It’s only slightly embarrassing how many times we’ve written about Venice this year alone… but also the city has been under water this whole winter so maybe it’s a good thing we’re seeing it all now. For more detailed information on some of the things that can be done, you can read previous posts here and here.
We arrived on a Thursday night on a flight from Berlin, and paid to take a shuttle bus from the mainland to the island of Venice (about a 20 minute drive, easy to find, and bus let’s you off by a bridge right by the train station).
FRIDAY – summer is peak tourist season, so make sure you lock in your kosher food options early Friday morning before you tour. Chabad has three meal options for Shabbos, and the more expensive private dining options sell out months in advance… but also the cheapest option is THE most fun, just not a crazy amount of food. (In general getting lunch/dinner alone in the summer on a regular night is pretty cray so brace yourselves). We bought some wine and a takeaway shnitzel for our airbnb (had manual keys for Shabbos and right by the ghetto!) just in case, and hit the road with some pizza to eat later for lunch. First stop (because it’s the farthest island out), bus boat to Burano! Some highlights were dangling our feet over the water as we chilled and ate our pizza, and also painting one of their famous colorful houses.
Then we headed to Murano, known for it’s glass blowing – apparently glass blowing ends pretty early in the day, so watch the times. Scrambling to find a glass blowing place, we ended up having the most mesmerizing and mind-blowing glass blowing experience that they had started just that week, where they blow glass while playing guitar. As a heads up it was in a restored 12th century monastery and we were staring at a glass Jesus statue for the whole show, so we may have been converted in the process. YOLO. (But also we did not realize at the time and consult your LOR. Avodah Zara is not a joke). There’s a Jewish cemetery from the 1300’s on the island of Lido where some famous rabbanim have been buried, but we only learned about this retroactively. Before running to prepare for Shabbos, we stopped into a local supermarket to stock up on a giant case of water bottles and fruit… which altogether equaled $5. Get it together America.
SHABBOS – there were hundreds of frum Jews in the ghetto that Shabbos Nachamu, so every meal had a kumzitz and lots of new friends. The Jewish ghetto is one of the top attractions of Venice, so tourists would stop to take videos of the army of Jews who were welcoming Shabbos and reclaiming the space. We did a free walking tour of the city at some point, and paypaled a tip after Shabbos. There’s also a nice sized community that’s not Chabad, so we were able to hit up two great kiddushes and get to meet the locals. Havdalah was out of this world, but the real fun went down motzei Shabbos.
We started with a romantic wine and shnitzel melave malka by the water (obviously we lit some candles and youtube has a great Italian music selection). But is it even a motzei Shabbos in Venice is you don’t have a Frulala run (alcoholic smoothie stand under the OK – check the menu)?! The streets at night were ridiculously empty (now that we think about it, it was also 2 am), so we also chilled with our new Shabbos buds at some famous landmarks with no other people in sight. GhettoGang. Our ride or die. You know who you all are and you’re loving this shout out.
SUNDAY – our last hustle before our flight out to Croatia. We split up for A to take the Jewish ghetto tour (A MUST DO!), while R got to explore the little nuances of the island. It started with Calle Varisco, the most narrow street in Venice. On the way to the boat bookstore from there, you can pass the Venice hospital – all landmarks are easy to miss in Venice because they maintain the original ancient facade, and then redo the entire interior. No picture can properly capture the Libreria Acqua Alta, which is a bookstore with many twists and turns and quirks. Right next door to the library, there’s a window where you can see famous Venetian masks being made from scratch.
There’s a famous spiral staircase called Palace Contarini del Bovolo that I was able to hit up before meeting back up with A to check out San Marc’s square. We downloaded a Rick Steve’s audio guide to the area – we found out the hard way that you can’t casually sit down in the middle of the square… don’t say we didn’t warn you. Stolperstein sighting in the ghetto. We obviously couldn’t leave without having one more pizza by the water, what could be better?! (Pro tip – stock up on pizza to take with you to different countries that have no food).