Venice is an all star destination that comes with its own set of travel challenges. But, wow, are those challenges worth taking on as Venice does not disappoint! Home of world class museums, Michelin worthy food, and an atmosphere that charms the socks off of everyone that steps off a boat, Venice is everything a traveler is looking for. So, how does a true traveler approach this historical icon? Here are our top takes on the myths and realities of the city of canals.
Myth No. 1: Venice is packed every Summer.
Yes…. and no. To be fair, all of Italy is packed every Summer but Venice had plenty of breathing room with the right strategies. For example, there is never a wait for a table at lunch and a simple reservation ensures that dinner plans are not kept waiting at all. Honestly, the two areas where crowds are prevalent: at the basilica and on the Rialto. Other than that, good booking habits ensured that there are no waits at all even in the high season.
Reality No. 1: Transportation is going to cost- big time!
Probably the thing that will shock any traveler the most is the monopoly on the transportation system. Between the water taxis, the iconic gondoliers, and the vaporetto, it’s hard to fathom how much is shelled out just to get around. The harsh reality is that it’s pretty hard to skirt that help. It’s an easy city to lose your way and the labyrinth of private docks and narrow passages can sometimes need a helping hand- especially with luggage! Expect a gondola ride to run between $85.00 and $130.00, a vaporetto pass to run about $25.00 for a few days, and a water taxi transfer to run about $75.00 per person with luggage. In short, they have the boats and they know that you don’t.
Myth No. 2: The water in Venice is tidal and that makes it smell.
This couldn’t be further from the truth! It may surprise you but the water of the lagoon is pretty clean and does not have that over salty, tidal smell at all. Regardless of the time of tide, expect the water to be pretty choppy on the big lagoon and rather peaceful on the back canals. Simply put, the water, in every direction, is sublime.
Reality No. 2: The water isn’t always sublime.
Venice’s treasure can also become it’s nemesis. During certain parts of the year, the dreaded Aqua Alta, or tall water, floods certain parts of the islands. It has become so famous because it floods the very popular Piazza San Marco. Many have seen the fantastical photos of of the square flooded with raised wooden walkways. however, don’t expect the entire island to be underwater at these times, there’s plenty of dry land to enjoy.
Myth No. 3: Google maps is the best way to get around Venice.
If there is one thing that locals have let me know, it’s that google maps will not get you from point A to point B. In fact, google maps seems to be the number one way to get lost in Venice. Instead, rely on local directions and paper maps to make getting from one place to another easier. Getting your luggage to your hotel simply isn’t fun when you have to lug it over three extra bridges and down a dead end passageway. Trust us.
Reality No. 3: You will get lost.
There is no way around it! You will get lost in the labyrinth of narrow pedestrian streets and shady alleyways that lace this city together. The good news is that Venice is an island and you can only go so far before you dead end at the water. The better news is that there are two sure fire ways to help you get out of this jam. First, duck into a local business and pick up their business card. Often, the back has a map on it that will help you out! Also, if you find yourself a little too far from familiar territory, use the direction signs on the corners of bigger intersections that will point you toward the bigger sites like the Rialto Bridge or Piazza San Marco. The bottom line is that is important to wander throughout the neighborhoods. Get lost! It’s Okay.
Myth No. 4: Everything is crowded all the time.
True, the big draws like The Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Square and the basilica and, The Rialto Bridge all make for crowded, pick pocket friendly destinations. However, there are a few times when you can find these beauties a little calmer. Book tickets for anything on Piazza SanMarco as early as possible. If the Basilica gets a bit overwhelming, head for the back right hand corner and enjoy the little museum and rooftop upstairs for a small fee. Here, you can see the magnificent horses that grace the roof. This means before the cruise ship groups. Check out the bridge after your dinner and dessert as the crowds really thin out and you can see it lit up.
Reality No. 4: There are plenty of out of the way places to enjoy.
As popular as Venice is, many people don’t walk past the big sites and explore the out of the way, charming neighborhoods that lace the city together. Take a little time to walk away from the crowds so that you can enjoy a few of the quieter moments. That’s right. Walk the other neighborhoods. Take some time to duck into a church and see a masterpiece. Wander into a local shop that sells nothing but tassels. Peruse a bookshop. Sit at a cafe and enjoy an Aperol spritz. Wander for the sake of wandering.
Myth No. 5: Location doesn’t matter: it’s all an island.
Not true. It can affect price and the amount of time it takes to get somewhere. This can work to your advantage though! If you are willing to add in a few extra steps, lovely accommodations are available for a better price. Additionally, menus further away from Piazza San Marco are small, more authentic, and often come with a less touristy price tag.
Reality No. 5: Hotel rates are based on their proximity to the water.
Star systems that rate hotels in Europe are common enough but Venice has its own set of standards that other cities just don’t have to consider. For example, five star hotels must have a private dock on the waterways regardless of any other amenities. This means that a three star hotel could actually be nicer and cheaper than a four star hotel. Our pick for a mid range hotel with all that Venice charm? Hotel Novociento. Family run with a great location, it can’t be beat!