Venice, Italy Travel Guide
By Valerie Scott, Contributing Editor
The romantic city of Venice in Italy is considered to be amongst the most interesting places in the world. This ancient sanctuary has remained relatively unchanged for more than six hundred years and it is more popular than ever with tourists from all corners of the world flocking to see the engineering marvel that is Venice. Regardless of which time of the year you choose to visit this city, you can always expect to see it swarming with likeminded visitors, in fact there are usually more tourists than actual residents here.
There are many reasons for Venice’s immense popularity including such beauties as the Grand Canal palaces, huge marble churches balancing on top of ancient posts, and the chance to get a closer look at a city that is literally floating on water. Many people may be under the impression that Venice is just a small area, but it is in fact quite huge. The most popular section of Venice comprises of 118 islands, known as Sestieri’s, and getting around these alone will keep you busy for your entire trip.
Getting into to Venice
The Marco Polo Airport is the closest airport to Venice and is situated in the city of Mestre on Italy’s mainland. A number of airlines have routes that serve this airport including British Airways, Delta Airlines, and Australian Airlines. In addition to that there are many budget carrier routes such as EasyJet, Jet2, and Flybe.
From the airport there are a number of travel options available to Venice. A train service runs from Marco Polo over to the west side of Venice serving the Venezia Santa Lucia station. From here you can take a vaporetti, which is Venice’s water bus service, hire a water taxi, or walk to your accommodation. Bus routes also run from the airport and they go to Piazzale Roma at a cost of €6 for a single trip and €11 for a return trip. From the Piazzale Roma you will need to utilize one of the water transport options or walk, the former of which is often the best option.
Getting Around Venice
Amongst the many striking features of Venice is the fact that there are no cars. This is the only pedestrian city in the world and so walking around is quite a surreal experience. While walking is a good option it can become quite tiring after a little while, especially if you want to see all that the various islands have on offer. A quicker way to get around the islands is with a water taxi or vaporatti. The latter option is the cheaper option and probably the best choice if you will be making a lot of trips.
A typical journey on a vaporatti will cost €7, which can quickly add up if you have many journeys to complete in a day. A better option would be to purchase one of the travel card options such as a 12-hour card costing €18.00 or a 24-hour card at a cost of €20.00. These cards will enable you to travel on all the water bus routes by sea and land as much as you like for the time period that you purchased.
Staying in Venice
There is a good selection of accommodation in the city including luxurious hotels and budget friendly bed & breakfasts. If you have the funds to splurge a little on accommodation in Venice then you might consider the Palazzina Grassi Hotel, which was designed by Philippe Starck. This is the only one of his hotels in Venice and prices for a room starts at €295 per night.
For something a little more budget friendly you could head to Hotel Alla Salute which is famed for once being the house of the famous poet, Ezra Pound. It is a 16th century palazzo located very close to the Piazza San Marco and rooms start at only €50 per night. For something even cheaper Bed and Breakfast Ca’Dor is a good option. With rooms costing from €39 per night, this Venetian style accommodation is just a short walk from the Rialto Bridge.
However, my personal preference is to stay in a hotel in the mainland in Mestre and take the bus in to Piazzale Roma. This means that you do not have to schlepp your luggage over the many bridges that intersperse Venice, which is no fun. If you’re renting a car, that’s even more convenient for you can drive to the nearby historical towns of Padova, Trieste or Verona all of which are less than an hour’s drive away.
What to see and do in Venice
There is certainly plenty to see and do in Venice. You could spend all day standing around marveling at the wonderful architecture, but it is worth making the effort to go and check out a few of the museums, church buildings, and unique sites. Starting with the Rialto Bridge, which is on San Polo and is one of Venice’s most recognizable features. The bridge as it stands today was built way back in 1591 after the previous wooden version collapsed in 1524.
A short way away from the bridge is the Rialto market, which is perfect for shoppers. The east side is taken up by the farmers market and lots of different farmers selling all manner of fresh foods. To the west there are a selection of small shops and restaurants, which you will probably find to be a little cheaper than the ones in Piazza San Marco.
The guided tour (Secret Itinerary) of Doge’s Palace is a must when you are in Venice. It costs €16 for the tour and for that you will get access to various interesting sections of the palace. The price of admission includes a visit to Casanova’s jail, the section where the administration worked, and the roof structure which is over 100 years old.
The Saint Mark’s Basilica is another highlight of Venice. Entry to the main section of the basilica is free of charge, but you may also want to check out the museum upstairs which will set you back €5 with an extra €2 required to go and see the high altar and treasury. Expect queues to be fairly long outside the basilica and average wait times can be more than five hours. There is a ticket service available for you to reserve ahead of time at a cost of €1.50, and this could help to drastically cut your wait time. You need to be dress appropriately to be allowed in, i.e. no bare shoulders or short skirts or shorts, so bare this in mind before queuing for five hours.
For a €14 fee you can get access to around six of Venice’s top museums including the Correr Museum and Doge’s Palace. You can add more museums to the package by paying an extra €4.
Venice also has a diverse and vibrant nightlife. The Piazza San Marco is fairly busy at night, but if you are looking for a bit more action then you will need to head further afield to Campo Santa Margherita or Erbaria. On these islands you will find a decent selection of bars and nightclubs, but it is a good idea to plan ahead before making the trip because you may find a few bars closed, particularly during midweek.
Amongst the more popular bars are the Devils Forest Pub, which is modeled on a typical traditional English pub, and Pub Taverna L’Olandese Volante, which has a wonderful Italian atmosphere. For more of a full on nightlife you will have to take a trip across to the mainland in Mestre or Lido, which what the majority of local Venetians do when they want to party.
It is fairly easy to get lost when walking around Venice, even if you have a map. Keep an eye out for memorable landmarks and building numbers as you make your way around so that you can find your back if you do get a little off track. The good thing is that you cannot accidentally leave Venice on foot because it is completely surrounded by water. If you have a sat nav or GPS, bring it along for it’ll work even for walking tours! THE END
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