Capital of Veneto region and heart of Venezia province, the dreamy city of VENICE is comprised of 100 islands that sit by a lagoon in the Adriatic sea. What makes Venice unique is, a labyrinth of canals connecting all the pieces of land. All it’s commute affairs are managed via waterways. Replicas of Venice canals have been created at a few theme parks and in Las Vegas hotel Venetian. To experience the authentic Venetian vibe, there’s nothing like an actual vacation to this charming city. All you need is an ultimate guide to plan that perfect trip to Venice. You could easily spend days strolling the narrow lanes, crossing the hundreds of footbridges over the canal network, listening to music being played somewhere far, eating meal after meal of seafood pasta and chugging down glasses of apertifs.
When to travel to Venice?
June – August are the best months to visit Venice, unless you want to endure cold temperatures that dip down to 0C/39F. Summer time is when Venice comes alive. The fishermen and merchants frequent the Grand Canal thoroughfare to bring in fresh seafood and produce. The vibrant markets are loaded with traditional and modern artifacts for sale. Plus you get to witness brilliant sunsets in summer. Light showers or a drizzle may be experienced every once in a while.
Getting in and around Venice
From within Italy, it is possible to reach Venice via road and rail. A fast train will require reservation while a regional train will be slower but it can be booked right before boarding. If you have Eurail pass, regional trains won’t require reservations. A train from Milan to Venice will cost between $25 – $60, while a train from Rome to Venice will cost between $50-$100.
Take a train to Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia from wherever you are, so you don’t have to worry about long-term car parking since cars are not of any use in Venice. Buses are another cheap option to reach Venice, depending on where you’re traveling from. Closest airport to Venice is the Marco Polo Airport on the mainland. You’d still have to reach the island by ferry, road or rail.
Be prepared to walk a lot when you enter Venice. It’s not that big of an island but the summer heat and crowded lanes quickly exhaust you. Most places can be reached on foot. For all other, take a ferry! Ferry isn’t too costly unless you’re going to a different island. Costs between €5 – €10.
The most fun and expensive boat ride is the Gondola. Costs €80 before 8am and €100 rest of the day, per Gondola not per person. Lookout for other people waiting to take a Gondola ride and split the tariff with them. If the Gondolier is a fun chap, he’ll even sing for you while you enjoy the views riding the Gondola. Board Gondola from a smaller docks rather than from the bigger, main docks to avoid waiting in queue
What to expect?
Every street, lane and alley buzzes with tourists during summer. At every turn you’ll find shops, bakeries, cafes and restaurants. If not one of these, you’ll find a church. There are over 200 churches in Venice.
Venice runs on the Euro currency like every city in Italy. Some major banks have branches and ATMs in town. Legitimate currency exchange centers are fairly easy to locate. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere expect souvenir shops, carts.
Learning a few Italian words and greetings can definitely come in handy. Basic words like ‘Buongiorno’ (good morning), ‘Grazie’ (thank you), ‘Buon Appetito’ (Have a good meal) go a long way.
Where to stay in Venice
For budget travelers, hostels and Airbnbs are the ideal choices. We booked our stay through Aribnb in the Fondamenta Cannaregio – one of the 6 sistieri (area) of Venice – a Jewish Ghetto. The buildings are historic and typically Venetian style. At the end of area, is Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Penitenti, a fantastic private spot to sit, sip wine and watch the sun gradually set over the Adriatic sea.
For hotel lovers, the options are virtually endless unless the peak season sees full bookings. From €50 per night to €700 per night, there are a wide range of hotels suitable for every budget. Check out Hotel Giorgione(€60), Hotel Colombina (€170), Hotel Metropole(€350) Hotel Danieli (€700),
Where and what to eat in Venice
Grab a quick breakfast from any of the bakeries/Pasticceria/Panifico that tempt you with their display of scrumptious looking pastries. An Italian Moka coffee & Brioche (pastry) will cost you €5-6. I went crazy trying Zabiogne, Beignets and Cannolis at Farini, Majer, Majer San Giacomo, Pasticceria dal Mas.
Have you heard of candy stones? These stone-shaped candies look exactly like pebbles. You can find them at Captain Candy. The kid in you will go nuts for the weirdly shaped candies in this store. Do you also love chocolate fountains? Plenty of gourmet chocolatiers have chocolate fountains on display. At one point, I even saw a chocolate fountain tower. Imagine that!
If you’re in the mood to splurge, reserve a table at Caffe Florian to enjoy an Affogato and Cichetti(tapas).
While passing through the market areas, you’ll come across Olive Oil stores or Truffle Oil stores. They give out samples to try. See if you like the taste of truffles. If you do, hunt down all the places that serve truffle toppings and dig in.
Like a local Italian would do, head to a bar (not a restaurant, because they don’t serve a strong enough drink) and order yourself an apertif. Aperol Spritz, a cocktail made with Aperol, prosecco and sparkling/seltzer water, is a Venetian invention.
At sunset, almost every restaurant makes their ‘manager’ stand out to persuade tourists to come in and dine. Beware! It’s a trap! They make you pay cover charge and service charge, apart from taxes. Even though they declare out front that they don’t charge a cover fee, they do! You end up paying a lot more than the actual cost of your meal. Look for a restaurant that does not have a person out to advertise and their menu doesn’t consist of pictures alongside items.
Venice is famous for it’s seafood. Try dishes with mussels, clams, calamari and fresh fish.
Cap off every night in Italy with a gelato. Try Gelato Di Natura, Gelato Alaska or Gelateria Nico.
What to see in Venice?
The largest serpentine canal running throughout entire Venice, like a main highway. A Gondola ride is the best way to see the canal.
The most popular bridge in all of Venice, flanked by shops and restaurants. Usually it’s also the most crowded bridge. If you come before 8am, there’s hardly anybody around.
Basilica di San Marco
A humongous cathedral and an iconic landmark of Venice, it is an architectural gem. You also get to see a lot of mosaics, sculptures and other art work on the walls of the cathedral. During the day, the piazza (square) across the cathedral is heavily tourist-laden. There are long queues for tickets to the on-site museum. Naturally, the piazza turns trashy. I recommend coming in early morning or late evening. Further ahead and side of the piazza are the Giardini Reali or Royal Gardens.
Basilica di Santa Maria
Another cathedral, strategically located for a good view of the 3-4 churches across the channel – Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore, Chiesa di Santa Maria della Presentazione, Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore.
for art and book lovers
Libreria Acqua Alta – The insta-famous library people only visit to take pictures. It’s actually pretty interesting. There’s a gondola laden with books which attracts the tourists. The art for sale is a bit expensive but that’s just how Venice is.
Peggy Guggenheim Museum – All the art lovers in this direction please! I have to admit, I have no taste in art nor can I admire art. For those who can and do, step inside the museum to cool off and spend quality time appreciating some of the finest art works in Venice.
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