From the very beginning, the kid made it clear that she wanted to make a pit-stop in Venice, Italy. Finding affordable accommodations, however, was difficult. I suppose we could’ve booked a night or two at a hostel, but I really wanted our one night in Venice to be something special. After much searching, I found a lovely apartment on AirBnB for $60 a night. Bravissimo!
Here are a few things we learned about traveling to Italy, Venice in particular, that might be helpful to fellow travelers:
***Italian Intercity trains are HOT, at least in second class. Yet first class is considerably more expensive. Therefore, purchase second class tickets and sit on the upper level in the seats nearest the first class car. While it won’t be air conditioned, it’s the coolest area in second class. We learned this the hard way… The first train we took was unbelievably warm. The second, in the place I mentioned, was bearable.
***Another train tip… DON’T purchase your tickets online. There are many different prices. Find which is the cheapest online (just to have an idea of pricing), then go to a ticket counter and ask for the cheapest fares for the time you want to leave. Be insistent. It is the job of the people who man the counter to get as much cash from you as possible. But there are good prices to be had. I paid about 25 euro less than what was stated online for my daughter and I to get a train from Venice to Rimini (where we are currently beaching it up), which is, in my view, a considerable difference for only 15 extra minutes tacked onto the trip.
***A final train tip… If you’re wanting to head straight into Venice, make sure your train will cross the lagoon into the city. Otherwise you’ll be stuck on the mainland and will need to take a more expensive water taxi.
***Don’t expect to find ramps in Italy. For those of you dragging luggage, prepare your muscles for a workout. This isn’t so bad until you get to Venice, where you’ll probably have to transverse many bridges (with millions of stairs) before you get to your accommodations.
***I arrived in Venice with a map. Ha! I might as well have been carrying a map of the moon. None of the streets were on the map, and even many of the canals were strangely absent. Do yourself a favor and go to one of the numerous tourist-trap shops around the train station and spend two euros on the most detailed map possible. Don’t stress if it takes you two hours to find your accommodations (dragging your luggage, as I stated, up and down stairs). It’s just a part of the ride.
***The only cheap thing in Venice is the wine. Don’t mess around with buying expensive bottles at tourist restaurants. Pick up your own bottle for a couple of euro, grab a glass, and seat yourself on the concrete near one of the canals. People-watching in Venice is part of the city’s charm. Sit back and enjoy.
***If, like us, you will only have a brief stay in the city, take your tourist to-do list, crumple it up, and throw it into the canal. Seriously, the best part of Venice is the walking, getting absolutely lost, stumbling upon strange museums (we unexpectedly came across Vivaldi’s museum, which was, for my viola-playing daughter, the highlight of our trip!), and making your way slowly to San Marco and the piazza.
***Please, for all that is good in this world, DO NOT FEED THE PIGEONS. Take it from a city-girl… Pigeons are the rats of the sky. They stand in their own feces for so long that their feet rot off (seriously). They are dirty. And gross. Lovely from a distance, but c’mon, do NOT let them land on your head in the San Marco piazza. Yuck. Pigeons are NOT songbirds, no matter what the picture to the right might have you believe.
***Since you’ll be walking and dragging luggage, you’ll work up quite the appetite. Venice is a great city to grab a gelato. Some of the unfamiliar flavors, such as marscapone and fig, are heavenly- you really should try them ALL at least once.
***Wear sunscreen. The Italian sun is hot and quite strong. Also, you might want to invest in a hat. Also, pick up good bug spray. Mosquitoes in Venice aren’t much fiercer than anywhere else around the world, but most of the homes and hotels don’t have screens.
***Certain tourist-frequented locations in Venice require people to wear appropriate clothing- knee-length dresses, no tank tops, etc… Also, Venice frowns on folks whipping off their shirts. I saw a number of ridiculous American tourists who were gyrating against each other, shirtless and wasted. While I wouldn’t bat an eyelash to this sort of thing in New York, the Italians in Venice were pissed and I was utterly embarrassed on their behalf (and this, from me, a girl who usually has zero scruples and a dubious code of ethics). The Italians have a sense of propriety. Respect it. It’s just the nice thing to do.
For a brief 24-hour trip, one on which I thought would be stressful and crazed, my daughter and I were remarkably relaxed. Just goes to show… SLOW DOWN. Take it easy, breathe in, breathe out. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither can the entire city of Venice, with all of its amazing museums, canals, gondolas and people, be devoured in such a short period of time. Get a taste of the city. If we’re lucky, the city, which is slowly sinking, will still be there for subsequent visits!
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