In 2017, I was lucky enough to spend my birthday in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Venice, Italy.
It had always been a dream of mine to see this stunning place for myself & I feel beyond lucky, that I have been able to do that. However, there are things about Venice that no-one seems to talk about… for anyone planning a visit, I think it’s important you know the truth!
Whilst I had the most amazing time in Venice and one of its surrounding island’s Burano, this city has a few – not so great – qualities & if you aren’t prepared, it might ruin your visit too. So I’ve put together a small survival guide of Do’s & Dont’s, that I hope help whoever is planning a trip to stunning Venice!
Get out and about early – Most of the streets and tourist attractions are already very busy by 9am & if a cruise ship has docked, they are very busy. So, if you want to visit the main attractions, be prepared to queue & get there early or most of your day can be spent in queues.
Overestimate your food budget & eat at the local deli’s – even the most basic of meals (pizza / salads etc) in the restaurants can cost up to £20. The drinks will also cost more than you would estimate too, so for lunches, we ate Arancini & pizza slices from the local deli’s to keep costs down. However, this does mean eating in the streets rather than having a sit down meal.
Use the public ferries – instead of using private transport from the airport or between the islands, you can use the local transport ferries that most the Venetians use. They are a little slower, but they cost a fraction of what private boats cost and as long as you don’t mind public transport, they are a great alternative!
Walk around the side streets – as we soon realised that the main tourist spots are unfortunately overrun with cruise ship customers and Souvenir sellers, we spent a lot of our time walking around the quieter more residential streets and this is where we found some of the prettiest places in Venice!
Stay for 3/4 night Max – We spent almost five full days in Venice and looking back, we could have done it all in less time. Although we were amazingly lucky enough to see the Damien Hurst exhibit whilst we were in Venice, there were a couple of days where we spent a lot of time just walking round. If you have the money to pay for private boats and eat anywhere you like, then this won’t necessarily be an issue for you. But if you don’t have that luxury, I’d definitely say that 3 full days should be enough time to see & enjoy Venice, without having to worry to much about the cost!
Visit Burano – Finally, the most important Do! The highlight of our trip was definitely visiting the colourful island of Burano. Not only was it beautiful, we caught one of the earliest ferries, so it was a lot quieter than Venice and was nice to walk around alone to certain extent. We also had one of the best Italian & seafood meals I have ever eaten at El Gato Negro cafe on the island.
Don’t go during the summer months – we visited Venice toward the end of April and we found it to be very very busy. On one of the days we got chatting to a local shopkeeper and we mentioned that we were struggling with the crowds, he told us that in June – September the streets are sometimes that full that he isn’t able to leave his shop. He also explained that with the streets being gridlocked with tourists, the heat can become too much for a lot of people.
Pay for an overly expensive gondola – we didn’t ride in a gondola during our trip (neither me or my boyfriend were that bothered about the tourist aimed activities) But we did learn that all gondoliers in the city must charge the exact same amount & for the same amount of time in a Gondola. This was put in place by the council of Venice and is permanent, so don’t get tricked into paying more!
Eat near Piazza San Marco – this main square is full of shops & cafes. So are the surrounding streets. While it is very picturesque, its also where all the most expensive restaurants are! You will pay a fortune for basic, sub-standard food. Don’t be worried about going off the beaten path, this is where most of the real venetian restaurants are!
Overlook Burano – I know I’ve already mentioned Burano, but I cant stress enough, that this is probably one of the best (& the most redeeming feature) of visiting Venice! This stunning island was definitely a highlight of our trip & should not be missed!
Its difficult to talk about Venice, as I am beyond conflicted about it. While it is definitely the most beautiful place I have ever seen, it has been unfortunately been ruined by the tourist trade. It now caters to cruise ship day trippers, rather than cultural travellers. I know how blessed & lucky I am to have been able to see Venice & Burano for myself, but I was left saddened by what I saw. This needs to be talked about, so that anyone who visits, know what to expect! I hope this helps anyone planning city break in the breath-taking Venezia.