There’s no denying Venice’s reputation as a beautiful, yet expensive city. If you know where to look and what to book, though, arming yourself with some key tips can afford you the chance to soak up the voluptuous Venetian culture at extremely competitive prices.
“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go. – Truman Capote”
Snack… a lot
Venice’s sensuous food scene is not all about restaurants, so if you’re willing to trade in your sit-down meal for a stand-up snack, this is a great way to rub shoulders with the locals and at a fraction of the price.
Venetians, and Italians in general, favour a fast, cheap and satisfying breakfast of pastry washed down with a coffee, often standing outside a local pasticceria. Try Pasticceria Tonolo, just round the corner from Scuola Grande di San Rocco, with velvety bignè al zabaione (marsala cream pastry) and flaky, sumptuous tortino di riso fresh from the oven. When ordering, remember to say ‘prego’ for please, and pastry prices? Sitting between a sweet €1-€3.
A little later, seek out bacari, traditional wine bars, where you can graze on cicheti (bar snacks) such as crunchy crostini and paper-thin prosciutto all day long, and relatively inexpensively.
Take the (water) bus
Venice’s waterways are something of a planetary phenomenon, and the best way to drink up the city’s dreamlike qualities is floating on them (note – do not drink the water – no matter how taken you are with your surroundings – it is stagnant and filthy).
Enquire about a private gondola and you may have a mini heart attack at their €100 price tag. Instead, catch a water bus, or vaporetti, which can take you all over the lagoon and loops round to Giudecca for a scenic tour at a steal of €6. Navigating around Venice can be a little confusing, so it’s best to learn a bit of local lingo so you can ask to make sure you find your stop.
Escape the centre
To bask in Venice’s glory you don’t have to be in the midst of the tourist beat, and your money will go way further if you escape to one of the city’s smaller, vibrant quarters. Why not wander through the famous Rialto market, where locals load up with their cooking ingredients, and into Santa Croce, where you can grab a mean fig gelato at Alaska Gelateria.
Head over to Dorsoduro in the south: as Venice’s art haven, Gothic style churches are intertwined with renowned art institutions such as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the art school-come-museum, Gallerie dell’Accademia.
Then, visit Murano, the birthplace of blown glass and Venice’s quiet mile-away counterpart, which still receives well-deserved admiration for its centuries-old traditions and romantic landscape.
Get lost on purpose
Time is money when you’re taking a city break – so ditch the maps and the guide books, get lost and you might just stumble across some untapped magic in Venice. You’ll find that even the more run-down parts have a charm and beauty to their decay. Although its lack of traffic means it is easily explored on foot, Venice’s tangle of connecting alleyways means that it’s quite easy to get lost too; but if you do, it doesn’t matter too much: due to space constraints, the city’s lack of expansion means you’re never far from where you started – unless you manage to wander across one of the large road bridges to the mainland.
Sleep in style, on a budget
Affordable luxury exists here! If you’re a budget conscious traveller, you won’t want to shell out a fortune on pretentious 5*s on the Grand Canal, when the location adds a significant portion of your life savings to the price. The hostels in Venice are comfy, lively, rustic and right on the waterfront. Prices start at around €30 per night.
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Cover photo by Pedro Szekely