Venice, Italy is getting something of a bad reputation lately. The most unique and beautiful city in the world is known equally for its maddening crowds as the bridges and canals. Although it is in Italy, the culinary capital of the world, it is known for overpriced and awful food.
This is making people wonder if traveling to Venice is going to be a good idea. It’s a travel bucket list item for many, but is it worth it? Traveling to Italy is always a good idea and Venice is no exception. Although its recent bad reputation is somewhat deserved, there are lots of ways to experience Venice the way a local would and leave having experienced the trip of a lifetime.
In this article, we will go over some tips and tricks to get the most out of a trip to Venice and experience it like a local.
If your idea of waiting for hours to be rushed through a visit to the Basilica San Marco is not your idea of fun, then the best thing to do is go when the crowds are at their lowest numbers. Traveling to Venice off-season will give you access to the city like you could never dream of in July or August.
There will still be plenty of tourists around so you will still have to plan things out like making reservations for touristy things like visiting the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. Yet, the crowds are far more manageable and not overwhelming. In fact, without some tourists, the city would be maybe a little too quiet.
There are also great deals to be had when you go offseason. Hotels and Airbnbs in the most desirable locations would likely be off-limits in terms of budget, but also availability even if you didn’t mind the high prices. In the offseason, there are more places available in the areas where you would want to stay and at the right price.
Venice has a major airport that gets flights all throughout the year unlike in some touristy cities that have limited flights in the offseason if any. It is a major transit hub so you are likely to fly in any time of year. And the cost can be a fraction of what you would pay during the height of the summer.
Booking correctly can save you a lot of money that can be spent on splurging for a fancy canalside dinner. Just check out this guide here on how and when to book flights to save money and enjoy the savings.
Since Venice is an island, more accurately it’s a series of islands, it is impossible to get lost. What this means is that you should walk around without a destination in mind which will get you off of the tourist path even at the height of the season. If you feel like you are lost, just remember that you are not going to be able to wander off of the island so it’s ok to not know where you are.
There are a lot of out-of-the-way neighborhoods that are not in any of the guidebooks that you can really only find by just walking and taking some chances. There are small alleys that you can walk down and coming out the other end open up to a charming little piazza with clothes drying on lines and the little old ladies sitting on benches.
This will reveal the other side of Venice where the locals actually live. In these neighborhoods, you will be drinking your morning espresso side by side with the people who were born and raised in Venice and get to see another side the tourists don’t. You will eat authentic foods that are not to be found in the tourist trap restaurants. Lastly, the prices of your meals will be considerably less than a worse meal in the touristy areas.
Explore the lagoon
Off of the main islands that make up the city of Venice, there are loads of smaller islands dotted around the lagoon. These make excellent spots to get away from the crowds and enjoy some fresh sea air.
For instance, there is the island of Murano where the glass making that Venice is famous for is centered upon. It is a quaint little island with small boutique restaurants and plenty of shops to buy authentic glass items.
It can be just as busy as the main islands so plan to visit it late in the day when the crowds are gone.
Burano is another lovely little island but this time is the lace-making center. Wander the colorful streets and alleys with houses painted in bright colors unique to the island. Like Murano, the crowds dissipate in the late afternoon so you can have the place to yourself in the evening. Just keep the vaporetto (water bus) schedule handy so you don’t miss the last one back to the main islands.
There are other islands that can be accessed by the vaporetto and each has its own personality and identity. Saint Erasmus is the garden of Venice and has a lot of farms and almost no tourists.
The Lido is the barrier island that protects Venice from the open sea and is big enough to truly get away from the crowds. It’s a great place to beat the heat and go for a swim at its many beaches. It also has some of the most economical seafood restaurants so you can eat the local specialties taken right out of the lagoon at a reasonable price.
This short guide just barely scrapes the surface of what you can do in Venice away from the tourists. You can also shop at the fish market to get the freshest fish from the lagoon and cook it back at your Airbnb if you like to cook. There are art galleries that feature local artists that rarely have any tourists visit.
The list goes on and on so don’t be afraid to visit Venice despite its newfound bad reputation.