked it.

It wasn’t just because it happened to be Carnevale, when we descended upon the shrouded city, though seeing all those glorious costumes and decadent masks, definitely helped make the city feel just a little bit mysterious, the way I’d always dreamed it would be.

Mostly it was because there was enough physical and psychological space to actually feel the romance of the setting.

Venice is for lovers, or in our case parents with a spare moment to explore. πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‚ #travel #Italy #Venezia

A post shared by Shelley and Naia (@travelstained) on

Coffee was still overpriced, kitschy merchandise still abounded, and service was still lackadaisical at best, but as we leisurely wandered through narrow alleyways, across stone bridges and next to watery roads, the afternoon slowly faded into night, and I could almost believe I was a renegade explorer discovering a magical, mystical city for the very first time.

Getting to Venice from Padova
From Padova’s Central Train Station, take a Regionale or Regionale Veloce train to Venezia Santa Lucia. Seats are unreserved and you can buy your ticket at the station for €4.05. Make sure to validate the ticket with a time/date stamp before boarding the train.

From Venezia Santa Lucia, you can take one of the vaporettos (€7.50) through the canals to your destination. The (rather expensive) ticket is good for 75 minutes from the time of validation. Head in the direction of Rialto Bridge for those iconic Venice views, otherwise you’ll mostly just see industry…probably not what you’re hoping for on your trip there.

It IS possible to walk from Santa Lucia into the touristy areas of the city, like Piazza San Marco and Rialto Bridge. It’ll take some time and you might get hopelessly lost (make sure you have google maps handy or you’ll DEFINITELY get lost since Venice is a maze of winding streets with an address system as old as time). We actually walked BACK to the train station at dusk, and it was a lovely way to see some less touristed parts of Venice.

I’ve stayed in nearby Padova on 2 of my 3 visits to Venezia, and since it’s a mere 20 minute train ride away from Venezia, I’d definitely recommend doing so if you’re on any kind of budget. Padova is a lovely city in it’s own right, with 3 separate city squares, 14th century frescoes by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel, and the huge 13th century Basilica of St. Anthony.

Have you ever visited Venice? When were you there? Did you enjoy it? What was your experience like?

34 Comments Post a comment
  1. My first visit to Venice was a couple of hours between trains to see if I needed to go back. I took the vaporetto down the Grand Canal and fell in love. But my real visits have both been in November. You don’t get sunny photos, but you do get fewer crowds. The second time I stayed over in Sant ‘Elena, which was cheap, convenient for the Biennale, really quiet but still on a vaporetto line.

    April 17, 2017
    • There’s no denying the incredible beauty of Venice. It really is like no other, so I’m not surprised you fell in love on your first ride down the Grand Canal. The only time I’ve stayed for a few nights, was on my first trip there, way back in 2007… and I admit I was not much of a traveler then, so could not truly appreciate what I was seeing. And now, it just feels overrun with tourists. So much so that it almost feels like an amusement park version of a city, rather then a real city. A real shame… 😦

      April 19, 2017
  2. Sorry to hear your visit to Venice wasn’t all cracked up to be. It does sound like a lot of people, especially with that shot you took overlooking the shops. Maybe it is a small town with a lot of locals, and Carnevale aside, maybe that is where locals like to hang out. Now you got me curious as to how much they charge for a scoop of gelato..

    Good to hear you got to see the less touristy parts of town towards the end of the day. Sounds quieter, and probably with places closing but you get some peace and quiet to yourself πŸ™‚ Train is always my preferred way to get around if it’s not too pricey – usually fast and accommodates day trips very well.

    Maybe this is just me, but I think Agri looks like the tennis player Novak Djokovic πŸ˜€

    April 17, 2017
    • Unfortunately that shot is ALL tourists, and the Italians we’ve talked to say that they HATE living in Venice because of the constant tourist crowds. I’d guess that aside from the Italians that work in those areas, locals don’t hang out there at all. I think a scoop of gelato there was around 4 euros, PLUS they charge for panna – 50 cents. Unheard of, even in Rome, where 2 flavours of gelato is 2 euro and panna is free. Agri was beside himself when he found out.

      Hahahahahaha you are not alone. You’d be shocked by how many of his buddies tease him about being Djokovic. The resemblance is striking…though of course, I always tell him, he’s better looking. πŸ˜‰

      April 19, 2017
      • They charge for panna too, sad to hear that 😦 It sounds like a rip-off but at the very least hope it always tastes good. And the other food like pasta too.

        It would be amazing if Agri could bump into Djokovic some day. You’ll have to be ready with the camera πŸ˜€

        April 19, 2017
        • Such a rip-off…and I’m sorry to say, that it’s possible to get bad gelato and pizza in Italy. So sad. 😦

          April 20, 2017
  3. One of my favorite places in the world. I have been a number of times over the last 20 years. In my experience, Venice has never smelled, but then I have visited in the summer. The best way to see Venice is to stay there and roam the streets after the day trippers have gone home and the cruise ship passengers are back in their boats, or do an early morning walk as the sun rises. Venice has been a tourist attraction for hundred’s of years. The crowds are not new, but the cruise ships have had a negative impact on enjoying Venice, unloading thousands of passengers a day who seem to congregate in certain parts of the city. I recently read that the city is considering limiting the number of cruise passengers that can disembark. They would be better off closing their harbor to large cruise ships.

    April 17, 2017
    • I totally agree with you Marie about closing off the harbour to large cruise ships. There is no uglier sight than seeing a massive ship parked near Venice. It truly makes is feel like an amusement park! I also read that the city is limiting day-trippers, and they really should. I can’t imagine what kind of impact all the tourists is having on the city. On our first visit, we stayed 2 nights, and it was pretty deserted in the evenings. We spent most of the nights roaming the streets as you suggested, and getting lost! One night we didn’t make it back to our hotel until 4 in the morning!!

      April 20, 2017
  4. Never been to Venice but really wanted to go just for the gondola and the architecture.
    But a friend told me that the gondola ride is really expensive.

    Anyway, the waterway in your photo seems to narrow! I would be scared whether or not the gondola can pass those narrow route.

    April 17, 2017
    • I do think everyone should visit Venice at least once (despite all the tourists). There really is no other city in the world quite like it. The gondola ride IS expensive – I think around 80-100 euros for a 20 minute ride, but I think you can seat 5 or 6 people in one, and the cost is the same. We did it the first time we visited, but I’ll never do it again. It felt like such a rip-off…and they’re not even allowed to sing! My dad took care of that last time by singing O Sole Mio as loud as he could on the gondola. Thank god I wasn’t on it. Hahaha

      April 20, 2017
  5. I can totally relate to this post, Shelley. It’s been 7 years since we visited Venice! Now, I have fond memories of Venice like most trips. Though, I did find it to be a bit overrated back then. Years later, our Italian friend was really offended when I said it didn’t match expectations. I guess I liked/loved Rome a lot more. πŸ™‚

    April 18, 2017
    • And I think it’s gotten a lot more crowded and touristy since 7 years ago. The cruise ships are having a huge impact for sure. Rome is also overrun with tourists, but I guess since it’s so much bigger, you can still find some places that don’t feel like an amusement park. I also like/love Rome a lot more, despite it’s current problems of infrastructure. Yikes!

      April 21, 2017
  6. I admit I loved Venice! We were there for a week a few years ago. Perhaps because we were there in October it was not so crowded and we found quiet streets as soon as we got off the main thoroughfares. I found it to be even more magical than expected. I’m glad you finally felt the magic.

    April 18, 2017
    • There’s no denying the beauty of Venice! I must admit that I think my impressions may have been coloured by the “Italian,” I was traveling with. While I had no context when I first visited, Agri knew exactly how things should be (for example, nowhere in Italy charges for panna, but of course they do in Venice) – you shoulda seen the ensuing argument he had with the owner, who just shrugged (with a bit of shame I dare say). But yeah, I’m glad I finally felt a bit of the magic too. Getting off the main thoroughfares is a definitely necessity to experience that! πŸ™‚

      April 21, 2017
  7. I totally should have gone for Carnivale. I found it much like you did in your previous trips: overcrowded and smelly. Still, the canals alone soon got me out of my doldrums and into the energy of the city. Which happens to be a very sedate and melancholy feeling that begs for wine and poetry. I enjoyed it but probably won’t be back. Probably.

    April 18, 2017
    • Haha, I said I wouldn’t go back either, but there I was on my 3rd visit to Venice, and begrudgingly at that. How spoiled am I? But it turned out to be the visit I enjoyed the most. Seeing all those Carnevale costumes definitely added a layer of excitement to the whole place, and that it wasn’t very crowded only added to that.

      April 21, 2017
  8. That is exactly the reason I haven’t visited Venice yet. I just don’t understand the appeal honestly.. I have been to some canal cities (Bruges in Belgium for example) and I really liked it. But I don’t know if I would like Venice considering just how popular it is.. Reading that you enjoyed your winter visit however makes me think otherwise πŸ™‚ Those carnival costumes are interesting!

    April 18, 2017
    • Despite all the tourists in Venice, everyone should visit at least once. Just to see it…which is probably why it’s so damn overcrowded all the time. Haha. There really is no other city like it…it’s very different than the other canal cities in the world…which feel like cities with some water running through them. Venice really feels like a city built on water and it is very romantic (if you can avoid the tourists as much as possible). I’d say, definitely stay over at least one night so all the day-trippers clear out, and wander the streets in the early morning or late at night to really get a feel for it…

      April 21, 2017
  9. well i didnt know about Padova. great tip!

    April 18, 2017
    • Yes! Padova is a great place to explore Venice from. It’s a university town, so not too expensive, and the city squares are a great place to sit back with an aperitivo before dinner, while watching the world roll by… πŸ™‚

      April 21, 2017
  10. I have not been there but feel like I have to go at some point! I AM interested, but I’ve read enough posts and articles along the lines of yours that sometimes I think I’m setting myself up for disappointment. Cleary, I need to go off-season. Glad you finally found what you’d been looking for there!

    April 19, 2017
    • Yes, I do think you need to go at some point. If I know anything about you from reading your blog, it’s that you’ll find a way somehow to enjoy the beauty and mysteriousness of the place. There really is no other place like it on earth (hence all the tourists I guess), but staying at least 1 night and wandering the streets early in the morning, like Marie above suggested, really is the way to appreciate Venice.

      April 21, 2017
  11. I love your honesty in this post. Some bloggers only say the good things about the places they’ve been. They overrate it. The world needs bloggers like you so other tourists won’t be disappointed once they see the actual place. ^^

    April 22, 2017
    • Haha thanks Karla. Venice is incredibly beautiful and unique, it’s just that there’s so many tourists, and it’s not a very big place, so it can be very crowded at times, making it difficult to really appreciate it. It’s a shame really that all the most wonderful places, kind of get “ruined” by tourism. 😦

      April 24, 2017
  12. Ah, we are traveling through Europe right now but aren’t heading through Italy. Like you, we often compare whether its worth it to stay just outside the city or inside. Most times we find we have a better, less touristy, more authentic feel of a place that way but it’s not always possible. And i never knew that phrase “Paris Syndrome” and thats pretty much how i felt when we were there! haha

    April 22, 2017
    • When I read about it, and found out that it’s mostly Japanese women that experience it, I wasn’t overly surprised, especially from living in Korea. The women in this part of the world are so innocent in a way, and well, the whole world basically romanticizes France and Italy so…

      Italy is such an amazing place to visit with so many different regions, you really need a whole trip just to see the country. I’ve been 5 or 6 times now, and I’ve barely just scratched the surface of what there is to discover (and EAT). πŸ˜‰

      April 24, 2017
  13. First, I love your header design and the light green colour of the blog… was it different before or I just noticed it now?

    Reading your blog makes it easy to travel with a baby. You’re very lucky:-)… I’ve never been to Europe and yes, Venice is one place I would love to visit because of all the photos I see.Good to read an honest account. But hey, you did enjoy it this time… albeit overpriced coffee and all:-)

    April 23, 2017
    • Yes, it’s always been like this, but I think it looks different on different screens for some reason. I have a talented little niece that just graduated in design that did it for me. I’ve been wanting to update it actually, cuz it was feeling a bit dated to me, so it’s nice to hear that you love it. πŸ™‚

      Haha, maybe my blog only makes it look like traveling with a baby is easy. I admit that Naia is an easy child, but traveling is always tiring, especially so with a baby. SO worth it though. You should definitely visit Venice one day, it’s a must-see despite the overpriced coffee and gelato. πŸ˜‰

      April 24, 2017
  14. The Soul of Seoul #

    I like how you say, “was enough physical and psychological space to actually feel the romance of the setting” and then the picture is of you and Agri smiling with people on either side of you bumping in hahaha. At least you had a chance to find something enjoyable about a place. Not many people would go back after going some place and NOT liking it.

    April 24, 2017
    • Ha! That’s nothing for Venice…usually you can’t even get to the edge of Rialto bridge to snap a pic. For some reason, I keep ending up in places that I didn’t like much the first time, multiple times…like Venice and Hawaii. Still not the worst thing to happen to someone. 😁

      April 25, 2017
  15. Ahhhhh Italy!!! How I miss it and long to visit again. I spent a semseter in Florence during college and I had the time of my life. Because I’m a native spanish speaker, I picked up Italian quite easily but sadly I’ve forgotten most of it by now. Anyway, I actually agree with you about Venice. I was totally unimpressed when I visited for some of the same reasons you mention. I think I expected something magical and the reality was very different. It also didn’t help that it rained the entire time I was there, so I was happy to return to my cozy apartment in Florence haha. Glad you were able to finally enjoy it though!

    April 24, 2017
    • My hubby is the opposite of you…fluent in Italian but picks up Spanish within a week of being in a Spanish speaking country. I’m sure you’d get it back right away if u went back to Italy! Florence is sooo incredibly beautiful, it must’ve been wonderful to spend a length of time there.

      April 25, 2017
  16. Nor surprising at all that any notable European city is ridiculously overpriced. I will keep Padova in mind if/when I go by way of Italy. So how much was that gelatto by the way?

    April 24, 2017
    • It was about 4 euro vs 2 euro which it usually is, plus u had to pay for panna. 😠 And quality was def not as good as in other parts of Italy…padova is a great option. Really nice little city to hang out in…

      April 25, 2017

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