Our recent trip to Italy has been #1 on my bucket list for some time. My husband has been there twice but I had never been. A couple of months before the trip I booked our flights. After many hours of searching various sights, looking at various airlines and routes I finally found one that was affordable and with only one stopover. Google is a great way to search for flights. You just enter where you are flying from and to and Google will show you airlines, rates and other information.
We flew American Airlines RDU to Philly, then Philly to Venice. I learned to leave about a 3 hour layover in between flights in case the first flight is delayed. This is a good idea both ways because coming back involves going through customs which can take some time.
In talking with my friends who have visited Italy they all pretty much fly economy, which can be uncomfortable on an overseas flight. Unless you have a lot of points with the airline or on a travel credit card you are probably going to want to fly economy in order to stay within your budget. One thing I learned (the hard way) is once you book your flight don’t expect to be able to upgrade without great additional cost.
My husband wanted to fly business class so we could recline our seats in order to sleep on the overnight flight to Venice. The prices for anything other than economy were more than I wanted to spend on flights, even in off season, so I booked main cabin economy. A few weeks later I called American Airlines to ask them about possibly upgrading to business class. I was told it would cost $2000 per person over and above the cost of the tickets. Once I picked myself up off the floor I politely declined. I was given a couple of options. Lay across the middle 4 seats to sleep or ask for a “day of departure upgrade” when you get to the airport. I made a note on their advice. At my husband’s request I called American Airlines again few weeks later to inquire once again about getting an upgrade. I was told the cost would now be $4500 per person to upgrade. Again, I was shocked and said thanks but no thanks. The day of our flight we checked with someone with American Airlines at the ticket counter and were told that we “did not qualify” for an upgrade. The person could not tell us why we did not qualify and she wasn’t very nice about it either. We decided to try again at the Philly airport. In Philly we were told American Airlines doesn’t offer upgrades on international flights. When we called their Advantage membership number (of which we are members of) we were told it would now cost $8900 per person to upgrade and their were 4 business class seats available. So, we stayed with economy. In addition we had the crying baby across the aisle. We felt bad for both the mom and baby, but it’s a lesson to get those noise cancelling headphones if you want to get sleep on a flight. We felt like we got the run around from American Airlines. I plan on giving them feedback on our experience but we don’t expect that American Airlines will respond, other than with the standard automatic response. I will let you know if I hear anything back from them.
It was my intention to carry on my bags, however, I “overpacked” which made the bag too thick to meet the airline’s guidelines so we had to check our bags at the gate. Because of this, and having to drag 2 bags around Italy and through the airports, I will pack lighter going forward.
We landed in Venice at 9:15am their time, which was 3:15am eastern time. Having had not much sleep on the flight over we were deliriously tired but charged with adrenaline about being in Italy. We were very impressed at how fast the Venice airport got our bags to us at baggage claim. It was much faster than at RDU International. Once we had our bags we then headed for the ferry or vaporetto. Remember, nothing with wheels is allowed in Venice, which is lovely but can also be a bit of a hassle. Expect to walk a lot! We bought our tickets at a kiosk and did the 12 minute walk to the area where the water taxis and ferries dock.
It took over an hour for us to get to our stop as we were the last one of several. It was sort of like riding a bus except it was a boat. It was great to see Venice from the water coming in. If you aren’t in a hurry and don’t mind sitting down below with a bunch of strangers, the vaporetto is an inexpensive way to get from the Marco Polo airport to Venice. There is also a train, but I believe you will have to either take a water taxi from there or walk.
We couldn’t check into our room until 3pm so we had some time. We dropped our bags off at the hotel check in desk and went to have lunch. The people at the front desk are young, Italian, fashionable and friendly. I think there should be a reality show called “The Young Italians”. They are a force and they are fun to watch!
To kill time until we could get into our room we ate lunch at an outdoor cafe, then took a gondola ride (totally worth the 80 Euros!) walked and walked some more. Below are a couple of pictures of the gondola we took. We went around lunch time when a lot of people go home for lunch so it was peaceful and quiet. I am glad we did it. Just a note that many of the gondoliers do not take credit cards so have some Euros handy.
After the gondola ride we walked over to St. Mark’s Square. Below is a picture of me getting some caffeine into my system at a lovely cafe with live music. St. Mark’s Basilica is behind me in this photo.
When we finally made it into the apartment we had rented we were exhausted. We stayed at a place called AD Lofts which we found on Expedia’s web site. It was nice because it was off the beaten path and had a kitchen with a fridge and a living room area.
We took a 3 hour nap around 4:00 so we could rest up for dinner. I got varied advice about whether to nap or not to nap that first day. Some people said, “do not nap!”. Others said, “take a short nap”. In the end we decided to nap because we were crazy tired and wouldn’t be able to function without one.
The Italians eat late. Many of the small businesses close from 1-4 in the afternoon so the owners can go home for lunch and a nap. Restaurants usually start serving dinner around 7pm. Many people there eat around 9pm. We are used to eating earlier than that so we headed out a little after 7:00 to walk around and find a place to eat. There are many cafes in Venice. We didn’t research them. We just found one that looked good and went with it when we were ready to eat.
Tomorrow I will tell you more about our time in Venice and include some tips I learned along the way. Ciao for now!