Visiting Venice - The Basics

04th February 2015
Venice is my favourite place on earth and one of my favourite places to take photos. My most recent visit was in March, for a week and on a relative budget, so I thought it would be useful to share my observations and tips on how to get the most out of a visit to Venice without spending a fortune!



St Mark's Campanile, Doge's Palace and Bridge of Sighs on the Grand Canal

When to go and for how long
Go for as long as you can afford, a couple of days may be too short to fit everything in and for some of us a lifetime would not be long enough! I've had several visits of about a week and have never been bored or run out of things to do and things to see!

Some times of year are more expensive, notable Carnevale, the Venetian Carnival, held each year for 10 days immediately preceding the start of Lent, so dates change each year depending on Easter. The period of the Venice Film Festival in September can also be pricey, especially if you want to stay on Lido. The summer months of July and August can also be unbearably hot and crowded (the locals tend to head for the mountains).

Getting There
Many airlines fly direct from the UK to Venice. Most fly into the main airport of Venice Marco Polo, which is on the mainland bordering the Venetian Lagoon, allowing onward boat transfers to the islands of Venice. Ryanair fly to what they describe as Venice Treviso, which is actually in the inland city of Treviso, 42kms from Venice by road or rail.

I believe the best way to arrive in Venice is by water. The boat transfer from Marco Polo Airport is called the Alilaguna. Tickets can be ordered in advance online from http://www.alilaguna.it/en and collected from the dockyard, a short walk from the airport terminal. These currently cost € 25,00 return (normal price € 27,00 and if purchased from Venice Unica - see below). A water taxi can also be hired, but is much more expensive.

A cheaper option is a bus transfer, which costs € 8,00 return from Marco Polo and takes you to the car park area at Piazzale Roma. The bus from Treviso costs € 18,00 and can be purchased at the airport or on Ryanair flights.

Getting Around
There are two main ways to get around Venice, walking or by vaparetto, the water buses. For unlimited travel on the vaporetti, you can buy the Venezia Unica City Pass in advance, online from http://www.veneziaunica.it/en. This currently cost € 20,00 for 1 day, € 30,00 for 2 days, € 40,00 for 3 days and € 60,00 for 7 days. The time period runs from when you first validate the card and you must remember to validate your card before boarding the boat for each journey by scanning over the reader on the landing stage. You can also purchase Alilaguna, Museum, Church and Wifi tickets at the same time. You will receive an email with your PNR code. Go to one of the ticket machines at main vaparetto stops (I used the one near St Mark's on the Riva degli Schiavoni opposite the Danieli Hotel) and enter in your code to get your pass. (You collect your Alilaguna ticket at the airport dockyard and museum, church and wifi instructions are emailed to you.)

If you are on an absolute budget, take a bus to Piazzale Roma and then walk around the city. Perhaps get a Venice Unica card for one day of your stay and visit the islands.



Church of the Salute at sunset

If you have the time, money and interest, the Tourist City Pass offers entrance to many of the city's museums and churches. It also allows you to go to the front of the queues! The Doge's Palace or Palazzo Ducale is the most famous and the one to see if you are only able to see the one.

You can also pay in advance for wifi, which we did but couldn't pick up a reliable signal. Our hotel offered free wifi, so we used that.

Where to stay
Accommodation in Venice can be very expensive and space is always a premium. Also, Venetians are used to walking and climbing stairs, so don't be surprised if you have quite a few to climb to your room. If mobility is an issue, do check if there is a lift. You can however usually find somewhere affordable on one of the comparison websites, depending on when you travel. Lido is cheaper than central Venice and only a short boat trip away, ideal if you have a travel pass! This is the Lido where the Venice Film Festival is held, just across the lagoon. Be aware that Lido di Jesolo is somewhere else entirely, at least 45 minutes away by road. Mestre and Marghera are also on the mainland, a road or rail journey away from Venice proper.

Eating and Drinking
The general rule is the further away you are from St Mark's, the cheaper your bill and the better quality your meal! Cross over the Grand Canal to the Dorsoduro district and Campo Santa Margherita in particular. There you will find many affordable bars and cafes catering for students, vistors and locals at affordable prices. Look out for cicchetti, the Venetian equivalent of tapas, snacks on pieces of bread which you can collect from bar to bar, paying as you go, easily making an inexpensive meal. Tramezzini are sandwiches. The must have drink in Venice is a Spritz. Made with either Campari (bitters) or Aperol (sweet), a splash of soda water and topped up with either wine or prosecco.

The other rule is that you will struggle to find a decent restaurant open on a Monday as the Rialto Market is closed on Sunday and Monday, so by Monday the ingredients, especially the fish is too old! We suffered an overpriced pizza at a tourist restaurant but wished we had stocked up at the co-op earlier in the day and had a picnic in our hotel room!

The Sights



The Bridge of Sighs

Unless you have visited Saint Mark's Squate or the Piazza San Marco, then you haven't really seen Venice! There you will see the Basilica with its domes and the tall bell-tower or Campanile. Next to the basilica, going towards the Grand Canal is the Doge's Palace, well worth a visit. Just round the corner you will see the Bridge of Sighs (follow the crowds). The Grand Canal itself is a must-see. Make time for a trip on the Number 1 vaparetto from St Mark's all the way to the station, taking in all the palaces, churches and museums on either side of the canal, the domed church of the Salute and passing under the Academia and the iconic Rialto Bridge.

The Islands
If you have time and a travel card, do take the opportunity to explore the islands of the lagoon, which will show you a different and more varied view of Venice. Including Murano, close to the north side of Venice proper and home to the famous Venetian Glass factories and Burano, a bit further out and characterised by its pretty, colourful houses. Lido is a long narrow island separating the lagoon from the sea and has many affordable restaurants and beaches.

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