"You really want to go to Venice, to this tourist hell?" Many acquaintances shake their heads when I tell them about our travel plans. Of course I want to go to Venice - over and over again. I have lived in Florence and Rome, traveling to many other Italian regions. But no place attracts me as much as the lagoon city.
There are no cars here, no annoying horns, only boats sailing across blue-green canals. Whether alone, with friends or with family: every time I walk enchanted upstairs, downstairs on the countless bridges, lose myself in the streets between candy-colored houses, let me blow the wind on the wide Giudecca channel around the nose.
How crowded the city is depends on the seasons. I have never done the carnival. But I was often in the fullest months there, so in the spring and in the hot summer.
It is quieter in autumn and in winter. Venice with fog, with reflecting puddles, a little flood - that has its own charm. And when suddenly the pale sun blinks over the canals, you know that you are visiting the most beautiful city in Italy.
13 picturesTips for visiting Venice: Cheaper, quieter, more enjoyable
Whether you love or hate Venice is, in my opinion, above all a matter of organization and timing. Here are eight tips for a relaxed visit:
Tip 1: Enjoy the most beautiful view
Many tourists crowd in front of the Campanile, the famous bell tower in St. Mark's Square. It is much cleverer to climb his twin: the tower of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore. It looks almost identical, with its red bricks, white bell-shaped floor and green pitched roof. But it is located on the islet of San Giorgio Maggiore, on the other side of the Giudecca Canal.
I only need a short boat ride on waterbus number 2 to leave the masses behind. At the entrance to the bell tower, a Benedictine monk sells tickets, an old-fashioned elevator jerks to the viewing platform. There my gaze is even better than from the "original": I finally look from the outside over to the Doge's Palace, to St. Mark's Square and to the mouth of the Grand Canal.
Tip 2: Play even gondolier
Finally, I can take the helm - thanks to the non-profit organization "Row Venice". It was founded by a group of Venetians who prefer to spend their free time on the water. Now they show me and other visitors how the Venetian voga alla veneta works, that is rowing while standing.
In the 90-minute crash course, however, we do not use a black gondola but a traditional wooden batela that can accommodate up to five guests. Volunteers before! Two oarsmen must direct the vehicle through the romantic canals of the Cannaregio district, and out into the lagoon.
Tip 3: Avoid the serpent in front of St. Mark's Basilica
It's a mystery to me: why do people stand in line in front of St. Mark's Cathedral for hours? Of course, nobody should miss a visit. San Marco is one of the most magnificent churches in the world. All walls are covered with golden mosaics, up to the highest dome. I feel like I'm walking around in a richly decorated treasure box.
But nobody has to wait with the masses to see this splendor. Between April and November, the church offers a skip-the-line service that allows guests to march directly to the church at a scheduled time. This is easy online and costs only three euros.
Tip 4: feasting between locals
The best tables of the Trattoria La Palanca are right on the quay wall. If you're not careful, you plump into the broad Giudecca Canal. But actually I just want to sit still and enjoy the view of the Venetian old town - and of course the food! La Palanca is a small, down-to-earth family business located on the quieter Giudecca Island.
Owner Andrea Barina scurries between the tables, treats the tourists as friendly as his many regulars. What he advises? Of course, with his fish dishes! For starters, for example, try crostini with the traditional Baccalà mantecato stockfish cream . Delicious are the spaghetti with raven-black sepia sauce ... and the tuna fillet with sesame and balsamico.
Cooked hot at La Palanca only at noon. But the bar is open until the evening. Then of course I order the local Spritz al Select , which is mixed with a ruby red traditional liqueur.
Tip 5: Plan ahead a bit
Of course I want to drift in Venice. Nevertheless, it has always been worthwhile to plan a few things in advance: tickets for transportation, for example, or reservations for top attractions next to St. Mark's Basilica, which I absolutely want to visit. Or I go to unknown churches and museums: they are often surprisingly empty - and beautiful.
Bus tickets from Marco Polo Airport to Venice (Piazzale Roma) are here, tickets for the battleship (Alilaguna) from the airport to the old town here, tickets for the vaporetti , the water buses , within Venice, here. Although the tickets are expensive, I often buy them for a day, two or three days. Then I can always spontaneously jump into the boats. Those arriving by car can reserve a seat in the car park at Piazzale Roma. Especially in summer it is often full.
Tickets for the Doge's Palace are available here . I prefer to go straight in the morning, just before closing or at noon, when the big groups are busy somewhere with food. Tickets for the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and Accademia and reservations for St. Mark's Basilea are also available online.
Tip 6: Search for authentic places
imagebroker / imago images
Campo Ghetto Nuovo: quiet space between synagogues
St. Mark's Square is magnificent - but only in the morning or after sunset. During the day there is often a heavy crowd. There are so many other wonderful places - they do not call themselves "Piazza" in Venice, but rather modestly "Campo", meaning "field".
The sprawling Campo Santa Margherita is located in the Dorsoduro student district - and is the extended living room of the locals. Retirees chat here in the early evening, kids play football, and the many tavernas put their tables outside. In addition, the ice cream parlor Il Doge lures me here.
One of the most romantic neighborhoods is Cannaregio, home to the Jewish Venetians. In the middle of it all: the quiet Campo Ghetto Novo with its trees, benches and candy-colored houses. Around the square are three synagogues. I usually walk to the canal around the corner, where I can already smell the scent of the traditional coffee roaster Torrefazione Cannaregio. The coffee blends are a great souvenir - and of course I also order a cup.
If you like it cuddly, stop on the small Campo Santa Maria dei Miracoli . This is where the inhabitants of the pretty district of Castello meet. More sprawling is the nearby Campo Santa Maria Formosa with many cafes and small shops.
Tip 7: Have fun as a fox
Of course, Venice is an expensive place. But I try to save money with a few tricks:
- A normal gondola ride costs 80 during the day, 100 euros in the evening, for 30 minutes and up to six passengers. If you just want to climb into one of the traditional companions, you only have to pay two euros: for the "gondolas", so-called "Traghetti", on the Grand Canal. They just move from one bank to the other because there is no bridge nearby.
- Italians drink espresso and cappuccino at the bar, and I do it to them: it usually costs between 1.50 and 2 euros - and I can watch the barista. So I can venture myself into luxurious traditional houses, without becoming poor. For example, in the Caffé Florian in Piazza San Marco, espresso at the bar costs 3 euros, the cappuccino 5 euros. At the table you can berate more than twice.
- The view from the roof terrace of the new luxury department store "Fondaco dei Tedeschi" is breathtaking - and completely free. At least 70 people at the same time can admire the Grand Canal from up there. In order not to stand in line, I reserve in advance.
- In many places there are cast-iron fontane , ancient hydrants from which ice-cold drinking water splashes. Here I fill up my water bottle without hesitation. That's free and good for the environment.
Tip 8: Get well with the locals
Every day I spend in Venice, I realize that I am part of a problem. The locals suffer from many tourists among us. Apartments have become almost unaffordable, craftsmen and "normal" business disappear. And many visitors murmur in the narrow streets at night, blocking the passage on bridges and licking their ice cream there. In the Vaporetto they rammed their backpacks in the face and jostle them until they got a photo-suitable place.
My experience is that anyone who moves considerately through the city will continue to be welcome in crowded Venice. A chat here, a smile there - that also helps to make your stay in the lagoon city enjoyable.