If I had to sum up Venice in a few words they would be: expensive, a maze, grumpy Italians, touristy and a place that has to be seen at least once before it sinks into the ocean. Really though, it is a beautiful little city. The canals, the gondola drivers, the architectures are amazing and so different than anywhere else. Definitely a MUST see in Italy.
It is very fun to just wander around the streets, which by the way, you will be wandering…Venice is a MAZE, prepare to get lost, and then get lost again. Streets wind every which way and canals that intertwine through the streets, it is so easy to get lost. However the buildings lining the streets are gorgeous and watching the ships and boats on the canals is enchanting – it’s not a terrible place to be lost & wondering around. I have to say, the streets, bridges, and canals were very busy with tourists, everywhere.
We, thankfully, brought along our new Garmin Nuvi GPS equipped with European maps. We bought the GPS for our upcoming trip to Ireland since we will be renting and driving a car there and have heard many times that a GPS is a must when attempting to navigate the unmarked streets. But we found out that it can also give walking directions, which were absolutely invaluable in Venice. We still got lost a few times when the buildings blocked the GPS signal but we would never have made it out of Venice without it, we’d literally still be wondering through the gorgeous web of streets and canals. I had the thought several times that this must be how a mouse feels in a maze. Complete with some really good Italian cheese at the end.
Megan and I found the locals to be so much harsher and more rude than in any of the other cities and towns we visited in Italy. Everywhere else most people were warm and friendly, would help with directions, and were patient when we were ordering food, but that was not our experience in Venice. The locals gave an air of being inconvenienced by our presence and were short with us. Also, they way over charge for just about everything in Venice. Most of all are the gondola rides, they charge 80€ to 100€ ($110-$140 USD) to take a twenty minute ride. Contrary to popular belief the drivers don’t always sing and are not always nice, sad face. We did not take a ride while were there, and didn’t feel cheated at all. We spent our time in Venice time wandering the beautiful streets, exploring Piazza di San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), crossing over the Rialto bridge, and eating gelato while the sun went down. We definitely really, really enjoyed seeing the city and Megan loved all the window shopping.
At the end of the day, I would recommend all of the other places we went in Italy over Venice, but having said that, I don’t know how someone could go to Italy and not visit Venice. Despite all of the things I said above, it is still beautiful and a place that I think everyone should see at least once in their life. I would just recommend one or two days. I personally wouldn’t want to spend any more time there than that, nor could I afford to.
If you are planning on visiting Venice here are a few recommendations. As mentioned before, I wouldn’t step foot in the place without a GPS that has European maps and walking directions on it. Don’t fall for the gondola rides or private taxis unless it is on your bucket list. Try to do as much walking as possible because even the water buses are expensive. Be kind to your designated navigator because it is very easy to get lost, it’s not worth fighting over and you are not the first people to get lost in Venice, Megan was very patient with me which made our exploring much more enjoyable. Dine out in less expensive cities in Italy and hit up a market or grocery store in Venice and save major money. Megan and I went to a grocery the first day we were there and spent about 20€ for our two days there and didn’t eat out once. That saved us a TON of money as one meal eating out in Venice can be anywhere from 30-60€-it’s so expensive! Think about staying outside Venice and taking the train in. You may be surprised at how much you can save by taking a 20-minute train into Venice. Well it should be 20 minutes unless the railways decide to go on strike like they did when we were there 😉
The first night we stayed in the Best Western Air Venice Hotel that was near the Venice airport, just off the island of Venice. We got a great deal on our room at Hotwire with one of their Hot Rate Hotels. The second night we decided to splurge. We had a beautiful little apartment right off of one of the canals that was such a great place to stay. The splurge was totally worth the view we had watching boats go by right off our own balcony!