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There are many ways to get to Venice, but the main thing to remember is that once there: NO CARS ALLOWED. Once past Piazzale Roma the city is entirely pedestrianised. Access to the port area (Stazione Marittima) is possible for land taxis as it lies between Piazzale Roma and Tronchetto island. If you must arrive by automobile, there are several very expensive parking garages at Piazzale Roma or Tronchetto (the bus terminals, and the limit for all motor traffic), which during peak tourist seasons including Carnival in February, fill up early. It is often more convenient to leave a car on the mainland and take public transportation by bus or train into the Venetian Lagoon.
The public transportation on the water buses in the center of Venice is generally very good (http://www.actv.it/), though sometimes quite crowded, and even then it only reaches the areas around the outside of the two major land masses and the areas lining the Grand Canal. Anyplace else you want to reach, you need to walk. Fortunately all Venice is very safe, there are no "no-go" areas. Wear comfortable walking shoes. With the exceptions of Rolling Venice Card and VeniceConnected discounts described below, everyone age 6 and over pays the same price: there are no youth or senior discounts.
VeneziaUnica (ex-VeniceConnected) You can buy transportation passes, museum passes, and other services from this site. It is also very easy to purchase passes once in Venice during business hours. There is a Hello Venezia/ACTV kiosk at Marco Polo airport, Piazzale Roma, and Ferrovia (the landing stage on the banks of the Grand Canal infront of Santa Lucia train station), as well as other places, and automated ticket machines are at a number of other ACTV landing stages as well.
A Rolling Venice Card can be purchased in Venice at any HelloVenezia/ACTV ticket window at 4€ and will give you discounts for certain sights. It is only available for 14-29 year olds (Juniors). With this card the 3-day ACTV transport pass is available at only 18€.
Public transportation at most boat stops uses ticketing through an "honor system", as there are no turnstiles to limit access. You need to validate your ticket using one of the small yellow or white card reading machines near the entrance. Simply tap your ticket onto the center of the machine. Tap again if it doesn't beep. Randomly organized spot checks once aboard boats (and buses on the mainland) by authorities are frequent, though, and the fines for not having a valid ticket are VERY high (up to hundreds of euros, depending on the original fare). If you don't have a ticket, a one-way ticket can be purchased on board without a surcharge or penalty by asking the boat personnel immediately upon boarding to avoid the fine.
Walk the streets of Venice at 6am -- it is different from any other time -- or late at night when the lights twinkle on the water. During the Winter the fog also adds to the magic.
Toilets. There are several public toilets (Servizi igienici pubblici) around Venice in popular tourist areas; they generally charge €1.50 but are kept clean and tidy. If you buy a Venice card or Rolling Venice Card, admission to the toilets is free. Many (not all) cafés and bars have toilets available for clients, even if one has only a cup of coffee (though a lower proportion than in the rest of Italy), so before you order it is a good idea to verify the availability of a public restroom. A very small number of cafes and bars still have the old-fashioned 'alla turc' lavatories - just a hole in the ground over which you squat.
Bring a small pocket flashlight to look at your map after the sun goes down. The streetlights are quite dim. The effect is very romantic and mysterious but nothing is worse than being lost and unable to read your map because you can't see.
If you are staying in Spring and Summer, mosquito repellent is a good idea. (It may even be a good idea in Fall and Winter.) Many of La Serenissima's stunning casement windows do not have screens, so you may wake up in the morning with nibbles. Do ask your hotel, B&B or apartment agent for the small, electric, plug-in-the-wall mosquito repellers. In warm weather its is advisable to have a bedroom with air-conditioning.
If a boat from a hotel travels to the glass factories om Murano, it may return on the other side of Venice.
If the someone offers you a free boat ride to Murano to see the glass blowing factories, should you decide not buy anything, they might NOT return you back to where you came from. They will give you a "ticket" to take the public boat - if you are lucky, otherwise you are just left to your own devices. It is easy to go to Murano on your own on the n°4.1 or n°4.2 vaporetti - water buses (tickets €7.50 for a 60 minute voyage in any one direction). Get off at the Colonna or Faro landing stages for many glass factories, or at the Museo landing stage if you wish to visit the Glass Museum in Palazzo Giustinian or the lovely Veneto-Byzantine church of Santi Maria e Donato with a fine mosaic floor dating to 1140 AD.
Original Murano glass, handblown by authentic glass masters, is generally VERY expensive. Make sure you check around to see the prices of the vases to be able to buy at the right price. Prices for a vase at Murano can sometimes be found near Piazza San Marco greatly discounted, since there is more competition at the stores by San Marco. Since the vendors at San Marco are closer to each other, hence they cannot put totally outrageous prices. Sometimes even greater discounts can be found at Burano or in outlying areas of the center. Don't be afraid--do barter to try for a greater discount. Beware that some unscrupulous stores and vendors falsely sell glass imported from the East as Murano glass, which can be one reason for an "unbelievably good" discount. When you buy something at Murano from an organized tour, the concierge and the boat men get a cut.
Burano cannot be reached on the n°41 or n°42 water buses. You have to take the Linea 12 ferry which sails from Fondamenta Nove, calls at Faro landing stage on Murano, and then sails on to Mazzorbo before reaching Burano. The Linea 12 continues its journey and one could take it on to Treporti and Punta Sabbioni before returning to Venice. See http://www.actv.it/ for details of timetables. There is an interesting small Lace Museum on Burano, but sadly, very little original handmade Burano lace is available nowadays, and is generally exceedingly expensive. Much of the lace on sale in the shops on Burano is machine made lace imported from abroad.
From Burano you can cross the channel to Torcello on the Linea T water bus. Torcello has two churches well worth visting. The largest is Santa Maria Assunta, the first cathedral in the Venetian lagoon, built in 638 AD. It has superb early mosaics dating from the 8th to the 12th centuries and a fine 11th century mosaic floor. The adjacent smaller round church isthe 11th century Santa Fosca built in a heavily influenced Byzantine style.
Beware of street sellers pushing fake copies of hand bags. They are everywhere. Working as a gang, they display their goods on sheets. One person will be the look out. At the first sight of the police they grab their sheets and run. (Stay out of the way of their stampede. Some people have literally been trampled by a group of street vendors.) This kind of street selling is illegal all over Italy, but it doesn't take long before they reassemble and continue. It is important to know that making such a purchase is also illegal, and could land you an expensive fine (3000€) just for buying. Locals have said that these people have no license to trade and resent that they do not pay any fees. More importantly, these fake handbags exploit child labour in the Far East. There are a few signs dotted around that try to warn tourists, but they are not enough. Please be responsible and ignore these people.
The gondola rides are expensive tourist attractions or romantic tours, depending on your personal opinion. The official rates for gondolas, published on The Gondola website, are 80 euros for a 40 minute ride, plus 40 euros for every further 20 minutes. After 7 p.m. the official rate goes up to 100 euros for 40 minutes, and a further 50 euros for every extra 20 minutes. The cost does not depend on the number of passengers, so organizing with friends, or even other tourists you meet, with a maximum of 6 passengers reduces the cost of the gondola.
Music on the gondola ride is magic, but also costs extra: if organized with several gondolas together, the music is heard by all. The gondolas glide along the canals together, and the general effect (laughter, music, enjoyment) is multiplied, while the cost gets divided amongst a greater number of passengers, making it much more reasonable.
Some of the gondoliers found a bit "off the beaten track" are not licensed by the Official Gondoliers Association or by a recognized Official Cooperative of Gondoliers, and illegally take advantage of this by offering shorter trips, different prices, or haggling over price at the end of the ride. There are numerous official "Gondola Stations" (Stazio) around the city where the fares, times, and tariffs are guaranteed, as well as organizing gondola rides reserved ahead of time, or with musicians or in larger groups (2-3+ gondolas together).
Planning to take a coffee and sit at St Mark's? Beware of the hidden "coperto" (cover charge). If the menu indicates "8 Euro" for the coffee, that means 16 Euro for 2 coffees. However, when the bill arrives, don't be shocked to see 55 Euros for 2 coffees. The explanation? The restaurant charges for sitting on their chair and listening to their orchestra! For more reasonably priced coffee or a spritz or glass of prosecco there are many other fine campi in Venice - try Campo San Stefano, Campo Santa Margherita or Campo San Polo for instance. You will not have the orchestras to listen to, but they are still lovely spaces in which to sit and watch the world go by.
As in most of Italy, sitting down to consume food and drink costs more than the same standing up at the "banco" (bar area), where you often find more of the Venetians. The cover charge and price differential varies from zone to zone and place to place, but both prices should be listed on a menu posted inside the establishment.
The typically Venetian place to consume small snacks and drinks is called a "bacaro" or "cichetteria" for the "cichetti" -- snack-sized portions (similar to Spanish tapas) that they serve. The "sestiero" (neighborhood/quarter) of San Polo, near Rialto and the fish and vegetable markets is particularly rich in "bacari" for all tastes and wallets.
In a few instances fixed price "tourist dinners" may be cheaper than ordering a plate of spaghetti because the latter does not include the famous "coperto"! But no guarantees about quality with Menu Turistico. "Pane e Coperto" is charged per head and many restaurants now make a service charge of 10 or even 15% on top of everything else. Do read the menu posted outside very carefully before entering so you know what you are committed to. It is illegal to make these charges if they are not displayed on the menu posted outside.
The famous Venetian masks can also be overpriced, but beware that many street vendors import fakes from abroad. There are still numerous artisan shops scattered around Venice where you can witness the process of paper-mache and hand painting to guarantee that the Venetian mask is "authentic Venetian."
Take out your camera at dawn or sunset for truly stunning pictures.
Be very careful when ordering food, especially fish, from sidewalk cafes. The quality of the food may well be outstanding and delicious, but the price may give you a heart attack. Read the menu and you will see that fish is often sold by weight, not by the piece. 7 Euros often means 7 Euros per etto (sometimes listed hg - 100 grams), so 1 piece of fish weighing 5 etto will cost 35 Euros. It may be difficult to enjoy the fish, no matter how good tasting, with such a surprise. Do enquire before ordering such a dish.
Beware the jewellery being sold in the boutiques near St. Mark's square. The items are usually very costly and upon closer examination you will often find they may be quite junky. This does not apply to Nardi, of course.
Do check out the wine shops the locals frequent. They have big glass flasks in a basket and use syphon the wine into any receptacle you have, be it a water bottle or anything else (most have plastic bottles from 1/2 to 2 liters if necessary). These wines often have better value and quality than regular bottled wines you can buy at even higher supermarket prices. It is what the locals use as their daily table wine, and sometimes better than regular bottled. In any case its a lot of fun and worth a visit. Of course they have many different types and prices.
A free Venice map may be given out along with the transport ticket pass at the airport. A map is essential. Everywhere else, they seem to charge for the map, including the tourist office. Many hotels will have free copies of Venice street maps available at their reception.
Some unreliable websites advertise kinds of accommodations which are not in line with the standards indicated by the regional laws and acts (often listed as Bed & Breakfast in an attempt to avoid certain regulations). So it's advisable for tourists searching for accommodation in Venice and surrounding areas via the internet to make a cross-check, also verifying the presentation of the dwellings by visiting the web sites of the local tourism authorities, such ashttp://www.turismo.provincia.venezia.it/, www.turismovenezia.it, http://www.veneto.to/, where you can get reliable information about the kinds of accommodation you're looking for (rating, tariffs, contacts etc).