Are you planning a trip to Venice soon? or have you been thinking about going for some time? Although Venice is currently facing a devastating flood, I was very blessed to have visited it this summer and I would recommend a trip to Venice to anyone.
I was lucky as both my parents have visited Italy, I can understand Italian and can carry a conversation, so I was fairly prepared for my trip to Venice. However, I did see and learn about things that people do not often suspect about Venice or simply did not know. We travelled with a large group and although my family was quite aware and comfortable in Venice, not all travellers are prepared for the different lifestyles and habits of Venitian living. I have decided to compile a list of things you should know before you visit Venice.
Your Dream Gondola Ride May Cost You a Pretty Penny
What is a trip to Venice without a ride on a Gondola and a serenading song being sung by the gondoliera/gondoliere (gondolier). These fun rides and beautiful pictures/selfies make for a great Instagram post, however, be prepared to fork out the euro. Gondola rides can range from 80-150 euros ($117- $200 Canadian) depending on the number of people and how busy the day has been. But before you freak out, it is important to note that sometimes (and I mean very rarely) you can negotiate; it is also always cheaper to get a Gondola ride in the smaller side canals further away from tourist attractions. The Gondolieri (gondoliers) work hard on rowing, steering, and providing customer service to their passengers. It is hard work rowing that boat especially when it is hot or cold out, so make sure to be polite and take it as a great opportunity to ask questions about Venice or what it is like living in Italy.
P.S do not take a Gondola ride with your luggage (it is just plain rude)
Your Accommodations Don’t Have to Break the Bank
I did stay in the heart of Venice for 3 nights, however, my first night I stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of Venice away from the tourist attractions. My family really enjoyed staying on the outskirts of Venice as the bus always came on time and it only took 15 minutes to arrive in the central Venice area.
Bus fare was only 1.75 euros (which is like $3.00 Canadian) and a day pass/week pass that included buses and water transportation was also very reasonable. Just be aware that if you do stay on the outskirts of Venice, the likelihood of someone speaking fluent English is low and that you will riding with commuters who work in the tourist distracts so make sure to be polite and don’t hold up their travels. Hotel front desks can provide all the bus stop information.
People Live in Venice
Contrary to what many think about Venice, it is not a tourist playground. People work in Venice and live there too (however housing prices are expensive due to Airbnb tourist spots, and this does cause tensions between Venitian natives and guests) so just a reminder to be respectful of the people and tourist sights. Do not litter in the canals or streets of Venice.
There have been recent campaigns to not only clean up the streets of Venice, and you can also be fined if you do pollute the waters. Similarly, it is important to note that although you want to stop and take photos, people are trying to grocery shop, get home to their kids or walk their dog. So make sure to be aware of your surroundings.
Packing Light is Key
I am such an over-packer and I regretted it ALOT! The streets of Venice are made of uneven coble stone so pushing my luggage to my hotel, carrying it on the bus and water taxis was not pleasant. The worst part was most places in Italy don’t have elevators and that was definitely the case for my accommodations. It is possible to find places with elevators however they are few and far between. These homes that have been renovated into apartment-style hotel rooms and villas were made centuries ago, so try to pack less and a smaller suitcase and save yourself the work and annoyance of lugging your 50-pound suitcase around.
The Airport is Far Away From Central Venice
If you do fly into Venice, Marco Polo Airport is far away from the canals and boats that you see in all the photos. Be prepared to hail a taxi or take a bus because that is the only way you will be able to get to the scenic area of Venice. Also important to note that if you fly out of Marco Polo, the organization of this airport is a little hectic compared to North American airports.
For example, customs are known as Passport control (non-EU citizens) and finding it isn’t what you would call self-explanatory. The gate to board the plane doesn’t actually lead to the plane, most of the time you need to take a shuttle from the gate to the tarmac that the plane is on. This was the case for my flight from Venice to Montreal, but each flight is different. Just keep in mind that it’s important to give yourself time, especially in a confusing airport and if you don’t speak the language
Marco Polo is Important
It isn’t just a game you played as kids, he is an actual person and a lot of things in Venice are named after him (see airport mentioned above). Marco Polo was an Italian merchant and explorer who wrote of his travels through Asia along the Silk roads between 1271-1295. He brought the recipe of pasta noodles from Asia and used wheat instead of rice, without him the Italian delicacies I and many others enjoy would not have existed. Do some research about him before you leave or pick up some travel books from your local bookstore or library that mention Italian and Venitian history. This will enrich your travel experience knowing about the importance of the different artists, travellers and political figures. Fun fact: his wife’s name was named Donata which is a version of my name!
Venetians use water-taxis (private taxis), il vaporetto (public taxi) and the people mover. Water taxis are similar to cars, you hail one at the designated stop and it is able to not only go on the Canal Grande (main canal) but also the side canals and drop you off. These are a little pricer but is definitely an option. Il vaporetto is the public transportation and looks somewhat like a boxy subway car on water. This the cheapest and they operate mainly on the major canals and can take you to the smaller islands in Venice area such as Lido, Murano, Burano and Torcello. These are also the boats that everyday people take and I did take my luggage on with me a few times but be aware that it’s often a tight squeeze and if the waves are rough, it can be a bumpy ride. Tickets range about 7.50 euros and are good for 75 minutes and if you’re going exploring it’s better to get a day pass
Venetians Love and Hate Cruise Ships
I did take a cruise out of Venice and I saw lots of posters and signs saying No Grandi Navi, which means no big ships (cruises). I had the opportunity to ask a local what they thought of the ships. He told me it is great for tourist attractions such as gondola’s but a lot of boats don’t stay here as a port, they only board here.
This causes a problem because the dock’s get used but not local businesses, restaurants and transportation services because people do not have time to go and actually see Venice. Plus, two large boats have crashed and damaged the docks in the last 3 years. These are expensive damages that are left to be covered by Venitian taxpayers. If you do cruise out of Venice try to squeeze in 3 days before or after your cruise, you will not be disappointed! Embrace the culture and history of such a beautiful place and it’s wonderful people.
Church’s Require You to Dress Modestly
No matter what church or religious landmark you visit in Europe (or the world for that matter), you need to follow a dress code. Make sure to keep a scarf or a sweater in your bag with you when you explore cause you never know what church you’re going to visit. Ladies, make sure to wear long dresses to the knees or ankles, cover your shoulders, and no hats otherwise you will not be allowed in.
Gentleman, no muscle shirts or exposed shoulders and some churches require pants worn for mass/service, so no shorts. However usually for tours, shorts are permitted. I tried to plan my outfits to fit my schedule and this only really concerns you if your visiting in spring and summer cause it can get hot! I know it can be an annoyance however it is important your respectful to the rules no matter what country or place you visit. You can purchase coverings such as a stiff lightweight fabric robe for 1 euro but save your money and just remember to plan accordingly
The Streets Are Confusing
Grab a map or pick a landmark because the streets of Venice are confusing! Street names are carved into bricks on top of buildings and if you are like me and have a terrible sense of direction make sure to do your research before you leave your place so you know where you’re going. Nothing worse than getting lost in a place that you cannot speak the language in (although most Venitian’s understand and speak basic English, most of them learn French and German in school)
Ps. this is what I wore to church and I wore a scarf over my shoulders.
pps. these are what the signs look like
Plan Day Trips
Visit the little islands around Venice, Veneto region and even Verona. Stay tuned for an upcoming day trip post!
Get Up Early and Stay Out Late
There is lots to do in Venice and you don’t want to miss anything! So get up early to see the sunrise on the canal, visit St. Mark’s Basilica in the morning to beat the lines or the Dodge’s Palace. Definitely do the main attractions in the morning and buy tickets in advance if you can. As for the night time, enjoy the nightlife in Venice in an untraditional way.
My family and I stumbled upon a big festival to celebrate a saint in the piazza. They were playing music, selling food and drinks. This was great because it was all locals who live and work in the area who were celebrating with family and friends. There were people of all ages and you get a really unique experience in seeing how neighbourhoods and communities interact in Italy compared to places. If you cannot find a festival, no worries! Enjoy the restaurants with live music, la discoteca which is a night club that plays music and grabs drinks or walk around and does the shops or a late-night gelato or pastries.
This restaurant is where the pizza was from and it was absolutely delicious, the hostess asked us if we wanted to come in and the price was fair! I also recommend trying the fish dishes in Venice but also they have the best risotto.
You Can Travel During Spring and Summer It Will Just Be Busy
Expect longer lines and higher prices but it’s doable and gorgeous. If you do not want to go then try going for Carnevale which is in February or March as it changes every year. The most famous celebration is in Venice and it’s really not that cold then. Essentially, people dress up (like Halloween) and it is the big final party before Ash Wednesday (an important holiday for Catholics and Christians. There are parades, masquerade balls, kids throw confetti and sometimes eggs and flour. The saying is“a Carnevale ogni scherzo vale” (anything goes at Carnevale) and that is very much the truth. Masks are sold year-round in Venice (I bought a magnet with one on it). The best celebration is held in Piazza San Marco and this is an expensive time to go but a bucket-list-worthy experience
I hope this post helped you a lot! and made you think about taking a trip to Venice. Make sure to follow the blog for notifications on all new posts and give me a follow on Instagram!