For a major Italian city, Venice felt particularly safe. At least on the main tourist side of it. On the mainland, across the long causeway, it didn't look so nice, but no tourist is going there anyway. Just make sure not to get off too early on the train. I went in winter, so things might change when the masses of tourist crowds could encourage the pickpockets, but even in winter there are large crowds, and I didn't get pestered by anyone other than the gondoliers. And they were not hard sell.
Venices' churches, buildings, monuments, canals and pavements etc are no different to those in other cities, they all eventually need cleaning or repairing - So don't be surprised to see some of Venice's famous sights taking on a different appearance.
On my visit to Venice in December 2006, one of my favourite views was of Santa Maria della Salute, I took lots of photos from the Molo etc day and night.
Returning 6 months later, I was poised to get my first shot of it from the vaporetto. I was stunned to see the elegant dome was covered in scaffolding. It had an appearance of a hairnet covering its glory! This was still in place when I returned December 2007.
At my 2006 visit, another of my favourite churches San Zaccaria was hidden under plastic sheeting. A year later boarding was in place in front of the entrance, but this was quite interesting - it had information re. the restoration programme, but when You moved position, the info changed. (Like one of those childhood puzzles that you move to alter the picture)
December 2007, I noticed that the statue of Goldini in Campo Bartolomeo was hidden behind boarding - again with info about the statue underneath and the restoration work.
The church of San Simeone Piccolo that sits on the Grand Canal opposite the train station, is a church that has intrigued me each time I've passed it, and I was hoping to visit it - again it was covered up.
Entering Plazza San Marco from the Piazetta dei Leoncini, I noticed that part of the Basillica was encased in scaffolding and plastic sheeting. It wasn't until my last day, sitting outside Quadris that I noticed that one of the flagpoles in front of San Marco was also encased.
So for those hoping to get a pristine photograph of these sights, you might be disappointed.
On the other hand, You'll get a different view.
After all, despite criticism that Venice is nothing more than a theme park/ Disneyland, it is a working city, and Tinkerbell doesn't appear with magic dust to transform the buildings overnight!
Hopefully some of the locals are employed in the work.
UPDATE September 2010**** At my recent visit- the work is completed on Salute, but the also The Bridge of Sighs is visible from Ponte della Paglia still. but the walls of the Doges Palace either side of the Rio del Palazzo are encased in plastic sheeting, and behind the Bridge, so you can't view from the small bridge behind. it looks quite stunning at night though! San Zacharia Church is now uncovered, tho' Piccolo is still encased!
The Campanile is undergoing renovation
UPDATE JUNE 2013
Well.... The Bridge of Sighs is now renovated and is easily seen, The Camponile is back to normal and ..... San Simeone Piccolo is now open!
Beware of a tourist company called Venice Events.
We pre-paid for a tour with Venice Events but their tour staff failed to turn up and deliver the service. When we called to ask where they were, their office staff hung up the phone!! We have contacted the company several times since and they refuse to issue a refund or communicate with us further.
It seems Venice Events receives full payment in advance for their services, and can do what they like thereafter. In our case they took our money and didn't bother honoring the booking.
Beware - they sell their events direclty and also via a tourist office. They only accept cash or Visa card payment (no AMEX) so you cannot get your money back and they can reject a VISA payment dispute.
We happened to tell the owner of the hotel we stayed in, and he said it was not the first time (by far) that he has heard this.
Beware of the street vendors selling ice cream...
I have a life-threatening nut allergy. I bought an ice cream from a vendor between St.Mark's Square and our nearby hotel (Hotel Monaco and Grand Canal) and I suffered a severe reaction.
The last time I went back to Venice I returned to that same vendors and watched him: there was no rinsing of the serving scoop between different flavours.
I am now far more careful of such places.
Okay, you want to visit Venice and you take your usually super-size me suitcase that contains everything including the kitchen sink. Big mistake in Venice; there are small canals all over the place and chances are you are going to have to cross a canal to get to where ever you are staying. Up and down all those bridges with stairs and your huge suitcases is no fun.
Travel light or be prepared to have an unpleasant time! We had been forewarned and just had backpacks. That worked out really well for us.
Dusk comes early and quick in winter. In my previous visits to Venice I didn’t notice it, but this time, the first one where I had the chance to see Venice under a clear sun, it didn’t last long, and at 4 PM it was getting dark.
A common thing for people from the north, but strange and sad for us, Mediterranean people! I still miss Venice under a bright sun!
Business in Venice is… tourism, glass, carnival and art.
I can imagine a large market for the first three things, but I can’t figure out to whom do they sell the thousands of art pieces in display. I didn’t check it but… if they are reproductions their prices may not cover the costs of so many stalls, so many people, so high expenses; if they are original… my God! Passing in San Marco I noticed something connected to Dali. It was!
Of course, a reproduction of a watch of Dali, at the entrance of the art gallery, was an appealing idea. But I looked inside, and behind it two Picasso… No! Reproductions, for sure! But, to pay the rent in San Marco how much should they cost? Don’t ask me! I didn’t take the risk to see. Be careful!
The friendly staff at our hotel had informed us that we could get a free water taxi ride to the island of Murano with a visit to a glass factory. The prospect of a free ride plus the possibility of seeing the island momentarily blinded me to the fact that all this would come at price!
The water taxi ride was wonderful ---- boarding the excellent boat just near our hotel, we passed under the Calatrava Bridge, and the Ponte della Liberta, before turning towards the island of Murano. The 20 to 30 minute boat ride on this stunningly beautiful day, along with being upon the water reminded me of my youth growing up on the Chesapeake Bay.
Arriving on the island of Murano, we were warmly greeted by an employee of the Signoretti Glass Factory and escorted into the factory area where one of the artists gave us a demonstration of glass blowing. Though interesting, I have seen many glass-blowing demonstrations before and the piece the gentleman at Signoretti was working on was not a complicated one. We were then led into the multi-level store showcasing some of Signoretti's most expensive works such as chandeliers and objets d'art. Though there were many beautiful pieces, prices for some pieces were in the tens of thousands of Euros -- not in our league at all!!
When the gentleman realized we would not be purchasing any of these expensive pieces, his demeanor changed immediately for the worse and we were finally shown a room with beautiful, though much less expensive pieces. His obvious false hospitality was very disappointing and upsetting, but nonetheless, I still felt pressured to purchase something because of the free boat ride. In the end we decided to purchase a beautiful vase, though it was still what I would call expensive, afterwhich I was glad to leave. This pressure to purchase something moreorless ruined the experience for me, on top of which we never were able to see other parts of the island. This being said, anyone who accepts the free ride to Murano from a glass factory knowing this should enjoy this visit for what it is, and if you happen to buy a beautiful piece of artwork, so much the better! I certainly did enjoy the boat rides!
We were also promised a return ride to Fondamente Nuova. We were required to wait another 45 minutes (until there were enough other customers to fill the boat) before leaving the island, and then instead of being let off at the Fundamente Nuova, the boat dropped us off at San Marco--this lead us to the unfortunate vaporetto ride back to Ferrovia.
Lesson learned! In a situation such as this, nothing is really free!
Calle San Cipriano 48 - 30141 Murano (Venice) ITALY
Believe me you set off from the door of your hotel (no not the water door) and turn into the narrow walkway...you go over a bridge and turn again and you come to a little square where there is a shop selling coffee....after you have enjoyed a rest in the 'back streets' you look at the walkways leading off the square...which way ?you wonder.
The buildings have numbers...so you know your address but here is another turn....what number now? There are many hotels....the locals cannot understand you...the rest are tourists looking for their way back.
So next time we took a map with us...it was some help....But the best way is to take a pen and paper and write down your own markers....be very exact and turn around a make the marker easy to see as you are going back.
Oh and have the name and number of your hotel with you and a map showing the location of the hotel...but it is quite a feat to have worked it out yourself
Ok you are mod...you have a GPS thing...great
Three things to mention for travellers. The boats land against the dock and sometimes when steppng on or off the boat there is a small chance your foot might get in between. So watch your step.
Second thing. When the boat is tied up to the dock, that big rope is under a lot of tension, so keep your hands away from this rope.
Don't be afraid to ask for help when getting into and out of a gondola.
We just travelled on the overnight sleeper train from Venice to Paris-Bercy. We are Police officers and are very safety conscious but our experience was alarming.
At 2.30am whilst everyone slept, five italian/romainian men opened our locked sleeper cabin door with either a stolen key or plyers. After we chased them, they locked the main doors to each carriage and tied doors closed with torn sheets. We were unable to escape or find any staff as the train conductor had conveniently left his post whilst the robberies were taking place.
After we pulled the emergency alarm as the robbers rifled through stolen bags in a locked carriage, the train conductor did everything he could to avoid helping us and prevented us from identifying or locating the robbers who were still in the last carriage. When the Police arrived to check passports he did not mention any incident and laughed when we tried. When we informed the French Police they were not interested.
WARNING: Do not trust locked cabin doors. Tie it from the inside or sleep with your valuables or take turn sleeping. We believe the train staff had been bribed by the robbers or were involved. He told us he was afraid.
The call of nature. Venice is NOT a good city to be a human. Dogs are allowed to poo all over the place, but not you. The local government website lists 10 public toilets in the city. This serves 280,000 residents and 22,000,000 TOURISTS!!!! - 10 PLACES ! And of course you have to pay! Restaurants do not want you to use their toilets and hotels? Forget about it. Unless you find the Burger King, you have to pretend you are eating in a restaurant or carry a lot of money. Oh, and the dogs? The owners don’t clean that up so you can just walk through it.
Not very nice.
Do NOT try to see venice this way. When we arrived on our last trip to Venice we were making our way onto the water bus. On the way we were passed by a lady who was yelling back over her shoulder at her obviously miserable family "hurry up guys, we only have 6 hours!"
If you don't have time to experience Venice then don't go. Take at least 3 days on your first trip and spend at least half of the time away from the sights just strolling around. Then, you will fall in love with Venice and want to come back as soon as you can.
It is kind of typical in Italian tourist places that both a service charge (servizio) of 12 % and a charge for bread and cutlery (coperto) of 1 or 2 Euro is added to the bill. So keep that in mind when calculating your budget or thinking about a tip.
Apart from that the prices for drinks are often not displayed on the menus outside of the restaurant. Compared to the cheap pasta or pizza, the drinks might be relatively expensive.
You should have your ticket purchased and validated prior to boarding. If you can't do this, for example the vaporetto stop doesn't have a ticket office, (As I found at Rialto Mercato) you must notify the bus 'conductor' immediately on boarding - where they will issue a single ticket. It's not worth trying to get away without paying as Ticket Inspectors issue hefty on the spot fines - about 30 Euros-also, if you have a ticket, but haven't validated it.
You must get a receipt if you have to pay a fine. If not, You can report the inspector and file a complaint at the next vaporetto station.
Some of the popular stops ie San Zaccariah/ Rialto Bridge have staff inspecting your ticket before boarding. It's not just tourists that are checked-it's locals too.
Train and Bus tickets should be validated too.
Even if you've purchased a 12 hour/48 hour etc 'Saver Ticket' it should be validated prior to the first journey, then swiped at the beginning of each journey - I've only just found this out - I thought that you only made the initial validation - I'm not sure why you have to swipe it at each journey, as you are entitled to unlimited travel during the allocated time limit. (Unless it's to 'track' useage/popular routes etc, for future costings)
Validation machines are available at each Vaporetto stop, the new 'swipe' machines, mean you just have to hold the ticket in front of the screen - the first validation 'sets the time of expiry. Subsequent swipes remind you of the date and time of expiry.
The old yellow machines are for the ticket to be inserted and stamped.
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