10 Insider Tips for Venice

I wasn’t sure what to expect. News reports of mass overcrowding and governments wanting to limit the number of tourists allowed into Venice. I was expecting an, overcrowded, overpopulated mosh pit. In reality, Venice is beautiful. Yes it’s busy, but no busier than Las Ramblas in Barcelona or the front of the Eiffel Tower in France; if anything it's less busy as San Macro’s Square is probably bigger than Wembley.

Escape the rat race and take a city break to Venice.  Switch off whilst meandering down quaint alleyways over wooden bridges and taking in the spirit of Venice from a gondola.  Before you set off, here are our tried and test, top 10 tips, from an insider.

Grand Canal. Venice
San Georgio
San Georgio Island, Venice

1. Climb the San Georgio Bell Tower - Get yourself over to San Georgio  - the island directly across the lagoon from San Marco’s Square (in English we say St Mark’s).  San Marco’s Square was busy. A 2 minute ride on the Vaporetto (government run water bus service – don’t mix this up with water taxi!). We visited at 1pm and there were less than 20 people on the island, compared to the thousands over at San Marco’s Square.  The island provides the perfect calm and tranquil setting to take in the coastline of Venice’s main Island.  For a fee of 6 Euros you can climb the bell tower (you have the added bonus of a lift).  There are no mass queues like San Marco Bell Tower (San Marco Campanile) and get breath-taking 360 degree views of Venice – escape the hustle and bustle – San Georgio Island is an absolute must.

2. Gondola ride with Serenade – You can’t go to Venice without riding on a Gondola.  The highlight of my trip to Venice was a Gondola ride with a serenade.  Yes, but they cost over €120 for a ride?  Download the app Triposo.  It takes your location and offers you discounted activities near you.  We paid €75 for 2 and that included the serenade. A package worth over €150.  The ride down the Grand Canal in a Gondola with an Italian Tenor singing ‘Volare’ will always be my highlight of Venice. You can’t get more Italian than a Gondola ride in Venice with an Italian Tenor!

3. Venice is expensive – have you been to Paris? – Time and time again I hear how expensive Venice is. Well it’s not cheap, but it’s no more expensive than cities like Paris. I visited Paris, 2 weeks before visiting Venice.  I would never eat on San Macro’s Square – I’m not George Clooney – however, I'd be happy to meander a few streets back find a beautiful Piazza (town square) or canal to eat by.  Exactly the same approach as in Paris.  I found in both Venice and Paris a 2 course meal for 2, with a bottle of wine or a few beers to cost €80 – €90.  That’s €40 – €45 per guest.  That was far different to the €70 a bottle of wine what I heard rumoured.

4. Wine is cheaper than Coke – OK not quite, but there was practically no difference. In a restaurant we dined the prices were:

Coke or other soft drink – €6 (200 ml) – €0.03 per ml
Half a bottle of red or white wine – €12.75 (375ml) – €0.034 per ml

As you can see, its costs €0.004 extra to drink wine over soft drinks.  Therefore, to everyone’s delight – its more economical to drink wine. Saluti!

5. Enjoy a beer – George Clooney style! – So we don’t eat at  San Macro’s Square yet why couldn't we still enjoy a beer or glass of wine like a celebrity?  Venice is famous for, yes canals and gondolas but also roof terraces; the only garden properties could have were on the roof, due to the canals. Just off San Macro’s Square we headed into Danieli Hotel, which in a nut shell, is the Ritz of Venice. The lift at the rear of the grand marble atrium, takes you up to the rooftop bar.  The rooftop bar offers spectacular views across the lagoon from a relaxed and sophisticated terrace.  The calm and tranquillity away from the busy streets below is beautiful.  Sit back, relax and sip, yes sip, your €15 bottle of Moretti.  The experience is worth the price tag of one beer. 

Danieli Hotel Roof Terrace, Venice

6. Meander the streets after hours – I’m not sure exactly where everyone goes – be it back to their cruise ship or back to the mainland; but the evenings in Venice are relatively calm in comparison from the busy days. We visited in August and at 8.00pm we could stroll around the narrow streets with ease and even take a photo without a tour party in the background.  Evening was my favourite time of day in Venice.

7. Don’t confuse water taxi with VAPORETTO – Water taxis are private boats that look like something out of a James Bond movie.  Unfortunately, Uber don’t have boats.  Water taxis fee’s start at €15 for just stepped aboard.  The Vaporetto is the underground of Venice, but it’s a boat like everything else. Operated by the government its is cheap; €7.50 for the 30 minute ride from the mainland up the Grand Canal to the Lagoon (the water taxi charge €1.80 a minute).  The Vaporetto operates every 15 minutes. We found the Vaporetto extremely convenient and cheap compared to all other types of transport in Venice. However beware, maybe it’s a sales pitch;  if you ask for water bus they will direct you to the water taxi, make sure you ask for Vaporetto.

Venice Delicacy - Spaghetti with Squid Ink

8. Learn the word ‘Squid Ink’ – Call me naive but when I ordered ‘Spaghetti with Squid Ink’ I expected a seafood spaghetti dish, with squid.   I almost fell off my chair when I was presented with a dish which looked like black worms.  Squid ink is a popular delicacy in Venice and is black squid dye, used to colour and flavours your dish.  After convincing myself it was just coloured spaghetti I slowly started to eat.  The dish was tasty, a slightly salty seafood spaghetti, if you closed your eyes you wouldn’t even know if was black.  However, after finishing the meal, I was horrified when I looked in the mirror.  Black teeth, black mouth and black spatters over both my face and shirt – and remember this is Ink so its stubborn to get off.  I wish I knew what squid ink was, before my trip to Venice.

9. Visit Piazza San Macro – Although busy and possibly seen in over a dozen movies – Piazzo San Macro (St Mark’s Square) is certainly worth a visit.  Get up early if you can to avoid the crowds.  In the evening the square is alive with live music, busy restaurants and even full jazz bands with tenors – you can't visit Venice without visiting Piazza San Macro.

Early morning at Piazza San Macro
Burano, famous for colourful houses

10. Visit the outer Islands – Often neglected by travellers, the outer Islands are Venice’s best kept secret. A breezy 45 minute vaporetto ride away is Murano, renowned for its chandelier and glass making centre.  Burano is another island famous for colourful painted houses and if your looking for a beach, Lido is the island for you.

Whats your Venice top tip?  Please comment below.