Italy: Venice, Florence, Massa, Lucca, Viareggio, Pisa

In February we took a trip to visit my Dad in Massa, Italy. Our first stop of the Italian adventure was Venice – a city that exceeded my expectations. We had arranged a private boat transfer to our hotel from Venice airport for 25 Euro each which we shared with another couple. This is definitely the best way to arrive to the city – fantastic views aboard an old fashioned style wooden speed boat! We were lucky enough that the other couple were staying in a hotel situated right on the grand canal, so after dropping them off, we got our own private tour down the whole of the canal!

We were staying in a small hotel about five minutes walk from St Marks square and spent the next couple of days exploring the city by foot. Comfortable shoes are needed! Although bitterly cold, (wrap up warm), this was a brilliant time to visit the city as there weren’t many tourists, so navigating the tiny maze of streets was easy. Every turn has a beautiful photogenic view of lovely old colourful buildings, gondolas and bridges. Venice is a city to get lost in, each little alley way leading to another spectacular view and cosy cafes and bars.

Venice is made up of over one hundred islands that are seperated by canals and connected by small stone bridges. We went on an informative walking tour that was entirely free and took us around some of the lesser known parts of Venice towards the north. We learnt how a swampy lagoon transformed into one of the richest cities of the world.

Our favourite pastime was frequenting small bars to enjoy glasses of wine and prosecco and cicheti, (essentially drinks and nibbles). We did find out the hard way, that when ordering a coffee in a bar, you will pay about triple the cost of the coffee if you sit down (despite the fact that we were visiting out of season), so bear this in mind when making stops! We explored the city entirely by foot, stumbling across most of the major sites along the way:

Rialto bridge, (the oldest bridge on the Grand Canal) where you can take the iconic city photograph shot

Saint Mark’s Square – where all the major sites are and at night, the streets off it look absolutely magical as they are covered in hundreds of white fairy lights!

Doge’s Palace – our cultural stop, I think it was roughly 20euro per person and gained you entry into the Palace and a couple of museums. You also get to walk inside the famous Bridge of Sighs, (so named because this was the last view of Venice that convicts had before being taken to Prison).

We covered every district in Venice by foot – despite being a small city, this is quite a distance! But worth it to accidentally stumble across little shops and hidden gems within this spectacular and romantic labyrinth. If you haven’t been, book a long weekend in the winter months!

After three nights in Venice, we caught the train to Massa where my dad picked us up. On Saturday we had a brief exploration of the centre of beautiful Florence, (I have yet to find an ugly Italian city), followed by an Indian meal with some of his work friends, a stroll around the river and then an Irish pub for rugby Six Nations!

On Sunday we visited the pretty market town of Lucca, explored the town and enjoyed sunbathing while eating delicious crepes!

In the afternoon we visited the famous Viareggio Carnival which had a fairly pricey entry at €18, but some spectacular floats – most of which were hilariously political…see the photos below!

We enjoyed lots of Italian food, coffee and general over indulgence! Our last day was spent in Pisa, where we had the obligatory leaning tower selfie and enjoyed lunch in the sun before our flight home. We squeezed a lot into a short trip and are looking forward to our next visit to my Dad’s – Thanks for having us!


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