I’ve only been to Venice once, but I learned a handful of things during my trip to this surreal northern Italian town. My tips for the first time visitor to Venice include:
- Book a private water taxi from the airport.
It’s a splurge, but so worth it! There’s something very special about being whisked away from the airport in a private speedboat and approaching the floating city via the water. The taxi will drop you off directly at your hotel or as close to it as possible (an added convenience when you consider your wheeled luggage and the fact that Venice has 400 bridges with a ton of stairs). I recommend booking online ahead of time because it is more expensive at the airport (100 E versus 120 E). There is a bit of a walk to the airport dock, but our boat was waiting for us when we got there. If it’s raining the boat has a covered sitting area.
- Stay in a small hotel off the beaten track, yet close enough to the main sights.
Why? I liked the idea and feel of “going home” for the night. Our small, quaint hotel had that feel. Also, I feel like you get more personalized attention when you stay some place small. We stayed at Locanda la Corte. It has a private dock (yes, it requires one bridge crossing) and a staircase you must scale to get to your room (but the man at the front desk will carry your luggage for you to the room). There’s a garden and courtyard where you can have breakfast or an afternoon drink. Breakfast is included in the room rate and offers meats, cheese, eggs, fruits, toast, cereals, and assorted beverages. Wifi was strong and I had no problem using it in my room (Room 106) The men at the front desk were friendly, helpful, and personable. If I ever come back to Venice, I’d love to book one of their apartments because I’d enjoy the opportunity to shop and cook in my own kitchen. There’s an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and fish you can buy at various outdoor markets. Our hotel was an 8 minute walk to St. Mark’s Basilica or the Rialto Bridge.
- Reserve “skip the line” vouchers for St. Mark’s Basilica.
I am so glad we did this! The regular line was ridiculously long. There was a “line” for the skip the line, but we were inside within 5 minutes for a mere 2 E per person. The guards do check to see if you are wearing appropriate attire. It was 90-odd degrees so long shorts were fine, but I brought a scarf to cover my shoulders. They have paper gowns to cover your legs or shoulders if dressed inappropriately.
- Get up early and walk the empty streets of Venice.
It’s a different experience seeing the city as it wakes up. The streets are empty, the gondolas are sleeping with their blue covers, and the streets are peacefully quiet except for cooing of pigeons. If you enjoy taking pictures, this is the time to snap photos of the sights since you most likely won’t have any random strangers photobombing you.
- To find the best food, use TripAdvisor instead of picking those touristy places you stumble upon.
It’s downright tempting to pick a café positioned by the Grand Canal or in a popular campo or piazza. I mean who wants to go down a small alley to a 5 table restaurant when they are in Venice for the first time? Well, it wasn’t until after too many lackluster meals and a quick check of their 2-star average review rating on TA that I had this “Ahh-Ha” moment. Yes, I had done my research ahead of time and had addresses of excellent foodie restaurants, but we didn’t eat at those places. We were lured by the ambiance or location of an outdoor, waterfront restaurant, but ultimately we regretted this. Alas, on our final night we did finally make reservations at one of my bookmarked restaurant. Guess what….? IT WAS AMAZING. Lesson learned!