Technically, Venice is a part of Italy. But after having spent a month in Rome, I felt like I was in a different country the second we arrived there. Obviously, the city is completely surrounded by water, so that plays a huge role in differentiating it from the rest of the country, but it also has a very unique, Venice-specific culture.
That culture is worthy of a primer course before your visit. Below are some things you should know before you travel to Venice, or, if you don’t have a trip planned, some (hopefully) fun reading.
In my Venice fantasies, I traveled everywhere on a gondola. In a city with so much water and so many gondolas, they must be a cheap, quick and convenient method of transport, right?
Nope. In reality, they are none of those things. Taking a gondola ride is really expensive (I’m talking 80-100+ Euros for a 2km trip expensive). I found that it’s better to readjust your expectation of what the purpose of the gondola ride is. It’s most certainly not for getting from point A to point B.
The gondola ride is an experience, more comparable to taking a horse & carriage ride through Central Park or riding a rollercoaster at an amusement park than to taking a cab. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime type experience at that, so I highly recommend it, but realistically, if you want to pony up the cash, you’ll take one 20 minute ride and that’s it.
The more practical method of transport in Venice is via the public transportation system, hopping on and off ferry boats called vaporettos. They’re still not cheap; a single ride ticket is 6.50 Euros. Sidenote: this prompted an American who we were waiting next to on the docks to scream “6.50 to take the bus??!! Are they f***ing kidding me??” Valid point, but it is still a boat, so it’s much cooler than the bus. If you’re going to take the vaporetto a few times, it makes sense to buy a pass. Unlimited use for 24 hrs will run you 18 Euros.
I will say that vaporettos are still not a particularly efficient way of getting around. You’ll generally have to wait between 5 and 10 minutes for one to arrive, and be prepared to stand in tight quarters with other travelers and make frequent stops before arriving at your destination.
I just loved the idea of cicchetti. They are little hors d’oeuvres or tapas, say bruschetta or fried seafood, that are available during the early evening hours at many wine bars and wine shops around Venice. Each costs about 1-2 Euros, and you take your snack and your glass of wine and enjoy it inside the shop or, better yet, outside on the street. The scene was so lively at each of the little bars we visited – a bunch, including Al Merca, pictured above, were around the Rialto bridge – and you really could make a meal just of bar hopping and eating cicchetti all night. When I open my wine/cheese/soup/book shop back in the US/my fantasies, I’ll definitely incorporate this concept.
And, finally, a couple of other things to note about the Venetian dialect which are a little different from the rest of Italy:
- A square is referred to as a “campo,” not a “piazza”
- Streets are called “calle” not “via”
- A “sestiere” is a neighborhood
- A wine bar is a “bacaro,” rather than an enoteca
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