Planning Your Trip to Venice

February 4, 2011 · Posted in Europe, Travel 

Built on more than 100 islands in the Venetian Lagoon, Venice (“Venezia” in Italian) is known for its unique and rich culture. Often referred to as the “City of Water,” the city is most well known for the beauty of its surrounding waterways, which are as common in Venice as streets are in New York City. Though the city tends to be associated with romantic getaways, there’s much more to Venice than romance, including historical architecture, fine dining, and cultural festivals. Here are a few tips for planning your trip to Venice.

Transportation Into Venice

Connected to the mainland by the Ponte della Liberta, or the Bridge of Liberty, Venice is easily accessible by train, bus, car or water vessel. If you’re flying into Italy and not planning on visiting any other cities, the Venice International Airport is about 16 miles from the lagoon. If Venice is just one stop on your Italy vacation, or if you’re coming from another location in Europe, a train ride straight into the heart of Venice may be your best option. Arriving at Stazione Ferroviaria Santa Lucia, both domestic and international trains carry visitors into the historic center where they can catch a water taxi to their hotel.

In Venice – Getting Around The City

Once you’ve reached the historic district, you may be surprised that, though there are no automobiles, getting around the city is relatively simple. While most tourists prefer to walk and take in all the sites, water transportation is the most popular way to get around the city quickly and serves as an adventure all its own.

The most common means of water riding are the waterbus and water taxi, public boats that run consistently throughout the day and can be boarded with a ticket. Those planning on staying for longer periods of time can purchase Cartavenezia cards, which offer both convenience and a discounted riding fare. If romance and authenticity is what you’re looking for, traditional Venetian gondolas are available, but expect to pay quite a price.

When To Go To Venice

Though the city can be captivating every day of the year, most tourists flock to Venice between June and September when you can take advantage of the warm summer days. If large crowds aren’t your style, I’d suggest planning your trip for the off season, when airfare and hotel accommodations are priced at a minimum. While the weather in the winter may not be quite as bright and warm as the summer months, the fog is certainly bearable and sharing the city only with the locals makes the slight chill worth it.

For those looking to soak in the rich culture of Venice, the Carnivale di Venezia, held in February, is a must see. A popular festival amongst Roman Catholics, Carnivale is an 11-day celebration comparable to Mardi Gras, held before lent each winter. The popular festival is characterized by pageants, commedia dell’arte, balls, concerts, masked events, and elaborate costumes.

Where To Stay In Venice

While some visitors to Italy prefer to view Venice in one or two days, longer stays are really better in order to take in all that the city has to offer. Ranging from 5-Star hotels to economy hostels ideal for backpackers and students, there are many places to stay throughout the six districts of the city. The most popular district, San Marco, is a great place to stay if you want to be in the heart of the city and close to all the biggest attractions, although, since Venice is so small, it’s unlikely you’ll face a long walk no matter where you’ll stay.

Those looking for a bit more privacy should head to Castello, while Dorsoduro and San Polo are ideal for creative souls who want to be surrounded by the city’s residential artists and writers. If you plan to venture out of the city during your stay, Santa Croce is close to the train station and houses a public garage, making transportation to and from the mainland a breeze.

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