travel to Venice?
Venice is unique, timeless and gradually sinking into muddy oblivion. A stunning,
decaying city with no wheels, a labyrinth of mysterious streets
and canals, surprise views, sublime buildings and particularly Piazza
San Marco, 'the finest drawing room in Europe' according to Napoleon, and 'pigeon paradise' according to others.
The view from Campanile di San Marco tower offers a superb city overview while taking a vaporetto (water bus) along the Grand Canal and chugging past elaborate 14thC palaces and under the Rialto Bridge is one of life's do-before-ye-die experiences.
Along with those sights and boat rides are a clutch of riveting museums, elaborate palaces and churches and sensational walks.
eating a box of chocolate liqueurs in one go' T. Capote
- With 70,000 residents but 19 million tourists a year don't expect to mix casually with locals.
- this poorly managed city is infamous for its 'rip-off' attitude to visitors, both official and individual, so beware double-charging tourists for water bus tickets, and overcharging foreigners just about anywhere, from bars and restaurants to hairdressers, though bars, restaurants and taxis are legally obliged to display tariffs (somewhere!) so ALWAYS check before you order!
- gondolas and food are
expensive (unless you stick with pizzas and cicheti, see
below for low-cost eating hints).
- Venice goes to bed early.
One of the essential elements to enjoying Venice is a delight in mystery. Venezia is such an odd place that it really looks better with a bit of mist hanging about, not with heat, regular tourist masses (as opposed to mad carnival masses) and stinking lagoon smells. We suggest not the summer months (highs of 27C/81F, lows of 17C/63F), or the high precipitation months of May, June. So that leaves winter as a good choice but best of all would be...
Best: February-April when the environment may well be misty and romantic and tourists have the opportunity to join the completely bonkers Venice Carnival (take costumes!); alternatively holiday outside that period and do the floaty, romancy thing in glorious solitude (almost). Check festival dates. Average highs for this season will be 8C (46F) to 16C (61F) and lows from zero to 8C (46F).
Current Venice temperature and time.
Venice is a great walking city, especially after a couple of overpriced expressos
The city centre is easy to navigate to and from, so tourists could start with a coffee at Café Florian in Piazza San Marco if you're feeling flush (or stand at a bar if not), check out free-to-enter Basilica San Marco and its mosaics and ceiling, see more visiting tips below; the
pink and white gothic Doge's Palace, aka Palazzo Ducale (take a tour or audio-guide, the place is loaded with fascinating trivia) and the adjacent Bridge of Sighs.
Then stagger over to the elegant but busy Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal, the Accademia Bridge, the Academy Gallery (one of Europe's best art galleries, focusing on the glory of Venice since the 13thC) and the nearby traditional gondola boatyard Squero di San Trovaso are musts.
Finally when you're ready for a sit down take a vaporetto along the Grand Canal (see boats below) or a gondola if you are very plush of pocket.
After that it's time to stumble around the back streets and find your own exquisite
For example, head north to Cannaregio's untouristy 14thC Jewish Quarter or west to Dorsoduro and its triangular Dogana da Mar customs house, offering excellent views and off the normal package trail.
Venice Tourism now offers a leaflet of great, little-known walks
called 'Venezia Beyond San Marco', available from near the old
San Marco vaporetto stop.
St Mark's Basilica, avoiding the queues:
The highlight of the gorgeous cathedral of San Marco in the centre of Venice is the incredible mosaic work, 8000 sq.m of ancient gold, bronze and semi-precious stones. However, this is only lit up at 11.30 am during the week and 2 pm on Sundays. Inevitably every tourist in-the-know wants to see this display so large queues form beforehand...Skip the Queues.
Boats, keeping costs down
Transport here, needless to say, is legs, water bus (vaporetto), very pricey but evocative gondolas (that can get down the tiny back routes) or take a traghetto – a gondola ferry – from various places for a short trip across the Grand Canal; traditionally you stand during the crossing which makes it all the more interesting.
Vaporettos also run tourists from Marco Polo airport to St Mark's Square
for a few dollars. For a primo boat view of the Grand Canal and its palaces, get on the No 2 vaporetto at Vallaresso stop near St Mark’s Square; it’s the start of the boat's route so will be empty.
Tourist passes can be bought at Marco Polo airport on arrival and cover ACTV bus 5 from the airport (not the non-stop bus) to the city centre as well as unlimited use of water buses; they are pricey but unfortunately necessary.
Self-drive boats are available in Cannaregio,
or you could even hire a sleep-aboard cruiser for not a lot from
Rendez-Vous Fantasia in Chioggia. Driving licences not required
for either self-drive! See links page.
Carnival, do it once at least, it's cramped magic!
May, Vogalonga, boat race.
July, Festa del Redentore, a huge flotilla of decorated boats floti
around the canals entertained by a regatta and fireworks.
November, La Salute (religious) festival at the beautiful Basilica Santa
Maria della Salute.
some precise dates or more information see: European
Festivals or Arts
Museums and Galleries: the number one gallery is the Accademia. Then there's
Collezione Peggy Guggenheim; Ca' Peasaro, Ca'd' Oro-Galleria Franchetti;
or possibly Museo Navale & Arsenale, for naval artefacts and kid-friendly ship models. Note that opening times change frequently so check on status when you arrive.
Get a Civic Museum pass to save money, or a Venicecard, see below.
Classical Music: Goldoni, Palazzo Prigione Vecchie, Scuola
Grande di San Giovanni evangelista, Pietà church for Vivaldi.
Dance/Opera: Fenice Opera, Palafenice.
Theatre: Teatro Malibran.
Live Music: Paradiso Perduto, Da Codroma.
Check 'Un Ospite di Venezia' for event info/listings.
Low cost sightseeing in Venice
vultures may be happy to buy either the Blu (reduced museum prices) or Orange (free museum entry) Venicecard which also get tourists into
palazzos, churches, toilets and includes free water bus rides.
However, if your time is short in the city the card may be money wasted as it's not exactly cheap, nor easy to use. Better is the Chorus pass which gives access to Venice's 16 best churches and their treasures; alternatively just take in the free stuff such as the awesome San Salvador and baroque Santa Maria della Salute churches, the Rialto's markets, the bridges old and new, and the dead quiet cemetery on San Michele island.
November to March is low season, apart from Christmas or Carnival time, but Venice is probably more gorgeous, mistily mysterious AND a lot less pricey then. You don't need sunshine to enjoy Venice! Arrive there in mid-week for even better prices.
Hotels at the heart of this watery wonderland are notoriously expensive but thanks to austerity measures and depressed incomes B&Bs
and holiday apartment rentals have sprung up on the city's main island and are the best value accommodation option with major sights in stumbling distance.
If you are a backpacker budget traveller then there's cheapo accommodation on the mainland in the Mestre district or camp sites and small hotels near the airport.
Food, keeping costs down
Beware of rip offs. Check prices carefully (preferably written),
don't be dragged in by a maitre d' from outside, eat where Italians
(probably tourists too!) are eating and ask for a written bill/check at the end ("il conto per favore").
- The local, late-opening wine bars between the Rialto Bridge and the market are good value and non-touristy.
- Drinks consumed while standing in a bar or café should be half the price of those sitting down.
- Pizzas are the cheapest way to eat fully and two of the most popular
are la Perla and Casa Mia, both in Cannaregio.
- Secondi, main courses, can get pricey even in modest trattorias.
Remember, a coperto cover charge and 12 per cent service charge are often added to restaurant bills, so check before you sit. And don’t tip twice.
- Traditional Venetian bars - known as bacari - can be an economical way to eat as they often
have delicious cicheti tidbit costing very little, similar
to 'antipasti' you find in restaurants. They should be on display so point to what you fancy and eat while standing with a glass of house wine. A couple of the best bacari are Al Portego in Calle della Malvasia, Do More in Calle do Mori and Cantinone gia Schiavi in Fondamenta Nani.
- Take a picnic on the benches of the Ponte Lungo part of the Zattere, having picked up your goodies in the Billa supermarket at the west end of the Zattere.
For the best (woah $$$!) dining experiences in Venice try either
Hotel Cipriani's gorgeous terrace restaurant, Da Fiore or Dalla
Marisa in Cannaregio.
High society cafe scenes are a treat so go to Italy's oldest cafes, Caffè
Florian (remember to stand!) or Gran Caffè Quadri, in Piazza San Marco for fine Italian Cuisine.
Traditional tourist merchandise in Venice is mainly about glass or masks.
The highest quality and prices are found on the route from Piazza San Marco to the Ponte Rialto and on to the rail station, or better on a small cluster of islands a mile north of Venice at Murano's glass factories. The merchandise, however, is all overpriced
and clichéd. For more interesting, cheaper glass work try
Ivano Soffiato in Dorsoduro and watch him at work.
The Lido's beach and casino, or the massive Tuesday morning market.
Murano island to see the fascinating and ancient art of glass blowing and the equally ancient art of selling the stuff.
Italian railways are cheap, reasonably reliable and an easy way to explore Venice's backside, the Veneto region.
- 30 minutes away medieval Padua not only offers a lively street scene but also incredible Giotto frescoes lavished over the Capella degli Scrovegni in 1306, though tourists must book ahead
- 45 minutes out is Vicenza, packed with fine examples of Palladio's fine architecture.
- 1.5 hours away, Verona sports ancient buildings, a Roman amphitheatre and superb riverside ambience.
Varied ways to spend a perfect day in Venice from The Telegraph newspaper, UK.
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