Thursday, November 01, 2012

INTREPIDO ITALIANO : (GUS Guide) Travel Tips for a Marvelous Stay in VENEZIA

*This post is dedicated to my loyal blog follower, Koryn the Suburban Girl (herself a very good blogger), who will tick off Venice from her bucket list next year ;-D

Venetian gondoliers relaxing under the sun.

I've come up with a not-by-any-means-complete set of tips for the first-time traveller to Venice. It was my favorite stop during the trip, i must say.

1. Chuck the map, you will get lost.

Walking is the main mode of getting around in Venice, and part of the fun is in exploring the small alleyways behind the main avenues, and chancing upon little shops, etc. 

Of course, it is no fun to be lost if you're hurrying for an appointment (or dying to use the toilet). In order to get a general idea of where you're at, or where you'd like to be at, just look for signs like below:

Photo courtesy of Venicetravelblog.Com

"Ferrovia" being the Santa Lucia railway station (more on this later), while "Piazzale Roma" is the bus station.

Photo courtesy of Venicetravelblog.Com
"Rialto" being the general area around the famous (and if we are being honest, over-rated) tourist landmark Rialto Bridge, while "S. Marco" is the famous (and not over-rated) Piazza San Marco.

2. Stay in Mestre.

What lots of tourists do is stay in a hotel in the mainland of Mestre, and take the train to the city center of Venice. I would recommend doing this, since hotels in Mestre are cheaper; and it is only a 5 - 10 minute train ride from Mestre to the Venezia Santa Lucia station (where you get off in Venice proper), anyway. Cost is something like EURO 1.20 for a one-way ride, and tickets ("biglietti") can be bought at any newspaper/magazine stand.

Trains run until late into the night, too. The important thing is to make sure your hotel in Mestre is walking distance to the train station.

3. Invest in a Tourist Travel Card.

Depending on how long your stay in Venice will be, go ahead and buy the Travel Card, which comes in 12-, 24-, 36-, 48-hour, etc. increments; and gives you unlimited rides on the "vaporetto" (public water buses) that run on many different routes. 

It will end up saving you a lot of money. For example, a single-journey one-way vaporetto ticket costs EURO 7.00, while a 12-hour card is at EURO 17.00.

Oh, be sure to validate your ticket on one of those odd-looking, yellow-colored machines BEFORE boarding on the vaporetto. Apparently, there is a big fine for using an unvalidated ticket.

Courtesy of Trekki

4. Try the traghetto

Traghetti are essentially gondolas that have been stripped off all the trimmings, and retain the basic seats only. They are good for going ACROSS (not along, take note) the Grand Canal (i.e. crossing from one side to the other side), and there are six or seven designated stops where you can board them. 

They are quite cheap, and used mostly by the locals (who take the short trip across the canal whilst standing up - talk about intestinal fortitude). 

5. Watch your belongings

This advice also applies to Rome and other major cities of Italy, as pickpockets tend to abound in crowded touristy spots. I was really concerned about this, and thought of buying one of those PacSafe wallet/pouch that you tie to your leg underneath your trousers. Eventually, i did try a "neck wallet" that you put underneath your clothes. Not comfy, and i felt rather silly. So it lasted for one day, and i just decided to take my chances thereafter.

So, just use common sense. No stuff on pants' backpockets; leave your credit cards in the hotel safe (just bring cash, an ID and one card at most; and stuff them in your front pocket, and wear tight-fit jeans hehe).

For the ladies, leave the gaudy jewelry and designer bag at home. For the guys, leave your tablet and other gadgets behind; and don't be so busy taking the 'perfect' photos with your DSLRs that you don't realize your other possessions are in danger of being lifted.

 6. Don't eat at restaurants with four languages on the menu.

This screams "Tourist, tourist, tourist!!" Better look for a small, charming trattoria or osteria which locals frequent; and if the menu is purely in Italian.....well, you should have learned some Italian phrases beforehand, shouldn't you? 

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