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Visiting Venice on the Cheap

gondolasI’m not a newspaper reader, but the husband pointed out an article about Venice in the local paper this weekend, so of course I grabbed it. The gist of the article is that even though you can spend a mint on a visit to Venice, you can also see Italy’s most romantic city cheaply. I was pleased to note that one of the tips they mention is one I noted a few months ago in a post about general budget travel tips for Italy – instead of taking an expensive gondola ride, take a quick (and super cheap) one from one side of the Grand Canal to the other. The newspaper notes that the canal-crossing ride probably isn’t quite as romantic as the longer gondola rides where you can cuddle with a sweetheart, but what most people don’t picture when they dream of that romantic ride on one of those Venice gondolas is all the tourists leaning over Venice’s bridges leering at you, snapping pictures of you and generally “intruding” on what could otherwise feel like a private moment. At least with the short ride that crosses the Grand Canal you’re not going to be expecting any heart palpitations.

At any rate, the other tips for a budget trip to Venice that were listed in the newspaper are:

  • Dining in Venice can be an adventure in frustration, as the city is notorious for its bad food. To avoid eating badly (and paying through the nose for it), eat lunch where you can get what the paper calls “Italian-style tapas.” Look for places where you can get finger-food called cicchetti and eat like the locals. Imbibe in a local tradition of an afternoon glass of white wine called an ombra and you’ll really feel like you belong there.
  • For those who don’t want to stay cheaply in dorm-style hostels in Italy, Venice can be a tough place to find inexpensive hotel rooms. As with pretty much every tourist destination on earth, the closer you get to the things in a city people want to see, the higher the hotel prices get. In Venice, that means the further you get from the Piazza San Marco, the better the deals are. The hotel noted in the article is the Albergo Marin near the train station. Don’t be distracted by the fact that Marin is listed under youth hostels – budget hotels are often listed there. To search for more budget accommodations, you can read about the hostels in Venice that I visited personally, and check out these Venice hostel and Venice hotel listings.
  • If you’re a culture vulture, a Venice Museum Pass will get you into nine sites in Venice from the Doge’s Palace to Murano’s glass museum. Of course, I wouldn’t feel at all badly about not visiting a single museum during a visit to Venice… Except for St. Mark’s Basilica, which isn’t really a museum anyway, and which doesn’t charge an entry fee. So don’t worry about missing the best of Venice if you spend your days wandering the maze-like streets and alleys. You’re seeing the best of Venice, and that’s free. Also note that many of the Venice discount passes offer combinations of sights and transportation, which can also help save you money.
  • Speaking of freebies, the last note in the article is about things you can do in Venice for free. There’s a public park in the Cannaregio neighborhood and glass blowing demonstrations on Murano (though those always end in the gift shop, you’re not obligated to buy anything). Shockingly, St. Mark’s Basilica isn’t mentioned, but that’s the second-best Venice freebie. You can even bypass the long line to get into the Basilica by reserving an entry time online – and even that reservation doesn’t cost you a cent. Of course, as I mentioned, the best freebie in Venice just requires that you’re capable of walking – wandering the streets and getting yourself good and lost in the canal city only costs you time.

To read the entire article, which, as it turns out, ran originally in the New York Times nearly a year ago (it’s good to know the local rag is current and all that), go here.