If you are lucky enough to be flying into Venice, you will get an aerial view and see that this splendid city looks like a fish placed on a blue platter.If you are planning your first or your fifth trip to Venice, some Venice (Italy) travel tips may come in handy!! You can even see this shape on any street map you look at. I wanted to put together some quick tips for you to consider for a first trip to Venice. The more I was putting the information together, the more I realized, there could be volumes written on how to really experience Venice.
My best advice to you is, go to Venice with an open mind and if you are going in the high season, bring a lot of patience. You will not be visiting one of the most spectacular places in the world and be the only ones there! If I ask anyone where they dream of visiting in Italy, one of the top 3 places is always Venice-and with good reason! Pack light, plan ahead and wear very comfortable walking shoes. It doesn't help to have a little study of the city before hand and use your maps (yes, a real map)to figure out where you are going. It is assumed everyone in Italy speaks English, and many locals do speak it. But they do love when you try to communicate with them in Italian, even if it's just a few words, it really breaks the ice! So, here we go with some tips!
Let's start with the basics!
Venice is made up of six sestieri
- Santa Croce
- San Polo
- San Marco
There are also some more tranquil islands around these parts to check out
- San Giorgio Maggiore
Let me introduce you to Gianni! I mentioned a little about him in this post. He walked us right in front of the entrance to Ristorante Ca D'Oro (alla Vedova) to make sure we would find it. He sort of looks like any typical stylish nonno (grandfather) I've seen my whole life around Italy. We were stopped on a bridge taking another 50 photos. There was Gianni who just started to talk with me about something I asked our zio (uncle). As I continued to take photos of the kids, Gianni and zio kept on talking and zio was picking his brain for directions to a few places. I could tell by his accent, Gianni was a true Venetian. But I had to ask him anyway if he was born there. I couldn't wait to see his expression and hear him say, "Sono un Veneziano DOC!" Meaning, I'm an original Venetian, through and through. Gianni was born and raised in Venice, and after a while of hearing him talk, I thought he was a tour guide that was going to offer us a quick tour for a really great price. No, Gianni wasn't working, he was talking with us out of sheer pleasure and pride for his city.
Zio told him where we planned to head to next, and Gianni kept walking and talking with us. He explained and he joked around. He told stories of Venice from centuries ago. He was a true and passionate historian of his birthplace and he really had nowhere else to be than with us at that moment. We continued walking and stopping to take more photos and he promised to take us to the supposed birthplace of Marco Polo (yes, THE Marco Polo). I may have picked up my step a little bit. I was hooked and totally fascinated by each and every story he told. He told us stories about the old original wooden balconies and how they used to use the bathrooms way before bathrooms ever were invented (sort of a gross story, but extremely fascinating). He told us stories about the women and the way they used to flash their breasts on the balconies to the passerbys in the gondolas (awkward story, but again, very interesting). He told us things we would never read in a guide book and he didn't want any thing in return. He was having as much fun as we were!
Gianni explained to us that this is the courtyard where Marco Polo lived in Venice.
Quick Venetian Vocab
- Bacaro: A wine bar where you will have a nice break after all the walking and enjoy
- Calle: The rest of Italy, the streets are called "via". You may also see streets called: salizado, ramo and ruga (like the Ruga Rialto)and ruga means wrinkle!!!
- Campo: A square in Italy (the rest of Italy calls them "piazza", although, there is one in Venice-Piazza San Marco)
- Cicchetto: The snacks that they have at every bacaro
- Sestiere: A central Venice neighborhood (the 6 we mention above)
- Ombra: A glass of wine you have with your chiccetti at the bacaro
Venice is referred to as La Serenissima (the most serene). It is a reference to the incredible power of this city that is the longest-lasting republic in the history of the world. It could also be a reference to the total serenity you feel when you first see this magical city built entirely on water!
The serenity you feel may not last that long if you choose to visit during the hot summer months! We did go there this past summer in June. There must have been a surge of young Venetians getting married, as we happened upon a couple of bachelorette parties. I discovered that their friends decide to humiliate the bride to be as much as possible and let her go loose in Venice. The one we encountered on the train over was vulgar and totally not kid appropriate. I guess it wasn't even adult appropriate, as I saw an older couple from Spain seated across the bachelorette party look extremely uncomfortable. Or maybe the husband was uncomfortable to be witnessing the party on the train in front of his wife.
The point is, be prepared if you come across a group of rowdy young women with odd things pinned to their shirts, wearing a cup with a string attached around their neck to get donations for certain acts, and for their shirt and body parts to have every vulgar Italian word written on it, it's just a bachelorette party. I thought Venice was so big and that we wouldn't see the group again, but as our luck had it, we encountered them about 3 times! We also encountered this more subdue group with their "Addio al Nubilato" t-shirts. I'm certain she loves her friends much more than the first bachelorette girl did!!
As for the other types of tourists, there are lots of them from all over the world! Is it worth it to go in the summer? If you only have this one chance to go, please don't miss it. If you can find a little hotel in town, stay the night and explore in the later evening hours or early morning hours.
There truly are no cars in Venice, so how do you get around?
- Gondola: The total obvious, but the most expensive choice! We were quoted 80 Euros for a one hour trip this past summer and we chose to skip it. It is very romantic and it does make for iconic gondola photos!!
- Traghetto: This is a cheap way to get around eight spots of the banks. It is a perfect way to to get around when you need a walking break!
- Vaporetto: These are the water buses that will take you back and forth on the Grand Canal. It is also how you can get out to the islands around Venice and it is the main public transportation. It is economical, but expect big crowds, especially in the summer. We were separated and squished into various corners of our ride. Keep an eye out for your belongings and your money in a safe spot. Think of being on a subway on a busy day, except you're riding on the Grand Canal.
- Water taxi: Huge warning...these rides are very expensive! I would stick to a traghetto or just walk, unless you have a high transportation budget.
February-You have to be there for Carnevale!
June-November: Biennale Internazionale D'Arte
July: Il Redentore
August: Venice International Film Festival
September: Regata Storica
November: Festa Della Salute
December: Venetian Winter Festival
January: End of month usually is beginning of Carnevale
How to get to Venice by car
Autostrada A4 da Trieste and Torino
Autostrada A27 from Beeline
Autostrada A13 from Bologna
Strada Statale 14 from Trieste
Strada Statale 13 from Treviso;
Strada Statale 11 from Padova
In order to miss the maddening crowds, take a trip to Venice in the fall or even in the winter! If you are on Instagram, check out the gorgeous accounts from Venice and you will see just how magical it looks totally gloomy and even covered in fog. It truly is a hauntingly beautiful site to see!
Though spending winter in Venice, Italy isn’t something that readily comes to mind, it should definitely be considered. It is even much cheaper to go to Venice in the spring, if you are into more warmer weather. If you do go in the winter, the lines to see the museums will be much shorter. And if you can travel any time of the year and are only going to go to Venice once in your lifetime, book your flights during Carnevale time (which recently just happened:From January 23 - February 9, 2016). Carnevale ends on Martedi' Grasso (Fat Tuesday), which is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The tourists are usually there only for the big party and there are parts of the city designated just for the festivities, so the other pars of the city are not that bad to get around. Visiting Venice during Carnevale truly is a way to experience this magical place and make memories to last a lifetime.