The fist time we went to Venice, it was on a day trip from Verona on a cold Spring day and it was raining - not the best way to appreciate the beauty of a city that has been around since the fifth century. This time around, we went in the beginning of Summer with a slightly different outlook on life and a bigger backpack. Venice gets targeted as one of the “most touristy places of Italy” but this, as many other surrounding cities, has its authentic and beautiful parts as well. Maybe it’s the fact that you have to walk everywhere, rather than use cars, but Venice this time around seemed much bigger than last time. Apart from the main piazzas and cathedrals, there are large parks to walk though and there’s a fun nightlife too!
The night we arrived, there was a Juventus (Italian professional football club) match against Barcelona… and as the only Spanish girls in the bar, we felt a little awkward as our team beat theirs within the last few minutes of the match. We casually (and quietly) left the bar after some quick cheers and went on a search for other bars where no one knew we were of Spanish decent. We stumbled into several different hangout areas. Sta Teresita's piazza was filled with a hip-looking younger crowd, while the Canal del Instituto de la Misericordia was filled with an older crowd and a strip of nicely decorated, artsy local bars and restaurants.
For daytime activities, consider checking out the 1950s Olivietti showroom designed by Carlo Scarpa! It's pretty much hidden in plain sight right in St Mark’s Square and is often overlooked by tourists. It's not on your typical Venice tour guide list, but it's definitely worth checking out if you're at all interested in good design.
As for gondolas, I’d say do it. It’s worth it. Besides, you never know when you’ll be back in Venice! It’s one of those once in a lifetime occasions where you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride… and not think about your wallet slowly disappearing into thin air… Our gondoleiro, Andreas, was very funny and kind. He even let us drive the gondola for a little while. We found out there's only a tiny group of people who are allowed to be gondoleiros. It's a family business, passed down from one man to the next, and in ONE case, there was a daughter who decided to follow in her dad’s footsteps. Yep, there’s apparently only ONE female gondoleira, so if you see her give her props for it!