Day 4 London and Italy: Arrive in Venice

Today we head to Italy. We have a mid-day flight out of Gatwick and our friends have suggested that we cab it to Victoria station before taking the Gatwick express. This is pretty good advice as we avoid hauling our luggage up and down the stairs to the tube again. As we get down to the train there is one just about to leave. There is a short line-up at the ticket desk so we jump onto one of the automated ticket machines, but just get started as the train pulls away. It turns out that we could have jumped on the train and paid onboard, but luckily the next train came shortly after. The train ride is fairly short and pleasant.

View from the Gatwick Express

We get to Gatwick with plenty of time to spare and after walking all the way down Terminal 1 we learn that BA is in Terminal 2 and we have to take a shuttle over. We quickly find BA and check our bags with about 90 minutes to go before our flight. We find a Café Nero and have a quick chicken and orzo salad with some San Pellegrino Limonata to get into the Italian mood. Not bad for airport food, especially since they plated up my boxed salad onto a fancy plate with proper cutlery after I told them that I was not taking it to go.

Finally our flight shows a gate number and we walk down a strange spiral ramp in the middle of terminal 2 to get to our gate. I’m not sure if the ramp reminds me more of those spinny coin tornado donation bins or a toilet. I decide that I like spinny coin tornado better. Spiral ramp to our gate at Gatwick

Our flight takes about 2 hours and I actually manage to catch some zzzz’s enroute. No sign of any labour issues with BA this time. After getting a great view of Venice as we approach Marco Polo airport, we quickly clear customs. The customs agent doesn’t seem all that interested in trying to communicate with us in English and manages to get us through without saying a single word. We pick up our bags and head towards the tourist information desk to ask about the best way to get to our hotel and buy tickets to get to the islands. We decide to take the 13 euro Alilaguna boat rather than the cheaper bus/vaporetto or pricey private taxi options.

An Alilaguna boat from Marco Polo airport to Venice

The boat ride takes about an hour and we make 8 or 9 stops along the way including Murano and Lido. Our hotel, of course, is near the end of the line – but seeing Venice from the water makes the trip almost enjoyable! As we pass San Marco a giant yacht glides past – maybe I’ll come back when I’m super rich too. 

Yacht passing Piazza San Marco, Venice

Finally we reach the Zattere stop and we actually manage to find our way fairly quickly to our hotel. We end up staying at Charming House DD724 which is a boutique B&B in a fairly quiet part of town near the Peggy Guggenheim art gallery. Knowing that it is fairly easy to get lost in Venice we carefully plan our walk from the boat to the hotel. Stay along the water, turn left after the first bridge, and keep walking till we find the hotel. Despite very small signage and the entrance being located down a narrow alleyway, we surprisingly get it on the first try.

As we enter the hotel we are greeted by a friendly hotel keeper who speaks reasonably good English. He helps carry my wife’s suitcase up the stairs as I follow with my own. Our room, along with the breakfast room, is located one floor up so the hike isn’t too bad. The breakfast room is a blend of modern furniture with classic exposed beams across the ceiling so you don’t forget that you’re in an old building. The room; however, is all modern which is why it made the cut for the Missus. Looking out the window we have a nice view of a quiet canal. I ask the hotel guy about where I can get a SIM card for my phone and to my dismay he tells me that he doesn’t think you can get a SIM card on Venice and that I may have to go back to the mainland. Really?! Luckily the hotel offers free wireless Internet.

View from our room at Charming House DD724

After settling in and freshening up we head out to explore late afternoon Venice. Our hotel is located on one of the southern peninsulas of Venice so we decide to walk to the end of our group of islands and head back towards the Zattere boat stop where we saw a lot of little shops and restaurants. Along the way we see Lineadombra, one of the restaurants that I’d identified prior to coming to Venice. This is a bit unexpected because it is nowhere near where I thought it was. Looking at it now it is exactly where Google Maps says it is, so I must have messed up the original location tag. The restaurant doesn’t look too busy so we decide to keep walking and to come back if we don’t find anything that looks more appealing.

Our walk takes us all the way back down the south shore of Venice well past Zattere. The waterfront is lively with many little restaurants, gelato shops, and bars along the way, one of which has a live band playing just about every kind of song you can imagine. Next we find a Billa supermarket and take a quick walk through. We find lots of great supplies, cheeses, and prepared foods. We decide to pick up a few snacks and some water, and make a note to come back in the future for some goodies. As it starts getting dark we decide to head back towards Lineadombra, and to drop off our purchases at the hotel.

As we walk up to the restaurant it still isn’t very busy even though it is around 8pm. We do notice that the tables that are seated seem to be speaking Italian so we take that as a good sign and practice our Italian by asking for “una tavola per due, per favore”. The waiter responds in fairly good English, seats us on their floating terrace with a great view, and gives us English menus.

Looking down the menu we come face to face with the reality of pricy food in Venice, although we knew that this was one of the more expensive places that I had pre-scouted. We almost follow the full Italian meal plan and order apparatifs, appetizers, share a first course, and each get second courses. Their menu is has a lot of seafood and we order spider crab, prawns with zucchini flower, pasta, tuna, and a liver dish. We also start with a spritz which comes in a sweeter and a stronger version. The sweeter version is more red than the Spritz I had in London, but the stronger one comes in a familiar deep orange and is a little more bitter than Jamie Oliver’s version.

Our food is all really good, with the exception of my tuna which is cooked through a little too much making it a bit tougher than expected and a bit bland. The zucchini flower, green apple, and prawn salad; however, more than makes up for the tuna. Furthermore, our first pasta dish in Italy does not disappoint and whets our appetite for many great meals to come. This meal ends up being fairly pricey at 180 euros, but we consider it a celebration for our arrival in Italy.

Zucchini flower, green apple, and prawn salad at Lineadombra

After dinner we slowly walk back to our hotel and test out the free Internet. It’s fast, but annoyingly it cuts out from time to time. I manage to locate a few stores in Venice to get SIM cards, including a few TIM stores – the cellular provider that I was looking for – near Rialto bridge. We decide to track that down in the morning. I’m guessing that the hotel guy I spoke with earlier who told me you can’t get a SIM card in Venice must live on the mainland and commutes in everyday.

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