In a recent article that I red on a venetian newspaper, there are a lot of bad reviews about Venice, most of those are exaggerated or, even worse, silly and misleading. In this short guide, I simply want to help you to understand that Venice can be a lovely place to go, avoiding tourists traps, overpriced places and waste of time.
Venetian people is unfriendly – FALSE
Imagine yourself behind a long queue of cars, stuck in the traffic because someone stopped the car in the middle of the street to watch a shop. Now: imagine yourself walking in a city made of narrow streets (some times less than 6 feet) and you are trying to reach your workplace, but you are behind a group of foreign students that takes selfies in front of a gondola. Would you not yell!?
Seriously, venetian people lives constantly in a very crowded place, but they are used to it and they like tourists, since most of locals actually works with them. Just please, keep in mind that stopping suddenly is never a good idea!
There are too many tourists – TRUE
In Venice live 56,000 persons that cohabit with more than 30 million tourists every year. If you wanna have a good time and visit the city decently, I recommend to avoid the high season and, in particular, Carnival (it changes every year, generally between the end of January and the begin of February, 2 weeks), Christmas time (from 20th of December till 7th of January), Film Festival (first two weeks of September) and the Hot season (from May to September, August in particular!).
From my personal point of view, the best moment to see the city is between March and April, when the weather is good (not too hot or particularly rainy or foggy), prices are affordable and there are not too many persons.
Venice stinks – FALSE
It is very common to hear this. But no, it’s false. Venice is a very peculiar city: no cars, no factories, just few boats. This means that Venice is not a polluted city and one of the most livable in Italy. So, where does this legend come from? Few years ago in Venice there was an exceptional low tide (this happens commonly every 20-30 years) and many canals ended without water for almost 12 hours. Due to this, most of fishes died. Yes, in that occasion the city was extremely smelly, but only for few days.
So don’t worry. Venice is not a stinky place.
The food is terrible – KINDA FALSE
I personally tasted food in four different continents, more than 30 countries and I can actually say that talking about food, Italy is unbeatable! But sometimes finding a good restaurant is not so easy, in Venice. There are just so many places to go, and too many contradictory reviews. Some times it may happen, you can find the wrong restaurant and have a terrible experience, but I will try here to give you some quick advices:
1. Avoid touristic areas
Simple and true, most of the attractions in Venice are full of shops and restaurants. They generally overcharge the price and not always the food is fresh. I usually call this places traps! For touristic areas I mean, in particular, St. Mark’s Square and Rialto’s Bridge.
2. Avoid empty places
If you are starving, don’t go inside the first restaurant, wherever you are. If it is launch or dinner time (1pm – 8.30 pm) and the place is empty, maybe there is a reason, don’t you think?
3. Avoid “invitations”
If outside of a restaurant there is a waiter that try to convince you to have something in that place, run away!
Venice is expensive – KINDA TRUE
Tourists complain about prices in Venice, that in general are high. First of all, keep in mind that everything is different in this city and there are no cars. This means that it is necessary to arrange special transportations to bring food and goods from the mainland. Venice is made of canals, bridges and islands, everything is less comfortable for workers. Shop rents are extremely expensive too. So, unfortunately, if you want to sleep, eat or buy, prepare to spend a little more than usual. Although Venice is a small city, compared to other famous italian places like Rome or Milan, it is easy to spend a lot of money. If possible, choose a hotel in Cannaregio or Castello (two districts of Venice) where prices are affordable. Don’t worry about distances, in 10-15 minutes walking, you are almost wherever. Before getting inside a restaurant, always check prices outside.
Private transportations? Ask for prices first!
Quite sad to say, very often watertaxi and gondola drivers will try to cheat you! Before getting on a gondola ride, always ask for prices. A normal gondola tour (half an hour) costs around 100€. Watertaxi are normally very expensive even for venetian people: a ride from Venice to the airport costs around 120 € (up to 4 persons with 1 luggage each one); I absolutely recommend you to use the public waterbus (vaporetto ACTV) inside the city: a single ride costs 7/8 €, or you can decide for a daily/three days ticket is the best solution.
Venice is a dangerous city – FALSE
I can easily say that Venice is probably one of the safest city in the world. There are no places in which you can be in danger. You can walk wherever, whenever. The railway station area, commonly a “bad place to stay” in other cities, is exactly as safe as the rest of the city.
I cannot rent a car in Venice – TRUE
Well, Venice is famous in Italy and worldwide for this. Why do you keep asking? But you can reach Venice by car, of course: there is a long bridge that link Venice to the mainland, but once in Piazzale Roma, you have to park your vehicle in a public garage (in Piazzale Roma or in Tronchetto). The price for parking is around 20-22 € per day. During Carnival and particular events, car parks might be full and you have to leave your car in Mestre, then take a bus or train to reach Venice (in 10 minutes).
Venice is a very enjoyable city, it is uncommon and, if in a first time you cannot understand how it works, you will eventually love it. If you don’t want to waste your time in giant queues, visit museums/churches/attractions in the early morning, and as written above, don’t come in Venice during peak season. Don’t follow online reviews too much, and my personal suggestion is: GET LOST! It is the best way to discover hidden treasures and amazing places.