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If you’re traveling to Italy on a budget, beware of Venice.
Prices are high, they don’t exactly love tourists, and there’s a very small “outside of town” alternative for places to stay the night. I’m not saying don’t go, just be prepared.
Venice is a beautiful town, and it’s easy to see why it is called “The City of Love”. Everyone has heard of its small winding canals and romantic little bridges, setting a perfect backdrop for photos. Seriously, it’s impossible to take a bad photo here.
But before you go there are a few things you need to be aware of and also be prepared to splurge on.
If you’re looking to stay in a hostel, the city center (or the main island) is going to cost you anywhere from €30 – €70 (a bed) for a mixed dorm, depending on all the factors. On an alternative island that is a vaporetto (water taxi) ride over will cost from €15-40. So if you’re planning on staying the night, know that the hostels here can run a little pricey.
If you have the money and want to stay in a hotel (I haven’t stayed in a hotel in Europe in over a year), it will cost you somewhere between €370-€550 for 2 nights. I’m sure there are better deals out there but you’re really going to have to search to find them.
As soon as you say the word Venice the first word that pops into most people’s head is canals; the second word is gondola. Gondolas are everywhere throughout the city, though it seems when you actually go to find one they are a little difficult to place. Head away from the big tourist areas to find one. I wouldn’t recommend hopping on at Saint Mark’s. The water in that area is pretty gross and there’s going to be a lot of traffic. This means more opportunities for jacked-up prices and pickpockets.
Once you head into the heart of the city a bit, find your gondola man in his striped shirt, and he’ll ask you which type of tour you want. The lowest tour is €80 and is just the ride for about 30 minutes. The other two options are 1) if you want him to sing while you ride or 2) have another man on board to play (usually a guitar) while you ride. These are usually around €100-120 the last time I was there. We happened to get lucky on our basic trip, the man steering us loved to sing, so we got a serenade anyways.
This seems a little pricey, but it’s pretty standard for all of the gondolas around there. The good news? The price is by boat, so if there are four of you, the price is still a flat €80.
Another tip: As with most things Italian. you pay at the end. Though tips are not expected, it is courteous to leave a Euro or two, especially if they sang for you.
Food in Venice is generally more expensive than other places in Italy. Remember, this is a HUGE tourist destination. There’s really not a whole lot going on in the city except for tourism. If you want to make a reservation somewhere, be prepared to be told they won’t give you a reservation unless you speak Italian. If you don’t speak the language, plan on going into your restaurant of choice earlier in the day to make a reservation in person. (It makes them feel like you will be less flakey).
My advice? While you’re walking around in the morning seeing the tourist sights, keep an eye out for restaurants for later in the day. Once you find a little place on a canal ask to speak to a manager and go ahead and set reservations for the evening. It will make your day a whole lot smoother.
The Venetian specialty to try? Cuttlefish with squid ink sauce. Trust me, you will not regret it.