If you like arts in any form or small historic cities, this one is for you. If you’d rather wander hours on narrow streets and cross tiny bridges over the canals in a constant curiosity, here you’ll feel more than fine. I’ll add that this is a city you’d probably fall in love with. This is Venice.
First of all, I’m talking about a city in Italy and this says a lot. I don’t know what kind of spell is on that ground, but everything I’ve seen in Italy was picturesque. It’s in the romantic air, in the buildings’ architecture, the tasteful food, and that addictive Italian gelato!
My personal history with Venice starts at a film festival, where I’ve seen the “Venice Syndrome” documentary. And it’s not only about the fact the city is really sinking. But it’s more about the phenomenon of depopulation, with more tourists than inhabitants. Briefly, Venice is becoming a museum-city and on top of that, it will not even be there too many years.
At that time I had mixed fillings, but I still wanted to go there as soon as possible. This happened in early December and while you’ll make a grimace, I think it’s a good period to visit. The weather was a bit chilly but ok for walks and hey, you won’t bunch up with thousands of hurried tourists.
Due to some transport mismatches, I’ve been wandering the streets mere alone. But how good it felt! I could take multiple pictures, at a slow pace, like an obsessive-compulsive: multiple shots at windows and their shutters, building details, doors… I wandered with no target, but guided by the maze.
Get accommodation in Mestre. We had an Airbnb apartment, 3 bus stations away from Piazzale Roma. There are many discussions on the net about it, but I simply cannot understand why paying so much more is better just to lie in bed on the island part of the city.
Almost all tourist attractions require entrance fee (10 to 20 euros), but you can get along with only walking the streets, if you are on a budget.
Generally, Venice is not cheap. Have a fulfilling breakfast and rather stop for a bite or a slice of pizza from local bakeries, and a glass of wine in the afternoon maybe. Take sandwiches or other snacks with you and better eat dinner in Mestre. Remember that you are in Italy and add about 2 euro for the service fee if you chose a restaurant – sometimes it includes local snacks, as bread and butter.
Sandwiches are 7 – 8 euros in tourist areas and these are just tapas.
Most noteworthy, remember again you’re in Italy, so ice-cream (actually gelato) is worth the money. Even in December.
How to get there
From Romania, the cheapest and easiest way to get is by low-cost airlines to Treviso (you can find tickets under 100 euros in the weekend and even 50 euro or less, if you travel during the week).
Transport from Treviso to Mestre or directly at Piazzale Roma, Venice (only 2 or 3 stations more) takes about 1h with the bus and you’ll pay 12 euros. Search ATVO bus for transfers from airport to the city and vice versa.
From Marco Polo airport the ride is 30 minutes or less.
If you stay in Mestre (personally recommended), you can travel by bus, it’s only 10, 15 min distance and it’s only 1.50 euro one way.
While in Venice, you won’t need transportation. The gondola is expensive and people say it’s too touristic – about 80 euro/gondola, but some say it’s negotiable.
So, think about the vaporreto only if you plan to visit the islands nearby, Murano, Burano, and Torcello. You can start the travel from the front of the rail station. From Piazzale Roma, the final stop of the buses, cross the bridge on the left side and you’ll reach to the train station and the vaporetto station.
The price for a trip to the islands is about 20 euros, either if you take a day ride ticket or an organized excursion for 5 hours. If you choose the organized trip, you’ll be on schedule. Someone will provide you some information, but you won’t be able to stay on the islands as much as you want.
How to organize a two-day visit
The first day I walked more in the north area, reached St. Mark’s Square (IT: Piazza San Marco) and went back through the center area. There are many beautiful old churches and Piazzettas, but it’s quiet.
And the next day I went over the south area – the more artistic, with many cafes, artisan shops, and art museums. It was a bit chilly, but the Grand Canal in fog seemed like a dream.
Note that you can do all in one day if you just want to walk around for sightseeing. In this case, you’ll have time to take the small islands trip in the second day, which I recommend. For me, it was important to see everything at a normal pace and check some museums.
Free things you must see:
Rialto Bridge and Rialto market. The bridge is the oldest one in Venice and offers a nice view over the Grand Canal. Go there preferably in the morning, to catch the roam in the fish market.
San Marco Square and Church (IT: Piazza San Marco, Basilica San Marco) – entry is free in the church and about 5 euros if you climb the tower for sightseeing. The beauty is more on the outside, so my recommendation is to skip it if the line is too long. For me, it was about 8-10 min wait, but rumors say there’s a big line in the summer.
Basilica Santa Maria della Salute – you can see it from the square, it’s over the canal.
Plus uncounted walks along the Grand Canal, admiring historical buildings and crossing bridges.
Things you should see, but must buy a ticket to get in:
Peggy Guggenheim Collection – 15 euro entrance fee. This is my top favorite spot in Venice. Because of the great art collection, but also due to the location, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni with its carefully tended garden, on the Grand Canal in Venice. It’s only modern art there, but the best of the best artists from the 20th century. I mention here only Max Ernst, Brancusi, Braque, Picasso, and Pollock. I stayed there almost 3 hours and also enjoyed a good espresso with a view to the inside garden. By the way, Peggy is buried there, along with her beloved dogs. Take 1hour for this visit if you’re not an art freak or over enthusiast like me.
Gallerie dell’Accademia – about 12 euro entrance fee. This is a historic place, initially named Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia and founded on 1750. Important classic art is all over the place: huge paintings of artists as Tintoretto, Veronese or Titian. I entered there out of curiosity, but you can skip it, depending on priorities and budget.
Ca’ Pesaro Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna – about 14 euro entrance fee. The Baroque marble palace hosts 19th and 20th-century art. I regret not getting in; I only enjoyed an espresso on its terrace, with a view to the Canal. If you don’t fancy Peggy Guggenheim and you have budget for only one art museum, go here. Hence, I’m still thinking of that Kandinsky or Klimt hanging on the walls.
Doge’s Palace – 20 euro entrance fee. You can admire its gothic-ish byzantine style from the outside, from Piazza San Marco. Go in for a closer look of doges’ (dukes) apartments.
Of course, you can check all the above mentioned from the outside, if you are really tight on your budget or time.
All in all, Venice is well-known for its Art Biennale, so art lovers that travel from May to November will most probably want to visit the pavilions.