Venice is unique, unlike anywhere else in the world. It can be both charming and frustrating at the same time. Some people are put off by the hordes of tourists but if you get off the beaten track, put your map away you will have a much more rewarding time. Things to note, Venice is very much a walking city, i.e. lots of bridges so if you find it difficult to get around bear this in mind when planning your trip.
Normal entry requirements in to Italy don't require a visa for short term stay, but if in doubt check official government sites.
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Venice is at its nicest in late April May before it gets too hot, also note than in the winter months parts of Venice can flood which can make getting around Venice a bit more fun and challenging. In the case of a flood, high quality rubber boots can be purchased quite cheaply around the town. In the height of summer Venice can pong a little bit
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Getting there / Public Transport
Venice is on an island that is accessible from a causeway from the Mainland, if you are arriving by car you will have to leave it at the car park (Piazzale Roma) on arrival as no cars are allowed into Venice.
Most people will arrive via train or plane. By train you will probably arrive at the Stazione di Santa Lucia, from here you can catch a boat up the Grand Canal towards the Rialto. If you are flying into Venice you will more than likely arrive at Marco Polo airport. From here, you have 3 choices:
1. The cheap airport bus (about €3) which goes via the mainland and takes about 30 mins
2. The Alilaguna boat which is possibly the nicest way to arrive in Venice from the airport, tickets cost €13 and can be bought from the ticket kiosks just to the left when you come out of arrivals. On purchase of a ticket go out the main doors opp the ticket kiosks and its about a 7-10 mins walk to the jetty. Make sure you head past the water taxis to the Alilaguna jetty. Boats take about 45 mins to 1 hour depending on your destination. It is possible to go straight to the Rialto Bridge from here, the San Marco or Fondamenta nuova which is nearer. Boats are currently 45 & 55 mins past the hour, with another at 15 mins past the hour (as off May 2007). Please note when going back to the airport boats leave at 5mins past the hour and take 1 hour from the Rialto so leave enough time, you can purchase tickets on board if a kiosk is not open. Fondamenta nuova can be a cheaper option at €6 if you are nearer there than the Rialto.
3. Taxis - This is the more expensive option of travel from the airport but if there is a few of you it can be the quickest option. Taxi stands are about 7-10 mins from the airport arrivals hall just follow the signs to the boats.
Travel around the city is either on foot or by boat, you will become very familiar with the Rialto Bridge as it is one of the main crossing points in the city. A Traghetto is also a useful way of getting quickly across a canal and is a cheap mans gondola! Trips across the canal cost 50 cents. For trips to the other end of the city or just to ride the canals it is worth getting a travel pass
A 3 day travel pass or possibly even a Venice Card is a great idea if you plan to do a lot of boat travel & museums. If you intend to see a lot of the city and only do a few boat trips to some of the islands then a 1.5 day travel pass may be more economical, please not Traghettos do not accept these passes, each journey costing 50 cents.
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Where to stay
Accommodation is expensive and hard to find in Venice especially in peak season so it is advisable to book ahead where possible otherwise you will end up paying a lot more than you budgeted for or end up on the mainland.
B & B Rota - An affordable hostel near to the Rialto area, service is slightly questionable, when we went there our room wasn't cleaned for the entire duration of our stay. Breakfast is a croissant and cup of coffee at the neighbouring cafe. If you are just looking for a bed though this is a good budget option.
Where to go
Rialto Market - A vast array of fish and veg can be found in this lively market
Gondolas - If you can afford it a gondola ride is a must, be sure to shop around a bit and barter a good price. Always make sure you agree what you are getting and make sure you have the exact money as gondoliers will be very reluctant to give change! A good price would be around €80 for 30-40 minutes but expect this to be more in the evenings. A weekend evening is probably the best time to take a gondola though as there is less traffic on the canals and most of the day trippers have buggered off. A good tip is to choose a gondola away from the San Marco, most will probably take you there but you should get a better deal.
Piazza San Marco - The busiest place in Venice, settings for many movies (remember James Bond driving his car out of the water?) Here tour groups and pigeons jostle for space shitting on each other. If you mad enough you could always take a seat on one of the squares' cafes and pay around €15 for a cup of coffee.
St.Mark's Basilica (San Marco) - The cathedral of Venice is one of the best one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture and as a result is extremely popular, it is not uncommon to queue for about an hour in the peak season. A tip is to arrive first thing in the morning so you don't have that long to queue with any luck you'll beat the tourist hordes. Please note that you are not allowed to take bags into the Basilica, they must be stored in the left luggage office on Casa San Basso (to the left of the Basilica if you are facing it). Storage is free and give you an hour to visit the Basilica, it is also worth trying to use the group entrance and showing your luggage badge to try and jump the normal queue. Also note that you must cover up shoulders and knees so remember to bring a jumper or shirt! You can walk around the Basilica for free but entry to the other areas you have to pay for, it is worth going up to see the four gilded horses (replicas and originals) where you can also get a great view of the San Marco.
The Campanile - This tower offers great views of Venice and the San Marco, entry is about €8 and you take a lift to the top.
Palazzo Ducale (Doges Palace) - This Venetian gothic palace is worth a visit, you can also go across the Bridge of Sighs from here.
Many churches - There are loads of churches in Venice, in fact hundreds! A few of the better ones are San Moise, San Giorgio di Maggione, SS Giovanni e Paolo and San Pietro.
Giardini Pubblici & Parco delle Remembranze - If you want to escape the Venice crowds these parks are a great place to come and read a book.
Venice Biennale (June 10 - November 21) - Held every two years in odd years this international art festival has all the best contemporary and classic art plus many more cultural events.
Sant' Elena - Its worth walking around this area if you have time, quite different from the rest of Venice
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo - The outdoor Spiral staircase is worth seeing
Floating Fruit and Vegetable Boat - Situated on Rio di San Barnaba
Campo Santa Margherita - Lots of bars, restaurants, ideal for a summers evening, very popular with students who congregate on the square.
The Ghetto (Cannaregio) - Take a walk around the oldest Jewish Quarter in the world
Murano (Catch the boat from fondamenta nuova) - The best place in Venice to buy Murano glass, there is also a nice main street/canal where you can relax before heading back.
San Michele Cemetery (Catch the boat from Fondamenta nuova) - Go and see where Venice lay their dead to rest.
Burano (Catch the boat from Fondamenta nuova) - Picturesque fishing village with coloured houses, a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of Venice. 40 minutes journey from Central Venice.
Torcello (Catch the boat from Fondamenta nuova or Burano)- Next to Burano, this quiet island on the lagoon is mainly visited for the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
The Lido (catch the water buses from Venice) - The barrier between Venice and the open sea, most people visit the Lido to laze on the beach, there is also a golf course and in September it hosts the Venice Film Festival. If you want cheap accommodation, the Lido can be a better option especially if you have kids.
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Cafés and bars
Cafe India (Calle dei Boteri) - Cheap pizza/pasta place, a good stop for a quick bit or coffee at reasonable prices but the food is nothing special.
Devils' Forest (Calle dei Stagneri 5185) - English pub tucked down a little alleyway not far from the Rialto, they show Sky Sports and server cheap Spritz at only €2. 10am-1pm & 5pm-12.30am Mon-Sat
Al Bottegon <Cantina di Vini Gia Schiavi> (Fondamenta Maravegie 992) - Delightful little wine bar/shop where you can mingle with locals and sup great houses wines at only €1.80 a glass. They also serve free Cichetti (savoury snacks on bread). 8.30am - 8.30pm Mon-Sat
Osteria da Codroma (Fondamenta Briati 2540) - Local wine bar with wood panelled wall, low beamed ceilings and timber benches, snacks available and Madonna is played a lot. 8am-12am daily.
Margaret Duchamp (Campo Santa Margherita) - Modern bar on the square playing Electro with a pleasing decor, they serve Budweiser on tap so expect to hear some American voices! 10am-2am Wed-Sun
Orange Bar (Campo Santa Margherita) - Overpriced bar with a decor so bright you need sunglasses. 2 beers and a bottle of water cost €14, perhaps that was the commission for the painters who work hung on the walls. 8am-2am daily.
Caffe Bleu (Calle dei Preti 3778) - Lively bar popular with students, they have a large selection of Absinthe here to expect to leave this place in a different state of mind! They also make good Mojitos depending on who makes them. Lively atmosphere coupled with board games and free internet! 8am-2pm & 5pm-2am Mon-Sat.
Bar Stellini (Campo delle Beccarie) - Local bar with seating on this cosy square, a good place for a drink towards the end of the evening if nowhere else is open.
Crazy Bar (Fondamenta dell'Osmarin) - Coffee/Bar serving snacks, pricey but in a nice setting
Osteria ia Cacciatori (Island of Murano) - Relaxed non touristy bar with seating on the canal side. For €2 you can order a beer and watch the world (well Murano) go by while the others shop for glass.
Bacaro Jazz (Salizada del Fontego dei Tedeschi) - Busy 'jazz' bar near the Rialto which is popular with rowdy tourists and students. Happy Hour is from 5-7.30 where you can order 2 drinks for the price of one (per person!). They also show Sky Sports when they are not doing their jazz thing and I should probably mention the large array of bras hanging on the ceiling! 4pm-3am Thu-Tue
Taverna da Baffo (Campiello Sant'Agostin) - Old drinking hall with a young vibrant feel, grab a table outside in the summer. Open from 7.30am till 2am Mon - Sat
Caffe dei Frari (Ponte dei Frari) - Ambient bar with old Venetian paintings, seating upstairs where you can peer through the hole in the ceiling into the main bar but beware of the low ceiling fans! This place is popular with a Venetian crowd.
Caffe (Campo Santa Margherita 2693) - Lively student bar which always seems busy, you can order take out beer in plastic glasses to drink out on the square with everyone else. When yo get hungry you can nip to the pizza kiosk next door to get a slice of pizza.
Bar Caffe (Island of Burano) - One of the only 'bars' on Burano, try and grab a table outside so you can people watch.
Zanzibar (Fondamenta Santa Maria) - Canal side kiosk that hangs precariously on the edge serving Carlsberg beer and Spritz. A good place for an early evening drink.
L'Olandese Volante (Campo S Lio) - The 'Flying Dutchman' is an english style taverna which gets quite popular, there is seating outside in the square and it also a good place to eat cheaply.
Narazaria (San Polo 130) - Housed in an ancient warehouse where citrus fruits were stored, this great little Osteria/Wine bar serves up great fusion cuisine on the banks of the Grand Canal, alternatively you can just order a drink at the bar or congregate outside.
Harry's Bar (Calle Vallaresso 1323) - The place where the Bellini Cocktail was invented, Orson Welles, Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote are rumoured to have drunk here once upon a time. Cocktails are €10-12. Open Noon-11pm daily.
Ae Oche! (San Giacomo Venezia) - A cheap and popular Pizza place with a mind blowing menu of different Pizzas including Curried Pizza! Walls are adorned with US advertising and posters which makes this place, aside from the prices, popular with students and tourists alike. Advisable to get there early as large student groups tend to turn up.
Osteria da Alberto (Calle Giacinto Gallina) - Local Venetian restaurant off the beaten track in Cannaregio serving delicious lunches. The Vino here is cheap and the Sardine starter followed by the Shrimp Rissotto is recommended.
Pane Vino (Calle dei Boteri) - Very pleasant homely restaurant which, although part of a chain, serves good pasta dishes and tasty cicheti starters. The food is good value whilst expect to pay a bit more for good wine.
Ai Pescatori (Via Galuppi 373, Island of Burano) - Predominantly fish restaurant serving food at reasonable prices. The Fisherman's Starter is worth trying but avoid the meat dishes as they are pretty bland.
Antica Trattoria ai Tosi (San Polo, 1587) - Very pleasant airy restaurant in the heart of the Rialto Fish Market with helpful staff. They offer a good set menu for €20 which gives you a 1st and 2nd course. Recommended dishes: The Tagliatelle with Salmon and the Venetian Cuttlefish with Maize.
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Info supplied by Andy Webb (May 2007)