Venice - Cafe Florian + St. Mark's Square

Minty hot chocolate at Cafe Florian in Venice's St Mark's Square.

When in Venice you're sure to end up in St. Mark's Square at least once. Glittering with gold and bronze, the square is simultaneously deeply impressive and completely overwhelming. Beyond the huge crowds, you have to weigh the cost of long lines (St. Mark's Basilica) or high prices (Doge's Palace and any of the fancy cafes.) But if you have the time and the means, a nice way to spend a few hours in Venice is a drink at Cafe Florian followed by a visit to the Basilica.

One of the oldest cafes in all of Europe, Florian was once frequented by the likes of Casanova and Lord Byron. Its easy to see why. The gilded cafe is over the top romantic. But you pay out the nose for the atmosphere. When the weather's amenable a string quartet plays in the courtyard, and it's not free. Not only is a cover charge added to your bill if you sit outside, but indoor diners are charged too. Those big, beautiful windows let in the light and the music from the square after all.

One of Cafe Florian's luxurious dining rooms, a lovely way to spend a Venetian afternoon.
One of Cafe Florian's opulent dining rooms, seen from St. Mark's Square.


Venice - Rialto Market / Mercato di Rialto

A fish monger at the Rialto Market in Venice, Italy

I've said it before, but give me a foreign country and a food market and I'm a happy girl. Venice's Rialto Market is smaller in scope and size than Borough Market and La Boqueria, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm. For one thing, it's open air, so natural light and fresh air are much easier to come by. The fish market housed under tall columns while the fresh market is shaded by tents, and the view of the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge is unbeatable!

Rialto is clearly geared towards Venetians shopping for groceries. There are no prepared food stalls (though Pronto Pesce and plenty of restaurants are just around the corner,) just lots and lots of fish, fruit, and vegetables. It's located right off the Grand Canal in an easy to find (for Venice) location. Take vaporetto #2 down the Grand Canal and disembark at the Rialto stop, cross the big white bridge and follow the masses. Take some time to browse the market, there are so many opportunities for great photographs. If you're feeling peckish there are plenty of options around the market for a snack. Pick up some fresh fruit from one of the stalls or venture out of the market to one of the bakeries around the corner.

A morning view of the grand canal from the Rialto Bridge in Venice.

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