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We started our 2011 Tuscany trip with first a visit to Venice and ended it by driving down to Rome.

Venice is Venice. Nothing quite like it anywhere else and it should be on everyone’s bucket list. The problem with it being on everyone’s list is that it can be terribly crowded, and there isn’t a lot of room on some of those streets. Or I guess they aren’t streets but actually sidewalks and promenades.

If you go there, try to go when it is off-season, or as much off-season as Venice gets. Summer months, vacations times, school breaks and long weekends, check the calendar well before you make those reservations. We were there in early October and it was still crowded, but doable. We kept away from the main fairways as much as possible but even then, all we could think was, wow, if this is October, what is August like?

The magnificent San Marco piazza is a must and an experience in itself.  St Mark’s basilica amazing facade; Doge’s Palace, once Venice’s political and judicial hub; and Torre dell’Orologio, a clock tower built between 1496 and 1506, are, not just the square’s, but some of the city’s main attractions. Go up the Campanile tower for a good bird’s eye view of the square, much of Venice and neighboring islands.

Our preferred route was cutting through the peninsula created by the Grande Canal from the train station towards the San Marco piazza. Less people, more interesting, and that also means better restaurants. We found this peninsula to be more interesting than other parts of Venice. Or course, you’ll also want to make you way over Ponte de Rialto, if anything but for a photo opp; but do it early, it gets very crowded.

Accommodations

We stayed at the Hotel Canal Grande (careful, there is also a “Grande Canal” hotel) and really enjoyed our stay. Its situated near the train station and the main gateway into Venice, so its relatively easy to get through. If you don’t have a lot of luggage, you can easily walk to it, but you do have to go over one pedestrian bridge. We very much enjoyed the small terrace off of the main salon and on the Grande Canal, watching the boats and gondolas go by. A great place for a drink before heading out for dinner. Room cost us about $250 a night. Very good service and a wonderful buffet breakfast.