My parents and sister visited us in Germany during the month of June. This was my parents’ first time traveling outside of the US, and when learning that Venice was one of my Mom’s bucket list cities…well, I knew I had to surprise them with a trip there.
Amanda & I had been to Venice one other time last year, because this was the starting point for our cruise. But, we did not go into Venice. So, this was my first time into the heart of this beautiful place. The only other time that we came close to Venice was when we stayed at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas in 2010, but technically that doesn’t count either.
Before leaving for Venice, we researched Trip Advisor for hotel recommendations. Venice is made up of several islands, and I wanted to find the best place for us to stay but be close enough to get to the sites. We read great things about staying on the Lido Island, which is across the lagoon from the main part of Venice in San Marco. We selected our hotel Villa Laguna, which was perfectly located next to the water taxi stop and had a perfect view of San Marco. The hotel was awesome, and I highly recommend!
The next thing to research was how to get to the hotel since we were driving our car from Germany? There is a ferry to the island, but I didn’t really want to take my car into Venice. After reading a few forums, we found the perfect suggestion was to park the car at the Venice Airport, and then take a water taxi to the hotel. This worked out tremendously well!! For 2 nights, the cost to park in the Marco Polo Venice Airport P1 deck next to the port was 42 Euro. And, it is only a 5 minute walk to the water taxi stop.
So, water taxis….I researched this also, because I knew there were many options and directions that they travel, and I wanted to minimize our time on the water as well as the cost for the 4 of us traveling. I chose to use the services of Alilaguna because the reviews I read about this service mentioned the boats were newer than the main water taxi service. We chose the 60 hour pass, and after being there, am so glad we chose this line. Each time we passed the main water taxi boat, it was always completely full of people (sometimes standing room only!!). And, if the motion on a boat makes you a little uneasy, standing is NOT the best option. Yes, the water taxi is a little cheaper and moves a little faster, but there is something to be said about having more room to sit down and enjoy the view as you hop between the islands. And, the cost of Alilaguna is not too much more, but it is well worth it as their boats stop at all the main sites in Venice.
Okay, all the research was done, and then it was ready for our drive through Germany, Austria, the Alps, and northern Italy. I have blog posts here to highlight those stops along the way to Venice.
We arrived to the airport at midday on a Wednesday. From the time we parked to checking into the hotel, about 2 hours had passed as we had to wait for Alilaguna, it was an hour ride to our hotel, and then walking over from the water taxi stop.
We decided that our first night we would walk to a local restaurant near our hotel on the Lido Island for dinner, and then start our trip into Venice early the next morning. After the wonderful breakfast at the hotel outside overlooking the lagoon, it was time to board our taxi over to San Marco.
We had not planned an itinerary of exact sites to see, but rather we chose to basically wander around and get lost in the city since we had a full day and evening there. The weather was fantastic! We made it to the sites of the San Marco Square, Rialto Bridge, the Grand Canal, etc. But, the highlight of the trip was our gondola ride through the canals of Venice.
Riding in a gondola I realized was also on my mother’s bucket list. Finding a Gondolier is a rather simple process, as they are scattered across Venice, but there are plenty to be found at the major sites near canals. We negotiated a price for ours near the Rialto Bridge, and for 80 Euros, the four of us were taken on a 30 minute ride. Our Gondolier was very friendly pointing out different things as we passed by. I learned that they have a signal that they yell out as they approach intersections yelling out “a-hoy”. Also, the canals can get quite busy with other gondolas or motor boats passing by. That’s when you realize the canals are actual city streets. Even though a bit on the pricey side, if you are going to Venice, you must absolutely take in a ride!!
As far as eating in Venice, my advice, which is the same advice I would give in any city, is to avoid the main tourist attractions, and find a cafe away from the main streets. We found a nice little place down an alley, and had some pretty good pizza and pasta at a decent price.
One negative about Venice is that finding public restrooms can be challenging. They do exist, and a link to where some of them are located can be found here. But, the best tip I can provide on this topic is when you decide to eat at a restaurant, use their facilities before leaving, as most restaurants do have restrooms. However, it is custom to buy something instead of just going inside “to go”.
Since some things in Venice can be a bit on the expensive side, here is a list of the Top 10 Free Sites to see in Venice:
1. Piazza San Marco
2. Basilica di San Marco
3. Venice Waterfront (St. Mark’s Basin)
4. Grand Canal
5. Rialto Bridge
6. Venetian Ghetto
7. Canali, campi, calli (canals, squares, and back streets)
8. Churches (Salute, Carmini, and others that don’t charge admission)
9. Shopping Streets
10. Islands of the Lagoon (San Michele cemetery, Murano, Burano, Torcello, Lido)
Overall, we found Venice to be very charming. As a history buff and an engineer, I find how the city was built to be fascinating and the history behind it amazing. While other Italian cities need more than one day (i.e., Rome requires three), seeing and experiencing Venice can be done very nicely over two days.