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Venice Connected: Venice Goes Online

For travelers like me who are constantly online, researching a trip in Italy can be a bit frustrating. Yes, there are plenty of cities, hotels, and attractions in Italy which have good websites – but infinitely more lag behind with either distinctly unhelpful websites or no online presence at all. It’s for this reason that when I first heard about a new Venice website that promised to make travel in the canal city easier I was a bit skeptical. So far, however, it looks like a winner.

Venice Connected is a new effort by the city of Venice which went live on February 1, 2009. The press releases about the site said that it would not only help visitors choose travel days that would be less busy, but would also provide great discounts to anyone who planned their trips far enough in advance. The “advance planning = discount” thing I could totally understand, support, and get excited about. But I was doubtful a city like Venice, which (let’s be honest) really doesn’t have much of a “low season,” could help people pick less-crowded days via a website. After all, if everyone decides to book their trip on what the website says are the least-crowded days, won’t they automatically become more crowded?

One of the goals of Venice Connected is to encourage more people to visit Venice in the low season so as to ease the burdens on the city during the busier times of the year, which is definitely a laudable goal, by giving them substantial discounts for booking in the low season. Tourists who visit the website will be able to see color-coded days on a calendar where the colors indicate how crowded the city is, and people who plan their trips on the least-crowded days will get the biggest discounts.

It looks like the colors are assigned based on general high/low season dates, but I can’t tell if the colors are dynamic – in other words, I don’t know if the colors would change if all of a sudden hundreds of people started booking trips on one of the “least crowded” days, making it by default more crowded. (If it did work that way, I think it would be much more realistic in terms of how it’s portraying the crowds in Venice – not to mention really cool.) But of course not everyone is going to use this website to book their trips to Venice, so there’s really no way to accurately gauge the numbers of tourists who’ll be in the city on any given day.

Still, even if I have reservations about that element of Venice Connected, I’m excited about the other things the site offers to travelers in Venice. Here are just a few of the things you can already do on the new site:

Apparently there are more features which will be added in the near future, including the ability to buy WiFi access for all of Venice, and they’re hoping to add more of the city’s most famous landmarks as time goes on. And with the purchase of a three-day vacation package, the city council is currently throwing in a few freebies as well – including a ticket to the Venice casino.

There’s an excellent and detailed article about how to use Venice Connected at the Living Venice blog here, which I highly recommend if you’re planning to use the site. But if you’re looking for a different kind of tour guide for this new site, then you can click on the image of the blonde woman in the upper left-hand corner – her name is Giulia, and she’s your multi-lingual guide to Venice Connected.

>> Don’t forget about the oh-so-cool Venice address finder I wrote about last year, and which is a huge help when trying to locate places in this crazy maze-like city!