Venice Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Expect a service charge Even though Europe isn't as big on tipping as the states, restaurants typically make up for it with service charges. It is common to see high service charges (up to 20 percent extra) on restaurant bills in Venice, especially around St. Mark's Piazza.
- Rise with the sun At least one day, you should wake up at 5 a.m. and walk to St. Mark's Piazza for one of the world's best sunrises.
- Coincide with a festival Carnevale (held in January and early February) and the International Film Festival (in August and early September) breathe extra life into this romantic destination.
Venice is enchanting. Yes, that may be cliché to say, but once you see the city on the water for yourself, you'll surely agree. Step off of the Santa Lucia train station and the breathtaking Grand Canal will soon greet you. You'll see water taxis coast along, passing underneath the Ponte degli Scalzi (Bridge of the Barefoot) and might hear the faintest hint of a serenading violin, or is that your imagination? It might not be all in your head. Romantic gondolas carrying smitten couples glide through the web of the city's many waterways, and gondola drivers are known to sing when the moment feels right. On land, narrow passageways twist past Old World storefronts and residences, and over bridges. You should note that maps aren't all that helpful here and getting lost is the norm — embrace the disorientation.
This canal-clad city's main draw is its magical atmosphere, but you'll also find quite a few diversions, too: The tour guides at Saint Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace give some great historical insight; the Gallerie dell'Accademia hangs works by Titian, Veronese and other famed Venetians; and the Teatro La Fenice puts on some world-renowned operas. You can also travel to nearby islands like Lido for the beach, Murano for the well-known glass and Burano for its lace.
How To Save Money in Venice
- Stick to walking You can enjoy the Venetian ambiance by walking rather than taking a boat, and you'll save quite a few euros, too.
- Stick to the bus Take an ATVO bus (rather than a water taxi) from Venice Airport into Venice proper to save about €100 EUR.
- Book in advance Gondola rides are a must in Venice, yet they're quite expensive. If you aren't traveling with a group, or don't want to share with strangers to split the cost, tour companies like Viator often offer rides for half the price.
Venice Culture & Customs
Unlike Rome, Venice's economy is largely dependent on its very strong tourism industry. So, keep in mind that you'll likely be sharing your Venice vacation with loads of other tourists.
To Italians, everything from a person's dress to his or her actions and manners should be beautiful, or bella figura. First impressions are especially lasting for Italians, who, while warm and helpful, do hold outward appearances in very high regard. Dressing well will sometimes even be rewarded by better and more prompt service.
Bella figura does not stop with physical presentation as it extends into a person's manners and conduct. Avoid being obnoxiously loud or ostentatious, as this is greatly looked down on as brutta figura. Learning some Italian and attempting to use it will win you points with Italians, who are generally patient and happy to help you learn more. In any kind of store or restaurant, it's appropriate to greet and say goodbye to employees — even if you do not buy anything — with a salve and arrivederci, respectively. Ciao is less formal but equally appreciated. Wherever you go, remember your manners and don't forget your pleases, per favore, and thank yous, grazie.
Residents generally speak Italian with a Venetian dialect, which can be unrecognizable — even to native Italian speakers. Ca, a shortened form of the word "casa," is used to describe many private residences and palaces. A street or calle in Venice, (pronounced ka-lay), is different from the "via" or "strada" streets elsewhere in Italy.
Similar to the rest of Italy, many Venetian businesses and tourist attractions take Sundays and at least one other day off, though it fluctuates from place to place. During the week, many also take a midday siesta after lunch hours.
Meals in Italy are expected to last long and it's very common for patrons to linger. So don't be surprised when your server does not bring your bill the minute you finish your meal. In fact, you will not get your bill, il conto, until you ask for it. When you do receive it, remember there is a service charge, or coperto, included. Italians don't tip, so you don't have to either. Also keep in mind that water and bread are usually not free at meals. If you ask for water, your server will ask you to specify whether you prefer tap water, acqua di rubinetto; flat water, acqua naturale; or sparkling water, acqua frizzante or acqua con gas. Also be aware that Venetians tend to eat dinner by 7:30, and many Venice restaurants close their kitchens by 10 p.m.
With such close ties to the water, it should come as no surprise that fish is the main component of Venetian cuisine. Cuttlefish (sepia), clams (vongole), and sea bass (branzino) are popular ingredients, which can be found in many of the area's most well-known dishes, including frutti di mare. Tramezzini is another Venetian specialty: These triangular sandwiches, with a range of fillings from cheese to meats, can be found at cafes throughout the city. Wash it all down with prosecco, a sparkling (and local) white wine.
For the best bang for your buck, try to avoid the San Marco area or any establishment that solicits tourists off the street. Instead, try one of the smaller establishments — such as traveler-recommended Ristorante La Caravella — tucked away on one of the many hidden side streets. You could also dine at a bacaro, a smaller wine bar with lower prices, authentic cuisine and more character.