VENICE ITALY TRAVEL TIPS

VENICE TRAVEL TIPS

I have just returned from my second visit to Venice, Italy. Venice has come a long way since the last time I visited, 15+ years ago.  Canals have been cleaned up, buildings are well kept and flower pots seem to hang from every open window.  The city was charming, the people were wonderful and the city itself was so clean!

Venice is a city filled with what I call teething tourists.  There are many first time travelers venturing out of their comfortable surroundings for their first European vacation.  You will find the same folks in cities like Paris or London, but they are diluted by the locals and hustle and bustle of a large city.  In Venice, everyone is on an island and the island is essentially made up of 5 neighborhoods. They say that there are 8 tourists for every 1 local.  Because of this, I chose to stay in a part of town where there would be more peace + quiet, less stress, more interaction with the locals and more importantly, their restaurants that aren’t out to rip everyone off.

venice

HOW TO GET THERE:

There are 2 larger airports that cater to Venice, Marco Polo Airport and Venice Treviso Airport. Treviso is located about a 30 min drive from the city center and there are plenty of buses that will take you there for a reasonable cost. This is the airport many discount mainland airlines fly to where as Marco Polo is where you will most likely fly into if you are arriving via a larger international flight.

You can catch a train from just about anywhere in Italy or mainland Europe.

Whatever option you choose, just know every way into town is very  easy to navigate once you arrive because of all the tourism.

LAY OF THE LAND:

Venice Map

The map (above) are the 5 neighborhoods of Venice (all within walking distance or water taxi)

  • San Marco is the heart of the city, where you will find many of Venice’s main attractions. The awe-inspiring Rialto Bridge, Grand Canal, St. Peter’s Square, etc.  Staying here will cost you a pretty penny and will put you in very close proximity to main sites…but also the rip off restaurants I mentioned before. This area will be your best shot at staying in a chain hotel if you are a hotel/travel points person.There are many things to do in San Marco, but if I could suggest something a little different: Take your lover to the opera!
    Teatro la Fenice1004-TR-WE40.02

 

  • San Polo & Santa Croce is a mixed bag. Closer to the grand canal you have more of the insane crowds and rip off restaurants, but as you walk just a block or more away from the Grand Canal, you will find charming little coffee shops, fresh markets, more reasonably priced restaurants, and a better chance of finding authentic Murano glass treasures. This would be a good place to stay, shop and eat and still just steps away from its famous neighbor, San Marco.
  • Dorsoduro was one of my favorite parts of town.  A lovely, sophisticated vibe and also home of the big university in town. This area is quieter, artsy and laced with  smaller canals to dine around and explore. Here you will find some of the best museums in Venice such as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Accademia Gallery (a beautiful collection of Venetian paintings).  The large Campo Santa Margherita contains bars, cafes, gelateria and restaurants, with prices frequently more reasonable than those closer to San Marco. Be sure to go the distance to the very eastern point. You will find a beautiful church and a new perspective of the city.  Artists are painting away and gondoliers quietly rest on their breaks in this lazier neighborhood.
  • Cannaregio is the Venice that most tourists miss, yet only a 15 min walk to Rialto Bridge.  Here lies the Jewish Ghetto.  A historical part of the city that boasts tiny alleyways, fun local watering holes and delicious restaurants. Many restaurants in this area do require reservations so be aware of that before you go. Some of the restaurateurs/waiters don’t speak the best English but you can get by if you don’t speak Italian. I loved staying in this part of town because it was great to be out on foot ALL day exploring the city then come home to a neighborhood that is probably one of the better areas to eat in for dinner.  This is also a great place to get a less expensive ride on a gondola if that is on your list to do.  They are older gondolas that aren’t as dressed up, but the people are just as nice and the canals are equally as gorgeous.
  •  Castello, together with Carraregio is where most Venetians actually live. Much of  Castello is occupied by the Arsenale, the great shipyard when Venice was at its peak. It is normally not accessible to the public. Castello is a place for art lovers and one of the only areas you will find a grassy park.  It is a beautiful walk along the water, and there are some great hotels and restaurants in this area too. Also the best place for a nice run that doesn’t involve dodging the crowds.
  • If you have an extra day, don’t miss the islands.  Murano is worth a trip to see what put Venice on the map…glass! You can watch the glass blowers work– art form that dates back hundreds of years.

ACCOMMODATIONS:

  •  $-$$ As it is an island filled with tourism, hotels are very high in price.  For the budget savvy traveler or traveler that wants more of a suite/apartment, www.AirBnB.com and www.vrbo.com are both good places to start if you are looking for a place on a budget.
  • B&B San Firmino – $$ – this is a highly reviewed Bed & Breakfast that is very close to all of the action. If you are looking for a great home base, this location is great.
  • Best Western – $$$ – Both Best Western locations are in very convenient areas. This hotel will boast more luxurious hotel amenities than in that price range.
  • Courte dei Greci – $$ – This is in a quiet location on the border of San Marco and Castello.
  • Locanda Herion – $ – This hotel is located in Cannaregio (near the Jewish Ghetto). A budget traveler option or option a little away from the crowds, but near the good eats!
  • Ca’ Pisani Hotel – $$$$ – A luxury hotel in one of my favorite areas of town, Dorsoduro. Still walking distance from everything but a different perspective of the city. This hotel is clean and located on a moderately busy walkway.

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

  • Service Fee: at many restaurants there can be a per person service fee or “bread charge.” It is usually a couple of euros per person, but I always try to opt for a restaurant that doesn’t have that additional fee. Also, sitting down at a cafe for your coffee could end up costing you 3x more than just drinking it at the bar.
  • Walking + Stairs: Up and over the bridges, through the alleyways…you will do a lot of walking while you are in town as it is your primary mode of transportation. You can can take water taxis only so far. So prepare yourself and bring comfortable shoes.
  • Map: Get yourself a fabulous map and remember to bring a cool head because you will, yes WILL, get lost. Try to familiarize yourself before you get there.
  • Gondola Rides: You will see people in them everywhere and around every corner there is a gondolier trying to coax you in to taking a canal ride.  They say they have a fixed price and they probably do at the main stations. However, if you find a quieter alley way with a lone gondolier, I can almost guarantee he will negotiate. If you are ok with not having a top of the line gondola, try taking a canal trip in Carraregio.  I saw many gondolas that were older, nice but at a cheaper price.
  • Read this book while on your travels to and from Venice: The Glassblower of Muran