Walking and eating in Venice Italy
My favorite thing is Venice's personality. One of the best features is that there are no cars! Both the tourists and the numerous dogs have no fear of being hit by a motorized vehicle or even a bicycle, being bombarded by noise from cars, or having to wait for lights when crossing streets. And you quickly get used to the peace and quiet after dark - the loudest noises come from the church bells several times a day and the footfalls of people walking to the commercial areas or vaporetto (boat buses) stops. Walking is a real pleasure - just try to avoid the busiest areas during peak tourist season (June - October) and times of day (after 9AM and up to 9PM. Feel free to explore all the narrow calles (alleyways) and many campos (squares) and find lovely little restaurants the locals frequent, historic architecture, resident families being themselves (kids are kids everywhere, except in Venice they are polite) and even to get lost as many streets dead-end at canals and there is often no direct route to where you are headed. Get a good map at your hotel or at a kiosk, and let the fun begin. Locals will help you if you are unsure or lost, but half the fun is just exploring. The streets are very safe, certainly in most of the city (I can't speak for the Giudecca as I didn't go there after reading that it's reputation is checkered). Crime against people is almost non-existent - just be as prudent as you would be in touring in any urban area in the US or abroad, and keep your money and passport in a slim money belt under your shirt at all times when outdoors. I personally never carry a pocketbook when traveling - just a tote bag for water and maps and my lipstick. If you take an expensive camera, try to keep it hung on your neck so you don't lay it down and forget it somewhere. Everything else can be left at the hotel locked in your suitcase. If you like to shop, there is every kind of store from expensive Italian and French designer clothes and jewelry to local family-run shops to African street sellers. Buy the museum package tickets to save a little money and time. Expect crowds everywhere, so minimize the inconvenience by starting your day early (e.g., 8-8:30AM) as many museums open by 9AM (check your guide book for each place, as well as for which ones are closed on which days). Don't embarrass your countrymen by 1) throwing food wrappers on streets or bringing food into museums or stores, 2) talking too loud and disturbing the locals, or 3) wearing inappropriate clothing such as shorts and tank tops (in churches, you'll either be refused admittance or asked to pay for a shawl to cover your shoulders; in restaurants Venetians, like most Europeans, dress up rather than down when eating out and walking around the city, so blend in and you'll be welcomed everywhere.) Everything! The way the rising and setting sun makes the buildings look gold and pink, the aqua color of the laguna and Grande Canal on sunny days and the sound of water lapping everywhere, the wide variety of places to eat from the smallest neighborhood pizza shop to the 5-star restaurants (most places are around 3-star and not overly expensive. Do what we did and have breakfast in your hotel if it's included free, and either skip lunch or get a cheap sandwich or pizza, then splurge a little on dinner. Many places have a price fixe dinner that is well worth it, and the wine is great and inexpensive for 1/2 liter). Venice's museums are numerous and other buildings are historic and fascinating as well - just the idea that most were several hundred years old left us weak-kneed. The churches are lovely (some with high bell towers from which you can see for miles). the public gardens are nice - the Giardini stop [after the Arsenale] on the vaporetto brings you not only to the gardens but to other neighborhoods with more restaurants and other sites to see. If you can, spend more than a day or two and get to know the city. We spent 5 days and didn't regret it. I would definitely go back there.