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10 Hints to Make You Fall in Love With Venice...

 

Staying near St. Mark’s or the Rialto not the best option...

Two of Venice’s primary attractions are the gorgeous Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Basilica (and the expansive square in front of it), and many people seek out hotels near one of those landmarks if for no other reason than they’re the only Venetian landmarks they know. There are perfectly nice hotels near both the Rialto and St. Mark’s, but because they’re popular they’re also often more expensive. The neighborhoods (called “sestieri” in Venice) I prefer are Dorsoduro and San Polo – both of which are across the Grand Canal from St. Mark’s and the train station. Budget travelers can often get an even better deal in the Cannaregio neighborhood, to the north and east of the train station – which, unlike many of the neighborhoods that surround train stations, is neither dodgy or noisy.

 

Find Venice’s local (and good) food...

I mentioned earlier how Venice’s reputation precedes her, and another area where that applies is the food. Venice is notorious for overpriced and not very good food, and there’s frankly very little incentive for Venetian restaurateurs to up their game or drop their prices if countless uninformed tourists are willing to settle day after day. You don’t have to be one of the uninformed, however, and you’ll not only eat better if you do a bit of pre-trip research in this department, you’ll save money as well. The best way to eat well in Venice (or anywhere on earth) is to eat what’s local, and in Venice that means seafood. Take a spin through the Rialto fish market in the morning to see what the fishermen have brought in that morning, and then you have a better idea of what to look for on menus that night. Venice’s famous “cicchetti” – small plates and bite-sized nibbles, sort of Venetian tapas – aren’t usually enough to satisfy someone for dinner, but a cicchetti lunch is ideal. Look for cicchetti bars away from the main tourist route (it’s even better if the bar is full of locals).

 

To shop get away from the main tourist track ...

As mentioned earlier, Venice is expensive – and that applies to not just accommodation and dining, but also to shopping. Some of the most popular souvenirs to bring home from a Venice visit are Carnevale masks and paraphernalia, glass from Murano, and lace from Burano. All of these things can be found in stores that almost literally line the main tourist route in Venice, although you’d be smart to question the quality and authenticity of much of it. Personally, I avoid shopping altogether in Venice, but if you really need to bring home a trinket I suggest getting far off the tourist trail before you do any shopping. Venture through side streets and into shops that aren’t luring tourists in with cheaply-made Carnevale masks. Don’t be strong-armed into buying something from the glass-blowing gift shop after a “free” demonstration on Murano. And if you’re planning to spend big bucks on Murano glass, do your homework about reputable shops before you go – there have been reports in recent years of glass for sale even on the island of Murano itself that’s mass-produced in China.

 

Venice’s sole female gondolier...

After 900 years of only men being at the helm of one of the city's most iconic symbols, Venice's first female gondolier (Giorgia Boscolo, a 24-year-old mother of two) got her license in 2010 - but chances are you still won't see her on any gondolas during your visit. Giorgia is the only woman who has passed all the necessary tests in the arduous process to become a gondolier, but her current license only allows her to be a substitute gondolier if one of her male cohorts needs a day off. There’s one other woman who passed all but one of her tests and is now employed by one hotel in a private capacity to ferry guests to and from the hotel’s entrance by gondola, but she’s not allowed to go off her very limited route. If you happen to catch a glimpse of Giorgia, you should feel very fortunate, indeed.

 

Make a €1 reservation to see St. Mark’s Basilica...

Aside from getting lost in Venice, the top activity on my agenda every time I’m in the city is a visit to St. Mark’s Basilica. It’s easily the most popular attraction in the city, and it’s blissfully free to enter. The trouble is that the line to get in – especially during the high season – can mean an hour or more of waiting. You can avoid that line, however, by reserving an entry time in advance online. Your reservation will cost €1 (a small price to pay for a free attraction and no waiting), and it grants you a 10-minute window in which to enter the Basilica. Just show your reservation number and time slot to the people at the door and you can waltz right past the line. Just try not to look too smug as you bypass those poor souls waiting in line – instant karma’s gonna get you, and all that.

 



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