Venice Travel Guide: What to see and do
November 12, 2018
by Juliana Matés
To be honest, I never thought I’d visit Venice one day. I’d always dreamt about going to the Nordic countries in Europe or to Asia, but I ended up in Italy for an entire week. My sister and I found a really cheap flight from Mexico to Amsterdam and we needed to return from Rome to keep the price low. We spent a month visiting different spots in Europe as backpackers and our last stop was Italy. My sister fulfilled her dream to visit Venice, though, and as much as I never imagined giving the city a chance, I must say it was a great experience.
Where to stay in Venice
We arrived at Santa Lucia railway station straight from Ljubljana. Luckily for us, our accommodation was only 5 minutes walking distance. I say luckily because we were really tired bouncing around from country to country, figuring out how to arrive at the hostels and sleeping with five people in the room. Of course, I’m not whining, getting lost and knowing people from around the globe who actually speaks a different language than yours are part of the journey. All I’m saying is we were really messed up. I actually had my right ankle swollen for an entire day.
Hotel accommodation – San Geremia
We rent a room —beforehand— with a double bed at San Geremia and slept like babies. If you are younger than 35 years old, like quiet places and don’t mind to be locked up at 1:00 a.m. due to a curfew, then you’d like it there. It’s not too expensive, the room and bathroom were super clean and your body will thank you for sleeping in a noiseless site after a long time wandering.
Hostel-like – Camping Jolly
If you are a funnier person, a wild spirit or your journey is barely starting then you should take a look at Camping Jolly. They offer bungalows, dorms, mobile homes, and tents, to keep you covered. They also have a swimming pool, restaurant, washing machines, supermarket and all sort of goodies you may think of for a really good price. You can go to Camping Jolly depending where you arrive through. Since it’s located at Marghera, one of the six boroughs of Venice’s commune, you should take a bus either if you are at Santa Lucia station, Mestre station or the airport.
An advantage of staying at San Geremia is that we had easy access to the center and main attractions, all in a walking distance while getting there from Camping Jolly would require 10 minutes traveling in their private shuttle or 25 minutes in public transport. It’s up to you!
Most common public transport in Venice
Surely, the first thing coming to your mind is Gondolas with a striped white and red dressed guy singing romantic songs. The Gondola was the main means of transport back in the XVIII century, but now it’s purely for touristic purposes. You can give it a try for around 80€ for a 30 minutes ride, meaning for a backpacker wouldn’t eat eight full meals (or more), so we didn’t even try.
If your budget is tight as ours, you can jump in into the Traghetto. It is a less luxurious gondola driven by two gondoliers, only cost 50 cents and crosses the Grand Canal. So, if the Traghetto isn’t fancy and you aren’t fancy either but delight spending good time singing, taking pictures or kissing your partner, this would be your best option.
The Vaporettos are our common city buses and our subway in the big cities. They cover the entire Grand Canal making stops at Rialto Bridge, St Mark’s Square and Ca’ Rezzonico Palace. They also connect with Lido and Murano islands. So, if you’re thinking to head to Lido in the summer to enjoy the beach or want to see the Murano artisans work with the glass, then the Vaporetto is your ticket for a happy and safe travel.
Take a walk!
Having said all that, I rather walk. Venice is pretty much like a maze but in a good way. We got lost within the narrow corridors, but each minute spent trying to get somewhere were pure gold. We laughed till die, unaware of how lost we were and that led us to try the best gelato and pizza ever. Honestly, I didn’t mind my painful foot. The mild weather with a little wind running November, the beautiful illumination at night while passed through cafés and local businesses, the great story-tales about the origins of the masks we heard inside the disguise shops, the smell in the air which was nothing more than fresh breeze snooping under my nose; all that made my experience inexplicable.
Top 5 main attractions
As you may know, Venice isn’t a big city, but it has a certain charm we can’t ignore. I loved it’s surrounded by water, although this may be an issue when there’s acqua alta. So, as we walked further into the island, we realized that the pedestrian zone is made up of tons of bridges hanging upon the canals.
Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto)
The Rialto Bridge, built between 1588 and 1591, is the most known bridge and it’s the eldest of the four bridges crossing the Grand Canal. You can visit it at any hour and it connects with St Mark’s Square.
St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco)
The square is at the heart of Venice and it’s considered the most touristic place in Venice and one of the most popular in the whole of Italy even today. It was built back in the IX century, but the shape and size remain till today.
Basilica of St Mark (Basilica di San Marco)
Considered as the masterpiece of the Byzantine architecture, the Basilica of St Mark is located at the St Mark’s Square. This is the most important religious temple in Venice, although you may find other churches, and it’s also ranked as a cathedral.
Ducal Palace (Palazzo Ducale)
The Ducal Palace is a rebuilt old castle with combined byzantine, gothic and renaissance architecture that worked as a prison for a long time. The roof is covered by paintings such as the Sistine Chapel in Rome. This is where famous Casanova fled across the rooftops in 1756. The entrance costs 20€ and that’s the only attraction we paid to see on the inside and it was worthy!
Grand Canal (Canal Grande)
The last attraction is, by all means, the Grand Canal. You can take a ride or get close to the shores to admire it. Head to Punta della Dogana, which is the triangle area in Venice that separates the Grand Canal from the Giudecca Canal. Sit down for a moment, breath and enjoy the gorgeous view of the open water.
Eat the best pizza in Venice!
Pizza is the most common food coming to our minds when thinking in Italy. While we were lost trying to find the Rialto Bridge we run into a hidden, tiny, modest local with huge pizzas in the exhibitor. We were super excited for eating authentic pizza cooked by Italians and our experience was tremendously tasty!
Name of the place is Antico Forno; located at Rughetta del Ravano Street, 973, just a few steps away from the bridge. Eating one slice is enough to get satisfied and only costs $3€ —which is a great budget for a backpacker—, but since the crunchy dough on the outside but spongy on the inside was so, so, so delicious, my sister and I ate two slices each and kept going there our whole stay. I really hope you bask the flavors if can make it.