No trip to Venice would be complete without getting lost repeatedly.
I wonder why everybody is head over heels with Venice. To my curiosity, I traveled to this unique city during my Europe trip and suddenly fell in love. I found out that Venezia is definitely in the hearts of tourists from all over the world. Everything for me is extraordinary just like in the movies. It’s stunning architecture, historic bridges and impressive museums and art galleries are unbelievable right through my eyes. I thought it is just canals and bridges but the feeling is different when you see it. The famous canal speaks by itself. It is the best scenario you can ever imagine.
Venice is like a huge labyrinth of never-ending narrow streets and innumerable blind alleys. I don’t mind having a hard time to navigate the city because every spot charms me. I’ll be sharing you a quick guide to Venice.
I traveled Venice in April, 2015. When I arrived there, I almost got lost finding my accommodation. Thanks to the good local who help me out. Ok! Let me share to you my not-so-good experience when I set foot the city of bridges. I booked hostel a week before my trip through booking.com. As budget traveler I chose Venice Academy Hostel in San Marco area for 3 days 2 nights. I thought that the city never sleeps, but when I arrived around 11pm seems like the city is totally shut down. I took the last trip of Vaporetto to San Marco from Sta. Lucia train station. It took me more than an hour to locate my hostel. I had to befriend with a local to help me for the directions. The guy I met called the hostel for a specific direction. The streets were so dark and signage is not visible. I can’t even remember how many bridges we crossed. As per their phone conversation, the staff told him that I can no longer check-in after 10pm. I got really frustrated, that rude staff asked me to pay his overtime so to let me in. I was like… what the! It’s not even written in my booking. We then reached my accommodation at 1am, the guy left and told me to press the buzzer several times. It was dark outside and cold, I was so tired carrying a huge backpack. That time I needed a bed so bad. Eventually, the staff opened the gate after several minutes. I checked in, I don’t care if he will charge me extra for a late night service. I was surprised when he asked me cash payment plus tax, matter fact they already debited my credit card. He said to return the money back to my account once I checked out. Again I didn’t complain as I don’t want to ruin the night. I just want to rest. When I came to the room along with 3 other guests, I found out that a roommate experienced the same as he arrived just 30mins ahead of me. Morning has come, the staff told us to vacate the room between 10am -1pm because they will do the cleaning as per their policy. If only I knew about this. Overall, still I had fun. It didn’t let me ruin my whole trip to the one of my dream places. So the next time you visit Venice, make sure to arrive early and read the policy of your hostel carefully.
Anyhow, the charming city of Venice is a must visit at least once in your life. Here’s a quick guide of my experience.
How to get there?
By train, mostly you’ll drop off at Venezia Mestre train station. You need to take another train ride to Venezia Santa Lucia which takes only 10 to 12 minutes or do not get off from there if your train ticket is Santa Lucia. Take note that Venice has 2 train stations, you have to get off in to the island-city Venezia—Stazione Santa Lucia.
If by plane, probably you will be arriving at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport as most of major airlines land there. So from the airport, you either take by sea or by land to get to Venice proper. There are water taxis outside the airport that would take you to San Marco or you may choose bus and taxi.
Getting around Venice.
So, Venice is considered as the greatest pedestrian city in the world. To my surprise, the only way to get around is by boat or on foot and getting lost repeatedly is part of the enjoyment. You will never see any roads that a car could drive (not even a bicycle). You will cross a lot of foot bridges and pass by twisting and narrow streets. But you will never get tired of walking because of the beautiful scenery everywhere.
Ride a Vaporetto or Waterbus
The city’s main transportation is Vaporetto (Vaporetti singular). If you arrive in Venice by train, it’s likely you’ll take a ride from the train station to San Marco Piazza for like 7€ a single trip. It goes thru the stunning Grand Canal as a great introduction on your trip.
Aside from winged lion, Gondola is also one of the symbols of Italy. Riding gondola is a delightful way of cruising together with your loved one while being serenaded by an Italian crooner. Yes, they cost a small fortune but very romantic (it’s 80€ for a 35-minute tour not including songs or tips to gondolier). Ok, I traveled alone in a romantic city but it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.
The fastest way to cross Grand Canal is to take traghetto for just 2€. This is just a short distance ride which serves mostly locals.
If you are travelling on a budget forget this, they are overpriced.
Walk as much as your gastrocnemius muscle is concerned. Walking is by far the best way to explore the city. Most people say you don’t need a map, just go with the flow and have fun getting lost. It’s a lie, well partially. Venice is so confusing and you’ll end up going in circles and dead ends. Make sure you get a detailed map from the airport, tourist offices or mostly in the hotels. Use a navigator or enable your offline GPS. Take advantage of the free walking tours and stay within the group (don’t lose them). It will save you time and money and you’ll learn a lot of this experience.
Where to stay?
Although I had a bad experience with the hostel I chose, still the location is very practical. I still recommend Venice Academy Hostel for backpackers and maybe by now they have terminated already that rude staff (*hyena laugh). If you’re not on a tight budget then choose good hotels within the area.
What to eat?
Got hungry? If you’re a kind of traveler who prefer food trip rather than visiting museums then Venice is the right place. For me, everything in Venice are expensive especially foods. But I don’t care spending much on foods because it is one of the reasons why I travel. Italy for me has the best foods in the world. Well if you have budget, enjoy your taste buds and try a Venetian set menu in a touristy restaurants and cafes in San Marco or near Rialto Bridge between 40€ – 70€. If Spain has tapas and paella, Venice got Paninis (sandwiches), fritti (fried fish and vegies) and crostini (bread toppings). All taste like heaven then washed down with local wines. Stop by traditional bakery and never miss to taste their freshly baked breads. You may also visit Rialto Fish Market for a fresh seafoods and fruits that you may cook in your accommodation. For budget trippers, the cheapest way is to buy your basic food in a small market. By the way, you can buy a slice of pizza and a soft drink in the side streets everywhere if you opt to eat while walking.
Must see places.
Okay, first on the list is the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). This is the main square and the most crowded place in Venice. It is surrounded with breathtaking architectures, no wonder why a lot of people taking selfies here. There are loads of overpriced restaurants and souvenir shops around. Here stands the Basilica de San Marco (St. Mark’s Cathedral) and a must visit campanille (bell tower) where you can enjoy 360degree view of the city. Not so far from here if you follow the signs and crowd it will lead you to the most famous 400-year-old bridge, Ponte di Rialto (The Rialto Bridge). Sadly the bridge was undergoing major renovation when I was there but still impressive. Just a short walk is the Rialto Market, an interesting place consists of stalls of fresh foods. If you are a museum person, consider visiting Accademia Galleries and Doge’s Palace. You may also visit nearby islands like Isola di Murano (Murano), a fascinating island known for its beautiful glass sculptures. Take a vaporetto from San Marco to Venice’s little islands Murano, Burano and Torcello. Ofcourse, you shouldn’t miss to behold Grand Canal.
There you have it! I’m pretty sure by now you are checking flights and planning a trip to the unique city of Venice. I would suggest staying at least 3 days to be able to appreciate the place. Meet the locals and have a conversation with them. Take advantage of walking tour. The best time to visit is now. Grab your backpack, fly to Venice and get lost.