Venice – one of the most famous attractions of Italy and perhaps even Europe. We all know about it, read about it, seen pictures of it and probably half of the population of the planet has already visited it. Except for me. Yup, I lived 28 years without going to Venice and to be honest, I didn’t even have the desire to go. It just seemed like one of those places that’s so crowded with tourists that it’s lost all it’s charm and authenticity. And while for most part that’s true, there’s still enough uniqueness to it to make me say that yes, Venice is definitely a bucket-list place.
How to get to Venice
There’s apparently 2 ways you can get to Venice from the airport: there’s a direct shuttle bus from the airport to Piazzale Roma (that’s as far as you can go by car) that costs 12 euros/one-way or 24 euros return ticket. It takes about an hour and you get to see some pretty cool sights on the way. Now, I’ve been told that there is a cheaper way, if you take the bus to Treviso train station and from there the train to Venice – it’s supposed to cost about 6 euros/one-way – but I haven’t verified that one.
How to get around in Venice
As I mentioned before, Piazzale Roma is about as far as you can get by car in Venice. From there, your only options are a water taxi, vaporettos or your own two walking sticks. Water taxis are quite expensive, but they might be worth it if you are travelling in a larger group. Vaporetto tickets cost 7 euros each and are valid for 60 minutes. The best option, especially if you want to visit other islands, such as Murano, Burano or Torcello (which I would’ve very much liked to see, but the time was not enough), is to get a travel card.
Where to stay in Venice
Venice has six sestieri or districts, situated across a group of 118 small islands, separated by canals and linked by around 400 bridges. Cannaregio is the most populated and home of the Jewish Ghetto. That’s where I chose to stay and for me it was perfect. There are plenty of shops and restaurants around, and all major attractions are within walking distance. I felt perfectly safe at all times, even walking alone at night. Castello is the largest one, but it seems a bit too far from everything. Dorsoduro is the University district and the more artsy part of Venice. There are a lot of street artists, galleries and museums. It is separated from the other districts by the Grand Canal, so I wouldn’t recommend staying here, unless you’re very close to one of the bridges. San Marco, as the name suggests is home to the famous San Marco Square and other major tourist attractions. If you want to be right in the middle of things, this is obviously the place to be. San Polo is right in the heart of the city and it’s a good location. This one is one the other side of the Grand Canal as well, so being close to a bridge would be a good idea. And last but not least, Santa Croce is the district closest to the mainland, but farthest from all the attractions.
When to go to Venice
This was a subject I wanted to touch because I think I will be scarred for life by the Venice’s deadly combo of heat + humidity and I feel as it is my duty to warn other people. So, do not go to Venice in the summer!!! Not even September is safe. 26 degrees might not seem that much, but pair it up with 88% humidity and you got yourself a little version of hell on Earth. I’m guessing May or October would be the best options if you want to actually enjoy your trip.
What to do in Venice
San Marco Square, the Doges Palace, the Bridge of Sighs – we’ve all heard of them and probably seen thousands of pictures of all the main attractions of Venice. And yes, they are beautiful and impressive, but also over-crowded and somewhat… impersonal. Instead of making your trip all about checking places of a list, I’d recommend ditching the map and just trusting your intuition to take you where you need to be. Take your time, don’t rush, stop every now and then and just allow yourself to appreciate the beauty of a detail on a building or that of a gondola passing by. Let the explorer in you take control – go take a closer look of that old, torn down building and don’t be afraid of walking down that narrow alley that seems to lead nowhere – you never know where you’ll find a hidden gem.
One of my favourite places in Venice was exactly down one of these narrow alleys nobody seemed to be interested in. It turned out to lead straight to the Grand Canal, offering such a beautiful view. I felt so lucky to be able to share such an intimate moment with the city: just me, the water and Venice’s beauty.
At the same time, it felt absolutely magical to have dinner by the Rialto Bridge and then take a stroll along the Grand Canal, admiring the palazzos and the docked gondolas. But the best part was that it was not planned, I got there by simply following my intuition.
This being said, I think it would be redundant to simply list out the places you HAVE to see in Venice. Just follow your heart and it will take you to all the right places.