We hadn’t had much time beforehand to read up on Venice but in terms of sights, shops and restaurants we knew we would be spoilt for choice.
Arriving into Piazzale Roma reveals very little of what Venice has in store. As the bus flies across the Ponta della Liberta towards Venice, the lagoon on either side was dead calm and shrouded in a light mist. Small boats skimmed the surface of the water and you become aware of the fact that you’re now leaving dry land.
On our very first evening we made our way to Osteria Alla Bifora on Campo Santa Margherita. Bifora came recommended by the representative who met us at our apartment and we couldn’t have asked for a nicer welcome into Venice. Here we discovered great Prosecco and a cheese and meat platter the size of Venice’s Piazza San Marco.
Over the next four days we were blessed with warm, dry weather, meaning that we could sit out in many of Venice’s plazas to enjoy a cup of espresso or a glass of wine. We rated highly piazzas such as Campo Santa Maria Margherita, Campo Santo Stefano, S. Giacomo Dell’Orio and Campo SS. Giovanni e Paolo. I also indulged in a few too many gelatos but with so many flavours on offer and at 1 euro a scoop, it seemed foolish not too.
Over the next few days we put on the miles, taking in the streets of la Giudecca, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, San Polo, San Marco and Murano. I especially enjoyed Dorsoduro and the little we saw of the Castello area. They have some wonderful back streets and corner cafes where you can really escape the tourist groups and sit with a latte and a pastry (or gelato) and contemplate the pigeons and the shabby architecture.
Another place for quiet contemplation is the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. This unfinished palace has the benefit of the Grand Canal on one side and a tranquil courtyard on the other, allowing visitors to stop and sit before, during and after their tour of the exhibition.
Slightly less peaceful and almost as spiritual is a trip to Basilica di San Marco, which is impressive for its mosaic work if nothing else.
Finally I would really recommend the ultimate tourist cliché in Venice, a Gondola ride. Despite the cost, it really is the best way to see the Grand Canal.
Quick Tips / Suggestions:
If you’re making your own itinerary, you must invest in a good map because Venice is an unforgiving maze. If you take your eye off your map for even a second, don’t be surprised if it takes a while to orient yourself again. Being a small city, Venice is great to walk around and depending less on the vaporetti will save you a lot of money.
If you arrive into Venice by bus or train, you would be advised to pack quite light and bring a backpack rather than a suitcase as crossing bridges and walking up and down narrow stone streets can become a challenge.
Unless you want a decadent experience, I wouldn’t recommend the cafes in Piazza San Marco, where a latte will set you 9-10 euros, about 2-3 times the price in the smaller piazzas.
One last tip is that there is a free shuttle boat for Hilton guests (but really anyone can use it). It stops at Zattere and San Marco and is indispensable if you’re staying on la Giudecca as we were.
Best Way to Get Around:
Shuttle buses from Treviso Airport run to and from the airport to coincide with scheduled arrivals and departures. Tickets cost 10 Euro return to Piazza Roma (about 40-45 minutes journey time) and are valid for 7 days. I assume that a similar service runs from Marco Polo airport as well.
You also have the option of taking a water taxi. They’re expensive but if you can afford it I have heard that it’s quite a spectacular introduction to the city.
Arriving by shuttle bus into Piazzale Roma, we hopped on board our first vaporetti (water bus) to Palanca on the south island of La Giudecca, which was to be our home for the next four days. The vaporetti make regular stops and run on many different lines around Venice, going out to Murano, Burano, Lido, La Giudecca and the Cimitero.
Staying next to the Hilton hotel, we took full advantage of their free shuttle boat, which departs on the hour (to Zattere and San Marco) and 40 minutes past the hour (to Zattere only). Coming back, they run until 0:20 from San Marco and 0:50 from Zattere.