The world’s oldest film festival, the Venice Film Festival is less than two weeks away, so it’s a good excuse to see what the area has to offer the independent traveller.
Things to see
Typically, visitors head straight for St Mark’s Basilica, located on Piazza San Marco, which is presumably Venetian for “plague of pigeons”. Access to the church is free, so it is a cheap way to kill time, unlike the rest of Venice. Bear in mind that although we all love your bare legs, the Roman Catholic church doesn’t, so dress appropriately or you won’t get in.
There are dozens of museums to visit, from the Peggy Guggenheim Museum (modern art) through to the Museum of Natural History. A few of the museums are worth a visit even just for the building in which they’re located – for example, Ca’ Rezzonico, an eighteenth century palace which now serves as a museum of Venetian art.
At some point, however, you’ll find you will want to get away from the crowds – just wander off into Venice’s many backstreets and you’ll soon find yourself away from everyone, and seeing the more interesting side of Venice – the real city, as opposed to that presented to tourists.
Out and about
The film festival is held on the island of Lido, a strip of land to the south east of Venice’s main islands. Lido is Venice’s beach, although the vast majority of the waterfront is owned by hotels and you’ll have no chance of getting to it unless you’re willing to hand over cash. There’s a public beach at the end of Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, which is understandably overcrowded. Vaporetti run to Lido approximately every 10 minutes, during the day.
The island of Murano is the centre of Venice’s glass-making industry, and it’s worthwhile to spend a day there wandering through its small streets, avoiding the tacky shops trying to sell you junk.
One of the cheapest options is the local youth hostel, Ostello Venezia. Prices vary across seasons, but typically a single bed in a dormitory is â‚¬20 per night. The hostel is located on the island of Giudecca, south of the main islands. Catch vaporetto lines 41, 42 or 82 to the stop named Zitelle.
More centrally located is the Backpackers Hostel Venice, accessible via Vaporetto lines 1 and 82 (stop San TomÃ ). Private rooms are â‚¬45 per night, beds in shared dormitories are â‚¬33.
Hotels in Venice are not cheap. You can easily pay upwards of â‚¬100 per night for a fairly ordinary hotel. Book ahead in peak times. If you’re happy to stay on the mainland, you’ll find much more reasonably priced hotels in Mestre, although it does somewhat spoil the charm of being in Venice. It does get you away from the smell of the canals, however.
The Vaporetti – public water buses – make up the backbone of Venice’s public transport. They are run by ACTV, and you’ll find vaporetto stops dotted all over the banks of Venice’s main waterways. A single fare on the main line services is an eye-watering â‚¬6, so it is well worth investing in a cheaper 1, 2 or 3-day ticket.
Venice is connected to the mainland via a bridge carrying railway lines that terminate at Santa Lucia station. There are direct trains from Milan, Verona, Padua, Rome, Florence, Trieste, and even more far flung places such as Vienna, Budapest, Paris and Munich. Note that some trains may terminate in Venice-Mestre station, and it will be necessary to change to get to Venice Santa Lucia.
If you’re willing to brave Italy’s insane traffic, there is a car park on the island, but there’s often a long wait to get to it, and it is extremely expensive. It is better to make use of one of the car parks in Mestre and catch a train across.