For many, Venice, Italy conjures up the idea of old world charm, romance, and pleasant surprises hidden in unexpected corners. While this is true if you look hard enough, the massive number of tourists means that it’s not easy to scratch the surface. Like all tourist centers, traps abound in Venice; whether it’s dining out, overpriced cafés, travelling by gondolas, or shopping for souvenirs that are actually made in China. For an authentic experience, consider these tips before you arrive and have your nose buried in a guide-book.
Book Accommodation in Advance
A little advance booking and a trip to Venice during the off-peak season can result in much savings on your accommodation expenses. There are many cheap hotels in Venice, and budget travelers should consider Airbnb. If you move away from the touristy center, you’re likely to find greater value for the same price.
Planning a longer trip to Italy? Here’s a 12-day itinerary for Italy.
Get Off the Beaten Path
Is that even possible in Venice, you ask? It’s possible everywhere if you know where to look. You won’t miss the “must-dos” such as the St. Mark’s Square museums, but if you want to get off the beaten path, then seek less famous museums such as Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Museo Fortuny, or the Gothic church Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari.
Looking for good photography spots? Here’s a guide to photographing Venice.
Gondolas Are Expensive
It’s true that the idea of traversing Venice’s famous waterways on gondolas is incredibly romantic but it comes with a hefty price tag. If you have a budget, which you should, considering how expensive Venice is for tourists, then you’ll find yourself traveling mostly by vaporetto or waterbus. Don’t forget to get a value card for discounted fares on journeys for the time you spend in the city.
It’s also a good idea to walk around the city admiring iconic architecture and crumbling corners, especially because there aren’t any motor vehicles and getting around on foot is a pleasant experience.
Eat Like the Locals
Fancy an over-priced tourist-style meal that just isn’t as good as the real deal? If not, then seek restaurants away from the crowded tourist areas around St. Mark’s Square for a more authentic culinary experience, your pocket will thank you for it. It is tempting to “dine with a view” at Rialto Bridge, but every meal can quickly add up to hefty bills, leaving you confused before you know it.
Instead venture during mealtimes into areas like Dorsoduro and try local Cicchetti, bar snacks that are not only delicious but also budget friendly for a couple of euros each. It is helpful to know that eating or drinking standing up at the bar or counter is a cheaper option than sitting at a table.
Ask your hotel staff or hosts to recommend restaurants and do a little advance planning so that you don’t end up at a touristy place when you’re too tired to find something better.
Ditch the touristy gelato shops that attract with their colorful displays to try homemade gelato from a simpler shop instead.
Buy Murano Glass From Murano
Unless you’re willing to pay many times what you’d typically pay in Murano, don’t buy Murano glass from the tourist areas in the city near St. Mark’s Square. Take a vaporetto to the lovely town of Murano. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s still worth it to take the trip. Witness a glass blowing demonstration and maybe even try your hand at creating one of these gorgeous pieces.
Have you been to Venice, or do you want to go? If you’ve been, how was the experience? Did you think it was too touristy?
If you’re planning to spend longer in Italy, here’s a 6-day itinerary.