Venice: the good, the bad and the ugly tourist traps

On a whim, Ben and I bought tickets to Venice to begin our exploration of Italy. Weirdly, neither of us knew a lot about Italy before we decided to spend our 2 month holiday here (he’d been once before, and I’d never been). We pretty much chose to study Italian in Florence based on nothing more than ‘it looks pretty’,  so our expectations of what Italy would be like were pretty non-existent.

With that in mind, we hopped on a train to Venice with no concept of what would follow, other than there would be a lot of canals and a lot of tourists. Also, not helping our case is the fact that we are terrible planners, so of course we had nothing booked except a night in a hostel.

Frankly, our first day wasn’t great. We googled what the main tourist attractions were, and walked our butts off until we saw them. Places such as the Piazza San Marco and the Basilica di San Marco were impressive, but the sheer volume of tourists, and the extreme heat, made it somewhat ‘meh’. In an act of desperation, we googled where to get an aperol spritz with a view, and found what looked like an absolute gem of a spot. We walked through the lobby of the super swanky hotel, to be greeted by the most beautiful, serene courtyard with a ridiculously gorgeous view. Needless to say, we were absolutely stoked. That was until we looked at the menu… The aperols were 15 euros each, the coffees were 8, and a glass of plain old milk was 7! Quickly, as to not draw too much attention to our un-belongingness, we sped walked right back outside.

While we did manage to find a cute spot to have a spritz (now at 8 euros each), we were exhausted, and excited for bed. We checked into our incredibly hipster hostel and got a semi-decent nights sleep.

Venetian views
The GoPro taking cool shots (until it ran out of charge almost immediately)
Basilica di San Marco sans the swarms of tourists (trust me, they were there)

Day 2 rolled around, and we were feeling a little deflated. Much to his credit though, Ben had booked a free walking tour around Venice to help us to find some kind of meaning to this (what we knew could be a) beautiful city. I was sceptical, but Ben made us persevere.

And to my disbelief, the tour was exactly what we needed. We walked through the backstreets of Venice for hours, avoiding the tourists and the scams. We learned some super interesting facts (such as the Venetians drink wine for breakfast due to their historic struggle to find drinkable water) and our tour guide was especially generous with tips on how to enjoy this city without falling prey to the tourist traps. For example:

  • Don’t even consider eating at a café that has someone greet you at the door (if it is good, they shouldn’t need this)
  • Get lost, because the side streets are where the magic happens! and
  • Gondola prices are capped by law. It is 80 euros per boat, no more, no less. Further, always let the gondoliers know that you know the law, then they won’t scam you.

We finished the tour feeling knowledgeable and inspired. From there we walked around some absolutely beautiful streets, got lost in between stops, and even found some cheap spritzs!

Feeling like a local, but the coffee gives it away 😉
Our gondolier was actually really laid back and honest (much to our surprise after the warnings given during the walking tour)


More gondola-ing


The beautiful brickwork of Venetian side streets
Another 2 Aperols please!

That’s all for now (until Cinque Terre). Did anyone else have similar experiences in Venice (or were we just absolute rookies)??

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