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nov 19 2013

5 Lessons Learned From A Visit To Venice

A beautiful canal scene in Venice

(Courtesy Kaeli Conforti)

I've already shared my 7 tips for visiting Rome. Now it's time for Venice, one of the world's most romantic cities.

(See the 14 Venetian scenes our photographers love the most.)

Invest in a multiple–day water transit pass to save money on canal rides

If only we had realized this sooner. Instead of paying about $9 USD per ride in on the vaporetto—just think of it as a floating public city bus that travels up and down the Grand Canal—we should have purchased a tourist water transit pass. Options include about $24 for 12 hours of unlimited rides, $26 for 24 hours, and $33 for 36 hours. Definitely a mental note for next time. Not only will the taxis get you where you want to be, but you'll also be riding up and down the scenic Grand Canal (don't forget to have your camera ready).

Save money with free attractions and prix fixe dinner specials

Not everything in Venice costs money. You can view San Marco Square in all it's glory (along with thousands of other tourists), snap photos of the outside of the Doge's Palace and Bridge of Sighs, where prisoners would sigh as they took their last view of Venice before being marched to their cells. You can also brave the line at St. Mark's Basilica—just make sure your shoulders and knees are covered as modesty is key in Italian churches—and view beautiful mosaics, statues, and other works of art for free inside. As we wandered through the tiny winding streets of Venice around Piazza San Marco, we came across a lot of small, family owned restaurants with prix fixe signs advertising lunch and dinner specials. We chose to try Trattoria Alla Scala and paid about $25 per person for a delicious four–course meal.

Be prepared for a beautiful, yet crowded, experience

Unfortunately, you are not the only tourists in Venice. It may seem like everywhere you go is full of people, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when cruise ships pull in and take their passengers on shore excursions to the museums within the Piazza San Marco. If you feel like the crowds are too much, take a break from it all at the Giardinetti Reali, or Royal Gardens, and still be a few steps from Piazza San Marco. We stumbled upon this vast, open flower–filled space by accident when we took a wrong turn between the San Marco vaporetto stop and the Piazza. It was pretty empty, apart from a few Italian speakers who were having lunch in the park, and unbelievably quiet considering it was just around the corner from the tourist–filled Piazza San Marco.

Don't be afraid to ask for directions

We stayed at Hotel Caneva, a bed and breakfast type of place within walking distance of the Piazza San Marco, and just across the way from the house where Casanova once lived and loved. Unfortunately for us, it was tucked in the back of one of Venice's small canal–side alleyways and we found ourselves asking local shopkeepers for directions in our best attempt at Italian. One person even pulled out a map and drew on it so we would know where to go. It was our first hour in Italy and we were already impressed with how friendly and helpful the people were.

Embrace all the challenges Venice presents

Our hotel room was right along the canal, something we quickly learned was both a blessing and a curse—we loved hearing the gondaliers singing as they passed by our room throughout the day (similar to what's shown in this YouTube video), but could also hear the boats passing down the waterway at night when we tried to sleep, a different, but noisy experience. Be ready for anything in Venice.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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