Sunday, 18 January 2015

Shall we share a Gondola?

Venice is amazing... No doubt about it, no questions asked... Amazing. So often is this beautiful island associated with crowds of tourists, tacky gift shops and overpriced eateries that people choose a fleeting visit that is just long enough to see some canals, scoff at the cost of a Gondola ride and take a few selfies in St Mark's Square. Venice has so much to offer if you give it a proper shot! Just remember, everything here is going to be a bit more expensive than the rest of Italy so budget appropriately.

See Venice is Beautiful! "Boy with Frog" statue outside Punta della Dogana (the statue is now removed but the location is amazing), a shiny black gondola resting on the canal, Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) and the inside of Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace).

Here are some easy steps to ensure you get some quality Venice time.

Step one... Book your accommodation on the ISLAND of Venice.
You can choose to save money by staying on the mainland town of Venice, but it means that you have to catch a train to the island every day and you are at the mercy of the traders and their steep lunchtime prices. My preferred option is to stay in one of the hotels on the island. It is definitely a more expensive option but with some persistence, you can get reasonably priced accommodation and nothing beats sitting by the canals in the evening after the throngs of day tourists have left the island and listening to the water lap against the city.

Step two... Stay at least three nights.
You will need one day for settling in, one day for exploring the sights of Venice and one day for heading to one of the smaller islands (Murano, Burano, Lido or Carnellio). Venice is such a labyrinth, that you will inevitably get stressed out if you try and fit it into a smaller stay. For me, a big part of enjoying Venice is aimless wandering... a bit difficult to do if you are power walking between sights to cram them into one day.

Step three... Set up camp somewhere easy to find.
From a way-finding point of view, Venice is a mess! There is no order at all and it would take you months to remember your way around. If you are smart about where you stay, then you should always be able to find your way home. At the fork of every street or canal there are signs on the walls pointing you to one of four things: S Marco (St Mark's Square, Rialto (Rialto Bridge), Ferrovia (Train Station) and Vaporetto. The Vaporetto are the water buses and these signs point to the various stops in the area. If you stay near one of these, all you ever need to do in order to get home is follow the signs to the nearest Vaporetti stop and use the water network to get you home. Much easier than a map and more fun too!

Step three... Get lost.
As I mentioned earlier, Venice has the most to offer to those who wander it's streets aimlessly. Spend a day meandering around the tangled streets until you get completely lost! This is how you find those amazing foodie gems, legitimate handicraft stores and photo opportunities that will make everyone jealous! When you are finished being lost, just follow the signs to one of the many Vaporreto stops, or main tourist destinations and find your way back from there.

Bonus step (because I almost forgot it)... Share the fun.
Gondolas are expensive! You can haggle and you can shop around, but at the end of the day you are going to pay more than you thought reasonable. To save yourself from buyer's remorse, do as the title of this article suggests and share. These bad boys are priced per ride, not per rider, so if you are happy to share the journey with a friend or fellow traveller (or three) then I suggest you do.

That's it! These are just a few basic tips and I should also mention that these steps aren't an original creation of mine and most of the credit should go to Jessica (see my last post).

Stay tuned to see what I did on the lagoon wonder that is Venezia!

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