6 Things To Know Before You Get To Venice

Enchanting, fascinating, and beautiful, Venice remains one of the most-visited places in Italy. That said? No matter how much you’ve read up on the city, some things about it can be surprising! Here, the top six things we wish we’d known about Venice on our travels there.

beautiful photos of venice italy

1. You will get lost in Venice, often — even with the world’s best maps

I know people who have visited Venice and had it all: lots of previous experience in the city, fluent Italian, and an iPad with GPS-style Google maps. They still got lost (and I find myself confused sometimes after all the years I have been in the city). Venice is a confusing, winding, maze of medieval streets, with the frequent obstacle of a canal blocking your path. Of course, that’s part of Venice’s charm. There’s nothing better than being lost in such an eerily beautiful city. Unless, that is, you want to get to places and see sites in a limited amount of time.
This made one thing in particular strike home for us: While it’s always virtually impossible to really “see” or “do” a whole city in just one day, it’s even harder in Venice. So, if you’re looking to check things off the list in a limited amount of time, then either consider extending that amount of time a bit more than you might have originally thought necessary — or consider taking a tour. Because we’ve realized that, while a guide is fantastic for bringing sites alive with stories, or giving insider’s tips to a city, in Venice, a guide is also just crucial for getting you from point A to point B. Seriously.

2. All those ferries are expensive; In general, the cheapest way to get around Venice is, simply, to walk. But sometimes, your feet just can’t take it anymore. Not to mention that part of the fun of Venice is the way in which it’s just like a normal city… except that instead of streets, there are canals, and instead of buses and trains, there are boats!
The problem? These boats can be pricey. And we don’t even mean the water taxis. A ticket that lets you travel on the boats for 60 minutes along the Grand Canal, including switches, costs €7.50. To take a traghetto across the Grand Canal for just one trip, it’s €2.50
If you plan to use the boat as much as you would, say, the metro in Rome, therefore, that can add up quickly. But one thing we’ve realized: Most people won’t use the boats in Venice as much as they would use the bus elsewhere. That’s largely because so much of the beauty of Venice (as well as where many hotels and restaurants are!) is in its back streets and piazzas — places that, often times, the boats just can’t get to.
In some cases, though, you might plan to take the boats more than a handful of times. So if walking abilities are limited in your group, or if your hotel is conveniently located right near one of the ferry stops, then consider getting one of Venice’s all-inclusive transport passes, good for 12, 24, 36, 48, or 72 hours, or 7 days. To really get bang for your buck, don’t wait until you’re in Venice to buy these: in the “middle/high season” we’re in right now, a 72-hour pass costs €33 on the spot, or €28.05 if you book it through the website Venice Connected. (To get the online discounted rate, you must book at least 7 days in advance). Again, though, remember: To make this particular pass, for example, “worth it,” you’d have to take the €7.00 boats five times or more to merit getting a pass, rather than paying per go. And if you’re like most people, you probably wouldn’t take the boats that often. As well as "free" transport, the Rolling Venice card gets you discount on sites like the Doge's Palace, here

A couple of other things to keep in mind on the transport front. First, kids under 5 travel free. Second, although there aren’t any reductions for children aged 6 to 14 (they get the adult rate), there is, oddly enough, an option for a reduced fare for youths aged 14 to 29. To take advantage, buy the Rolling Venice card at a variety of points around the city. It costs €4, and with that card, the 3-day pass is just €18. It also gives discounts to various sites around the city.

3. You can legally board Venice’s public transport without a ticket
…as long as you immediately notify the boat personnel and buy a ticket on the spot. Otherwise, if the boat is “spot-checked” for tickets, you can be told you’ll have to pay hundreds of euros in fines. Make sure, too, that you always validate your tickets by running them through the small, yellow or white machines near the entrance.

4. If you want to eat like a Venetian, it’s worth having some restaurants in mind ahead of time. If you want food this good in Venice, you have to know where to look!

It’s no secret that Venice is touristy. In fact, tourists vastly outnumber Venetians — by some 15 million to 60,000. And whenever you get that kind of imbalance, the same, unfortunate trend tends to happen: Local, cheap, authentic eating establishments are edged out… and replaced by expensive, at-best-mediocre restaurants that hawk things like “tourist menus” and “happy hours” (neither of which you’d see at Italy’s most authentic trattorias!).

If part of the fun of the trip for Italy for you is the food, then have a plan for Venice — or at least a few places jotted down. We recently had clients who said they didn’t do this… and wound up spending €40 per person or more on food so bad, they said it was inedible. The other option? If you’re taking a tour in Venice then ask your tour guide where you can go that’s authentic and inexpensive!

5. Not all free boat rides to Murano are free want to see the famous Murano glassblowers? Then be careful how you get there!

Often, tourists will be offered a “free” ride to Murano to visit the glass factories. Usually, these are free but trouble can come if you don’t wind up buying any of the (generally very expensive) glass. That “free” ride? Turns out, it might not be round-trip. Instead, you might be given a ticket to get on a normal boat… or nothing at all. If you want to avoid awkwardness (and frustration), consider either booking your own transfer to the island, or going by water bus, shelling out that €7.50 for the number 41, 42, or, in season, number 5 water buses. Your stop is Colonna or Faro, for glass factories, or Museo, for the Glass Museum.

6. Sitting down at a cafe in Venice costs more than anywhere else in Italy. You may have heard this before: Anywhere in Italy, when you sit down with that coffee at a cafe or bar, the price goes up. If you drink the same coffee, and eat the same pastry, standing at the counter, the price is lower. (That’s why you’ll see so many Italians eating at the counter).

In Venice, though, the price difference is even bigger than elsewhere. Take a seat with that cappuccino, and you can expect to pay three, four times what you would standing. Decide to take a seat at a cafe on the Piazza San Marco you could pay as much as 15 euro. Some cafes also tack a huge surcharge onto the bill — and, annoyingly, that surcharge isn’t for servizio, it isn’t for pane e coperto… it’s for “listening to the band” that they have playing at the tables. To avoid those kinds of surcharges, or the stress of worrying about them, stay away from eating at major tourist sites — and always take your coffee at the counter.

Hope you enjoy your stay in Venice and check out our guide notes to find great off the beaten path adventures.

Walking in Italy

tips on walking in italy

I keep saying that the best way to enjoy Italy is by foot and as you are planning your Italian escape look at these suggestion to help you in your planning.  You can be walking in the mountains,, along the coastline like Cinque Terre, or urban trekking through on of the regions of Italy having the right gear will make your trip more enjoyable.

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1. Invest in some trekking poles.

If you haven’t used trekking poles before, have no fear. You’ll figure out how to use them right away. The Dolomites Alta Via 1 is a difficult trail with varying terrain and steep ascents and descents while Venice has lots of bridges while . Trekking poles will help you power up hill, keep your balance when you slip in mud, and reduce the strain on your knees and feet with every step you take. I had good luck with Leki poles, but any type of poles will be better than none.

2. Pack light.

It you planning multiday hikes or train backbacking scrutinize every item you bring and bring only the essentials. Remember, you’ll be carrying whatever you pack for around 90 miles and for 6 – 12 hours each day through the challenging Dolomites.

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3. Bring sandals.

Most the rifugios require you to remove your boots before entering the main areas of the hut. Also, you’ll want them for showering to avoid getting athlete’s foot. Plus, they are great for taking your shoes off on longer breaks or when you find a nice cold stream to soak them in.

4. Quick drying clothes.

Since carrying a full wardrobe would make your pack unnecessarily heavy, bring clothes that are quick drying so you can wash them at the rifugios at the end of each day’s hike. Ex Officio make some great clothes that will be comfortable and designed for adventure travelers. Don’t forget your quick drying towel either.

5. Don’t skimp on socks.

Be sure to bring multiple pairs of hiking socks. I recommend swapping them out for a fresh pair at lunch – I promise that your feet will thank you. Hang your old ones off the back of your pack so they will air out and dry. It’s amazing the difference that a pair of new socks can make for your comfort.

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6. Get a pack that fits comfortably.

A quality hiking pack that properly fits can make or break the comfort of your trip. You’ll most likely be carrying around 25-35 lbs for 90 miles, so get a pack that fits you. Gregory and Osprey both make some quality packs that are priced well. Go to a store and check them out by filling them up with gear and walking around for a few minutes to see if they are comfortable.

7. Prevent chaffing and blisters.

This a topic that most don’t want to talk about, but let’s face it, after hiking 90 miles there will be some parts of you that rub a bit. Whether it’s blisters on your feet or chaffing in your thighs, some preventive maintenance with products like chaffing creams and body rubs can prevent a miserable experience before it starts. Body Glide andGold Bond both make anti-chafe products that apply like a deodorant and work great.

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8. Trail runners vs. hiking boots.

Personally I recommend some comfortable hiking shoes or trail runners. Boots tend to be heavy, trap heat in, and after a long day in them you’re going to have some lazy feet (as I call it) and start stumbling on the trail. A pair of quality trail runners will be lightweight, comfortable, and give you great grip. I had great luck with my Vasque trail-running shoes but footwear really comes down to personal fit. Just make sure you choose something that fits well and give it a test hike prior to your trip. My last footwear tip is to ensure you trim your toenails prior to the hike. The steep downhills on Dolomites Alta Via 1 trails can put a pounding on your toes and even cause you to loose toenails over the course of the trip if they aren’t trimmed.

9. Get an early start.

Afternoon storms are the norm in the Dolomites and the northern areas in Italy, so start your hike early in the day. That leaves you a safety cushion should you get delayed during the hike and also leaves you more time to relax in the wonderful atmosphere at the rifugios.

10. Enjoy the food.

Rifugios make some great food that will certainly satisfy your appetite on the trail. If you normally eat a big meal, consider the half-board option. It usually comes with a pasta as a starter then a hearty meat course like goulash stew or local sausage. Plus, it comes with a dessert. If you don’t want to pack lunches for the whole trip, just plan your route to stop at a rifugio for lunch as well. They make some great sandwiches too.

Enjoy your trip and hope to see you in Italy.  For travel planning assistance or questions you can email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Venice Italy

Things to know about taking a gondola ride in venice

One of the main attractions most visits consider when visiting the city of Venice is to take a ride on a gondola, Venezia's iconic mode of transport.

If you take a gondola in Venice:

Negotiate the price in advance. The city rate starts at 80 euros for 40 minutes (and that climbs up to 100 euros for 40 minutes after 7pm), but lots of gondoliers charge more. Make sure you agree on the exact price, and on the number of minutes, before you climb aboard.

Be careful with a concierge. If you shy away from haggling, your hotel concierge can act as the middleman and do the negotiating for you. That’s nice—but it often comes with a big surcharge.

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Know you can have 6 people in total. If you’re traveling with friends, it’s a great way to split the cost.
Remember that it’s expensive for a reason. Are gondoliers taking advantage of tourists? Maybe. But might they have reason? Yes. Venice is a pretty pricey city to live in, and the gondola itself is a big expense, setting a gondolier back some 20,000 euros for a hand-built version.

Carefully pick where you get your gondola. Not all gondolas have the same routes, but you can influence the kind of experience you’ll have depending on where you pick up a gondola. Grab one at the Rialto Bridge, and you’re headed for a trip down the iconic, bustling Grand Canal. Walk down to a side canal, where the water taxis and vaporetti don’t have stands, and you’ll have a more tranquil trip off the beaten path.

Get a receipt and there is no need to tip.  One of the best ways to ensure you are getting a fair cost is to ask for a receipt (scontrino), for every money transaction in Italy, you much have a valid receipt.  Those not giving receipts are doing business 'under the table' or in nero, and if you are stopped by a policemen and asked for your receipt and do not have, you get the ticket.  Secondly, there is no place for tips on an individual Italian tax sheet and Italian's do not tip. In Venice and some bigger tourist cities you will find many service providers sticking their hands out, it is only because they have come to expect Americans to tip.  A tip should be something you want to give to show your appreciation for a great job.

Be aware that you’ve got alternatives. If you simply can’t stomach the price, consider taking a traghetto, which crosses the Grand Canal. The price? Three euros.

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