This piece was written by our Business Development Manager Mark, who shares his quest to seek out the hidden gems of this iconic tourist destination ….
“I recently visited Venice with my wife for 5 days. When we plan a city break, we pick up a guide book on what to see and where to go, but we also tend to do a lot of internet research on the place we plan to visit, and attractions that are off the beaten track.There is nothing worse than coming back from a city break and when discussing the trip with friends and colleagues that may have also visited the same city, having that sinking feeling in your stomach that maybe we did not do the trip or city justice.
One consistent message that came through from the various internet reviews and guide books was that Venice is a city which you can easily get lost in… however, this is not such a bad thing as you uncover hidden gems all over the city. The city is famous for its renaissance art, but if you’re not into the Arts there is still plenty to see and do.
So with our newly-researched knowledge at hand, my wife and I were determined to get the most out of the trip without necessarily following the obvious tourist trail. I wouldn’t consider ourselves foodies, but while we’re away, we want to experience life as if we lived in the city. Where do the locals shop, eat and socialise? These were key things for us on the trip.
On one useful Trip Advisor review, the reviewer said that if you do hear Italian being spoken at the tables and there is an employee outside promoting the restaurant, then it’s not local. They also said that if they are closed on the days where there is no market at the Rialto, then it’s a good sign that they only use fresh daily produce from the market.
So armed with all of this anecdotal knowledge we set off for Venice. We took advantage of a cheap Ryan Air flight, but this does come at a slight inconvenience as Ryan Air fly to Travisso airport, which is about 30-35km from Venice. You can buy a bus transfer with Ryan Air for €19 or you can simply book a return transfer for €17 with ATVO http://www.atvo.it/index.php?lingua=en. We also downloaded the bus time table, as there seemed to be some variations on what time the last bus was from Venice to the airport. A handy tip is to print off you ticket before leaving the UK. This way you will avoid the long queue that forms for either people buying a ticket from the office or converting their booking reference to tickets.
The airport transfers take around 50-55 minutes. The bus pulls into the main bus station from Venice. This is where you need to be aware of your hotel location. We were quite lucky, as we stayed at the Hotel Charlton which is on the northern side of the Grand Canal. This was great as we could easily walk with our cases from the bus station to our hotel. Depending on your hotel location and budget, you can either arrive in style on a private water taxi which you can get anywhere around the bus station or you can use the water buses (the vaporetto).
After considering how long you are staying in Venice, you may want to take advantage and purchase a ticket that allows you to use the buses as many times as you like for a set period of time. They offer 24, 48 and 72 hour tickets. It will certainly be useful during the length you stay as they also allow you to use the buses to go out to the islands of Venice – Murano, Burano and Torcello.
To find information on the ticket, click here.
To view the map, click here.
We spent 5 days in Venice and loved it, there was never a dull day and we found new and interesting sites every day. We didn’t visit the vast amount of galleries and museum that the city has to offer, but here are a few of both the lesser and more widely-known things that we would recommend:
Best view of Venice at sunset: Head to the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore and pay €6 per adult to get the lift to the top of the church spire. Here you will have a 360 degree view of the lagoon and be able to see St.Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace. You will also see the sun set in the distance over the entrance to the Grand Canal.
Go to the islands: Murano is famous for Venetian glass, Burano for it famous colourful buildings and Torcello as being the first inhabited island in the lagoon. Torcello is also where you will find one of only two bridges in the Venice lagoon without any sides.
Gondola: There is no way you can go to Venice and not experience a Gondola ride. However, if you don’t wish to pay €80 for a tourist tour, then why not cross the Grand Canal like the local residents do? We used the traditional crossing at the front of the Rialto Market and the cost is €2 per person. Be warned that tradition says you have to stand up, so make sure you have good sea legs! However, the crossing is only short, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Find out more in the article ‘How to get an almost-free gondola ride in Venice.’
The thinnest street in Venice: This took some time to find, and yes okay it’s only a street – but it is worth finding for the novelty value alone. The street is called Calle Varisco (Cannaregio) and is found in the Northern part of Venice.
Ice cream: You simply don’t get bad ice cream in Italy. We sampled a few Gelato and can only state that we didn’t have a bad one!
Any other hints & tips for visitors to Venice?
I would suggest people avoid going in the summer and warmer months. This can be when the infamous Venice pong can occur, plus the city does have a reputation for the dreaded mosquito bites. I would also avoid the Carneval di Venezia in February, as the cost of hotels escalates quite significantly at this time. However, to see Venice at this time of year, must be quite special. If cost is not a problem, then it’s well worth seeing, and apparently all the market stall holders in the Rialto wear traditional costume for the two weeks of the festival.
On the subject of cost, Venice has a reputation for being exorbitantly expensive. Yes, I can agree with this to a certain extent, as if you choose to have lunch or a coffee at the tourist mecca of St. Mark’s Square, then it is going to be expensive. However, you don’t always go for afternoon tea at the Ritz in London, so don’t be shocked when the inflated bill arrives for two cappuccinos.
With Venice you get out of it what you are prepared to put into it. You will get more from the break if you plan to visit certain areas of the city during your break. We found we did a significant amount of reading up on Venice via guide books and internet reviews before travelling.
This pre-planning led to much less time being wasted in tracking places down. In contrast to this, it is also fun to get lost in Venice and just see what treasures you can (not literally!) stumble across. Would we return? Certainly. It’s one of those places where you feel caught up in the atmosphere, and in the 5 days we were there, we never once thought of home.
On a more practical note, do wear comfy shoes so you are ready for lots of walking, to soak up the ambience, and enjoy the beautiful architecture and iconic sights. Also, if you suffer from sea sickness, it might be advisable to take some travel sickness pills with you.
Luckily, the only sickness that my wife and I experienced, was when we realised that our city break had come to an end and we had to leave Venice behind. We have only just scratched the surface of this cosmopolitan yet historic city, and we plan to come back to really test out the theory that there is no such thing as bad ice-cream in Italy…”
Thanks to llee_wu on flickr for her photo “Venice George Maggiore Church”