The majority of travel guides recommend that you stay in a hotel outside of Venice and only travel in for day trips. This is because Venice is very expensive.
Venice is expensive, no question, but that’s because it is a group of islands where all services and deliveries are via boats and tourism is the main source of income. However, it is due to these very reasons that I’m giving you the exact opposite advice. Stay in Venice.
You see, I finally discovered the thing that makes the city so special – people love Venice because of its Venice-ness.
St. Mark’s Basilica takes your breath away, but so do hundreds of churches throughout Europe. The Doge’s Palace and Prisons are fascinating, but they aren’t enough to make the city a must-see. Venice is worth visiting because of the nature of Venice, and this can only be appreciated away from the flood of tourists.
As in all places, the closer you are to the hub, the more expensive and crowded it will be. We stayed in a great little hotel that was well off the tourist track so it was reasonably affordable and, due to the size of Venice, it was still within easy walking distance of everything. Sure, there were crowds when we visited St. Mark’s square, but we “skipped the line” for everything with a tour and got away from there as soon as it was finished.
We were only there for two days but we spent that time with the Venetians. In the mornings we walked amid the children headed to school and marvelled at the labourers hauling their carts over the multitude of bridges. In the afternoons we would find a cicchetti bar and have a glass of wine with tasty tidbits or lazily eat gelato with the University crowd. One evening, as we returned to our hotel to change for dinner, we passed a man happily plucking ducks for his family’s dinner.
Once the sightseeing hordes left the island our walks along the canals were tranquil and serene. If you stopped and looked around, you noticed that nobody is in a hurry. People are still living without any modern hustle and it is incredibly relaxing.
There are no motorcycles or cars which means no horns or sirens, just the noise of people living. There were also no “bad areas” of town and never in my life have I felt safer walking through dark and narrow alleys. Do you remember the UPS delivery I showed you in an earlier post?
Well, those boxes were still sitting outside, undisturbed when we passed by again over six hours later. There was an entire sound system there for the taking.
Except for the water level, Venice is unchanging. This is the hospital.
We were assured it is very modern and up-to-date inside but the exterior is still as it has always been. I think there may be a couple of fast food places on the main island (a McDonalds in the train station perhaps) but we never saw them.
Our first night in Venice, we arrived in the early evening during the mass exodus. After finding our hotel, we refreshed with showers and set out in search of a quick meal. We had been traveling for over sixteen hours and were just looking for simple nourishment before bed.
A few minutes from the hotel we found a lively seafood restaurant that spilled out into the piazza. As all of the outside tables were full we sat inside, but quickly realized that was not where we wanted to be. We were seated next to two tables of other tourists and one of their party was inebriated and extremely loud
I was prepared to try to ignore him, “Let’s just eat something and get out of here as soon as possible.” My husband refused. Instead, we went back outside and waited a few minutes for a table amongst the locals. His patient resolve set the tone for the night and for the rest of the trip.
Our dinner was incredible. The fish had been caught that day and the vegetables were local. We marveled at the fact that we were Venice and, as we listened to the Italian spoken around us, we truly appreciated how lucky we were to be able to experience something so amazing. We shared a bottle of wine and leisurely ate our various dishes out under the stars. Almost four hours later, we walked tipsily over the bridge back to our hotel with our arms entwined.
This was our Venice.