I love Italy!
Granted, our recent trip to Italy was my first “proper” visit to this stunning country. (We’d previously gone skiing in the Dolomites, which was also beautiful, if a little less “Italian”)
While we only spent a week there – four days each in Venice and Florence – it was enough to get a taster (literally!)
It was SO beautiful!!!
Unusually for me, I hadn’t done a huge amount of research before we left (yes, I’m a notorious plan-aholic).
But, in hindsight, I wish I’d known about a few unique things before visiting Venice… Serves me right for deciding to just take it as it comes (although there is something to be said for that as well!)
Hopefully, these top tips for visiting Venice will help you when you’re planning your trip there.
One thing’s for sure, it is definitely worth a visit!!!
Just check out what you need to know before your visit right here in this Top Tips on Venice post.
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Top Tips For Visiting Venice – Attractions
Bring a Sarong
I know, I know… This should be a staple item in your suitcase regardless! And I normally always bring either a sarong or a shawl that can act as anything from a wrap to a towel to a blanket to a belt!
The really obvious thing I missed, since I didn’t do a lot of research or planning, is that there would be a lot of visits to churches… *facepalm*
I know… It’s Italy for God’s sake!! What was I thinking?!
If I HAD thought about it for about 2 seconds, I would have realised that you need to cover yourself up a bit when entering these churches….
Shoulders and knees should be kept under wraps (excuse the pun!) in order to be allowed to enter the church. So, make sure you wear something appropriate or take a lightweight wrap to stuff into your handbag for when the need arises!
Note: They can and DO turn people away if you’re not properly dressed
Top Tip: You can also buy a poncho type single-use cover at St Mark’s Basilica for €1.50 but I’d rather spend that on some gelato!
The key attraction in Venice (as I’m sure you know) is St Mark’s Basilica. It’s pretty impressive from the outside, but holy cow!!! The inside is just mind-blowingly spectacular!!! All that glittering gold from the tiny mosaic stones!
And, the best thing is that (unlike many attractions), entry is free!
Now, there are two key things to note here;
1 – There is a long queue. So be prepared to stand in the heat for an hour or more
2 – While it’s free to enter, not everything inside is free…
There are certain areas within the cathedral where you need to pay to enter. We didn’t bother with most of them, so I can’t tell you exactly what you’re paying for, but we saw at least two areas where they charged €2 and €3 respectively. (Bring some change!)
What we did pay for was the €5 charge to go up to the second floor and rooftop.
We found that it was absolutely worth the small extra charge! The view from higher up in the church is so different to down below, and the view out over St Mark’s Square was super pretty too.
Top Tip: Make sure you put any larger backpacks or bulky bags into the bag check facility before queuing. They don’t allow you in with anything more than a small handbag. The service is free, but is away from the cathedral itself so find it before queueing.
Skip The Line
The line to get into many attractions, including the cathedral, averages at least 45 minutes and often longer. One of my absolute top tips for visiting Venice would have to be to go online and purchasing a Skip The Line ticket.
For only €3-5 per person, it’s definitely worth being able to go (more or less) straight in.
Note: This service is only available during high season (April – November) as the queues outside these months are much more manageable. You book a specific time so make sure you are able to get there for the time indicated on your ticket to avoid being turned away.
Top Tip: Avoid the mornings/lunchtime if possible – most tour groups enter around this time via the Skip The Line entrance, causing there to be a line even there! Aim for 1pm or later.
Yes, it’s an iconic Venetian thing to do; A romantic gondola ride through the picturesque canals of Venice.
We’d decided before even getting there that we would do it. Not that we’re a particularly romantic couple as such, but it just kind of felt like one of those “must-do” things.
We knew it would be expensive and were prepared to pay the €80 for a half hour gondola ride.
Unfortunately though, we hopped on close to where we were staying and realised later that we should have gone to a more central area with smaller canals and more picturesque views.
As it was, we were on the Grand Canal for at least 10 minutes before looping back into a smaller canal and doing a small circle back to the start.
I’m sure there are better routes to take so do a bit of research before jumping straight in!
Also, in reality, it probably only took 25 minutes to do the loop, despite going über slow.
The other downside was that our gondolier wasn’t engaging in the slightest. He actually spent almost the whole time talking to someone on his phone…!! Which we found disappointing if not outright rude!
Long story short – we did not feel it was value for money.
Sure, do it if you want to tick this infamous activity off your bucket list, but make sure you know what to expect!
Top Tip: You pay per gondola, rather than per person. Find a few other savvy tourists and go with a maximum of 6 people to split the cost!
You can also book your gondola ride in Venice ahead of time, which may help in terms of selecting a “prettier” spot for your experience.
Top Tips For Visiting Venice – Money Matters
I know many cities charge a tourist tax these days but it’s worth noting in case you’re planning on staying in Venice for a longer period of time.
While the tourist tax is only €2 per person per day, it quickly adds up.
Bear in mind that even if you stay in an Air BnB apartment like we did, you’re still going to be paying the tax, and will likely have to pay it in cash.
Make sure you have the right amount of cash with you to pay your host!
Be aware that all restaurants, cafes, and eateries will charge you a cover charge (coperto) for the pleasure of sitting down.
We normally found this to be around €2 per person but I’ve heard of some places charging a lot more.
Check the bottom or the back of the menu for the small print! You’ll notice a lot of locals hanging out outside the bar or cafe, drinking their beverage, to avoid this charge!
On top of that, there will be a 10-15% service fee (servizio) added to your bill. Again, this will be outlined on the menu so you can double check it before sitting down.
These are both normal charges that you will find at all food and drink establishments. Just be prepared that these will be charged on top of your order, and in addition to any tip you want to leave.
Top Tip: Tipping is not expected in Italy, especially if a service fee (servizio) is already included on your bill. If you’re used to the US, know that servers in Italy are already paid a living wage and don’t rely on tips. However, if you found the service to be really excellent, you may simply decide to round up your bill or leave the small change.
Venice has a reputation for being an expensive place, especially when it comes to food and drinks. While this is true to a point, it fully depends on where you decide to go!
The prices in the popular tourist areas like St Mark’s square are mind boggling!!!!
We decided to sit down for a drink near the waterfront by the cathedral and were shocked at the €9 for a glass of house wine.
Only the day before, we had chanced upon a lovely little square where we’d enjoyed a glass (or three!) of wine for only €2.50 each, which included the cover charge (€2.00 if you didn’t sit!)
Prices can definitely fluctuate an unbelievable amount, depending on where you go.
While it’s nice to experience the atmosphere of having a drink in St Mark’s square amongst the hustle and bustle, I highly recommend getting of the beaten path. One of my top tips for Venice is definitely finding a local place where you can enjoy much more for less (and probably better quality to boot!)
Top Tip: Most places will give you a complimentary bowl of nibbles to enjoy!
Have you been to Venice? Did I miss anything? Please tell me what your top tips for visiting Venice are in the comments below!
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