Who doesn’t want to go to Venice? As one of the earth’s most popular tourist destinations, it’s a mecca for the travel-addicted masses. As one of the flock that recently visited, I have a few travel tips for Venice but also some strong opinions to share before you make your way to The Floating City.
Travel Tips for Venice
It’s Really Sinking
Honestly, this debate was over a long time ago but I know there’s some stragglers out there that think that climate change is just a weather pattern. Please exit stage left now if this is you. Shoo, shoo, off you go.
For those grounded firmly in reality, you might want to plan your trip soon. Some estimates suggest that Venice might be completely under water by 2100. In the here and now though, St. Mark’s Square floods roughly 60 times a year now, compared to the four times a year it was having circa 1900.
Flooding can occur any time of year in Venice, but between October and January are considered peak times. Safest bets for non-flooding times are July and August which by the way is also the busiest time to visit. Plan accordingly.
The Locals Aren’t Rude, You Are
As a travel writer, I’m always amused when people tell me how rude locals are in a particular destination. I heard it about Paris, Rome, and most recently about Venice. It has simply never been my experience. Do I wear rose-coloured glasses? Perhaps. But I think I have one perspective that all travellers should pack up with their underwear whenever they travel.
The perspective is this. It is not the locals responsibility to make sure you have the best day ever. You’re not visiting Disney World. Venice is an ancient city with a long list of cultural and historical contributions to our planet. It is actually incumbent on you to prove your worthiness to visit.
How best to do that? Start with empathy. Roughly 65,000 tourists descend on Venice a day. You might arrive all wide-eyed and bushy tailed ready to explore, but the people who are serving you, showing you around, they’ve done this gig thousands of time before. Ask them how they are? Where they live? What it’s really like to live in Venice? You’ll leave with a totally different appreciation for them.
Next, are just basic house rules. You know the ones; if you open it, close it. If you make a mess, clean it up. Yadda, yadda, yadda. You know this, so please no matter where you travel, don’t behave like an entitled tourist. It’s part of the reason that Venice and Amsterdam don’t want you, no matter how much money you throw at them.
Navigating through Venice is not easy. Navigating through Venice with a big-ass suitcase is almost impossible. Go ahead, ask me how I know. Despite all the travel I do, I am largely still an idiot when it comes to packing, and that’s how I ended up in Venice with a suitcase almost as large as me.
If you’re traveling to Venice by car, consider leaving your larger luggage on wheels in the car and backpacking it in for a few days. If you’re arriving my other means and can’t imagine squeezing your stuff in a backpack, at least share a suitcase with your travel partner. You’ll thank me for this advice later.
Park at the Tronchetto
Driving in Italy is super easy, so don’t be intimidated by stories you may have heard. When it comes to Venice though, you can only go so far with a car. You can find a complete list of places to park here, but I found the Tronchetto to be the best bet in terms of proximity and affordability.
It will cost you roughly 21€ a day to park at the Tronchetto, and from there you can hop on a water bus into Venice. The water buses are extremely busy, so this is a good time to be mindful of pickpockets.
Stay in Cannaregio
We were supposed to stay with friends at Venice La Residenza but made a mistake when booking and ended up at the Eurostars Residenza Cannaregio. What? Apparently there’s a lot of “Residenzas” in Venice. Leave your judgment behind, because our mistake is your win!
As it turns out, Cannaregio, the neighbourhood in which our hotel was located, is one of the last vestiges of calm in Venice. Still largely comprised of locals, the streets are quieter here, the food is cheaper, and the atmosphere less frenetic.
Even if you don’t stay in Cannaregio, you’ll want to head over there for dinner at Al Timon one night. I can’t remember ever having a steak meal this good, and I fancy myself a bit of a steak connoisseur. You can’t make reservations here and it’s quite busy, so if you want to be sure to get in, head over around 6ish. If you have to wait, you can grab some cicchetti and an Apertivo and relax along the canal.
Get a Guide
I know I mentioned it earlier that roughly 65,000 people a day descend on Venice but it’s can be hard to put that number into perspective. So imagine there were three Madison Square Gardens side by side, and they all let out of a concert at the same time. That is Venice, every single day.
Instead of getting increasingly frustrated trying to get around a space you don’t know and on a limited time frame I highly recommend hiring a guide. Preferably one through a company like LivItaly that focuses on small groups. It’s a much saner way to learn about Venice and you’ll likely end up seeing more than you planned for.
This is yet another opinion but after hearing from locals, its impossible not to see it any other way now. Venice is at risk of losing all its authenticity as foreign ownership skyrockets, and locals, frustrated with unending crowds and high rent leave in droves.
Take a few minutes to find out where that mask is made, and if that purse is really Italian leather. It goes a long way to help the local economy and keep actual Venetians employed.
Book a Time At DFS
One of my biggest regrets was not knowing about this before we arrived in Venice. There is no doubt Venice is a spectacular city to explore on the ground, but I wish I had the opportunity to get a view from above at DFS.
We found out about this too late from our guide, so don’t let this happen to you! It’s completely free to go to the top of DFS and take in the 360° view of the city from the T-Fondaco Terrace. Book a time here so you don’t miss out!
About those Gondolas
I know that you have it in your head that you haven’t visited Venice unless you take a gondola ride. Let me put your mind at ease. You will be no less enriched by your visit to Venice if you skip the gondola ride.
You’ll have to ask yourself if a gondola ride is worth it. At 80€ for a 30 minute gondola ride, I found it a little steep. I got just as much out of Venice walking its historic streets. Besides, it was worth much more to us to get a water taxi back to the Tronchetto at the end of the trip rather than lug my ridiculous oversized luggage through Venice again.