by Laura Bauerlein
1. Venice deserves a real stay, not just a hit and run.
Of course, two days in Venice is better than zero days in Venice. Many people have limited time and a long list of places they want to see, and the common misconception is that Venice is so small, one or two nights will do.
Beyond a lot of churches, monuments, museums, galleries, art, food… in other words, the old spiel that’s true for pretty much every Italian city, there is a unique silent beauty all around. The light reflecting in the water basically everywhere, the silence (no-cars-no-cars-no-cars!! NO CARS!!) and the calm that comes with that. The fact that it’s an island — in so many ways. Every day in Venice, I felt like I was quietly rehearsing my role in an important play on a beautiful stage, and everyone was doing the same.
We all know there’s something special about Venice, but it’s hard to grasp how very special that something is. Give yourself enough time to settle into the spectacle, and enjoy it fully.
2. Venice isn’t touristy.
What? Yes, you read right. It’s super-über-nauseatingly touristy during high season — but only in the touristy areas. As soon as you step out of them (which is easy as they are so concentrated), you’re just that little actor in the big play again.
Many neighborhoods in Venice are very genuine, with extremely nice people (Venetians have a great sense of humor) and ‘Venetian integrity’. Think Sestiere Giudecca, Castello Basso, Cannaregio, S. Croce and S.Polo. They all have their touristy spots, but the rest remains pretty much untouched!
3. It’s a party on the beach.
Venice Lido is just a 15-minute ride on the vaporetto (water bus). Once there you’re on an island with the true feel of summer: sand, beach, and relaxation. And if you happen to go during the Biennale, there’s cinema too. There are many famous movies and books set on Venice Lido, Death in Venice by Thomas Mann being the most famous.
4. The lagoon around Venice is extremely ‘rich’ with protected wildlife.
Most people only experience the city center, and perhaps the beach. In the surrounding lagoon you can birdwatch, hike, take a trip to Burano (with its colorful little houses) and Torcello (a special flair, only 15 residents, most of them over 90 years old!).
5. Venice is GREAT with babies and toddlers.
Babies — you can just carry them around all day. They’ll love the soft splash-splash of the water and being lulled to sleep. They’ll love to be walked around in that perpetual state of nodding off.
Toddlers will love the variety of boats. They’ll enjoy the Venetians musically raving about them and the treats they’ll be handed while having their cheeks pinched. They’ll love the pigeons (it’s not as bad anymore! just a handful of pretty healthy birdies). They’ll love the bridges with steps (endless ups and downs!) and they’ll love the fact that they can pretty much run freely everywhere without having to worry about traffic.
If you need or want to take a stroller along, these days many bridges are wheelchair accessible and there is a special wheelchair ‘parcours’ (LINK) which will make pushing a stroller around much easier.
6. Venice is a perfect example to demonstrate that we really do have a problem with our waste on this planet.
You knew we have a trash problem already, I hope! Venice is small. It’s an island. Most of its streets are narrow. No cars or trucks can drive by and get that waste out of your field of vision (and with that, out of your mind, right?). Venetians know what a true WASTE PROBLEM is. They have to be super-organized with their garbage, otherwise in the blink of an eye things can turn from a problem into a full blown catastrophe, like finding their city literally buried under waste.
Avoiding making trash should always be the key. And then recycling, of course. In Venice you need to be very punctual in timing your trash-disposal. This is particularly important if you are renting a vacation home and need to be responsible for your own garbage. Waste is to be deposited in the streets, within a certain time frame, typically between 6 am and 10 am ONLY. Not before (say, during the night. Rats, anyone?). It’s not a joke – listen carefully to what your host has to say about disposing your trash.
(Sidenote: I was in Venice recently during a three-day strike of the garbage-management workers. It was pretty bad.)
7. The postman is your best friend!
If you are as naive as me (probably impossible) you’ll arrive in Venice, look at an address (which is typically just an indication of the neighborhood plus a number, so ‘Castello 2915′ or ‘Cannaregio 5960′) and without hesitation hit the street for that number, thinking you’ll find the place in no time. Ha! Don’t be fooled.
Unless for some reason you are incredibly lucky and just stumble upon it, you could be doomed forever. Numbers in Venice are no joke — or, are they? There is basically no logic to it. You could be looking at a ’6789′ and the next house down will be a ’3546′.
There’s only one solution – find a postman! They are the ONLY ONES who know the numbers.
That being said, if you want to find a place, don’t write it down with the address being ‘Sestiere XY, number xyxy’ but rather find the nearest PIAZZA, or ‘Campo’, as they are called locally. In Venice only Saint Mark’s is allowed the name ‘piazza’ (square); all the other minor squares are called ‘campo’. This will also distinguish you from the category ‘tourist’ and bring you closer to being a true Venetian.
8. Venice might change your life.
If you only go for 2 days, you will probably confirm that it’s as gorgeous and romantic as you thought it would be. Or, you might think you’ll NEVER want to go back – if all you see is the heavily touristed side.
Laura Bauerlein is half Italian, half German and grew up mostly in Rome. She’s affectionately known as the Cross-Pollinate gypsy and Venice expert. She recently spent a good deal of time there with her partner and 2-year-old daughter, meeting owners and inspecting properties.