February in Venice

Cover: Sestiere of Castello, Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


We shouldn’t love Venice. It’s touristy. It can be very crowded. It can take forever to go a short distance as packed water buses slowly navigate canals. Yet, as our train pulled out of station toward Milan as our month in Venice ended, we were leaving somewhat reluctantly as we departed the charming city that had stolen a place in our hearts.

We’d chosen February for Venice for one reason – Carnival. The world-famous pre-Lent celebration is said to date back to 1162 and has always been a source of fascination.

In the end, Carnevale di Venezia was magical, but it was the quiet time before Carnival and chance to live amongst the Venetians that had us yearning to stay a bit longer.

Leaving one City of Love for another

We arrived in Venice after spending January in Paris and were ready to get out of the bustle of a big city. While stunningly beautiful and always overflowing with activities, the City of Love is still a major city with noise, pollution, a high cost of living.

Arriving to an exceptionally empty Venice, the first 10 days of our stay were filled with quiet strolls under an umbrella on rainy days, un-crowded vaporetto rides, and stops in tiny cafés for a spritz or cappuccino where the only other patrons were locals.

Our previous Venice visit was a year and a half ago during the summer, so the contrast was quite amazing. The quieter side of Venice was a delight and a reminder of why Venice gives Paris a run for the money for the title of the City of Love.

Living as Venetian

Slow travel is very different from the experience of visiting a place for a few days or a week. For a vacation, more expensive options may suffice for convenience sake, but when one is a “resident,” finding the less expensive transportation, communication and dining options becomes a series of tasks to be completed soon after arrival.

Venice pocket WiFi

Our customary day one schedule in a new location includes acquiring a pocket WiFi and evaluating long-term local transportation options. In Venice, there are several pocket WiFi providers available and the one we selected provided the ability to pick up the device at a hotel near the train station. Our plan included unlimited connectivity for a month for about 100 euro – a much cheaper option than the $10/day plan + standard plan pricing and data usage available through our US carrier.

Venice transportation

Our next stop in Venice was at the Unica Venezia office at Piazzale Roma, which is the transportation hub near the train station.

Whether getting around central Venice on the Grand Canal or venturing out to one of the numerous outer islands in the Venetian lagoon, transportation options hiring a private or shared water taxi or taking a water bus, called a vaporetto, operated by the ACTV. Water taxis are very expensive, so vaporetti (plural of vaporetto) are heavily used in Venice.

While single ride vaporetto tickets (biglietto) are available, a pass can also be purchased at a much better rate for multiple days, such as 2, 3 or 7 days. The tickets are available at most of the ACTV stations at counters or from the vending machines.

For longer stays, the Venezia Unica card is a bargain. We obtained our cards at the Hellovenezia ticket office at Piazzale Roma. Purchasing the Venezia Unica card itself requires a passport, completing a form and paying 50 euro. The card is good for 5 years and can have fares loaded as needed (stored value). At the time of our visit, the rate for Unica card fares was 1.5 euro per fare or 37 euro per calendar month for unlimited use, which we opted for.

While most visitors things of the vaporetto as the #1 or #2 on the Grand Canal, however, there is an extensive network of boats covering the Venetian lagoon, including lines to the outer islands such as Murano, Burano, Lido, and Giudecca. The card can be used on any of the vaporetti, as well as on the buses and the train that run between Roma and Mestre. So, for 87 euro you have unlimited transportation for a full month.

Markets

When living somewhere for a month, one quickly discovers the market/grocery store situation. Our Airbnb apartment was on Giudecca, with a couple of small markets on the island. As we speak some French, but little Italian, the WiFi, and Google translate frequently came in handy when shopping. Compared to the US, food and beverages at the market are much less expensive, but the selection is also more limited.

In addition to the grocery stores like Coop and Prix, there are many small neighborhood specialty shops, such as pasticcerie (pastry shops), salumerie (delicatessens) and produce stores. There are also outdoor markets, with the Rialto Mercado being the largest.

Shopping at Rialto Market is an experience not to be missed and definitely worth the vaperetto ride. With a huge fish market, countless produce stands, and vendors offering everything from lentils to nuts to dried peppers, Rialto is the place foodies head to in Venice.

The prices are very reasonable as well. We picked up items for a couple of days’ meals, including nice cuts of salmon and tuna, for about 20 euro.

TV and streaming

When vacationing for a few days or a week, television is generally not a consideration – it can be a pleasant escape from day to day events. However, when on the road for extended periods, it is nice to catch the news or a movie or show in English now and then. While many hotels have extensive cable offerings, many Airbnbs have limited options or just local channels.

AppleTV to the rescue. A vaporetto ride to Piazzale Roma, a train to Mestre, and a bus ride to the Nave de Vero, home of the Venice Apple store, and we were in possession of an Apple TV.

Couldn’t we have just brought ours from the states? Yes, but ours was an older version and we didn’t. So, we are now owners of an Apple 2 with an Italian power cord. Streaming from the US doesn’t work in Europe, so you can use a service to make it look like your IP is in the US or simply sign up for Euro Netflix. We also used one of our iPads to access news sites. And – kudos to CBSN for streaming news around the world.

Where we stayed

We chose an Airbnb on Giudecca (pronounced joo-dek-ka) and it was one of the nicest apartments we’ve rented through the service. The décor was beautiful, the apartment was bright and cheerful, and the views from both the couch in the living room and the bedroom were amazing. On clear days, you could see all the way to the Dolomites and Alpes and every day we fell asleep watching the vaporettos and ferries going back and forth on the canal below.

The apartment was in a building attached to the Hilton Molino Stucky on the island of Giudecca. With the exception of the hotel and a few small businesses, the island is primarily a residential community and very quiet. Access to central Venice is via the Hilton shuttle that runs to and from San Marco or by using the #2, 4.1, 4.2, or N Vaporetto lines from La Palanca.

The pros of staying on Giudecca – it is a quiet escape from touristy central Venice and you get more for your money. The cons of staying on Giudecca? The constant boat/vaporetto rides. Would we recommend it? In high season or during carnival – if you want to escape the tourists and chaos of central Venice – yes. However, if you are only visiting for a few days, you will spend a good deal of time waiting for and riding boats back and forth. Additionally, far more hotel, restaurant, and shopping options are in the Dorsoduro, San Polo or San Marco districts, or sestieri as they are called in Venice.

The Castello district

After a few days of rain, we awoke to a brilliant day, gathered our camera gear and headed to the vaporetto. First stop, the Castello district.

The largest Venetian sestriere, the Castello district reaches from San Marco to the eastern tip of Venice. As many times Venice is described as shaped like a fish, the Castello district is located in the tail.

The Castello district has a bit of everything – residential building, the Giardini Pubblici (public gardens), the Arsenale, neighborhood cathedrals, the impressive Santi Giovanni e Paolo, restaurants, bars, shopping and the hospital. It can be reached by walking east from San Marco square or by Vaporetto 4.2 and take the Fondamente Nove stop.

While in the Castello district we stopped in a mask making shop, L’artista della Barbaria, which is operated by a couple that make handmade paper mache masks. They took the time to explain the mask making process and the difference from the cheap masks found throughout Venice and those made by true artisans.

Upon selecting my mask, they sign it and dated it. Very cool!

Murano & Burano

We’d been to Murano and Burano before but didn’t have as much time as we would have liked and wanted to return.

After visiting Costello, we continued on to Murano and spent the afternoon exploring the magnificent glass shops on the island. All glassmakers were moved to the community in 1291 and, since that time, Murano has become synonymous with fine glass making.  is a charming collection of islands connected by bridges and home to some of the world’s finest glassmakers.

Murano is actually a collection of islands connected by bridges and a wonderful place to visit while in Venice.

On another sunny day a few days later, we headed to the Burano, where the homes are brightly colored and highly skilled ladies create exquisite lace products. One of the most photographed spots on the planet, Burano’s colors are said to be a result of the fisherman painting their homes in a specific color so they could easily make their way home after a day’s hard work at sea.

Whether the legend is true or it is simply a charming fable of Venetian lore, Burano is a must visit spot, especially those with an interest in photography.

Venice Carnival – Carnevale di Venezia

By the second week of February, the quiet pathways where we strolled began to fill as tourists arrived for Carnival, or as it is called in Italian, Carnevale.

Amidst the revelers, mysterious masked characters appeared in the crowds. Elaborately costumed Venetians strolled the winding pathways of the floating city, usually with a trail of selfie-seeking tourists following nearby.

Numerous events are held throughout the Venetian islands during the celebration, but the main events such as the Flight of the Angel, the Eagle Flight, and the mask contests occur in St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), the center of Carnevale di Venezia activity.

While official Carnevale events are held throughout the 10 day period, the majority occur on the weekends, when the crowds are the largest as well. Many visitors from Italy and France arrive on Fridays and depart on Mondays to experience the major events held on the weekend.

Know before you go to Venice in February

Temperature: The average temperature in Venice in February is 5°C / 40°F, with an average high of 8°C / 46°F and an average low of 1°C / 34°F.

Rainfall. February is typically one of Venice’s least rainy month, with a historic average of 50mm of rainfall over 6 days of the month. By comparison, April generally sees the most rain, with 90mm and 11 days.

Hotels and Airbnbs. If you plan to visit Venice during Carnival, book early. The best hotels and Airbnbs sell out months in advance.

Cost of Venice during Carnival. Carnevale official events are free. Lodging prices are at some of the highest prices of the year. Balls and parties can be very expensive.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Burano, Italy

Murano glass, Burano lace and colors that will make you smile

Cover: Burano, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Filled with colorful buildings, artisans, restaurants and boutiques, Murano, Burano, and Torcello are a perfect afternoon respite when visiting Venice.

Island hopping Venetian style

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Easily accessible from Venice, the islands in the lagoon offer an opportunity to observe skilled craftsman at work, stunning scenery and a few hours away from the crowds of Venice.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If going by Vaporetto (water bus), lines 4.1, 4.2, 12, 13 and 7 (seasonal) include stops to Murano. Schedules and more information can be found on the Actv website.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Additionally, several tour companies offer half-day excursions leaving near Piazza San Marco that include a stop on Murano, Burano, and Torcello, with about 40 minutes on each island.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Murano

Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1291, Venice ordered glassmakers to move to Murano due to the risk of fires their foundries caused. The glassmakers were highly regarded for their skills and were forbidden to emigrate abroad or reveal their secrets.

Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As their skills continued to evolve through the centuries, the Murano artisans achieved worldwide recognition for their decorative glassware and art glass.

Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Today, Murano offers a wide variety of glassware from inexpensive trinkets to exquisite art glass produced by some of Murano’s historical factories.

Ferro-Lazzarini, Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A visit to Murano today typically includes a stop at a glass factory to watch a glass artisan create a piece of artwork – a fascinating process.

Ferro-Lazzarini, Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

During our visit to Ferro-Lazzarini, per the time stamp from our camera, the process from the blob of hot glass in the first image to the finished horse was four minutes.

Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The demonstration is followed by a visit to the showroom where items can be purchased. Higher-priced pieces are available by private showing.

Ferro-Lazzarini Murano, Italy
Ferro-Lazzarini
Murano, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Burano

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There are few places that will brighten your spirits and have you reaching for your camera, more than Burano.

A small island a little further out in the Venetian lagoon, Burano is a fishing village filled with brightly-colored houses and home to the famous Burano lace.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It’s said that the fishermen painted their houses the bright colors so they could see their house through the fog and find their way home. Today, if a resident wishes to paint their house a new color, approval from the government is required and will only be granted if the color is permitted for that lot on the island.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Exploring the island is a photographer’s dream with the vivid colors reflected in the still waters of the canals.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Browsing the shops of Burano, visitors find ladies quietly embroidering as shoppers explore the intricate lace creations.

Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Torcello

Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta) Torcello, Italy
Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta)
Torcello, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dating back to the 5th century, Torcello is the oldest continuously populated island in the Venice lagoon.

Torcello, Italy
Torcello, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is Torcello’s primary attraction, but the quiet island also draws a few visitors interested in hiking or simply seeking a bit of solitude, as Ernest Hemmingway did in 1948 while writing “Across the River and Into the Trees.”

Torcello, Italy
Torcello, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Torcello, Italy
Torcello, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Venice, Italy

The best of Venice

Cover: Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


With its romantic canals, winding pathways and stunning beauty, Venice, or Venezia as the Italians call it, is truly a city like no other. Venice is a place to lose yourself in the charm, embrace the slower pace, and marvel at the city in a lagoon.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting to and around Venice

The capital of the Veneto region, Venice actually spans a wide range of geography from the mainland areas of Mestre and Marghera to the islands in the lagoon, which includes the historic center, the destination sought by most visitors. For purposes of this article, references to Venice are to the historic area except where noted. If you travel to Venice by air, you will arrive at the Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE), which is 6 km (3.7 miles) from the Venice tourist area.

Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, Venice, Italy
Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Venice has two train stations – Venezia Mestre station, which is on the mainland, and the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia located offshore in the lagoon.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Venice is an easy and enjoyable walking city, but many of paths require climbing steps on the bridges over the side canals – a note to keep in mind if arriving by train. Even though your hotel may be located only a half mile away from the station, dragging roller bags on cobblestones and carrying them up and over the bridges generally, makes taking a water taxi or a water bus, called a Vaporetto, a better option.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Leaving the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia’s main entrance, the water taxis and water buses are located just outside – you’ll see the floating docks. Just as with taxis and buses on land, a water taxi will get you to your location quicker and also cost quite a bit more than a Vaporetto.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Venice travel tip

The waterbus area near the train station is chaotic during high season. Call your hotel before arriving in Venice and ask which Vaporetto stop is the closest to your hotel so you have an idea where you are headed.

The No. 1 Vaporetto stops on both sides of the Grand Canal. The direction the boat is headed is displayed at the dock and on the boat. The boats come along about every 10 minutes during the day in the summer, less frequent at non-peak times. If you are staying several days, a multi-day pass is the most economical method of transportation. Be sure and validate your pass prior to boarding the boat. The Vaporetti are run by Actv in Venice. Maps, timetables and pricing information can be found on the Actv website.


Things to do in Venice

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Wander

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One simply must get out and wander the streets of Venice.

Choose an afternoon and head out away from the Grand Canal and the tourist attractions. The winding alleys and narrow cobblestone streets that weave their way around the islands reveal a new myriad of colors and delights with each turn.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Discover. Absorb. Explore. It will be some of the best time you spend in Venice. Be sure and take your map and Vaporetto pass – you will probably get lost and will need to find your way back to your hotel.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Ride the Vaporetto No. 1 up and down the Grand Canal

A ride up and down the Grand Canal on Vaporetto No. 1 is a great and inexpensive way to take in the sights.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From the railway station to San Marco, it is about a 40-minute one-way journey (more or less, it’s Venice).

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Set out in the early morning or late evening for the best chance to get a spot along the rail or, on some boats, one of the seats in the front or the back. The boats get quite busy in the afternoon and early evening.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Take in some culture at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Amazing art and architecture are in abundance in Venice, but if you must choose only one museum to visit, make it the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to some of the best European and American art of the 20th century located in Italy, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection houses Guggenheim’s personal collection of masterpieces including works by Picasso, Braque, Duchamp, Ernst, Dalí, and Pollock. The museum also hosts visiting exhibitions on an ongoing basis. Located along the Grand Canal between the Accademia Bridge and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, the museum is open daily 10am-6pm, except Tuesdays and December 25. If arriving by Vaporetto No. 1 – direction Lido, take the Accademia or Salute stops.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Relax with an Aperol Spritz

According to Gruppo Compari, the owners of Aperol…

In Veneto, the homeland of Spritz, around 300,000 Aperol Spritzes are consumed every day, that’s more than 200 Spritzes a minute!”

Spritz is the orange-colored aperitif found throughout Venice consisting of Aperol, Prosecco, a splash of sparkling water, and typically either an orange slice or an olive. Also found made with Campari, the Aperol version is sweeter and has a lower alcohol content, making it a good drink to end the afternoon or start the evening.

Aperol spritz
Aperol spritz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Shop at the Mercato di Rialto

Rialto Market, Venice, Italy
Rialto Market, Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each morning, Tuesday through Saturday, locals, and visitors alike head to the Rialto Market to shop at the vegetable market (erberia) and fish market (pescheria).

Rialto Fish Market, Venice, Italy
Rialto Fish Market, Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The assortment is vast – fruits, vegetables, types of fish you’ve never heard of, pasta, dried tomatoes, nuts – and the list goes on.

Rialto Market, Venice, Italy
Rialto Market, Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The market is located near the Rialto Bridge. Take the Rialto Mercato stop on Vaporetto No. 1 and turn right. The market is just past the souvenir vendors.

Visit Piazza San Marco

Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy
Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of the most beautiful squares in the world, Piazza San Marco, is home to Basilica di San Marco, Campanile di San Marco (the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica), Torre dell’Orologio (The Clock Tower), dozens of high-end shops, and the largest crowds you’ll find in Venice.

St Mark's Campanile, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
St Mark’s Campanile, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Considered a masterpiece of Romanic-Byzantine architecture, Basilica di San Marco was built to house the reliquary of Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice.

Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy
Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Campanile di San Marco, or Saint Mark’s bell tower, was built around the 10th century. In 1902, the tower fell down and, as the story goes, a communal council met the same evening and approved the funds for reconstruction.

Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy
Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rebuilding of the tower took 10 years and the new campanile was inaugurated on April 25, 1912 to celebrate Saint Mark’s feast.

St Mark's Campanile, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
St Mark’s Campanile, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Across the piazza is the Torre dell’Orologio. Dating back to the 15th century, the tower features a gold and blue clock with the signs of the zodiac and the phases of the moon.

Torre dell’Orologio, Venice, Italy
Torre dell’Orologio, Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Take a gondola ride

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When most people think of Venice, they envision a quiet gondola ride through the canals of the ancient city.

In reality, gondola rides are touristy, overpriced and at times the Grand Canal is so overcrowded with gondolas that it makes the 101 in California look like a casual experience.

Venice, Italy
Traffic jam on the Grand Canal, Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

All true. But, if a gondola ride in Venice is what you’ve dreamed of  – do it. But, here’s a few things to keep in mind before you head out with the guy in the striped shirt. Gondola fares are regulated and set by the City of Venice. The standard fee is for a 40 minute ride with 6 people in the gondola. After 7 pm, the fee is higher and longer rides can be purchased in increments. Venice gondola fares can be found here.

Since the Grand Canal can be viewed by the much cheaper vaporetto, ask the gondolier to take you through some quiet, side canals for a better use of the fare and a more enjoyable time.

Where we stayed

Hotel L'Orologio Venezia, Venice, Italy
Hotel L’Orologio Venezia
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For this trip to Venice, we stayed at the Hotel L’Orologio Venezia.

Located along the Grand Canal, it is a lovely boutique hotel in a great location only a few steps from the Rialto Market.

The hotel is new and modern and the staff is helpful, friendly, and speaks fluent English.

The rooms are air-conditioned, quiet and playfully decorated with the clock theme of the hotel. We had a suite with a separate sitting area off of the bedroom and the bathroom was large with a great shower.

Before the night ends

As the sun begins to set, Venice is wrapped in a warm glow that slowly changes to shimmering beauty.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Whether your perfect evening is dining in one of the fine Venetian restaurants, trying your hand at a game of chance at the Casino Venezia, an evening boat ride along the canal, or all three, Venice will deliver the experiences that will have you dreaming to return as soon as you leave.

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

The Duomo, Milan, Italy

7 things to do in Milan

Cover: The Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Piazza del Duomo
Milan, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


There’s a buzz about Milan that sets it apart from the rest of Italy.

The Duomo, Milan, Italy
The Duomo Milan, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A bustling city filled with fashionable people in a hurry to get their next appointment, Milan’s modern lifestyle centered around business, fashion and banking can cause you to forget the city dates back to 400 BC.

Milan Italy
Milan, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Like a fine cloth that could be found on a garment in one of is countless designer shops, Milan’s passion for the refined accoutrements of the current day is carefully woven into the fabric of its past, resulting in an enjoyable blend of the two.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Italy
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Milan, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Similarly, the top things to do list for a visit to Milano also intermingles past and present, which of course, must begin with the Duomo.

The Duomo

The Duomo, Milan, Italy
The Duomo
Milan, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Built in 1386, the Duomo is a magnificent cathedral and is the first stop for most visitors to Milan.

The Duomo, Milan, Italy
The Duomo Milan, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While a visit to the Piazza del Duomo, or Cathedral Square,  yields stunning photos of the exterior of the structure for free, and worshipers are welcome in the chapel at no charge, a ticket must be acquired to tour the cathedral and gain access to the roof to walk amongst the spires and gain a bird’s eye view of Milan.

The Duomo, Milan Italy
The Duomo Milan Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rooftop access can be gained by either a climb up the stairs or, for a few more euro, a ride on a lift to the top. Duomo tickets can be purchased at the cathedral or on the Duomo website.

The Duomo, Milan Italy
The Duomo Milan Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Last Supper

Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan
Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan

From 1494 to 1498, Leonardo da Vinci painted his depiction of the Last Supper on the north wall of the Refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.

The Last Supper’s survival is no small miracle. The painting was off to a precarious start with da Vinci’s choice of an experimental technique of dry brushing that caused the painting to quickly deteriorate. In 1652, an enlargement of a door under the painting leading to a kitchen eliminated Christ’s feet from the painting. Napoleon’s army used the grounds as a stable in the last 1700’s and, for a period of time during World War II, the painting was displayed in open air due to bombings destroying the majority of the building. Yet, the Last Supper has survived, and is available for viewing… if you can get a ticket.

Visits are limited to a small number of people in the room at one time for 15 minute viewing periods and tickets are sold out months in advance. However, secondary resellers, such as SelectItaly, offer last-minute tickets at a slightly higher fee (we purchased ours at midnight for the next morning’s 8:30 viewing).

Photography is not permitted inside the Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Shopping Milan style

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Italy
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Milan, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It is no surprise that Italy’s fashion capital has an abundance of shopping opportunities, with the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II at the top of the list.

Located next to the Duomo, the Galleria is a magnificent shopping center constructed of tiled mosaics and marble and covered with a glass and iron dome. Home to the first Prada store, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Armani and other major designers, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is a beautiful spot to grab a coffee or wine and watch Milan’s shoppers in their finest. If you still have a few euro left after the Galleria, the Quadrilatero d’Oro is just a few blocks away offering additional high-end fashion selections.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Italy
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Milan, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Castello Sforzesco

Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy
Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Castello Sforzesco was built in the fourteenth century by Galeazzo II Visconti. Following several rounds of changing hands and near destruction in 1447, Francesco Sforza took over the castle in 1450 and began renovating the castle for his residence. Following Sforza’s death, his son, Ludovico, who would go on to become lord of Milan, continued the renovations. Throughout the years, numerous artists were commissioned by the Sforzas, including Leonardo da Vinci, who frescoed several rooms in the castle.

Today, Castello Sforzesco houses several museums. One ticket provides admission to all, including the opportunity to view Michelangelo’s last unfinished sculpture located in the Museum of Ancient Art.

Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy
Castello Sforzesco
Milan, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Take a stroll through the city

Milan, Italy
Milan, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Milan is very walkable. A stroll through the streets of Milan is a wonderful way to spend a few hours and observe the city as it happens around you, providing a glimpse into the everyday lives of the Milanese as they buzz about on their motos and scurry from place to place.

Milan, Italy
Milan, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Seeking a more quiet retreat? Two large parks are both easily accessible from the Duomo area. The Giardini Pubblici is located near the Quadrilatero d’Oro and the Parco Sempione is located just behind the Castello Sforzesco.

Milan, Italy
Milan, Italy Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Grab a bike from BikeMi

Milan, Italy
Milan, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you prefer a bike ride to hitting the pavement, BikeMi is Milan’s bike sharing program, available summer to fall. Check the BikeMi website for station locations and service dates and times.

Drink and dine at a Milanese-style apertivo happy hour

Milan, Italy
Milan, Italy
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Quite popular in Milan, apertivo happy hours are prevalent throughout the city offering a buffet of food selections (think higher-end catered wedding, not an all you can eat Las Vegas style buffet) for the cost of one slightly over-priced drink.

Milan, Italy
Milan, Italy Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

How’s that work? At a particularly crowded spot near our hotel, all drinks were priced at 10 euro and the bar provided a vast array of tasty offerings ranging from pizzas to pastas to salads and even desserts. Seats were filled with a lively crowd of locals stopping off on their way home from work.

Where we stayed

We chose the Hotel Ariston for our stay in Milan.

Located only 900 meters from the Duomo, the Hotel Ariston has good-sized rooms, a friendly staff, and has lightning-fast Wifi, which is pretty much unheard of in Europe.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Rome, Italy

A weekend in Rome

Cover: Rome, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it is possible to discover a sampling of what the ancient city has to offer in two.

The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Landing in Rome on a Saturday morning, we set out on a 48-hour caffeine-fueled adventure, determined to visit as many of Rome’s treasures as possible, while also setting aside a bit of time to soak in the history and culture of such a beautiful city.

A weekend in Rome
A weekend in Rome
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Travel tip: Taxis in Rome

The taxis in Rome are white, clearly marked and are exceptionally clean. At the airport, fend off the people that ask if you need a taxi – they are private cars offering a private ride at a much higher rate (for example, 95 euro for a private ride compared to the standard taxi fare of 48 euro into the city). Instead, head to the clearly-marked taxi line just outside the terminal.

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Grabbing a taxi from the airport, we headed into Rome, dropped our bags at the hotel and set out on foot walking to our first the destination, the Colosseum area.

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy Photo Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rome is a very walkable city. Armed with a map purchased at a kiosk, you can easily navigate the city, with most of the major attractions located about a mile apart.

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

A second economical option for getting around is a hop on/hop off the bus. Typically for a flat fee (daily or for multiple days), the bus stops at all the major sights and offers a recorded guided tour in multiple languages heard over disposable earbuds as you wind through the city.

Rome: The Colosseum area

Once home to gladiator battles and, as legend has it, lions dining on Christians, the Colosseum (Il Colosseo) was constructed between 72 A.D. and 80 A.D. with a seating capacity of over 50,000.

Today, it is one of the most visited sites in Rome. Vendors selling souvenirs, sodas and selfie sticks abound and long lines form early for tour tickets. We wondered if the crowds ever left – so we came back in the middle of the night. The answer is no. Granted there were are far fewer people, but apparently, the Colosseum attracts some of its annual five million visitors around the clock, even at 2:00 am.

The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Arch of Constantine (Arco di Constantino), built in 315 A.D, is located just adjacent to the Colosseum and is the largest Roman arch still standing. Numerous historical sites are also located near the Colosseum including Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill and The National Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, better known as the Vittoriano, which is a located across from the Piazza Venezia.

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Ancient ruins provide a glimpse into life in ancient Rome at the Roman Forum (Forum Romanum). The former center of activity in Rome, the Forum is home to remnants of temples, government buildings, and basilicas.

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy Photo Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Paninis, pizza, pasta, and markets

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy Photo Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rome on a summer weekend is a flurry of activity. The city is filled with tourists and locals alike, all looking to spend time enjoying the culture, shopping, markets and the food. Campo di Fiori and other markets can be found throughout the city on the weekend offering antiques, artwork and a bounty of fruit for a healthy snack.

It’s been said that you can’t get a bad meal in Rome.

Perhaps an exaggeration, but it is easy to find some tasty options ranging from a panini made with high-quality ingredients for lunch to a relaxing evening dinner at one of the countless sidewalk cafes and restaurants lining the streets of Rome.

Spot the best restaurants away from tourist attractions and head down the side streets, many of which don’t open until 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening, catering to the local’s habit of dining later in the evening.

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy Photo Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Take some time to relax

While it’s tempting to rush from one attraction to the next, the laid-back Italian charm of the city beckons frequent stops for a coffee or glass of wine.

Give in to the urge. Rome is more than a bunch of cool, old buildings.

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Photo Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Most people working at restaurants and hotels in the historic district speak some English and are very friendly and helpful. Take time to start a conversation with them and you can learn more about the area than a guidebook will ever tell you. So yes, even if you only have two days, sacrifice that one other tourist spot to spend some time relaxing, chatting with the locals, and simply enjoying the Italian experience.

The Vatican

The Vatican, Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It is estimated that over 4 million people visit the Vatican each year, which is home to St. Peters Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Gardens, the Vatican Museum, a population of 800 people and, of course, the Pope.

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy Photo Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those hoping for a Pope sighting, the schedule for events presided over by Pope Francis is listed on the Vatican website.

The Vatican, Rome, Italy
The Vatican, Rome, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Which leads us to what prompted us to rise at 4:30 am. The pope was scheduled to go to Turin and leave the Vatican at 6:30am. So we (one us anyway) thought it would be a great idea to go to the Vatican in hopes of a Pope Francis sighting.

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy Photo Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The splendid result is that Rome is asleep at 5:00 am. After a two-mile stroll through the Prati, we arrived at St Peters Basilica just before sunrise and with no one around. In 15 minutes, the sun began to rise warming the Basilica in its splendor.

Kim Hull, WoolX, Rome, Italy
Kim Hull, WoolX, Rome, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A bit after 6:00 am about a dozen photographers began to congregate near the gate to the right of the Basilica. Unfortunately, about 20 minutes later one received word that the Pope would not be leaving. The Italian photographers left and we returned to Piazza San Pietro (St Peter’s Basilica square).

The Vatican, Rome, Italy
The Vatican, Rome, Italy Photo Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Around 7:00am people began to enter the cathedral. We took our last shots and left.

The Vatican, Rome, Italy
The Vatican, Rome, Italy Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We would return twice later in the day – once around noon, when thousands were gathered in front of the cathedral and at sunset. Closing out the weekend, we found our way to the bridges over the Tiber for a final view of St Peter’s Basilica and Castel Sant’Angelo.

Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Photo Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Where we stayed

Valadier Hotel, Rome, Italy
Valadier Hotel, Rome, Italy
Photo Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For this trip to Rome, we stayed at the Hotel Valadier near the Piazza del Popolo. The Hotel Valadier is a lovely hotel with a friendly, English-speaking staff. We had a small suite with a sitting room. The location is on a quiet street within walking distance to major attractions and in the middle of the major shopping district. The Hotel Valadier has two street-side restaurants (the mushroom pizza is superb), a ground-level bar and a roof-top restaurant.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.