This is part 1 because on our first trip we spent very little time there. For a more up to date account, please check out part 2 HERE.
Venice is a beautiful unique city which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It’s become a city of legend; its iconic waterways, extraordinary architecture, art and music are known and dreamed of the world over, creating impossibly high expectations for a city that is, quite literally, sinking.
Tourism is Venice’s major source of income as it attracts nearly three million visitors a year to its tiny islands. We were three of those visitors for one night only, during a wild electrical storm and torrential downpour.
We arrived by rental car (see Verona blog for info), but Venice has all the connections you would expect.
Direct Ryan Air flights from London Stansted start at €20! That’s just crazy money really, so flying into Venice for a weekend is doable for almost anyone. Beware however that Ryan Air and some other airlines will land in Venice Treviso, which is actually 20 miles from Venice, so add a bus transfer to the cost and time.
Venice is also well connected by train; it’s only 3.5 hours from Rome and 2.5 hours from Milan.
However you arrive, Venice is a car-free city. Landing in Marco Polo Airport or Venice Train station means you will need either a bus or a taxi to get across the bridge to the main Island of Venice itself; where boats are the main method of transport aside from your own two feet. Alternatively, landing at Lido airport means a boat ride right off the bat, but it also probably means having a private plane…..
Hint – Local buses run frequently from the mainland to the island and are very cheap.
As you might imagine, Venice is not a cheap place to stay. Pre-Airbnb, options were limited within our budget and so we ended up at a campground on the mainland called ‘Camping Jolly’, in what they call a ‘mobile home’. Incredibly, this cost us €30 for three people, I got to sleep on a wall mounted fold out bed/oven-hood, we had a bathroom, and it protected us from the unbelievable rain that night.
These days, Airbnb has many options around €80 for apartments on the island and from as cheap as €55 on the mainland. Hostels range from €12 to €20 for a mixed bed dorm, and hotels start from around €60 a night, going as high as you like.
The only real decision outside of budget is whether to stay on the island or the mainland, both of which have their advantages. On the island you will be right in the centre of things and won’t need to take a bus or taxi to and from the main attractions. On the mainland it’s cheaper and you won’t need to battle constant crowds of people for your morning coffee.
The obvious attraction to Venice is all around you once you arrive; water, specifically buildings built on the water and the boats used to get between them. You can spend an afternoon just wandering the cobbled streets, bridges and squares, marvelling at a city seemingly from another time. We ate at a tourist restaurant on the Grand Canal underneath the Rialto Bridge called ‘Café Saraceno’ but I can’t remember the food at all as we were fresh faced on the water’s edge.
If you have the budget, even if you have to make sacrifices, take a Gondola ride. Floating through this gorgeous, historic city down peaceful waterways and the busy grand canal is one of those travel experiences you will never forget. Your Gondolier may even sing you a song and if you are lucky enough, he might have a friend who plays accordion (this is pretty much the only appropriate setting for such an instrument). Gondola serenades cost around €40 per person and last around 35 minutes, and be prepared to barter the price if you don’t book ahead. Fortunately my generous mother paid for my wife and I as my birthday present, so we were able to have this incredible experience for free, under apocalyptic clouds, just before the storm broke.
Once the storm did break we found refuge for dinner at a lovely jazz themed restaurant called ‘Bacaro Jazz’, bar-hopped back to the taxi stand, and retired for the night to the safety of our stationary mobile home.
Hint – Venice is a major tourist trap and everyone there will be trying to take advantage of you at every opportunity. Bottled water may not be sealed, prices are inflated seemingly at will; it’s rough. My advice is to keep your wits and argue where necessary, but to mostly just relax and accept the environment. It doesn’t mean letting yourself get ripped off, just try not to get too worked up about the smaller issues of such an incredible place.
Hint 2 – Even learning a few basic words in Italian will get you a long way with jaded shop keepers. Trying is the most important part and you will see a huge difference in service compared to those who don’t bother. Hello/Goodbye – ‘Ciao’, Please – ‘Per Favore’, Thank you – ‘Grazie’ , Yes – ‘Si’, No – ‘No’.
Please note that this is mainly an estimate, I can’t remember the exact prices and the restaurant we ate at doesn’t have prices online.
Venice for one night:
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