*We spent the weekend in Venice and thought we’d share a bit of advice for anyone who wants to go to this famous Italian city.
BEFORE YOU GO
Plan to spend a lot of money before you arrive.
Visiting Venice is expensive. Although we were in a nearby European country, a flight from Zagreb to Venice was two to four hundred euro per person; a train ride started at two hundred euro per person (and took nine to twelve hours). A car rental was four hundred euro for three days. We opted to ride the Flixbus, which was eighty euro per person (roundtrip).
Hotels near or within Piazzale Roma, where the canals are located can range from four hundred to eight hundred euro per night. Again, we chose the least expensive option and stayed at a hotel fifteen minutes away for two hundred euro; however, this can also be costly in its own way…more about that later.
Figure out transportation ahead of time.
Venice doesn’t have Uber, Lyft, or Bolt. To get around, you have to use the good old-fashioned taxi system. When we arrived in the city, we had to download the itTaxi app. It functions much like other ride-sharing apps, so there’s no problem there. The issue is that riding a taxi in and around Venice is expensive. Our ride from the bus station to the hotel was fifty euro.
This transportation expense continued during our two-day stay. Because the hotel wasn’t located in Venice and the city where it was located didn’t have taxi service, one ride was eighty euro because we had to pay for the driver to come get us: the meter began before we were in the car, and there was an extra tariff because it was Sunday. Where they do that at??? Venice, that’s where.
It is worth mentioning that Venice does have bus and tram service; however, we’ve completed about 75% of our European trip, and I (Kathy) have grown tired of figuring out schedules. The point is it is important to know that taxis on this trip were at least fifty euro every time we set foot in one.
Learn a little Italian.
Venetians seem to know very little English. And because this was a short (mostly unplanned) trip, neither of us studied Italian. But learning conversational phrases would’ve been helpful. For example, when we first arrived in Piazzale Roma, it took a few minutes for the vendor to understand we wanted water and for us to understand that we couldn’t use a debit card to buy it. Learning to say quanta costa l’acqua or grazie may have been helpful.
Also, our experience in other countries has shown us that citizens seem to appreciate it when you know how to communicate with them, even if it’s only a little bit. In Costa Rica, an Uber driver was surprised when Kathy had a conversation about his background, and in Japan, a storeowner seemed excited when Dwight knew Japanese. Learning short phrases creates a connection and some sort of middle ground.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
Figure out how to get around the Venetian Lagoon.
Walking along the Grand Canal is easy. It’s literally like walking down a street with the lagoon to the left or right of you. However, there are 150 canals, each with their own bridge. Once you venture across one bridge, then another that looks just like the last one, then another facing a different direction, you might find yourself lost. Similarly, several look-alike churches and fountains give the Venetian Lagoon a maze kind of feel. Trust us, you don’t want to walk around two or three hours trying to find your way back to the Grand Canal like we did.
To get around the canals, do this:
- Use a water bus. The water bus is just like the traditional bus, but it’s on water. You pay a fare. There are stops. It’s an easy way to get around the Grand Canal.
- Find a paper map. A French tourist we met had one. We’re not sure where she got it, but it seemed to be a simple (and again old-fashioned) solution for traversing neighborhood canals.
- Use your cellphone’s map service. Dwight’s Galaxy has what’s called Live View. Unlike regular Google Maps, it shows you the area in 3-D so you can have accurate directions. This worked best for us.
Pay for a gondola ride at one of the neighborhood canals.
On our first night in Venice, we scheduled a gondola ride. Unfortunately, we underestimated the time it would take a taxi to come get us and we didn’t know getting around the neighborhood canals was like a maze. So, we had to re-scheduled for the next day. However, we still missed that one, because our food tour ran late.
However, you can ride a gondola right there on one of the smaller canals without scheduling ahead of time. Thirty minutes is eighty euro, and you pay the gondolier afterwards. It’s also best to do it this way so you and your mate can ride together without strangers. Had we made our scheduled ride, we may have been with four other people, and what’s romantic about that?
Eat farther away from the Grand Canal.
An Uber driver advised us that the restaurants on the Grand Canal are more expensive than the ones away from it. A tour guide advised the same; she said that when you eat on the Grand Canal, you’re paying for the view, not the food. When you eat away from the Grand Canal, you’re paying for the food, not the view. This advice was true. Our first night, we were as far away from the Grand Canal as possible and had pizza, sea bass, and two glasses of wine each for forty euro—less than a taxi ride!
Read the fine print of the tour reservation.
On our second day, we did a food tour. Our tour was called “Savor Italy.” We were promised nine stops, including wine, gelato, and cappuccino. We arrived early and met a woman from the UK. Their tour was called “Wine Tasting.” She asked us if we were waiting for the wine tasting tour, and our answer was, “no.” Later, we found out we were on the same tour; however, it wasn’t quite what she was expecting for her thirtieth-birthday trip in Italy; she thought she would be tasting different wines, learning about the notes, and swirling it around in a glass. Instead, she was eating food and drinking a lot of prosecco.
The other thing tourists should be careful about is knowing exactly where the departure point is. As we mentioned above, there are 150 neighborhood canals, several churches, and a few fountains. Be sure to read exactly where you should meet your tour guide; otherwise, they will leave you, and although you may be able to join on a different day, you will not receive a refund.
Even though our trip to Venice would’ve been smoother had we known these things, we had a good time eating food, drinking wine, and riding in a gondola.
*This post was co-written by both of us ❤