The Post-Quarantine Summer Venetian Riviera

This trip wasn’t supposed to happen, but neither was COVID. When we mapped out our travel plans about a year out, a second trip to the Venetian Riviera wasn’t in the cards. However while we were enjoying our Post-Quarantine trip to the French Riviera, we couldn’t help to think what else we could fit in for the summer. Afterall, with our spring trip to Rome COVID-canceled, we had a little extra cash to spend.

We toiled over the destination. A summer trip to Rome? Nah, too hot. Nice? Too rocky. Cinque Terre? Too annoying to get to. Venice? Yes. We love Venice. We scoured a few websites and found the perfect place to stay in Cavallino.

As we usually do for our long trips, I rented a car from the Kaiserslautern Avis for two weeks. Although costing $420 for a family car, I always prefer a rental for longer trips for the piece of mind. I can’t stand the thought of being stuck on the Autobahn on a 10-hr trip with our 10 year old vehicle. The trip fell over the August 4-day weekend, followed by a one-week work conference in Garmisch the following week. So our plan was to spend three nights in Cavallino and a night in Lake Garda, and then drive up to Garmisch for the conference.

The middle kid decided she had traveled enough, so she stayed at her best friend’s house for the trip. So Nellie, two of three girls, and I left Kaiserslautern at 6am on a Friday morning, planning to pull into Cavallino around dinner time. The trip was mostly smooth, with exception of a small scare in Slovenia.

Slovenia? Well, Nellie had a great idea that we “check off” Slovenia by driving through the country enroute to Italy. It would only cost us about 20 minutes, but worth it to say we’ve “been there.” We made it about 100 meters into the country when we hit a police checkpoint, and turned around. Turns out, as a COVID prevention measure, Slovenia only allowed tourist entry through the Autobahn. Fortunately we weren’t far off the Autobahn, and continued on our way to Italy.

We pulled into Cavallino around 6pm. With it being summer, that meant we would still have plenty of daylight left. We used to reserve a camper at the Czech-owned Victoria Mobilehome in Camping Village Cavallino for €566 total for three nights. If you’ve read a few of our blog posts, you know we we like to stay in campers when possible, as they usually provide a value of amenities, space, and location.

The campsite had very much the resort feel you would expect, but a little let down from the great experience we had with Nova Lodges in the French Riviera. The pros are that there was a large pool onsite, a restaurant, a gelateria, a well stocked grocery store, and on the beach. The best part is that it was a quick drive to the Vaporetto, the water bus that connects Venice and surrounding areas. The cons are the tricky and exceptionally annoying parking situation, the camper was a bit outdated, and lack of multiple dining options meant that the on-site restaurant was crowded in the evenings.

After getting settled into our two-bedroom camper we stopped by the onsite restaurant for dinner. We were able to be seated since the restaurant wasn’t yet crowded, because Italians generally eat dinner later. Following dinner, we grabbed a bottle of wine from the store, and relaxed on the beach. Not sure if it gets more perfect, than relaxing on an Adriatic beach under the setting Italian sky.

We woke up early the next morning since we had plenty to do. We wanted to get in a jog before the sun started blazing, so we started our first full day with a four mile jog partially beach and partially pedestrian path. After getting ready for the day, we drove a few minutes to Punta Sabbioni. Punta Sabbioni is a port opposite of Venice, where it’s possible to take a short Vaporetto ride into the city. We purchased our Vaporetto tickets onsite, costing €30 for two day tickets and €20 for one day tickets. A day ticket not only allowed us to cross over into Venice, but to also use the waterbus system once we made it there. Though, I must say, Venice is small enough to where you shouldn’t need to take the waterbus much once you get there.

I’m sure you a thing or two about Venice, but if you don’t I’ll give you the cliff notes version. This canal city, usually overflowing with American tourists in non-COVID times, is a network of 118 islands linked by hundreds of bridges. Even though most people go there to aimlessly wander through the city and hop on a gondola ride, the city actually has a rich, and sometimes dark, history. Most notably, Venice was the capital of the Republic of Venice for over 1,000 years! When you see tight living quarters jammed between canals, you almost can understand how Venice was ground zero for Europe’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Back to bridges. Probably the most notable is the Rialto Bridge that spans the Grand Canal, and is one of the few bridges in the world with buildings constructed on it. That seemed like the perfect spot to meet our friends who took a train in to meet us from Aviano Air Base.

Our friends left it up to us to pick a restaurant, and naturally we picked something Italian. We navigated our way to Falciani Ristorante Pizzería for a traditional Italian meal. The restaurant seemed pretty fancy on the outside, but it turned out to be a great value. Nellie still claims Falciani has the best seafood spaghetti she’s ever eaten, which actually says a lot. After a long lunch, we parted ways from our friends and spent the next few hours leisurely strolling the canal city.

Venice isn’t huge, especially compared to Paris and Rome, but if you have quite a bit of time in the city, the best way to see it is by chunks at a time. If you’re there just for a day you may spend all day taking the Vaporetto floating from San Marco Piazza, to a gondola ride, to Burano, and Murano. For us, we don’t like rushing from site to site. We rather soak it all in by slowly strolling around, sometimes even wandering down the most random, and often quiet, streets. That’s what happened as we spent this day slowly experiencing the Cannaregio neighborhood, one of Venice’s six districts. We were amazed as we ducked into some streets and alleys, many that were in residential areas and seemingly void of tourists.

We started our walking tour of Cannaregio by walking along Strata Nova and pausing at Campo San Felipe to take turns snapping pics of each other. Following Strata Nova, we stopped by a statue of Paolo Sarpi, erected in the exact location where the 1600’s statesman and papal critic was attacked and left for dead. We continued down Rio Terà de la Maddalena, continuing to capture pictures of the canals and bridges as we crossed them.

A very interesting neighborhood we stumbled into was the 16th Century Jewish Ghetto, where the Jews were forced to live, and surprisingly where we get the word “ghetto” from in English. The Ghetto was disbanded by Napoléon Bonaparte in the late 1700s. Probably my favorite part of our visit was when we walked out of the ghetto and walked along Fondamenta dei Ormesini, which allowed us to see Venice as the Venetians do. I felt like we were discovering the furthest edge of Venice, as it seemed completely undisturbed by tourists. We made it to the Tre Archi Bridge which has steep steps to the top, but very well worth the canal views.

After spending a few hours wandering the depths of Venice, we took the Vaporetto back towards the Rialto Bridge to link-up with our oldest, who was roaming around with her own itinerary. You may know that I love restaurant recommendations from TripAdvisor. We noticed we were nearby the #4 of over 1200 restaurants in Venice, Ca Dolfin. The restaurant just sounded fancy, but we figured we would give it a try. The restaurant did not disappoint in taste and affordability! Of course, courtesy Limoncello shots as an apertif was a bonus.

Keeping within tradition, Nellie and I started day three with a warm 4-mile run around Cavallino. Exhausted from the day before, I decided to make it a resort day, joined by the youngest who really only wanted to hang on the beach and visit the resort pool. Always up for an adventure, Nellie took the oldest for a girls trip exploring Venice and a few surrounding islands. There’s not much to say about what I did that day, except I had a picnic for one, I sat on the beach and read, I ate Gelato, and threw back a few beers. Most people would say that’s their ideal vacation, but I assume that’s not why you follow our blog. So let me recap what Nellie did, at least as best as I can.

Nellie hopped on the Vaporetto with her first stop in colorful Burano. She proceeded to take pictures of everything that looked cute, which isn’t hard in this little village. Burano isn’t large, but it’s mostly known for it’s colorful houses lining the canals. While there, it’s worth seeing the leaning San Martino’s Chapel, as well as Bepi’s House, the most colorful house on a colorful island.

After a short stop in Burano, Nellie took the Vaporetto to Moreno, an island known mostly for glass-making. I visited Murano with Nellie a few years back, and she still believes its overrated, unless you are into glass-making. She landed at Faro di Murano, a white sandstone lighthouse built in 1934. She then stopped for a quick snack at Bar Caffè Ciangol di Squarcina G & C, followed by a few minutes admiring the glass-work in Mazzega Glass. If you ever make it out to Murano, you may also want to consider checking out the Glass Museum!

Nellie’s final stop was the southernmost neighborhood of Venice, Desoduro. After landing in San Marco, she crossed the wood and metal Ponte dell’Accademia. She couldn’t help but to stop to capture pictures of the Grand Canal at night. She then took the Vaporetto over to Giudecca, an area separated by the Giudecca Canal, and named after the Jews in Judea.

In Giudecca, Nellie ended the evening by visiting a place we visited a couple years back, the Skyline Rooftop Bar. You probably know that Venice’s most popular cocktail is the Bellini. Many articles you’ll find online will list the Skyline Rooftop Bar as a bucket list location to drink a Bellini. While you’ll notice the bar is €€€€ on Google Maps, it’s worth a visit for just drinks! The bar sits atop a Hilton hotel, and the price of a few drinks gives you the most amazing views of Venice. Nellie had a couple drinks, then took the Vaporetto back to turn-in for the night.

The next morning was dedicated to packing up and continuing on to our next destination, Lake Garda. Nellie had the great idea for us to check out Verona on the way to Lake Garda, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pack something else in, to our already crammed excursion. A trip to Verona would only be a few minutes out of the way, and would be a perfect spot to grab lunch, so we wouldn’t arrive in Lake Garda too early before check-in.

If you haven’t heard much about Verona, it’s a popular tourist destination, mostly because of the 1st Century Roman Amphitheater, still in use today, and the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juilet. It wasn’t on our original itinerary, so we only planned to spend a couple hours eating next to the arena, then checking out Juilet’s balcony followed by Romeo’s House.

So Verona didn’t go the way it was supposed to, but I’ll tell you about it anyways. Afterall, trips don’t always go as planned. Everything started off fine. We followed the parking garage signs and found a large underground car park next to the Amphitheater. From the car park, we had a short walk to Emanuel Cafe, an Italian restaurant that sits right outside of the Amphitheater. We enjoyed pizza and pasta for lunch, as we sat outside and admired the Amphitheater from our table.

It started to drizzle as our lunch was ending, so we figured that we’d scurry to see a glimpse of Juilet’s balcony before it started to rain hard. We imagined that Juiliet’s balcony was just something you can see in passing, but we were amazed to find out that you need to pay to enter a courtyard just to see it. The line was long and the rain was picking up, so we decided to head back to the car. While trying to rush to the vehicle, it started to hail, and not just small pellets! All of a sudden we were pressed up against a building, while hail pelted us in the back of the head. This lasted for about 15 minutes, and when it was all said and done, we were sore and soaked. Verona was the biggest bust of our trip.

Once we made back to the safety of our vehicle, we drove an hour to our next destination, Riva del Garda on Lake Garda. Lake Garda is Italy’s largest lake and is tucked in Northern Italy in the Dolomites. Riva del Garda is a cute resort town on the northern tip of the the lake. We booked one night at Residence Centro Vela, spending €172 for an accommodation of two rooms and a kitchen. Although the hotel seemed a little quirky on, we took a chance in reserving a room because of the great reviews.

Although it did prove to be a little quirky, Residence Centro Vela did not disappoint! The best part is that the hotel is situated at the edge of town, which is about as far into town that you could actual drive into. If we booked a hotel any closer, we would’ve been paying much more and lugging our luggage through the town.

After getting situated, we walked 10 minutes along the lake and into the town center. It was a beautiful walk, as we passed hundreds of vacationers laying on the grass and beach at the edge of the lake. The vibe was super beachy, as we watched people blasting their music, jogging, and playing soccer along the lakeshore. We wandered a while in the town center, seeing an old Roman bath and admiring the small streets, all lined with cute shops. We found our way to Trattoria Birreria FORST, a cute restaurant with exceptional service. The restaurant is situated on a quaint harbor, which helped as we continued to enjoy the lake town vibe.

We only spent one night in Lake Garda, mostly because we just needed a place to squat before my work conference in Garmisch the following day. We also spent some time the following morning exploring the town on a 4-mile run. The 18 hours we were there convinced us that we need to make another and longer trip.

As I opened, this trip wasn’t supposed to happen, but we are immensely happy we had the opportunity to make it there during the inter-lockdown period. As I type this right now, there’s not many places we can travel outside of Germany, as Europe battles with resurging COVID-19 rates. Who knows when we’ll get back to normal with traveling, but the post-quarantine Summer sure gave us a little tease of what normalcy feels like. Given the circumstances, the post-quarantine Summer wasn’t so bad, but for now, we’ll wait, dream, and try to stay safe until we get our opportunity to roam around Europe again.