On a recent week-long trip to Italy, I found myself tired of waiting in lines, touring museums and following a strict agenda as we tried to dutifully pack in all the sights. Luckily for me, we were about to arrive in Venice. Our guidebook even touted: “let yourself get lost in this gorgeous city.” And get lost we did.
After lacing up our sneakers, we set out to find a sidewalk café for brunch and people-watching. Fueled up and ready to go, we wandered for hours – hitting not only the usual sights like St. Mark’s Square (I still have nightmares about those pigeons) and the Grand Canal, but also strolling through the “real” Venice. It was an incredible look into what life might be like if we never returned to the States (a girl can dream). We watched children play in the paved streets, women working about their apartment homes and older men chatting over coffees and beers on benches.
Mid-afternoon, we were starving from our walk and found a cozy neighborhood gem, Osteria al Portego, where we stopped in for a bite and a glass of wine before continuing on our way. We selected a variety of appetizers to nosh on and found we couldn’t go wrong—each one more delicious than the last (We enjoyed it so much that we tracked it down again the next day – no small feat without a map!). On our way back to the hotel for a quick nap and shower before a late dinner (both much needed), we happened across Harry’s Bar and imbibed in their world-famous Bellini. The bartender treated us like old friends as we indulged in some serious people watching, and best of all, the Bellini was worth the hype!
If your traveling companion isn’t a human GPS (like mine was), I’d recommend bringing a detailed map of the city with you. And throw your guidebook in your purse for quick history lessons on all the amazing areas of the city you’ll see. Oh, and a surprise bonus to three days of strolling around Venice? My sneakers outsmarted all the pasta I consumed – I didn’t gain a single pound on my trip to Italy. I’ll raise a Bellini to that!
Osteria al Portego. Castello San Lio, 6015. Venice, Italy. +39 (0) 41 522-9038
Harry’s Bar. Calle Vallaresso, 1323. Venice, Italy. +39 (0) 41 528 5777