Venice. The name alone conjures images of romance and history, uniqueness and grandeur. For centuries, poets and artists have tried to capture its beauty in their work, and even today, people are still enamoured by this Italian splendour. I too could compose many a beautiful word about the city and describe it the way every other writer does, or I could tell you the truth.
Now, I don’t want to shatter any illusions, Venice IS an exquisite and special place, but when people write about it they tend to get swept away with the romance of it all. I am here to offer some practical advice, after all, how romantic is a gondola ride when you’re swatting away mosquitoes?
Know before you go
Get a map of the city and decide whereabouts you would like to stay. Learn about the districts – if you want all the major tourist attractions on your doorstep then the San Marco district is the one for you but the best way to ensure you have your dream trip is to do a little research before you go.
What to pack
- Pack as lightly as possible. The only ways to get around Venice are by boat or by foot. The boats aren’t going to take you to your hotel door, so be prepared, you may have to lug your suitcase for a 15 minute walk through the hot, busy streets from St Mark’s Square to your accommodation.
- Wear sensible shoes. You will be doing A LOT of walking during your visit. A trip to Venice is no time to break in your new pair of heels, regardless of how stylish the Italians are. Gladiator sandals may have been worn by the Romans but they still managed to blister my feet (yes, they were flat as well!) so a pack of plasters and some comfortable trainers are recommended.
- Avoid becoming a mosquito buffet. Nothing can dampen a romantic evening dining at a waterside restaurant more than becoming the main meal yourself, so make sure you pack some insect repellent. You want to return home with a glowing golden tan, not itchy red bumps.
Venice is a pricey city, so unless you are a Dolce-clad darling, you may find the following few tips useful.
- You will see street vendors trying to sell “designer” handbags to passing tourists. Do not be tempted. As well as being fake, they are also illegal and even buying one – if caught by the police – could land you with a hefty fine. That cheap “designer” handbag wasn’t so cheap after all, was it?
- Beware of hidden extras. So you’ve just enjoyed a pleasant meal and received the bill when you notice you have been charged for something called ‘coperto’. You didn’t order this? Well, this is the cover charge which is in addition to the service charge (the tip) that they also add onto your bill. Cover charge is basically what you pay for the privilege of sitting in their restaurant – it could be the bread that the waiter/waitress brought over that you never asked for, or it could even cover the cost of washing the table linen!! If you want to avoid nasty surprises like this then look out for restaurants which state NO COVER CHARGE.
- Try take-away. The price of even a margarita pizza in Venice can vary alot, so one of the best ways to eat cheaply is to get take-away. As well as being cheaper there is also no cover charge involved. Another idea would be to buy some sandwiches at a supermarket or deli for lunch and find somewhere nice to sit and dine alfresco. If you do decide to dine in, then skip the expensive desserts and head to the nearest gelateria to sample some divine gelato (Italian ice cream).
- Avoid eating at the major tourist hubs. At the time of writing, a glass of coca cola at a café in St Mark’s Square will cost you around 9 euros. Unless you have a burning desire to tick the whole dining in St Mark’s Square experience off your bucket-list then I would avoid. Head out of the square and up into one of the side streets to find more reasonably priced refreshment. And don’t even think about eating that take-away baguette on the steps of St Mark’s Square – you may get fined!
- Carry a bottle of water with you. Sightseeing is thirsty work but you don’t need to keep buying overpriced bottles of water, simply fill up from one of the many drinking fountains dotted around the city.
Don’t forget to carry a map with you. Getting lost in Venice is part of the fun but at some point you’ll want to find yourself again!