Getting lost in Venice, Italy is somewhat of an expected thing and part of the adventure. When I planned an afternoon for discovering of most of the 118 islands that make up Venice, I came armed with two maps, a GPS, and a mission to get to specific “must-see” sites.
What I quickly became aware of was that maps in Venice are useless, the GPS is distracting, and in the middle of summer the weather is so hot and humid that walking around for hours in the middle of the day can be a huge challenge.
My teen and I decided instead take our time, with no big goals in mind, during our short time in Venice. We stopped to admire the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari church (3 euros to tour) and stopped for some gelato.
We kept taking turns that took us away from the touristy crowds and more into the community of Venice, where we saw families spending the day together and a woman doing laundry, or we would see no one at all, just a serene and beautiful dead-end away from it all.
Walking around is how we came upon the Carta Alta Venetian Masks store and had a chance to witness an artist as she painted a mask. The store in itself is like touring a museum. The gorgeous displays of masks, gowns, caps, hats, and more kept us busy for almost an hour.
It’s easy to navigate Venice with the various taxi and tour services. The vaporetti (water buses) are the least expensive way to travel. Best way to do this is to get a travel card with prices that start at 7 euros for one hour. You can also get the card to cover your transportation for the duration of your stay, so from one hour up to 7 days. It’s important to keep track of schedules as these change regularly, but with Venice being a pedestrian-only city, it is by far the best way to navigate around other than walking.
This Venetian bride hailed a water taxi to get to her big event.
I quickly learned that the famous gondola rides in Venice are very expensive. Though they can take up to 6 people in one gondola (and I will admit I didn’t see too many set up to accommodate such large groups), the rates start at about 80 euros, but mostly 100 euros, per ride. Great deal if it’s a lot of you (which might actually push the fee higher). At night, and because Venice is so incredible then, the rates can be as much as $100 US dollars per person. Needless to say, my teen and I skipped the ride, but rather enjoyed watching the gondoleros passing by.
Loved the gondoleros, but when traveling on a budget, it might not be a possibility unless you have others to split the cost.
Because we were coming off the Carnival Cruise Sunshine and entering Venice from the port, we took a free shuttle ride to the tram, which for 1 euro each way dropped you off a few minutes away and closer to the city. On a cooler day the entire thing is walkable (from port to town), but during the summer it’s just best to take the short rides. The tram doesn’t leave you in the thick of it, meaning you aren’t really near the Saint Mark’s Basillica or Piazza San Marco. That might be another 30 minute walk, if you don’t get lost along or distracted along the way.
You can also take a taxi without much problem. As far as purchasing an excursion from the tour company on the cruises, I don’t think you have to. The city is a lot bigger than it looks, and all the bridges and tunnels can make it tricky to navigate by foot, but there are much less expensive ways to see the city. Of course, tours can be fun and provide quicker access to sites based on the pre-paid options of your tour and a tour of Murano is always a great choice. A walking tour can also be a nice choice.
One day in Venice isn’t nearly enough time to really enjoy it. Keep in mind that Venice can be pricey, especially during high tourist season. The main touristy areas can be expensive, though avoidable for the most part. I have also heard that finding affordable lodging is not too hard to do. Some people have asked me if Venice smells during the summer. I would say there is a bit of that from the lagoon due to the heat and humidity, but it’s not any worse than any other major city such as Chicago or New York when summer hits.
It’s so hot and humid in the summer time!
The one thing I can say for sure is it matters little how many images of Venice you have seen in movies or books, there’s nothing like experiencing Venice in person. It’s like a scene from a story book. There’s no place like it. Worthy of a visit, just maybe more enjoyable in the Spring or Fall months.
And as for getting lost? Just allow yourself time for it. We spent pretty much our entire visit taking wrong turns and walking into dead ends, and enjoying it the whole time. There are incredible monuments and works of art to explore and see in Venice, but if you never make it to them, don’t fret. You will still enjoy the city and love what you see, no matter what unexpected corner you turn into.
All photos are property of Girl Gone Travel and may not be used with permission from the publisher. To see more photos of our afternoon in Venice, please visit our Flicker page. You can also check our or Mediterranean adventure through photos on Storify.
Disclosure: My teen and I were guests on the Carnival Cruise Sunshine during their Mediterranean voyage. This was one of our stops. All opinions expressed here are my own.