Quick Tips on Visiting Venice and the Surrounding Islands
March 29, 2017/in /by admin
Heading to Venice and not sure how to get around? Here are some quick tips for visiting that amazing city & a “how-to” for a day in the islands:
1) Train Tip: go to “Venezia Santa Lucia” (not “Venezia Mestre,” which is the stop just before Santa Lucia), which is connected by a bridge to the island. Both Trenitalia (the national railway system)
and Italo (the newer private rail company) go there, so check both websites for price comparison.
2) Restaurant Tip: food can be ridiculously expensive. I saw a Caprese Salad for €20, and a plate of simple pasta for €24, so check the menu (usually posted outside) before you commit.
Do your research ahead of time for restaurant choices, and definitely book ahead as the good ones fill up.
3) Ferry Tip: it’s easy to get around by ferry and you can get a day pass for €20 or a two-day pass for €30, then you just hop on and off as you like. It’s a great way to get around as well as a fun thing to do when you’re tired of walking and just want to relax and see the sights. Take note, however, that:
* It’s not FAST, so plan your time wisely. A leisurely sight-seeing run from the San Marco stop up through the Grand Canal to the train station takes almost an hour.
* They can get crowded, so try to get to the front of the line to board first (stand near the rope or chain barrier). There are usually a few seats on the open deck out the back, which is pretty good viewing, and it’s nice to have a seat. Or, there’s a good view from the open front deck, but there aren’t any seats, so try to get a spot by the railing. Otherwise there are seats inside.
* Some of them require you to hold your ticket up to a little machine to open the gated entrance, while others work on the “honor system,” so keep your ticket handy as you go.
* There is usually a bathroom on board.
* Not all ferries stop at all stations, and some of them stop running at dusk, so there are certain places “you can’t get to from here” at certain times.
* The ferry schedules can be confusing, so try to get a map or download one online (or take a picture with your phone), and don’t be afraid to ask before you get on if it’s the right ferry.
4) Hotel Tip: there is a wide range of hotel options, so look around for price and access. Pack light if you can so you don’t have to schlepp your luggage through the narrow streets or onto ferries, and remember that getting around also requires going UP and OVER numerous bridges, so even a “wheelie bag” will be cumbersome after a while. Some hotels may have a luggage service, so if that’s a concern be sure to book an accommodation that can help you. Otherwise, choose a hotel close to the train station. Or, you can also check your heavier bags at one of the luggage storage places around town:
- there’s one at the Santa Lucia train station
- or, right next door at the “Keep Calm Luggage Point”
- or, in the center of town closer to San Marco: Venice Luggage Deposit
5) San Marco Tip: you can’t take a back-pack into the church of San Marco (purses are OK), and they make you check it (free for one hour) down a small street (Ateneo San Basso) to the left of the entrance. The line to get into the church goes off to the right, but if you check your bag first, they give you a little token which allows you to get into the LEFT side of the entrance and skip the line. The church visit is free but it’s €5 to go upstairs, which you should do! There are some nice museum displays, plus the originals of the amazing horses that the Venetians stole from Constantinople (now Istanbul) during their sack of Byzantium during the 4th Crusade in 1204, and you can go out onto the balcony for great views over the square. Note also that the church closes at 5 p.m. so the latest entry is 4:45 so don’t leave it until too late!
6) Download Google Maps onto your “smart phone” so you can navigate without using your data. It’s not the “map” app that comes with your phone, but a separate app (it's free). Just accept that you WILL get lost, you WILL get turned around, you WILL say “hey, it’s that bridge again!” when it’s not the same bridge at all, so relax, enjoy the sites, but make sure you know how to get home!
See this link for instructions on getting the app: https://support.google.com/maps/answer/6291838?hl=en&ref_topic=3092425
Tips for a Day-Trip around the Islands:
A day-trip to the nearby islands makes a great escape from the often chaotic city. Not only do you get out on the water, you also get to visit a handful of beautiful and varied islands that are just a short ferry ride away. Check out this website for information on getting there and away: http://www.isoladiburano.it/en/how-to-get-to-burano.html
It’s fun to explore on your own if you have the time and energy, but you can also opt for an easy guided 4-hour tour for just €20 (see the link above).
* Murano is famous for its glass-blowers. There are a number of showrooms that feature artisans blowing glass on-site that you can go and see on your own. Or of course there are also tours with more complete demonstrations and explanations in English. Note: there are several ferry stops on Murano, which aren’t far from each other but still require a 10-15 walk, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to limit the distance you have to walk.
* Mazzorbo is a small, non-commercial island that’s connected to Burano by a footbridge. There’s not much on it but it makes for a pleasant walk. Note that the ferries often stop here first and then cut over to Torcello before returning to Burano, so if your destination is Burano you could get off here and just walk over.
* Burano is the most colorful of the islands and has brightly-painted houses in all sorts of wild colors along the canals. They have lots of shops selling glass jewelry and other souvenirs, and it's a great place to stop for a cappuccino or lunch at a quiet terrace.
* Torcello is another tiny island with not a lot on it, but it used to be a bustling port in Roman times and has two very old (and very pretty) churches, one from the 11th century and one going all the way back to 638 AD!
There is also a small museum with limited hours: open Tues.-Sat. mornings from 10.30-12.30 and again from 2-4 p.m. Tel. +39 041 730 761.
* Punto Sabbioni is the next stop if you’re doing your day-trip as a loop. There’s not much here to visit but you'll find a strip of sandy beaches if you’re so inclined.
* The Venice Lido is another long beached-lined strip and is connected to the mainland by vehicle ferry, so it’s full of hotels and makes a handy base for people who want to holiday with their car. The beaches aren’t spectacular but they do have sand, so can be a nice break if you’re there in the heat of summer and want to have a swim.
Getting There: it’s part of the same ferry system that services the city, so your day pass is good for all of these ferries as well. Line no. 12 makes the full run of the islands, or you could also take the 3, the 4.1, or the 7 to Murano and then continue on from there. Be sure to check current schedules for your best option to get around (and in the high season, show up EARLY to get in line as they can be incredibly crowded!). See this site for a complete list of all the ferry stops, with links to all sorts of information about the ferry system: http://europeforvisitors.com/venice/articles/vaporetto_routes2_table.htm
Want to “get away from it all”? You can even stay on the islands for a quiet stay away from the crowds.
Combine a trip to Venice with one of our tours nearby:
* Our Venice to Bologna bike tour begins right from the Lido!
* Our Dolomites hiking tours begin and end nearby (we have 3 different versions, from classic to "lite" and our new "alta via", so there's something to suit everyone!).
* Venice isn't far from Ljubljana, were we begin our Slovenia Bike tour.
* It's also not far from our Lake Como walking trip.