If you ask me what my favorite city is, I will always answer with a big smile and a happy sigh "Venice". I might not be able to narrow down a favorite vacation to just one, but as far as cities goes, Venice is IT! Some people hate it, most people love it; to me, it is simply perfect. So much history, such a wonderful setting, so many beautiful buildings, the Sea, and it's in Italy.
We first went to Venice on a cold, rainy, windy day in February. It was such a dreadful day that not even the tourists ventured out to check out the town. We easily found parking in the Tronchetto parking garage (http://www.veniceparking.it/). While it may not be the most economical option to drive into Venice, I just like the freedom we have by driving rather than using the train or flying. Knowing that our vehicle is parked in a relatively safe area makes the relatively expensive parking fees okay to me. As far as I am concerned, Venice is worth it. Everytime we stayed in Venice, we used this parking garage, left our car there for a couple of days, and stayed in small hotels in Venice. We usually just left the garage and either hopped on a vaporetto (do not use any of the guys that tell you they have transportation to the hotels; they approach you in the garage, it is way to expensive, just use the public boats) or walked. To me, walking is the best way to discover Venice, but of course it may not be the best option with small kids in tow...
One of the hotels I remember is the Hotel Bartolomeo (http://www.hotelbartolomeo.com/english/), a nice and clean and pretty reasonable little hotel. It is very close to the Rialto Bridge in the heart of Venice, so you can get everywhere in Venice within just a few minutes. The other hotel I remember is the Hotel Ca D'Oro (http://www.venicehotelcadoro.com/); it is a little farther away in the Cannaregio district of Venice, but nothing really is too far of a walk in Venice. The city is so pretty at night, and this is the main reason why I would never stay on the mainland in a hotel, I want to be able to venture through the streets of Venice late in the evening when most day tourists have left the town, and even more so early in the morning just after daybreak. Don't get me wrong, Venice is beautiful and a must see even when you share it with thousands of people, but it is so different when it's calm and quiet before or after the "storm".
Well, but back to my first time in Venice. It was so miserable, cold, and windy, our umbrella was turned inside out. I was almost ready to just go back to the car and go home, but then we walked over the Ponte dell'Accademia, one of only a few bridges crossing the Canale Grande. From there, the view of the Canale Grande and the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute was out of this world beautiful, even on this gloomy wet day.
I became hooked on Venice at this moment. We walked the little streets, had some coffee in a little bar, made it all the way out to the Piazza di San Marco and just explored.
We went back to Venice I think three or four times. The weather was better than the first time, we went on a Gondola, and walked the many little roads. We went into the Church of San Marco, we went up the Campanile, found a beautiful park in Venice, went on the bus boats, or vaporetti, to go out to the islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. The tickets for vaporetto only cost a few Euros, but you have so much flexibility as they run quite frequently. We haven't made it to the Lido, but you know us, it's another reason to go back to Venice.