A traditional Roman Catholic, relatively small city that is steeped in history and tradition; as a gay traveller, none of these things fill me with confidence! I have worked too hard to feel the uncomfortable stares as me and partner try on clothes together, check into our double room or take our photo whilst on the impossibly romantic gondola ride (despite the fact he felt a little queasy, it really was romantic). I couldn’t have been more wrong! Here’s how to live your Best Gay Life when travelling to Venice.
Tradition and acceptance in one sweet package! How is this possible? If you fancy a romantic weekend where you feel comfortable, and don’t need a thriving gay scene… Venice is your place!
Right let’s start with getting there!
Being the intrepid explorer (that I like to think) I am, we arrived at Marco Polo airport with absolutely no idea how to get to the hotel. Maybe I should have whipped out my guidebook on the plane, instead of having “just one more” bottle of Prosecco. We got an ATVO bus from the airport to Piazzale Roma. If you are staying in San Marco, then you will need to get the public boat the rest of the way.
Don’t try and get a road taxi like we did. You will literally be laughed out of town. All of this was quite stressful, as we had arrived at 1am in the morning, undeterred we continued. If you want another cost effective and easier route, just get the Alilaguna public boat straight from the airport. It heads directly into the centre of Venice and down the grand canal. If like us, you are staying next to St. Mark’s Square, then you will get off at San Marco-Giardinetti. If you have plenty of cash to flash, then go in style by private water taxi! You will feel like you are in a Bond Movie. Talk about living your Best Gay Life Venice style! It’s 150 euros though, so make sure you are feeling flush.
And where to stay?
This completely depends on your budget. I would just suggest you stay near San Marco. It’s beautiful, close to most of the main sights and minutes from the public boat that takes you to the Islands. We splashed out a little (although it wasn’t ridiculous) and stayed at Hotel Bonvecchiati. The room was opulent and helped feed my ‘living in a Bond movie’ fantasy. The location was perfect.
What to do and how to do it?
It is easy enough to look up all the main things to do, so I won’t regurgitate all of that. What I will say is, go in the spirit of adventure. Rigid timelines and punishing itineraries go against the very essence of Venice. Just wander and try and meet the locals. The streets are long and winding, and make you feel like you are in a movie. We meandered for hours, popping in and out of the shops and chatting to the owners. It was doing this where I had a bit of an epiphany.
Why does the city feel so liberal? Artists! Everyone here is an artist of some sort. Whether it is through generations of mask making, family dynasties of glass blowing or the fact you are forever surrounded by costumes. You can feel the creative spirit in the air! We even floated by Mozart’s house at one point, which unbelievably is now some offices.
Don’t bother going to Venice on a diet either. There is no way you can come here and not eat the gelato. I think that was my staple lunch most days. It was toward the end of October when we arrived, and the sun beat down at a very respectable 21 degrees. It would have been improper not to enjoy an ice-cream (or seven) in that weather.
The first thing to do when you get there is to head to St. Marks Square. Just to stand in the centre and take in the atmosphere, buzz and beautiful views is enough. I literally stood in the sun and stared at the Basilica for a good 10 minutes, the architecture is memorizing. There is the Museo Correr, Doge’s Palace and just around the corner, the Bridge of sights.
Head to the waterfront just off the piazza and there are plenty of instagram opportunities here. Even if you are like my partner and hate the water, then you know you aren’t going to be able to come here and not have a trip on a gondola. To hire a boat is around 80 euros. If that seems a little steep, then hang around and listen for some familiar accent and chip in together. Bobbing around the city in this way is nothing but dreamlike.
Hop an Island or three!
Day two was my absolute favourite…it was off to the the Islands. There is a popular trio of island which everyone visits. I wondered why these three are visited more than any of the other 114 that make up Venice. When you arrive, you immediately understand.
There is plenty of boat trips for around 20 euros that take you around all three. Just head down to the waterfront of St. Marks Square and look for the deals. If you’d rather go it alone, then hop on the public boat. Although, this is where I give you my top tip. Ask at the hotel if they have any special deals on private water taxis. We paid just 13 euros and got a private ride straight to the glass factory at Murano. Talk about travel in style, as we sped across the waves with the wind in our hair, I realised this was the pinnacle of my James Bond fantasy!
You have to visit one of the glass factories/studios in Murano. After watching the masters at work, you get to see some of the incredible pieces of art. This talent is kept in the family and passed down through the generations. To watch him create a colourful glass vase from nothing, in less than five minutes, was something to behold.
Torcello has a bell tower with beautiful views, mosaics and a lovely eating spot on the vista. But of all the islands, the place that really blew me away the most was Burano. I love to wander shops, and here there were plenty. They have a lot of textiles and if you are shopping for your nan, they have a speciality in lace.
The whole island has a series of brightly coloured fisherman houses that make you feel like you have walked into a story book. If you are on the hunt for that top Instagram shot, then this is where you are going to find it! Whatever your colour, there is back drops-a-plenty.
It was in Burano that I found the person that made my trip (apart from my beloved of course). On a tiny windy street, just under the leaning bell tower, there was a husband and wife couple that made (amongst other things) masks. The craftsmanship was incredible. They had some amazing original mask designs and of course, the typical Commedia Masks that you see everywhere in Venice.
With a cheeky grin she picked up here favourite and asked if I knew who what the Moretta mask was all about? Then with great theatrical aplomb she jumped into a story of the ladies of Venice. I heard about the many gentlemen of Venice who kept many mistresses. The button hidden inside was to make sure they literally kept their lips shut! Her passion and storytelling skills were entirely infectious. Another artist living out their dream!
The weekend was over in a flash!
Venice: The Verdict!
The big question I ask before I book any trip is “Can I hold my man’s hand?”. It isn’t an uncommon sight in Venice, and with the likes of Elton John and David Furnish on its inventory of famous residents, it seems as if the gay mafia has given their seal of approval too. If you are looking for a party holiday then forget it, but if you want a romantic, cultural trip for the soul… then grab your man and get down there.