Thegondola rides in Venice are notoriously expensive (and terribly touristy). Want to still cross the channel, but in local style? Then catch a traghetto ride! Tragettos are stripped-down gondolas used to ferry people across the Grand Canal for less than one Euro. It’s so much fun, you’ll catch yourself looking for excuses to do it again and again.
Foodies, don’t be shy to pop into the local Coop, a supermarket chain of which there’s quite a few in Venice, the best one being close to the railway station. They always have freshly baked breads of all shapes and sizes, excellent cheeses, and of course, a bottle of very affordable but totally drinkable red wine. Don’t be silly and settle for an overpriced pizza at a cafe on St Mark’s Square – give your tastebuds a thrill and get lunch at Coop.
The quietest moments in the Venice islands are to be found on Torcello, an island about forty minutes away from bustling Venice. A vertical oasis of peace and stillness, the island used to be a busy harbour before mosquitoes and silt closed all operations – today only thirty people live on it. Visit the local 1500-year-old church, pop into the museum and then settle down for a picnic beside one of the canals. There’s also two or three eateries if you don’t want the hassle of taking food and drink along.
The best view of Venice is not from the over-famous campanile (bell tower) on St Mark’s Square, but rather from the church tower on St Giorgio island, just across the water from the Square. It’s cheap to go upstairs, from where you have a perfect vista of the whole of Venice island, and a sweeping view of the lagoon with its ceaseless boat traffic cris-crossing the straits. Don’t forget your camera!
Yes, Venice is sinking. Or rather, the ocean’s rising. Whatever, take your Wellingtons with, if you don’t want to have to wade through the aqua alta – high waters – that cover much of the lower parts of Venice, including many sidwalks and alleys. Notice those metal hatches in front of the doors of many buildings? That’s exactly to try and keep the water out. But don’t worry, many parts of the city has walkways to walk on when the water rises. The best fun is watching the many trendy boot styles and designs worn by passers-by during aqua alta.
Check out the undiscovered side of the Doge’s Palace (THE sightseeing place to visit in Venice) by joining in the Doge’s Palace Secret Itineraries tour and learning lots of things you didn’t know about this amazing piece of gothic architecture. During the tour you basically wander around the myriad rooms of the Palace that aren’t generally open to the public, so it’ll earn you some bragging points back home. The Doge (Venitian ‘king’) and his people were generally an intriguing lot so expect interesting and sometimes gruesome tales from your guide.
Venice is known for its colourful and exhuberant festivals. If you want to see Venice at its prime then visit during the world renowned art and architecture exhibition, the Venice Biennale, the glitzy Venice Film Festival, or the fun-filled Venice Carnival that takes place in early February. However there are also smaller, less well-known festivals, many with religious origins such as the Feast of the Redeemer (Il Redentore) which takes place in July, and features fireworks, regattas, and much more than will delight all visitors to Venice.
In for a stealthy adventure? ‘Steal’ a ride to Murano! Wear a steel anti-sales-pitch flack jacket and find out about free rides by boat taxi from Venice to the legendary island of Murano offered by the many glass factories that are part of its culture and history. Once on Murano you’ll be treated to a gallery tour, glass blowing demonstration and perhaps a glimpse of the factory floor where Murano’s artsy glassware is made, after which the fun ends. Sit through the sales talk, politely say ‘no thank you’ to the offers of overly expensive but magnificent glass objects, ignore the long faces, and then go and have an espresso at a cafe before returning to Venice. If you appreciate fine art glass, this is an absolute must.
One of the most unforgettable experiences in Venice is to take a vaporetto ride up the Grand Canal just after sunset. Board the vaporetto at Ferrovia, and continue up to Santa Elena station – about a twenty minute ride. You’ll see right away why Venice is called the romantic capital of the world – it’s a light-filled fairyland, impressively energized by the myriad of gondolas and taxis passing back and forth on the water. Don’t do it once, do twice, just for fun.
For more fun in Venice, info on Venice hotels, and a free screensaver visit the Venice Italy Vacations website.