Arriving in Venice by private water taxi means you arrive in style, it isn't necessarily hugely more expensive than the public water bus if there are a few of you. And you feel like you're in a Bond film as you're whisked across the water to the grand canal from Marco Polo airport.
You'll need to have directions to either your hotel or the bridge near your destination or it could get mighty confusing trying to direct the driver, unless you're fluent in Italian of course.
We arrived in the sunshine, and the first glimpses of Venice were quite breathtaking, straight out of the movies, all the buildings are very quaint and some look a little worse for wear, which just adds to the charm.
We stayed in the Castello neighbourhood, which by all accounts is more residential, and less touristy, which we were rather grateful for.
We arrived at our apartment in a 16th Century building on the first floor, and it was very glamorous with incredible art, and marble everywhere, and it's own little library in the entrance hall.
We headed out for a late lunch, and to find somewhere to book for dinner. A sneaky little Caprese salad, and a cold glass of beer later, and we wandered round to St Mark's square - getting lost in Venice seems to be the thing to do, which is fortunate as it's also rather easy to do. My advice, keep an eye out for restaurants, bars, or bridges that you recognise. Your map on your phone takes awhile to catch up with you as there are so many buildings.
St Mark's square is beautiful, especially when the crowds aren't there, after a visit in the afternoon on our arrival, we quickly made the decision to return first thing in the morning, so we could appreciate the stunning architecture without the risk of a selfie stick being implanted somewhere.
A low key dinner washed down with a few bottles of Chianti was to be had just around the corner from the apartment - Osteria da Nico - if you check it out on Tripadvisor, you probably wouldn't visit but all our food was delicious, the wine wasn't overpriced and the service was really good so up to you whether you take your chances!
It really is a beautiful city, and the alleyways and bridges, just make it more so. I would highly recommend an early morning jaunt around the city, as you'll truly appreciate it.
You have to do all the classic Venetian things - St Mark's Square, Bridge of Sighs, the Arsenale, the Rialto Bridge and market, a boat trip along the Grand canal (a daily tourist ticket is 20 euros and it's literally hop on/hop off), a visit up the tower at St Giorgio Maggiore, overlooking St Mark's Square, and the maze in the gardens. We didn't opt for a trip in a gondola, but plenty of people do, it felt a little too cliche for us. There are so many museums with incredible art, and churches to visit, that it's hard to choose.
Once the main bits were done, we spent time wandering the streets, enjoying the lack of cars, and taking in the scenery with the odd stop or two for a glass of vino or relaxing on the balcony with a glass of champagne.
After a couple of days, it was time to hit the Lido and relax for the afternoon, it's a short hop on the boat, but make sure you check the line as you could end up going the whole way round the grand canal to get there.
It's very different on this island, much more laid back, and felt a little like the French riviera with its wide tree lined streets. The main public beach seemed to be the only one open, but did the job perfectly. We hired an umbrella and some sun beds from Blue Moon, and quickly found the bar, all very reasonable prices considering how expensive Venice can be. And spent a super relaxing afternoon watching the world go by before heading back for a gorgeous dinner out at Luna Sentada, a table for 6 perched right beside the canal.
We were warned that Venice can be super expensive, but in the Castello neighbourhood, we were spoilt for choice with little restaurants and bars, with fabulous food at very reasonable prices, would highly recommend this area, as it's very close to St Mark's square and all the action. Castello is essentially the fish's tail as you look at the map (if you can envisage Venice in the shape of a fish).
We decided to stay in one night and cook, and managed to find a little supermarket, which had everything you could possibly need, including a good selection of wine - a very simple dinner of Caprese salad, green salad and a traditional pesto pasta, followed by a lemon cake picked up from the local bakers to finish the meal. One of our travel companions went off in search of olive oil, and proceeded to get very lost. Always take a phone with you if you're venturing out alone as in the end, she had to stay put on a bridge and wait to be rescued.
I would highly recommend a trip to Venice and would probably go sooner rather than later as if the tourist numbers continue to increase, I think they'll have to end up restricting them, which they're threatening to already. And you can't blame them, the huge cruise ships that come through, dwarfing this pretty little city, and then depositing their thousands of cargo on the streets, it's no wonder they're worried about it sinking. It really isn't fun to be stuck on a conveyor belt of people moving through the streets.
So my advice would be to visit this historic place, but plan a trip in the off-peak season, and make the effort to get up early, and see the city in its best light. 3-4 nights is the perfect length to see everything, and catch a sneaky afternoon at the Lido relaxing in the sun. Venice is a charming city but it's definitely facing a challenge!