Practical Information in Veneto
Venice, the ultimate city built upon fantasies. Picture perfect. Incredibly interesting. A photographer or romantics dream. Couples walking around who look like they have just stepped out of a Fellini movie. Stodgy older men wearing cashmere trenchcoats with receding hairlines and sunglasses sporting cigarette holders, while being accompanied by beautiful fashion plated sirens who appear to be on a break waiting for their next movie shoot to start, encompassed in stone studed sunglasses. Restaurateurs owning brightly lit bistros at the back of some dark dead end alley who look like Pauly from the Sopranos, (not behaving to differently either), while cooking the finest pasta you have ever encountered. Locals who look like characters from the screen, but actually know where they are going in this incredible, impossible to navigate, who cares if we get lost, city on stilts. Lotsa tourists. What's not to love? From the Doge's Palace, to San Marcos Square, to the Bridge of Sighs, to the Rialto Bridge, it's landmark after landmark while being surrounded by the Grand Canal.
What's the easiest way to navigate this impossible little island, by water naturally. The vapretto's run constantly around the island and to the outer islands as well going in both directions, ferrying travelers and locals in quite an efficient manner. It's a great way to avoid the clogs of the mazelike streets of Venice, and also a good way to get your bearings and sightsee.
One of the larger challenges I faced when arriving at Venice, was the second phase of the Venice trip. Getting to Venice.
If your coming from the airport: You can take a water taxi from the dock by Marco Polo Airport which will take you directly to the vapretto stop you wish to go to. This works very well if your in a hurry, but the cost is about 90 euros. This fare can be split by a number of people should you meet someone on the plane who also wishes to get there quickly, or have traveling buddies. Transport takes 25 to 30 minutes.
The most inexpensive way is to take the public transport, which is at the bus stop directly behind customs, to Piazzale Roma. The trip cost 3 euros. Cross the plaza and go to vapretto stop # 1. The vapretto costs 6.5 euros for 1 hour on the vapretto per person. Transport takes 90 minutes to 2 hours from the airport total.
If you coming in by train: Vapretto # 1 stops directly behind the train station on the Grand Canal.
Fresh out of Euros?
Need some cash?: Don't worry, ATM's are everywhere, and most establishments take credit cards. Credit or debit cards are actually the preferred way to pay, as you get the daily rate of exchange at your US bank, whereas currency exchange establishments may not always give you the best rates and sometimes charge you a fee to boot.
Interacting with the populace?
Everyone speaks English: Not really. Even in a town as touristy as Venice, for some restaurants, shops, and/or hotels, English speaking help is a lot less common than you would think. It's always good to brush up on your Italian or bring an Italian phrasebook with you. Trying earnestly to speak another's language is also a sign of respect and is well received. Some restaurateurs actually pride themselves in not having a tourist menu and flaunt as much on the menu board of their restaurants. Doesn't mean the foods not good or their not particularly friendly, it just means they cater to the locals, which usually means good food at better prices.
Lost after just arriving?
Follow the signs to the monuments, not the street signs: Street signs are of no consequence in Venice. If you knew what street something was on, you'd never find it anyway. The best way to navigate the cobblestoned streets of Venice is by the landmark signs. Affixed on buildings above eye level at street sign height, you'll find the names of the sights and an arrow pointing towards it. Keep following the signs until you arrive at your destination. If you know what landmark is next to what you want to find, navigation is a snap, (or at least a lot less traumatic). In some instances, you'll find landmark signs with arrows going both directions. That just means you can get there by either route you choose. It's all very Italian.
Gondolas have two categories: Expensive and more expensive. I ask you though, how do you pass up a chubby little gondolier sinking "Bese me mucho", while floating between buildings that have stood for centuries, while other gondoliers stop talking on their cell phones or dragging on their cigarettes to sing the chorus along with him. Priceless!
Note: Most gondoliers take cash rather than cards.
Can you get a reasonably priced hotel in Venice?
Beds and Breakfasts: There are many B & B's available in Venice. I stayed at one that was a converted palace. Most of these establishments serve breakfast along with a clean, usually no frills room, that is right in the center of everything. We stayed in one just off of the public market, and a couple of blocks from the Rialto Bridge. The best part is it was under 100USD per night.
Expensive hotels with all the perks: Yeah, there's lots of em'. Just hit the net. Prices can range from 200.00 (on a deal) to 2000.00 easily. And higher.
Masks and pricing: All over town. Look for the best prices, and make sure not to buy off of a street vendor with a cheap price if your looking for the real thing. You'll find they range from almost reasonable, to very, very, very expensive.
Crowds: Yes, best to go off season if you don't wan't to feel like you've been playing Rugby all day from challenging the street traffic, and enjoy standing in never ending lines for attractions.
Art, history, culinary wonderment, and grand spectacle. I have never met anyone who wasn't totally enamored with Venice after visiting. It's a challenge and a mess, but I love it.
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September 06, 2008