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10 Tips for visiting Venice

By Wednesday, January 07, 2015 , ,

I was recently in Venice for 9 days for work, which meant I didn't have much time to visit museums and take day trips to islands -the usual tourist things- but I did have plenty of time to wander around and try to avoid spending too much money.

Venice is a small but surprisingly dense city, where despite the thronging crowds you'll stumble across charming vignettes and hidden corners you can't seem to find again. After a week spent wandering through the narrow streets and dark alleyways, I discovered a few things:

  1. Get lost. This advice was given to me by a woman at my work who grew up in Italy on the Adriatic, and spent a lot of time visiting in Venice as a child. It's not too hard to do in Venice, but it's small enough that "getting lost" generally means you're a few streets away from somewhere you recognize, rather than finding yourself in a strip club parking lot in Philadelphia (thanks GPS).
  2. Instead of an expensive private taxi or trying to find your way to the train station, take a bus from the airport. Two companies run comfortable, coach style buses with room underneath for your luggage: ACTV to Piazzale Roma (6 euro, 11 round trip) or ATVO for places further away, like Padua.
  3. Or take a boat to and from San Marco Square (15 euro).  We ended up doing this on the way back since we were working in the square and wanted to avoid carrying our equipment at all costs. The trip took quite a while, but it was very enjoyable to pass by the other islands, even if it was quite foggy.
  4. There are lots of signs for the bridges, San Marco Square and other landmarks, even graffiti points the way. I guess the locals have got tired of constantly being asked by tourists which way to go, and just painted the directions  on nearby walls.
  5. Visit San Marco's piazza early, even 9 am will have a big difference on the crowds compared to later in the day. Or, if you're not worried about the crowds, visit at sunset when the gold mosaics really glow!
  6. Gondola rides are very expensive, as in 80 euro expensive! if you're dying to go out on the water try taking the vaporetto (7 euro, 20 for an all day pass) around Venice or to a nearby island. Or, for a quick trip, take the traghetto across the Grand Canal for a few euro.
  7. Spend an evening drinking spritzes near a canal or church. A spritz is a mixture of white wine, aperol (which tastes something like orange and rhubarb) or Campari and soda water. I found them for as little as 2.50 and it wasn't uncommon for people to wander off with their glasses to sit on public benches or steps. There's a bar called Al Baron with almost no seating inside but with many benches in the square out front, next to both a canal and the church
Santa Maria de Miracoli. A woman sang for a nearby restaurant, and I spent the evening drawing the church and drinking 3 euro spritzes until it got too dark.

And some practical info:
  1. Billa and Coop are two grocery chains, not all locations are on Google maps, though. Once you know your hotel you might want to go to their websites and check if there are any nearby.
  2. Like elsewhere in Italy, there is a tourism tax per night you stay. In Venice it was 2.50 a night per person for up to 5 nights, and most places prefer this in cash.
  3. If you order a coffee, you'll get something most English speakers would call espresso. A milky coffee is a cafe latte.

Have you been to Venice? What advice would you give someone going there for the first time?

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  1. This was definitely an interesting read. I'm likely heading to Venice in April so I'm glad I read this before :)

  2. Great list! I do hope to have a reason to use some of these tips one day!

  3. Really great tips! Venice is pretty high on my list while I'm doing this whole expat-traveler thing. Did you take a gondola ride? Rick Steves is always going on about how it's worth the money but I was just wondering if that's true :) I wonder if I would just be worrying the whole time about how expensive it was!

  4. These are wonderful tips - all bang on the money!

  5. Love your tips and they are right on! Getting lost is the best way to explore Venice. You're so right, the gondolas are amazingly expensive. We could not believe it and decided to skip it since it was snowing when we visited. Then there's the "spritz". My Italian friend insisted we drink these one afternoon in Capri and I was hooked. I will still drink them on a warm summer day! Loved your post. Hope you are well!

  6. I am going on a trip to Venice this vacation and I am so glad that I found your blog,it's a big help.