Venturing in Venice, Italy

My first time in Venice was when I was six years old. I’m not sure how much I liked it at the time (I would have rather been at Disney World!) but looking back, how lucky was I to have visited one of the world’s most beautiful cities at such a young age?! As a teenager, my next time there, I remember really connecting with the city and every trip since then, I’ve always left loving it more and more. This time around, with my own little kids, my husband and my father, was most definitely my favorite visit yet.

WHERE WE STAYED:

Palazzo Odoni

Address: Santa Croce, Fondamenta Minotto, 151, 30135 Venezia, Italy

Phone: +39 041 275 9454

Web: http://www.palazzoodoni.com/

We stayed at Palazzo Odoni in the Santa Croce neighborhood of Venice. We walked right by it initially, as it sits quite modestly along a small canal on Fondamenta Minotto. There is no flashy sign to call attention to the hotel, just two beautiful yet understated closed doors that you must be buzzed into in order for them to open. Once they do, you’re welcomed into the most magical little Italian courtyard, with draping greenery and beautiful stonework. (Even our 18-month old son gasped, “wow!” as soon as we walked in.) There are two sets of staircases necessary to climb in order to get up to the rooms, but the staff are insistent about helping with luggage.

We had a comfortably sized two-bed suite which was just enough room for the 5 of us. Like many of the old, converted European palazzos, the hotel kept up with a regal theme within the rooms.

Breakfasts were a delight! The cappuccino was fantastic and the croissants and other various  pastries were all delicious. I, personally, love a day that starts with a chocolate (or cream)-filled flaky, baked dough, so our first morning there was already off to a great start! For those avoiding large quantities of butter and sweets, there was also a nice arrangement of fresh fruit, juices and yogurt. But hey, aren’t we all trying to live la dolce vita?

One of the best things about Palazzo Odoni, aside from the nice rooms, excellent breakfasts and its kind owners, is it’s location. Santa Croce is my new favorite neighborhood to stay in in Venice for it’s quiet but happening atmosphere, the easy access from Piazzale Roma (just leave your car in a garage and walk right over a couple small bridges- no water taxi necessary!) and the fact that Bacareto da LeLe is so close by (see review below)!

Rooms from $93/night

4-Star Hotel

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OUR BEST MEAL(s):

We had a few really nice meals over the course of our stay in Venezia. As a vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish, my options were more limited than those of the omnivorous traveler looking to sample traditional Venetian cuisine. Because it tends to be heavy on the seafood, there were a lot of things on menus that I didn’t want to try….We were, however, still in Italy, so a good pizza or dish of pasta was never more than a few steps away!

Osteria ae Cravate

Address: Salizada san pantalon – Santa Croce, 36, 30135 Venezia, Italy

Phone: +39 041 528 7912

Osteria ae Cravate was just a short walk from our hotel and it was so good that we ended up going there twice during our 3 night stay in Venice. The owner had that quintessential Italian welcoming warmth that keeps us coming back to Italy time and time again. He greeted us at our table and let us know the specials of the day (raviolone filled with burrata, tossed with a fresh pomodoro sauce, garnished with parmigiana and basil—-HELLO!) The kids devoured their gnocchi with butter and cheese- so simple but so good- and Ryan and my dad, Vin, both had the same raviolone that I did, only in true Venetian fashion, theirs was topped with shrimp. Our meals there (both times) earned a 10-out-of-10, and we all ordered the exact same things each time we went- that’s how good it was. We sat outdoors and the people watching was great, although the food was so delicious, we didn’t do much looking up from our plates! We all found a new favorite restaurant in Osteria ae Cravate and will definitely be returning the next time we’re in town!

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Bacareto da Lele

Address: Fondamenta dei Tolentini, Sestiere Santa Croce, 181, 30135 Venice VE, Italy

While we never technically had a full meal here, Bacareto da Lele most definitely deserves a shout out since everything that comes out of the place is a simple but serious pleasure.

 As soon as we crossed the bridge bringing us into the Santa Croce section of town, I noticed this cute hole-in-the-wall wine bar with a crowd of happy-looking patrons surrounding it. I saw tiny glasses of vino and Venetian spritz scattered everywhere and knew we would return to check it out after dropping our luggage at the hotel… And return we did!

An hour later, we were those happy patrons enjoying the house wine (and spritz) as well as the petite sandwiches with the freshest cheese and charcuterie. What a find this place was! The wine was .60 Euros per small glass (about 67 cents) and regardless of size, I had never been anywhere in the US where I could get a NICE-tasting wine for under a dollar!

We met lots of friendly people- all locals- of various ages and professions, many of which were students nearby. Bacareto da Lele quickly became our go-to hang out to get an afternoon snack and pre-dinner drink each day that we were in Venice. Though the bar itself may be small, everyone mostly hangs out in the piazza in front of Chiesa di San Nicola da Tolentino- just be sure not to sit on the church steps during a mass as the man who sweeps the church steps will politely ask you to move (we learned the hard way).

As I mentioned above, we loved Bacareto da Lele so much that it’s become one of the highlights of our stay. I always enjoy finding the special nooks and crannies of cities while traveling and experiencing more than just the popular tourist spots. I look forward to our next trip to Venice and our next afternoon visit to our favorite local bar.

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FUN FOR THE KIDS:

Gelato!

Gelato, for one, is a huge hit with kids when traveling anywhere in Italy. I know that when I was a child, one of the single most exciting things about being in the country was, of course, the ice cream. It’s everywhere! Where in the U.S. can you buy such a yummy frozen treat… in a bar?! (Or where, in the US, would kids even be IN a bar…?) In fact, our kids have, hanging in their room, a Sammotana poster that my parents had framed for my brother, Alex, and I when we were kids. I remember how thrilled I was that we were able to take home the colorful ad with dozens of different Italian ice cream and popsicles on it. For our three year old, the gelato really was the thing she most looked forward to before our trip because of this very poster. Twenty-plus years later, the real thing is just as good!

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Pigeons and Piazzas!

Ok, so I, myself, am not a fan of rats, nor do I love Venice’s overpopulation of what many refer to as “rats with wings” (pigeons). But I remember how much my little brother, as a three year old, LOVED chasing the never-ending flocks of birds in St. Mark’s Square (he happened to use a plastic sword to really get them riled up, without making contact, of course) and I knew our kids would enjoy it just the same. Low and behold, the minute our little ones saw the congregating birds in basically any piazza throughout the city, their instant goal was to R-U-N. They also made friends with other children who shared in the enthusiasm and before we knew it, they had become part of an international playgroup, darting around in circles, laughing and having a great time. The good news is, that even when there’s no pigeons present, if you find a large town square for your children to play in, they should find at least a human friend or two who will join them for a game of chase. As a bonus, we made some new friends ourselves, in the parents, and our kids burned off energy without costing us a penny!

Venice is such an amazing city that no matter how old you you are or what kind of interests you have, you will be able to find something that excites and interests you. In fact, this is is just one of the many reasons Venice is one of my all-time favorite cities in the world!

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A traveler since childhood, Juliana Fraioli Wilson has always had a love for exploring. She is a published writer and an accomplished business owner with a background in music and art. Join Juliana, her husband Ryan, and their two kids in Wanderland! Follow along as they share tips, tricks, recipes and reviews from some of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world.

Wilsons in Wanderland
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Wilsons in Wanderland

A traveler since childhood, Juliana Fraioli Wilson has always had a love for exploring. She is a published writer and an accomplished business owner with a background in music and art. Join Juliana, her husband Ryan, and their two kids in Wanderland! Follow along as they share tips, tricks, recipes and reviews, from some of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world.