Venice is a dream trip – a collection of floating islands, all built with incredible architecture. Plus, it’s said that Venice is sinking, so many people have moved it up on their list of places to go. But what should you really expect when visiting Venice?
1. Expect Crowds on Crowds on Crowds
It is hard to overstate how crowded Venice is. But Venice is filled with wall to wall people, all not quite sure where they’re going. Frequently, Venice is a day trip, so it can clear out quite a lot in the evenings. But during the day, expect there to be people everywhere. And in the areas like St. Mark’s, expect to be bumping into all kinds of people while you’re there.
The crowds are at the worst in the summer, especially when cruise ships are docked. This is supposed to get better in the next few years as Venice closes off to cruises.
2. Know That You Will Get Lost
One of the most magical things about Venice is the feeling of getting lost within the city. For people used to cities laid out on a grid, Venice is the exact opposite. It’s laid out based on the islands, and there is not a lot of rhyme or reason for the paths. They wind through the city, and there are a few signs to try to keep you going the right way.
But enjoy the part of getting lost. As you get further from the main sights, you’ll find fewer crowds and you’ll see more of the magic of the city.
3. Gondolas that Look Exactly Like You Expect
Riding a gondola in Venice is considered one of the must-do experiences there. Be warned, while these look picture-perfect, the cost is steep! 40-minute gondola rides start at 80 euros and go up from there (note there is an automatic price increase to 100 euros after 7pm). Note that these are the “official” prices, but it’s likely you’ll be charged more.
It’s incredibly fun to watch the gondolas pass by, but know there are other ways to see Venice from the water. If you’re willing to watch from the window of a vaporetto, you can pay just 7.50 euros for it.
4. Vaporettos are the Public Water Busses
Of course, with Venice being on the water, there aren’t standard busses. You’ll generally get around by walking or on a vaporetto. There’s an extensive system of these throughout the city, and they can take you pretty much anywhere you’d want to go. They can get crowded, and some routes are more heavily-traveled than other routes.
There will likely be times when you’ll have to wait in line for a second vaporetto rather than be able to squeeze in on the first one that comes. This is especially true for the main stops like St. Mark’s.
If you’re going to be using them a lot, it can be worth it to consider buying a Venice Pass.
5. Burano is just a Boat Ride Away, with a Totally Different Feel
Venice itself is adorned with the incredible architecture it’s known for – the windows, the details on the buildings, and so much more. Burano is an island that’s about a 40 minute vaporetto ride away, but provides a totally different feel.
You’ll recognize the pictures right away, even if you don’t recognize the name. Burano is where all of the houses are painted in bright colors, and they are similarly on the water like Venice. Burano is a great place to go during the day – it tends to be less crowded than Venice itself due to the distance of getting there.
Note that if you go, you should plan when you want to take the vaporetto back. Especially in the afternoons, the lines for the vaporettos can get incredibly long. The wait can easily stretch to more than an hour just to get on the boat back!
6. If it Rains, Your Feet Will Get Wet
Because Venice is right on the water line (and sinking into the sea!), when it rains, the whole city tends to flood. So when I say “your feet will get wet,” I don’t mean that in the normal sense. It’s entirely possible you’ll be walking through a few inches of water or more.
7. You Will Be Handed a Rose
There are numerous men handing out roses throughout Venice. They’ll hand them to men to hand to women, and even to women traveling alone. At first, it feels like a lovely gesture. But alas, even though it’s handed to you, they expect compensation for it.
If you like it, a euro or two is fine! Otherwise, simply hand it back.
8. You Will Not Meet a True Venetian
It’s been said that the number of tourists has been driving the locals out, and that’s very evident. There are few grocery stores and other living conveniences in Venice – because very few people actually live there. It’s now a true tourist city, for better or worse.
9. Staying in Venice Itself is Incredibly Expensive
If your eyes bulge out of your head when you see hotel prices in Venice proper, don’t let that deter you from going! Consider staying in Lido or Venice Mestre. Hotels in Lido are still quite expensive, but you will have beautiful views of Venice, and it takes a boat to get there. So the experience still feels very authentic.
Hotels in Venice Mestre are on the mainland, so you have to take the train to get to and from Venice. But, you can save quite a bit! And, given the time and expense of the vaporettos, staying in Mestre can actually be easier and faster.
10. Food is Expensive, and Better Off the Main Paths
The food in Venice, like all of Italy, can be absolutely incredible. However, the closer you are to the main attractions, the more expensive the food will be. And, frequently, if there are loads of tourists, the worse the food will be.
Try to find a restaurant hidden back in the alleys of Venice, and you’ve got a better shot at an incredible meal. Remember that it’s always a warning sign when the menu has lots of pictures on it – that means it’s only meant for tourists!
11. There are Very Few “Authentic” Souvenirs Left to Buy
People think of Venice and think of Carnival Masks and Murano Glass, but the honest fact is that there are very few authentic pieces of these left. And those that are truly authentic you will pay through the nose for. Enjoy the souvenir shops, haggle a bit, buy the things that catch your fancy. Just don’t expect that the bottle stopper you paid 3 euro for is truly Murano glass!
12. You Should Be Wary of Buying Murano Glass in Murano
Murano glass is known the world over for its artistry and quality. So it can be tempting when you’re in Venice to splurge on a mirror, chandelier, or other incredible piece of art glass. Consider limiting your indulgence to what could fit in a suitcase home.
There are numerous stories online about how people bought a certain piece in store, paid for the vendor to ship it home, and then received something similar but decidedly lower-quality. And then it’s an endless battle to get it corrected. Save yourself the headache and buy what you can take with you. And if you’re dying for that Murano glass chandelier, consider heading to an importer so you can make sure you know what you’re getting. (And frankly, the shops in Murano know you’re on vacation and likely to spend a bit more. So going to an importer at home means you might get an authentic piece for even less money!)
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