Updated: May 21, 2015
Arriving into Venice Airport:Many tourists coming from North America fly into Aeroporto Marco Polo, the aiport in Venice, Italy. The Venice airport is rather small and you can quickly gather your bags and head out to the front of the terminal to your transportation options. The most expensive and most luxurious way to get to your hotel in Venice is via private water taxi. I recently visited Venice and took the water taxi directly from the airport to my hotel for about 95 Euros ($125 US). I used Stiktravel.it to book the private water taxi in advance and when we arrived at the airport, we took a short walk down to the boats. The ride took about 30 minutes and we wound our way through the narrow waterways of Venice right to the front door (water landing) of our hotel. A much cheaper option is to get on a motoscafo (shuttle boat) with up to 6 other people and split the $100 or so. They will take you to Piazza San Marco in about 30 minutes and from there you will need to walk to your hotel. It's best to get a map of Venice well in advance so you know exactly where your hotel is located. Once at the main square of San Marco, you can always take a Vaporetto down the Grand Canal that will drop you off closer to your hotel.
If time is not that important, then traveling from the airport by bus is the longest (and cheapest) means of transportation that will drop you off at Piazzale Roma (about $4.50) after you cross the Ponte della Liberta bridge which connect Venice to the mainland. From Piazzale Roma you will most likely need to jump on a vaporetto and take the main shuttle boat system down the Grand Canal to a drop-off point nearest your hotel. They always say to pack light since you will most likely do a little walking with your luggage in Venice. The real hassle is that most of the small bridges that connect the streets over the water are not flat and require you to ascend steps (not that easy with heavy bags) to get up and down them. In any event, getting to your hotel in Venice can be an experience in and of itself. If you arrive by train, the Stazione di Santa Lucia is your official stopping point and you still will need get on a vaporetto or hire a water taxi to get to your final destination. Although the private water taxi is expensive, our travel tip is to bite the bullet and spend the extra money so that you will have the most available time when visiting Venice. One advantage to taking the less expensive vaporetto down the Grand Canal is the opportunity to take photos of building facades that can only be see from the canal. There is some glorious architectural design along the Grand Canal and the viewpoint from the shuttle boats is fabulous. To get a general view of how the city looks from a map, take a look at the image HERE.
Getting around Venice:Venice is really an island so it's hard to get too lost, but having a decent map will help guide you through portions of the city that are not as well marked as the main sections. There are dozens of makeshift signs throughout the main zones of the city that point you towards San Marco, Rialto, or the Accademia Gallery museum. The streets are narrow and around each corner are often dead end streets that end at the canals that wind through the city. Be prepared to walk a lot even if you do use the vaporetto or traghetti gondolas. The traghetti gondolas are located along the Grand Canal and are located at strategic crossing points not covered by the 3 bridges or vaporetto stops. Costing only $.65 (.50 Euros) they are a real bargain and will cut down your distances that you have walk. There are no cars or buses allowed within the city itself, so you will have to rely on your feet or the water shuttle systems in place. Nevertheless, enjoy your walks throughout the quaint city of Venice and savour every moment. Lastly, the address system in Venice is practically impossible for a tourist to figure out, so have your hotel mark a good map for you when trying to find restaurants or shops. One night our hotel circled the restaurant we had reservations at on a less than adequate map and we had lots of trouble finding the spot eventhough it was only about 10 minutes away. Although it seemed safe walking around the darker streets of Venice at night, still be careful of your surroundings and keep your valuables tucked away.
Venice Museums:One of the main reasons people come to any city in Italy is to see the awesome display of artwork collected over the years. Venice is no different and offers several art galleries like the Accademia Gallery and Peggy Guggenheim Foundation. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection museum is open Wednesday-Monday from 10AM-6PM and includes almost 200 fine paintings and sculptures. You can find pieces of art from Pablo Picasso (The Poet) and lots of works from Jackson Pollack. The modern art displayed in this museum is worth the visit and the building is small and easy to navigate once inside. Be sure to check out the Angelo della Citta on the terrace overlooking the Grand Canal, the view is gorgeous. For a virtual visit to the museum, check out their website at Guggenheim-venice.it. As for the Gallerie dell'Accademia, this is another must see museum with paintings from the Byzantine, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Top pieces include Coronation of the Virgin (Room 1), Madonna and Child between St. John the Baptist and a Saint (Room 5), The Tempest (Rm 5), Feast in the House of Levi (room 10), and Healing of the Madman. The museum is open 8:15AM-7:15PM Daily except on Mondays when it closes at 2 PM. The official website can be found at Gallerieaccademia.org. Ca' Rezzonico is another top rated museum in Venice that is a grand palazzo on the main canal with frescoes, paintings, and other works of art. The Museo Correr is near San Marco and houses the famous painting called Young Man in a Red Hat by Carpaccio.
Venice Churches:The Basilica di San Marco is the best known church in Venice, but we will give you some pointers on finding some of the others that are worth a look. The Basilica is a wondrous sight in St. Mark's Square and the Facade Mosaics on the front of the church are beautiful along with the Horses of St. Mark located above the entrance. Once inside there is a fee to see the Treasury and the Pala d'Oro. Off the beaten track is San Nicolo dei Mendicoli which is definitely a far walk, but well worth the visit if you have the time and energy. The upper walls show off a series of paintings by Alvise dal Friso and other artists that depict the life of Christ. The church is open Mon-Sat from 10AM-Noon and 4-6PM (no fee). San Pantalon is a 17th Century church with a spectacular ceiling painting that took Gian Antonio Fumiani 24 years to complete. This masterpiece can only be seen Mon-Sat from 4-6PM (no fee). Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is a Gothic church in the area of San Polo. Open daily, this church includes Titian's masterpiece - Assumption of the Virgin, and Madonna and Child by Giovanni Bellini. Other things to see in the church are the Monk's Choir, Foscari Monument and Rood Screen. Santa Maria della Salute is an incredible site from outside but left me a little disappointed from the interior. Instead of walking all the way across the Accademia bridge, take the traghetti crossing near Campo del Traghetto and save time to get to the church much faster.
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