Nick and I recently celebrated our 11 year getting-together-aversary which is not so much an anniversary of a first date but of the moment we realised that we just couldn’t deny how we felt about each other any longer. A month or so of absolute carnage ensued but it was oh so worth it looking back because we’re still very much together and happier than ever. Travelling together full time is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made and spending three months in what might just be the world’s smallest van has done nothing to change that! When we realised that our anniversary was fast approaching we decided to go somewhere neither of us had ever been, somewhere a little different to anywhere else we’d visited on the road trip so far and somewhere tote's romantic - Venice!
The city took my breath away as soon as I took my first steps into it’s stunning maze of streets, it’s ridicuously beautiful and within seconds I was envisioning myself living there, spending the majority of my time writing sonnets and staring out of my window at one of the most stunning places I’ve ever laid eyes on (and that’s coming from someone who was in Dubrovnik only a week earlier.) I suspect that moving to Venice would not make me start writing sonnets in real life, perhaps staring out of the window eating gelato would be more realistic?!
As a vegan you sometimes have to skip whatever speciality food a country is famous for but that is definitely not the case in Italy. Pizza is queen and I for one was happy to partake every chance I got. I basically just ate pizza. It was awesome. You have two great options in Venice, marinara or Pizzeria L’Angelo. Marinara is ubiquitous (and cheap) as long as you’re away from the tourist hotspots around Piazza San Marco and the Rialto bridge. This is pizza at it’s simplest, dough, marinara sauce and garlic. It’s both delicious and traditional, I’m a fan. Pizzeria L’Angelo is the place to go when you want to experience cheesy Italian pizza vegan style. They have Italian made MozzaRisella as their cheese of choice and a what a fantastic choice it is too. It melts beautifully, almost too well if you’re impatient like me and can’t wait the two to three minutes it needs to cool down from molten lava to something more enjoyable. They also have two kinds of seitan if you’re in need of a protein hit or something more hearty. I went simple with a classic order of a Margherita with spinach on a couple of occasions, simple and delicious, but on my final visit I pushed out the boat and ordered the Patate vegan style. Yeah, that’s a pizza covered in chunky chips and melted cheese. Yeah, it was as amazing as it looks. I would definitely stick with the regular size in this case but otherwise plump for the family size if you have a dining companion - I swear you won’t regret it.
• Ride the Number 1 Bus
Now I don’t know about you but when I imagined visiting Venice I envisaged gliding down canals via Gondola staring into my lovers eyes… well, I did until I got researching and realised that a gondola ride costs €80 for 30 minutes. €80! If you were with a group of 6 (the max number of people allowed in a gondola) I’d say go for it. It looks super fun and you get to chat to your gondaleer about archetecture and life on the canals but if there are only two of you, your money comes from the same pool and you’re on a budget I’d recommend skipping it and taking the bus. The bus? That doesn’t sound the same at all! Well, in Venice, the busses are boats! The whole city centre is car free so Venetians take vaporetto busses when they aren’t feeling up for walking through busy city streets and the number 1 is totally the best line to ride to get a feel of the city. It costs €7.50 for a single trip on the bus and you definitely get the most bang for your buck on this line, running from Pizzale Roma all the way down to Lido but if you make it to Arsenale you’ll be whizzing down the grand canal past Piazza San Marco, The Rialto Bridge and about a thousand other stunning buildings. My second number 1 bus related tip is to make sure you hop on at Pizzale Roma before the majority of tourists board outside the central station stop just around the corner. Oh and grab a seat outside on the port side, that way you’ll get the most spectacular views of Piazza San Marco without 20 cameras in between you and it!
• Escape the Crowds
Venice is busy. We were there towards the end of September and whilst the weekend was more crowded the weekdays were hardly what you could call quiet. More than a handful of huge cruise ships arrive at the port every day meaning that there will be large groups of people jostling for the best positions in front of attractions almost all the time. I have two crowd busting tips. Arrive at night and check out Venice’s well lit streets and buildings in the dark first. The Piazza San Marco especially was much more pleasant at night and I really enjoyed getting my first glimpse of the city when there was space to breathe. Secondly, get out of the main tourist areas. Venice is an incredibly walkable city especially if you have either a good sense of direction or a map app to guide you to where you need to be once you're done getting lost. I would highly recommend getting away from the crowds by wandering around the city’s residential neighbourhoods. The streets are beautiful and in a lot of cases they’ll be yours and yours alone. Perfect.
• Get Your Gelato On
My second foodie tip is to find and eat all of the sorbet and gelato the city has to offer. Vegan options are varied, plentiful and in almost every neighbourhood, it would actually be challenging not to stumble upon one of these options if you’re doing Venice right. My favourite spots in order because I’m ruthless and able to pick favourites are Gelatoteca Suso, Stickhouse, Alaska Gelateria (pictured above) and Vizio Virtu Cioccolateria. The veganised white with black cherry ice cream pictured below) from top ranked spot Gelatoteca Suso might just be the fluffiest most amazing ice cream I've ever eaten, vegan or not, and the mint sorbet fem Alaska Gelateria blew me away. Even the supermarkets have a range of vegan ice cream options which will be perfect for midnight snacks at your Air B&B.
Pear Popsicle with Chocolate and Hazelnuts from Stickhouse & the Vegano from Gelatoteca Suso.
Make it cheaper: Venice is notoriously expensive and accommodation is no exception. There are definitely a couple of ways you can make your stay more affordable though, Air B&B or camping. Nick and I stayed just out of town at Camping Rialto which, as well as having space for camper vans and tents, also hosts guests in pop up tents or wood cabins with teepee style tents being available for larger groups. It wasn’t perfect by any means (what’s with campsites thinking it’s okay not to provide toilet paper or soap in the bathrooms? Stop being gross!) but it was affordable and the number 19 bus runs from just outside the gates to the central bus stop (as close as you can get to the city in any vehicle) four times an hour (twice on Sundays and holidays) and only costs €1.50 for a single ticket or €3 for a return. Given that boat busses within the city centre run at a hefty €7.50 for a one way ticket this is a definite bargain. Air B&B is another great way to save a few Euro’s on your stay especially if you’d like to be a little closer to the action. if you’ve never Air B&B’d before you can get $25 off of your first stay by clicking on this link.
Somehow Venice manages not to feel stifling like so many heavily touristed cities do (I’m looking at you Prague!), the lack of cars and abundance of water create a sense of peace, calm and open space that I adored. It’s also incredibly easy to be vegan here especially if you’re an avid pizza and gelato fan, but supermarkets have you covered too with well labelled ranges of vegan meat products, soya yoghurts and chocolate, Gianduiotti anyone?!
Rest assured I’ll be back Venice, I have my eye on you!
Rest assured I’ll be back Venice, I have my eye on you!