This week is going to be about Venice.
Image source: Kasia Giza
My friend Tomek Sawko went recently to Venice, again, and as I love the city and find it extremely inspiring as much as he does, I asked him to sent me his thoughts, and basically he is taking over this column this week. Over to him…
First, the painfully obvious: Venice is a Disneyland for pensioners, but so is the other Italian museum entity: The Vatican. Unlike in the case of the latter, I am a Venice recidivist and huge enthusiast, drawn to this archipelago of 118 islands not purely by the allure of flight proximity and its value, but mostly because I loved Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie-Pitt in the “Tourist”… NOT.
I have descended upon this ancient, pedestrianised maze of canals and bridges three times over last decade biennially for a reason. The International Art Exhibition in Venice showcases edgy modern art scene in a backdrop of somewhat stagnated, restrained and crumbling city, (barely) living museum itself. Two nights at the museum is long enough of a visit, I say, but sufficiently brief to leave me wanting to always come back for more 24 months later.
Second, do not be fooled, there is no such thing as “off season” when it comes to this city. Sheer numbers of tourist arriving by sea, land and air are mind-boggling: 18 million a year and 50,000 a day… and that’s just the new faces, double that for the number of hands and legs. As I never committed a visit during the Summer time, being too scared of the mosquitoes, stinky canals, people toppling over oblivious street vendors into the stinky, mosquito infested canals, I always imagined summer in Venice to be like in the movie “Death in Venice” (oh yeah, the black death epidemic). I’ve learned that none of this holds water… (your tea kettle and steam iron are not supposed to be holding water either, because these electric travel essentials are strictly prohibited in all of the guest rooms. I guess this is due to some weird law dating back to unglamorous times of Napoleonic occupation of Venice that kicked the Doge’s dandy ass to the curb.
My advice: take a shot of espresso standing at a bar in your wrinkly shirt, the Venetian way, like a boss). Regardless of the time of the year, avoid the major thoroughfare San Marco during the day. Enough said.
Finally, plan your budget wisely. While drinking water from the piazza’s fountains is “free”, and so might be an occasional vaporetto ride (honor system, no one checks tickets on those crowded boats) and for everything else there is an overdraft. Do not splurge on sit down meals accompanied by live symphonic orchestra, because it is really going to cost you. Some once-every-two-years Venetians (of polish origin) try to keep it cool and act: nabogato’, which, in loose translation, means: to spend it like a Nouveau riche wannabe on the eve of the Venice Film Festival. If you can’t keep up with that image, you are most likely end up catching a hike to the airport, having run out of your funds.
Now some hints and tips (in all seriousness):
- Don’t waste time queuing for tickets. Go online, prior to your trip, and buy a Vaporetto Dell Arte 48hrs sightseeing boat pass (40.00 Euro) or ACTV regular vaporetto/water bus ticket (prices vary), Allow extra time to get to the airport, also buy tickets for transfers in advance.
- Il Palazzo Enciclopedico La Biennale di Venezia pass to two venues of modern art exhibitions in Giardini and Arsenale (30.00 Euro, valid for access to both, even on non-consecutive days – shut down on Mondays). Biennale runs until 24 November 2013.
- Avoid sitting down in restaurants and bars, save money and mingle with locals, order stuff at the counter and if you are tired of walking all day, sit on the bench outside and take in the views (never on the steps of the bridges).
- Tap water is safe to drink and Venice has the most of drinking fountains that I have seen anywhere in the world. Carry a bottle with you and refill it as you go.
- Get out there, if not to Murano or Burano (the other islands of interest for tourists) head out to Lido (where actual Venetians live). Lido is well connected with San Marco and other vaporetto stops across Venice main, most of the day and night water bus lines have their final stop there (30 min). Once in Lido, find Lido On Bike (ask in tourist info at the boat bus terminal). Hiring a bicycle for a day costs 9.00 Euro (shop closes at 7PM). The island is cyclist friendly, flat and scenic.
All in all, Venice ain’t cheap, but can be managed on a budget as long as you get stuff booked well in advance. Come visit before it disappears stampeded into the Adriatic Sea by 100,000 legs per day (or run over by a mega cruise ship).
Hope you enjoyed this special edition.
Have you been to Venice? Did you find it inspiring?
Images source: Tomek Sawko unless otherwise stated