Our first day, we were talking to another couple on a ferry and received the following advice:
You are going to be ripped-off in Venice anyway, so you might as well enjoy it!
For us, Venice was a city of extremes, and a thin line between the best and the worst.
The architecture is stunning, truly amazing and attracts millions of photos each year. The historical sites are amongst the most visited tourist sites in the World, including:
- St. Marks Square (Piazza San Marco)
- Doge’s Palace and Dungeons
- St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco)
- Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto)
- Jewish Ghetto (Campo del Ghetto Nuove)
To really enjoy Venice, follow the locals and not the tourists. For example, North of the Rialto Bridge to the West of the Fish Market is an excellent area to sample authentic Venetian restaurants, with many little bars full of the Venetian equivalent of Tapas. For us one of the greatest highlights was stepping out of the rain into a wonderful wine-bar in a little alley and sampling some of the Tapas-style dishes for lunch. This area is also good for fish restaurants at more reasonable prices. It boasts some good shops too.
Around St. Marks Square, expect to be seriously ripped-off, with outrageous prices, and some very mixed service. However, if you want a really wonderful experience in St. Marks Square, visit Cafe Florian which dates back to 1720 – we had a wonderful fresh fruit salad with ice-cream and a glass of sparkling wine – it will be a special memory for us.
There are, of course, some of the finest shops in the World in Venice and prices are perhaps amongst the highest too. It is important to remember that Venice has been in serious decline for centuries, with the main industry now being tourism. Many young people are forced to leave Venice for opportunities in other Italian cities or overseas, for the more ambitious. Venice now attracts unscrupulous waiters from around the World who will try to demand a tip in addition to fifteen percent service included on the bill.
Venice is seriously crowded, so be prepared. The crowds, along with the high prices and indifferent service, make it hard to really enjoy all that Venice has to offer.
Given the opportunity, we shall certainly return to Vienna and perhaps Prague or Budapest but we do not think we shall not return to Venice. However, we would certainly recommend the experience, after all it is Venice!