Man About Venice

Venice may not be the most straightforward city, but it is certainly one of the most amazing. Man About Venice Brendan Kirwan gives his general recommendations to make sure your trip is a smooth one.

1 Take a water taxi from the airport to your hotel

This will cost you €120 each way which seems a lot, but I would say it is all part of visiting Venice. It is the most thrilling and exciting airport transfer there is and it builds up the anticipation of your visit to the city. Cheaper options exist – you can get a bus or a taxi to the Piazzale Roma terminus in Venice and take a water bus from there. Although straightforward when you are familiar with it, Piazzale Roma can be a bit overwhelming on your first visit. There is also the Alilaguna water bus from the airport, but this can take 1.5 hours, depending on the route, as it goes via other islands in the lagoon. A water taxi will take just 20-25 minutes and will drop you as close to your hotel as is possible.

Above: Brendan Kirwan, Man About Venice

Choose your hotel carefully

Not because there are particularly dodgy hotels around, it is more a question of finding your hotel with ease once you arrive. It is very easy to get lost in Venice and is part of its charm but not if you are carrying luggage! A water taxi will drop you as close as possible to your hotel. Even then, be sure to have the local phone number for your hotel stored in your phone and clear directions on how to get there.

Flight arrival and departure times

Venice is easier to navigate if you arrive during daylight. An earlier flight is a better option and gives you an opportunity to take in the full splendour of the city when you arrive. In addition, late dining options are not that widespread in Venice so make sure you have somewhere planned for dinner. If you are arriving late, consider staying either in the area of the airport (Mestre) or close to Piazzale Roma and making your way into Venice the following day.

Do have a coffee or drink in one of the cafés in St. Mark’s Square

There are many scare stories about how you will be ripped off if you have a coffee in one of the grand cafés in St. Mark’s Square. Throughout Continental Europe, there is a gradation of pricing depending on whether you are standing at the bar, are seated inside the café or are out on the terrace, the latter being the most expensive. Especially in Italy, people can spend less than 5 minutes with their espresso at the bar, so it makes sense that this would cost less than taking up a table out on the terrace, where you could be with your paper or friend for 30 minutes. A cappuccino at the bar in Caffé Lavena for instance, costs just €2.60, the same as in the Grand Caffe Quadri. What is eye wateringly expensive is a drink on the outside tables of these cafés. Often you are paying for an orchestra and having a seat in one of the world’s most beautiful squares. These cafés have correspondingly high rents to pay.

Research your restaurants

There are lots of depressing restaurants in Venice, particularly in the narrow streets coming off St. Mark’s Square. There are however, a few good ones too. It is worth doing some research and finding somewhere low key and within easy reach of your hotel. The chances are you will have been out and about all day and will just want somewhere close and cosy. The good restaurants tend to get booked up in advance, so it is advisable to have your restaurant sorted for your first night at least.

You can eat tremendously well in Venice

Like all Italians, Venetians are serious about their food. A quick walk around the Rialto market with its stalls of fresh fish and vegetables will show you how important good food is to them. The chefs from the better restaurants are at the market early to ensure they have the pick of the produce. I have found no difference in price for restaurants in Venice than those on mainland Italy.

Avoid signing petitions

In the busy tourist areas, you may be approached by someone asking you to sign a petition in support of some seemingly well meaning cause, such as ‘the fight against drugs’. Nothing controversial here, except they will then lean heavily on you to make a ‘voluntary’ contribution to the cause. They will point to earlier contributions, some of which can be quite generous looking. I don’t like the way they prey on people’s goodwill to force them to donate. Best to avoid them altogether.

Don’t over schedule yourself

Don’t feel under self imposed pressure to visit a host of museums or to go and visit the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. The islands are lovely, but a bit of a trek, especially if you are only there for a few days. Don’t make your trip to Venice into a second job. The islands are no more Venetian than the main part of Venice! Amble around, have a coffee or spritz and just soak up the atmosphere.

January in Venice

This is a wonderful time to visit. It is often dry, cold and sunny and not crowded. However, beware from mid to late January, lots of restaurants and some hotels close for a break so your dining choices may be more limited.

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