This ship is sinking...Well okay, not ship exactly, but this city is sinking. And if you're not careful you might end up going down with the ship (what's that you say? I've gone overboard on the puns? I had a sinking feeling you'd say that...).
Venice has long been known as one of the most romantic, intoxicating cities in the world. It's a charming place full of picturesque canals, quaint little alleyways and more gelato than your waistband can handle. So then why do some people come away from Venice claiming it's not all it's cracked up to be? The sad truth is that Venice is full of potential tourist traps which can quickly turn the city into a frustrating, tourist-filled circus which drains your wallet faster than you can say Ciao. But never fear: I've come up with six simple guidelines to help you avoid the dreaded tourist traps and ensure that you have a fantastic time in one of Italy's most magical cities. Soon the only thing you'll need to worry about is mastering this phrase: Mi porti più vino (bring me more wine)!
1. A gondola ride is how much?!
Yep, a 40 minute gondola ride will cost you about 80-100€. I know I know, it stings a little just thinking about it. That's a lot of money to pay for the privilege of feeling slightly awkward as a man in horizontal stripes paddles you down a couple of canals whilst singing Josh Groban's latest hits. I know that it's supposed to be the romantic thing to do while you're in this romantic city, but it sure does come at a hefty price.
The Solution? If you're feeling particularly adventurous, why not rent your own motorboat?! It'll cost you about 35€ for the first hour and 25€ an hour after that. Can we say bargain? Of course you'll need to have some boating knowledge before they'll turn over the keys, but once you're off Venice is yours to explore!
One company that offers boat rentals in Venice is Brussa Is Boat.
2. What's that smell?
No, it wasn't me (how dare you), it's just Venice. And to be fair, it's probably the smell of poor vacation planning. You see, Venice doesn't have a complete modern sewage system, which basically means that the canals are full of, well, you guessed it. Normally this doesn't pose much of a problem, unless of course you happen to be visiting Venice during the hotter summer months when the smell can become almost unbearable for those with sensitive sniffers.
The Solution? If you can, avoid going in July or August. As an added bonus, you'll also avoid the peak tourist months.
3. Mobbed by the masses in Murano
Some people will probably want to throw poopy Venetian water at me for saying this, but I found the glass-making island of Murano to be a bit overrated. Every shop is pretty much the same as the last, and worst of all the town is absolutely swarming with tourists. It's fun to see the famous Murano glass-making process first-hand, but the crowds will likely start to try your patience.
The Solution? Head to nearby Burano instead. What you'll get: less tourists, stunning scenery, and incredibly weird lace toilet roll holders.
4. The Most Expensive Espresso of Your Life
One of the priciest mistakes tourists make in Italy is stopping for a coffee in St. Marks Square. Yes, it's pretty (if you can see around all the tourists, that is). And yes, maybe it's a nice day to sit outside and have a coffee. But you know what? You'll be charged extra for the privilege of sitting in that seat. And if there's lovely music playing? Yep, you'll get charged for that too. Before you know it, your coffee bill is suddenly higher than your hotel stay (there was an article recently in the Telegraph about a group of tourists who were charged 101.80€ for four alcoholic coffees. That's really gotta hurt!).
The Solution? When in Italy, do as the Italians do! Order an espresso and slam it down whilst standing at the counter. It'll make you feel powerful ("Who me? Sit? No way, I've got places to be!") and it can cost as little as 1€.
5. The Most Expensive Bellini of Your Life
Are you noticing a theme here yet? Venetians often won't hesitate to charge tourists a premium for certain experiences, and enjoying a bellini (prosecco topped up with white peach juice) at the famous Harry's Bar is a prime example. To be fair, Harry's Bar claims to have invented the billini in the 1930s, so I suppose they can charge whatever they damn well please for it, but a glass of the stuff will run you about 15 euros here. Of course you're also paying for the whole pomp and circumstance that accompanies a visit to Harry's Bar. Case in point: there's a whole section of their website devoted to their reasoning behind the height and shape of the tables ("the right height must also be calculated by judging the distance from the ceiling in order to avoid the sensation of being crushed by the room's immense verticality," whilst the table's round shape "imitates the form of the universe").
The Solution? If you're not all that fussed about your table-to-ceiling ratios, I would suggest going literally anywhere else for your bellini. Your wallet will thank you. The corner shops and grocery stores even sell mini bottles of pre-mixed bellinis which I find to be perfectly acceptable to both my palate and my wallet.
6. A Meal with a View - and a hefty price tag to boot!
First of all, I get why people would want to have dinner overlooking the stunning Rialto bridge. And I wouldn't go so far as to warn you not to do it, but just be aware that you'll be paying extra simply for the prime location. The food can also tend to be a bit sub-par at these places, as it doesn't take much for the restaurants to get tourist bums on the seats.
The Solution? Again, I'm not saying don't have dinner by the Rialto bridge, but if you're looking for something a bit more cost-effective, consider asking a local for a recommendation. Often the best places are those tucked behind a few winding streets. And if you're looking for a cheap place to grab some lunch, why not pack a picnic and snag a seat by one of the canals?
Added Suggestion (because I think you're neat)
Looking for something else to do in Venice that won't break the bank? Don't miss Libraria Aqua Alta, Venice's most beautiful bookshop. Peruse the various gondolas, bathtubs and barrels chock full of books whilst the shop's resident felines sleepily keep watch. It's a gorgeous way to wile away the afternoon.