Venice Travel Blog

Venice Travel Blog

Venice, La Serenissima, is such an unique place that you cannot help but wonder if it might be in fact a film set straight out of a Hollywood movie.

The crumbling house fronts, the broken shutters, the quiet canals… it is hard to believe that this city was meant to be lived in.

Because living in the lagoon comes with its own set of challenges, as every Venetian will be happy to confirm. The regular high tides are a problem, as well as the rotting timber beams that are supporting the century old houses. The waves that roll through the canals, caused by motorised modern boats, are eating away the stone foundations. You cannot get around by car. In fact, everything has to be done by foot or by boat. But all of this adds to the appeal of Venice.

From humble beginnings to becoming one of the leading seafaring powers during the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, Venice has left its mark on many places of the known world. Today, it is a tourism magnet, with millions of visitors from around the world visiting the city each year. The famous Venice Carnival is one highlight of the social calendar, the Biennale another. It’s an exclusive playground for the rich and famous and at the same time a hot spot for contemporary mass tourism.

One of the most recognisable places is right in the centre of Venice, the Piazza San Marco. The Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge and many other attractions can be conveniently reached by foot, making Venice the ideal tourist destination for anyone who is able to walk on his own two feet.

But Venice’s true beauty becomes only apparent once you leave behind the tourism magnets and lose yourself in the ancient and confusing maze of alleys and canals. Venice, the most serene. Indeed.

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Quick Orientation

As everybody will know, the old town of Venice is located in a lagoon and is spread out over several islands that are served by canals. The biggest and most famous canal is the Grand Canal which cuts right through the main island. Towards the mainland side of the island is the only place where motorised traffic is allowed – the Piazzale Roma is the car park where all vehicles need to be parked before entering the city. Right next door is the cruise ship terminal and also the train station of Santa Lucia which the trains reach via a causeway.

When arriving by plane you will arrive in Marco Polo Airport which is conveniently served by a public waterbus.

From this point onwards it is either the boats or your own two feet that will carry you through the city. Main points of orientation include the Piazza San Marco at the far end with the Basilica di San Marco, the Doge Palace and the Museum Correr; the covered Rialto Bridge which stretches over the Grand Canal; and the train station. These three points are signposted around the city for easy orientation in the maze of alleys and small canals.

Venice is a popular destination for honeymooners due to the omnipresent atmosphere of “elegant decay“. Many palazzi of this former republic have now been converted to boutique style hotels with stately rooms, marble and locally sourced Murano glass. The Venetian Gothic architecture is beautifully reflected in the rich merchants’ houses, with influences from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires clearly visible.  The city has inspired many artists, writers and intellectuals from around the world.

Many of the other islands also make for great day trip destinations, such as colourful Burano, the glass manufacturers’ island of Murano, the beach resort island of the Lido and the cemetery island.

The Carnival is Venice’s best known annual event when revellers hide behind elaborate masks and wear historic Renaissance costumes. Many consider a ride in a gondola with a serenade one of the quintessential things to do in Venice.

Facts at a glance:

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What to eat: Venice has some really amazing local dishes to show for. If you are not afraid to try liver, have it fried with some onions and served with polenta. Absolutely delicious! Cuttlefish in its own ink is another favourite, as well as clams with spaghetti. Seek out these and other local dishes for a truly Venetian experience!

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What to buy: Don’t buy anything from the con artists in the streets such as selfie sticks and bird food (you shouldn’t feed the pigeons anyway, they destroy the buildings!). Instead, buy some beautiful glass jewellery or homewares from Murano and a piece of lace from Burano. You don’t need to spend a fortune for a beautiful souvenir as there are offers for all budgets available.

Best beaches: You may not know it but there are actually beaches in Venice, so if you would like to combine a beach holiday with some amazing sightseeing then it can be done here. The best known beach is the Lido which can be easily reached by ferry.

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What to pack: Sound walking shoes are best when visiting Venice. There are many bridges with stairs, and you don’t want to risk a fall or sore feet. I actually prefer sneakers over sandals in locations like this. Also, have luggage with wheels if you can, as you won’t rock up with your luggage right in front of your hotel. You may need to walk a fair bit. Take a scarf with you, ladies, so that you can cover your shoulders when visiting churches.

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When to go: Trust me when I say that you probably don’t want to visit Venice in summer. Try to avoid the European summer holidays at all costs. You will find that you need to share the city with way too many people, and that it will be hard to get inside any attractions at all, let alone take photos of some places without struggling to get a footing in a good spot. Travelling outside the season should also save you a fair bit of money, as will a visit that is not during the Carnival or any other major festivity.

Good to know: There are only two modes of transport in Venice – by foot or by boat. You can travel on the canals in a water taxi or opt for the cheaper water busses, the vaporetti. The public transport system is still not very cheap but easy to use. Thanks to Google maps it’s hard to get lost these days, but if that fails try to follow the signs to the Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge or the train station until you’ve found your bearings again.

What I like most about Venice: Venice is a place of outstanding beauty. I could have easily spent another week there, just walking the quiet lanes, peeping into private courtyards and sipping coffees in a tiny square. And then there are the world-class museums, the churches, and monuments to check out, plus all the other islands in the lagoon. You can experience Venice in many different ways, full with romance, with a bit of a history lesson, or simply by drifting.

What I don’t like about the Venice: Too many people. Seriously, why have they not imposed some kind of cap on visitor numbers yet? Visiting in summer, it was impossible for us to explore the Piazza San Marco. We did not even try to get into any of the surrounding buildings, as the queues in the baking heat seemed endless. So instead of seeing Venice as you would expect it from a tourist brochure we had to find our own niches to explore. Not less appealing but not as famous as the main square of San Marco.

Must-do’s: You probably expect me to say that you must ride in a gondola, but that’s exactly what you should not do. Trust me, it will not be half as romantic as hoped for. Instead, visit Burano island which is so pretty and less touristy and have a nice meal in a canal-side restaurant. Also, do make an attempt at getting lost and exploring the unmarked territories of the city. Eat local dishes, visit the churches – any church will do.

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