Venice, Italy – It’s not always a tourist trap!
I know what you’re thinking…Venice is over-crowded, smelly and expensive! Well there is a way to beat all that. Visit in the winter! Now being from the UK I am used to chilly/wet days, but the weather was stunningly bright in Venice, and we went in December. It was cold but only around 8-11 degrees C so for me that is perfect weather for getting wrapped up to go wandering the streets for hours! Now I have done the obligatory “I’m British so I talk about the weather” line, let’s get into the nitty gritty.
Venice is smelly
Well for this one all I can say is, Venice is known for its canals. Canals = Fish. Seafood is big here as it can be plucked straight out of the Venice Lagoon, and surrounding Adriatic Sea. I have heard that in the summer the stench can be over-powering but in the winter it seems to subside. The only time we met the smell, was when we went to an outdoor food market and were surrounded by lovely fresh fish.
I recommend you try the seafood if you can. We had some gorgeous spider crab!
Venice is expensive
Okay I’ll admit this one can be hard to avoid, but the deal we got to visit in the winter was very reasonable! We actually stayed on the mainland and got a bus into Venice each day which made it much cheaper for us. We were also able to buy the bus tickets at the hotel, and a return ticket was only around 3* euros. The bus took around 12 minutes and the public transport is well organised so I recommend staying on the mainland if you want to save some cash! And believe me you will, because once you get onto the island you’ll want to spend all your money on food!
Ah the food! Pizza and pasta of course, it is Italy after all, but you have to try the Gelato and, as I already mentioned, the seafood. If I’m honest, our stomachs always guide our trips so I had a great time in Venice. First off, pizza is a good option if you want to save money. You can generally find a large pizza for around 12* euros, so to share that between 2 people for lunch is a great way to fill up your belly and save some pennies. Another great way to save on food is to avoid the main streets. If you head out further into the island you will come across smaller hidden eateries. These won’t have such a large price tag and are just as good!
Another way to save is to simply get lost wandering the beautiful back streets of Venice. We felt like we saw the real Venice this way and walking costs you nothing! If you are not sure about navigating in this way then the water bus might be for you! Now a day travel pass on the water bus is 20 euros which is pretty steep but we simply took a one way journey to St Mark’s Square for 7.50* euros. When we were done we took a walking route back to the Piazzale Roma Bus Station. The water bus was great as you see a lot of the Grand Canal and Venice from it. It can be between 30-45 mins to get to St Mark’s Square depending on the boat you take and what a fantastic way to travel! It felt like an excursion in itself and a much better option than paying up to 80* euros for half an hour on a Gondola. You can see below the beautiful sights you can experience on the water bus!
Venice is over-crowded
Now I have seen photos of it in the summer and I can imagine it is hard to move in those narrow, meandering streets, full to the brim with people. Not ideal for any trip. However, in the winter it seemed peaceful and calm, and although there were a few people around, we never struggled to cross a bridge or pass through a street. Early morning is also an ideal time to get out and beat those crowds so I recommend getting a good breakfast and seeing those sights when they open. In the winter a lot of places close earlier anyway so this is the perfect excuse to get in those early starts.
A few Archi-Finds I recommend starting off early for
Campanile Saint-Mark is the Bell Tower that gives you views across the whole of Venice and out to the surrounding Lido and Murano. It is open from 9:30-15:45* from November to March and costs 8 euros per person.
St Mark’s Basilica is a stunning cathedral that is free to enter. Small gold tiles glisten throughout the high ceilings and there is a gorgeous balcony that overlooks the Grand Canal. It is open 9:30-17:00* throughout November to June and there is also a museum inside that you can enjoy for a small 5* euro fee.
Rialto Bridge is one you may likely come across simply walking through Venice. Starting early will enable you to see this bridge in all its glory without the bustle of tourists.
Architecture in Venice
There are plenty more Archi-Finds throughout Venice but I find that generally just walking around and appreciating the surroundings is enough to get a feel for the style. Venetian Gothic Architecture is the staple but there are many Islamic architectural influences here too.
Of course Venice is also home to the Architecture Biennale. If you’re not familiar with this you should take a look! It involves a number of exhibitions taking place in venues around Venice that show case built or unbuilt works of Architecture. The next one is in 2018 and the theme is “Freespace”. It runs from May to November so you could still catch some exhibitions in the off-season!
Finally, you may have seen recently in the news about a lot of European cities having residents protest about tourism taking over and pushing up housing costs (do you blame them?!). Venice is one of those. So if you really want to visit but want to be more thoughtful about your trip and how it affects the residents, then this is the way! Off season for Venice is generally November to March.
Are there any places you have visited off-season that were just as awesome? I’d love to hear about them, so let me know in the comments!
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*All prices/times are approximate at the time of writing this article and Sundays/Public Holidays may have different schedules.