Posted on Wednesday, 24th November 2010 by

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Venice embraces the water at every turn as you walk the streets, called “stradas,” exploring the city’s shops and restaurants.  You can easily cross the water a dozen times or more each day while exploring neighborhoods and observing the Venetian life style. Imagine laundry hanging between buildings, over stradas and canals alike, indicative of the locals’ simple life. The small bridges that cross the canals vary in décor, size and appearance and in some places you’ll find the water so calm the reflection provides a perfect photo opportunity. Artistic signs mark businesses and apartment buildings while flower boxes brightly adorn windows everywhere in this city.  The narrow canals were my favorite areas to explore. In these quiet areas you may find a Gondolier giving a ride to city visitors or discover how local merchants get deliveries from small wooden boats.  When you need a break you can easily find a snack bar for a slice of Pizza and some Gelato anywhere you roam in the city.

The architecture of this old city is a mixture of Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque, representing distinct periods of this regions fascinating history.  You will find buildings from all these periods throughout the city but a visit to Piazza San Marco is a great place to start.  Shop windows are filled with Paper Mache masquerade masks of remarkable variety, both sparkling and colorful.  Street performers wear these masks as they work for donations in the busy tourist areas.  The city is famous for Murano glass works.  Many shops in the city sell Murano vases, plates, clocks, glass wear, and other abstract pieces to decorate your home.  Cafes line the Grande Canal throughout the city, but my favorite Cafes were along the narrow canals in the neighborhoods of the city.  We enjoyed a wonderful meal at a pizza restaurant in a quiet neighborhood along a narrow canal.  It was peaceful, sunny and delicious!

I like to travel because of the adventure, the unexpected discoveries you make, whether it’s a shop full of unusual items, a gallery of local artists work or a restaurant with great tasting local fare.  I especially love exploring areas that are not frequented by tourists.  When I get home it’s the little jewels I discovered on my explorations that made the trip special.  Venice offers lots of jewels if you are brave enough to explore it.

Venice is simply enchanting.

Getting around the city

This beautiful city is surrounded by the sea and is divided into neighborhoods by the canals needed for tidal flow and used for transportation.  The only motorized vehicles transporting the people of Venice rest in the water.  As a visitor to the city, public transportation or walking are your choices.  The Vaporetto, a water bus, is the public transportation system and it is both convenient and a must if you really want to see as much as possible during your stay.  You should consider buying a multi-day pass to save transportation costs.  However, if you plan to see most of the city by walking you may want to pay-as-you-go.  The Vaporetto can take you anywhere in the main city or to other islands that make up the entire city.  Spend some time at the island of Murano exploring the hand made glassworks where they are being created.  These artists works are unique and amazing.  If it’s the beach you love take the Vaporetto to the Lido.  It’s the Outer Banks of Italy, though not nearly as long.  You can also travel to Burano, home to lace makers and fishermen.  The homes on this island are brightly colored, which is believed to be of help to fishermen finding their way back home in times gone by.

The best way to see how Venetians live is walking around the city.  You will find Piazzas with benches and fountains sprinkled around the city giving you a chance to rest and admire the architecture while looking at your city map.  But if you’re daring, just use your instincts to determine your next strada to travel down.  If you like to know exactly where you are then Venice can be a challenge.  No matter how much time you plan to spend walking you will need a map of Venice to explore, if for no other reason than the comfort of knowing you have a tool to find your way back to your hotel if you find yourself feeling hopelessly lost.  I had 3 different maps and the most accurate one I found I purchased from the Vaporetto station.  Ask your concierge for a map, it was almost as good as the one I purchased.

Gondolas can take you to a specific location but they are generally just for the fun of seeing Venice as it was traveled in days past.  You’ll find Gondolas throughout the city, but they are generally concentrated in tourist areas such as Piazza San Marco.  The cost is dependent on the number of passengers and the length of the trip.  I recommend taking a bottle of wine, some cheese and bread and really enjoy the experience.  Most Gondoliers do not sing but do have recorded music, but there are a few who will sing for their passengers.  If you want to ride a Gondola but you have a tight travel budget you will find areas along the Grand Canal where the only way to cross over is by Gondola.  The crossing via Gondola costs less than one Euro per person in these areas.

You can also use a Water Taxi for transportation, but it is very expensive.  The Taxi driver will come to the hotel and pick up your bags if you are checking out, or take them to your hotel if you are arriving.  The taxis are clean and can hold more than 6 passengers if you are traveling with several friends.  Your hotel concierge can advise you of the approximate cost if you want the convenience of traveling by taxi.

Some cost saving tips if you plan to travel to Venice

The Marco Polo airport is on the mainland just across the sea from Venice.  You can take a public bus to Venice for 6 Euros.  It stops at the Pizzale Roma, a hub for arriving in the city by taxi, car or bus.  From Pizzale Roma you can catch a Vaporetto to get to your hotel.  You can also get a Water Taxi from the Airport to Venice, but on a budget the bus and Vaporetto will cost 12.50 Euros per person.

If you are spending a few days in Venice before boarding a cruise ship you can take a Vaporetto to Pizzale Roma and then catch the complimentary shuttle to the cruise ship terminal.  You may have to spend some time walking about to find the shuttle, but locals will be glad to point you in the right direction.

Breakfast American style is a luxury and it may not live up to your expectations.  After one attempt at enjoying an omelet I decided to eat like a local.  A Cappuccino and a pastry or breakfast sandwich was less than 5 Euros per person, delicious and filling at any of the snack bars scattered near hotels.  We also found the pizza by the slice snack bars were a great way to grab a quick and delicious lunch while exploring the city.  But when dinner comes, find yourself a nice café near a canal, preferably recommended by a local, and enjoy some wine and Italian cuisine.  Save room for dessert.

Nancy Holston

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