Italy: Padua - Venice - Florence - Giudecca: June 6-13, 2017
Everytime I go, I am reminded how much I love Italy. For this Vacation/Trip (I'm classifying it as both- we did a good amount of relaxing as well as exploring), I was treated by my job for a few days, where I stayed in Padua, which is about a 30min drive west from Venice. It is also accessible by train from Venice (Padova is the name of the stop). Since I was with work, I didn't have a ton of time to explore the city- but from the 2 days I was there here are my takeaways:
- it's a big university city (the oldest in Italy I was told). Wednesday night is the big night for nightlife here "University Night"
- lots of high end shopping (Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, etc) - a few squares which were great for open air dining
- I found a great trail along the canal that surrounds the city which was awesome for morning runs. It took me all around the perimeter of the city (which was formerly walled, some parts still are), and out of the city towards the highway.
- The weather was really pleasant, sunny and in the mid-70s. It got very cool at night, for dining outdoors I wore long dresses and jackets. This was a big contrast to Florence where it was super hot!
Here are some photos of Padua on June 6 and 7th:
June 8th: My company took us on a day trip to Venice by shuttle bus. The trip in the morning was pretty short (30mins) but on the way home - about 2 hours due to rush hour traffic! Now knowing this I would suggest just taking the train if you ever want to travel between these 2 places, or just plan to leave a little earlier (we left Venice at 5:30pm). We were dropped off at the Piazza San Marco, where we met our guide. This was a great idea, I have been to Venice before, and have been that cliche tourist who gets completely lost wandering along the canals. So, it was super nice to have someone who knew there way around and could drop some knowledge about how Venice was built, all the beautiful buildings, art, history, etc. - and could guide us through the swarms of tourists. I have heard that St. Mark's Square now regularly floods during high tide- our guide mentioned this does not often happen in the summer months, so take that into consideration when planning your trip to Venice. Here are some photos of Venice from the walking tour on June 8th:
June 9th: My work trip concluded, but I was not ready to leave. My husband flew into Venice and met me that morning, and we took the train down to Florence. For those of you intimidated by multiple modes of transportation, you are not alone! Here is how we did this:
I greeted Joe at the cafe in the airport. The Marco Polo airport is pretty small, but the lines for customs were long that morning. His flight landed and it took him over an hour to get through. He landed at 9am, our train was booked to leave at 11:30, sounds like plenty of time right? Well it was a close finish but we made it. Once he came through customs at about 10:30, we bought a bus ticket (8 euro each) which takes you from the airport to the Venezia train station. Actually it takes you to Piazza San Marco, you walk over a bridge (about an 8min walk) to the train station. The bus itself was a good 15min ride, and they come every 20mins. So as you can see, the time starts stacking up. But once we finally arrived at the train station, we were able to board right away and we were off. I love the eurorail trains - I knew Joe would be jetlagged so I had purchased online in advance first class seats on the train. They were around $35 each way (we did round trip so $70 per person). First class gets you a free snack, free drinks (they have a drink cart guy who comes around a few times), the seats are comfortable (they are reserved too which is nice, and have chargers! So clutch!) Also in addition to the snacks there is a food and beverage car on the train where you can purchase croissants, sandwiches, espressos, etc. The ride to Florence was about 2 hours- and once we arrived we grabbed a taxi right outside the train station and went straight to our hotel- the Eden Rock Resort. The taxi for 2 of us with luggage was about $20 for a 20min ride. Once we arrived at Eden Rock, Joe went right to sleep for about 4 hours. I relaxed by the amazing pool, grabbed some bruschetta for lunch (the poolside restaurant really came in handy for this) and to keep things really chill (jet lag is no joke) we had dinner and drinks at the resort that night, which was fabulous. I felt like I was on "The Bachelor" with the dinner poolside.
June 10th: Exploring Florence! Eden Rock resort offers free buffet breakfast in the poolside restaurant- and I love a free breakfast. After stuffing our faces with carbs, we needed to walk it out. The resort is up in the hills, so the city center of Florence is not accessible on foot. However, the resort was happy to drive us to the nearest bus stop (which would have been a 5min walk, but no sidewalks so it was safer to just take the quick ride). From there, we were able to buy bus tickets (2 euro each way) at a bodega in front of the bus stop, and a 15min bus ride took us straight to the Piazza San Marco (sound familiar? Italy loves naming things San Marco apparently). From there we were able to walk to all the tourist stops- the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, the Bell Tower, Palazzo Vecchio, etc.
We spent the day sightseeing and eating our way through Florence. For drinks before dinner, we checked out La Terrazza at Hotel Continentale. We went right around sunset, just like everyone else! There was a 30 min wait to go up to the rooftop bar. We stuck it out, and I'm glad we did. The bar had an amazing view of the city. The drinks we really expensive (cocktails around 20 euro, I think my prosecco was 16), and so were the apps. We had a drink, took all the photos, watched the sky turn colors, and went on about our evening where we grabbed dinner at a cute spot on a side street, quick stop for gelato after, and bussed it back to the resort. On the way home, the bus passed right by our resort, so we had to pay attention and ring the stop bell when we got there. We may have missed it and had to walk along the road the first night, but from then on we had it down! I highly recommend La Terrazza for a drink- the doorman said the best times to go were after 8:30pm or before 5pm if you don't want to deal with waiting. Photos below of the views from La Terrazza rooftop bar:
June 11th: After breakfast, we had some pooltime, and booked a quick wine tasting trip to Chianti. I found this tour on Tripadvisor "Florence to Greve in Chianti Tour with Wine Tasting Experience". The whole trip was about 5 hours, which was perfect. $50 each. We met the group at the Florence train station at 2:30pm, got on a bus, and took a 45min trip out to Chianti. The first stop was a small vineyard/winery where we sampled 3 red wines, and had a couple small snacks which featured their olive oil and cheese. Next was a small town, Greve, which we were able to walk around on our own and check out the shops for about an hour. Then we stopped at a Santa Margherita wine tasting room (big wine brand so no access to vineyards), where we toured the facility and checked out the tanks, barrels, production of the wine and sampled 3 of their wines (one prosecco, 2 red). And that was it, it was a really nice way to kill a few hours, get out of the city, check out the Tuscan hills, and sample a few wines. We were bussed back to the train station, arrived at 7:30pm, and from there we had dinner nearby, gelato dessert once again, and bussed it back to the resort. Photos of Greve in Chianti and from the wineries here:
June 12th: Breakfast buffet, and we were out! We took a taxi back down to the train station, and we were on our way to Giudecca. Where? So when I originally booked our last day/night to be in Venice, it was so we would be closer to the airport, and I did not realize the hotel I booked was on another island. Granted, it's still technically "Venice", but it is across the water from the main island, and Giudecca is way different. Actually, it worked out really well. The Hilton Molino Stucky was huge and beautiful, with an amazing rooftop pool (this trip was all about the resort and hotel pools), another amazing free breakfast buffet, right on the water, and the rooftop bar "Skyline" had ridiculously good views and cocktails (their Margarita was everything). Getting there was a challenge for a minute- but after asking I found out from the train station, in front are all the water busses and taxis. A private water taxi will run you over $100, so we opted for the Vaporetto water bus, which ran every 15-20mins. It took about 45mins to get to our bus stop on Giudecca, but we were on a boat! We were able to grab seats, and it was 15 euro each so way better price wise. From the bus stop it was a 5 min walk to the hotel. Once we checked in, we of course indulged in the pool for a few hours, then headed out. We grabbed some foccacia at a bakery on the promenade (so good and like 1 euro each) and walked the entire island (only took a couple of hours). Giudecca is much quieter than Venice, had some restaurants mostly on the promenade (ranging from very pricey to average), obviously all had great views across the water of Venice. Wandering down the backstreets, it was really residential which was cool to see. Same feel with the small bridges and water all around as Venice, minus the gondolas. Also, the temperature versus Florence was a good 10 degrees cooler, so that made walking for a few hours a lot easier. After our walk, we cleaned up at the hotel, hit up the rooftop bar Skyline for drinks and to watch the sunset over Venice, then headed out again for dinner at a restaurant on the promenade. We were told that if we did want to go into Venice proper, the hotel had a complimentary water shuttle that ran all day, and took about 5 mins to get to the main island.
June 13th: Traveling home. From the Hilton Molino Stucky, we took the Alilaguna public boat- which stops at their private pier in front of the hotel every half hour. This stop is the first of several, and it took us about 1hr 30mins to get to the airport. It does dock right at the airport though, which was pretty cool, and it was 15 euro each so the price was right. Only took us about an hour to check in and get to our gate/go through passport control, etc.
This trip really exceeded my expectations. I definitely recommend checking out both Florence and Venice (staying in Giudecca was really a nice surprise and I would recommend that as well).
Cost breakdown (not including my work portion of the trip/flights)/Recommendations:
Highly recommend both hotels we stayed in.
The Eden Rock resort in Florence - 3 nights over a weekend cost us about $700 for the 2 of us, the rooms were very spacious and had a separate living area with couch/TV/dining table/kitchenette, and as I mentioned before the free daily breakfast was included as well as complimentary rides to the bus stop.
The Hilton Molino Stucky in Giudecca was about $300 for the night, we had an executive suite which also had a separate living room with a couch and dining table, as well as free breakfast and free happy hour in the executive lounge.
All Meals/drinks on the trip ran us about $500 total for the 2 of us.
Transportation in Italy including taxis, busses, water taxis: $120 total.
First class train tickets round trip from Venice to Florence were $140 total.
Tour of Chianti/wineries was $100 total.