Venice is one of the world’s most famous and visited city with 4-5 million tourists setting foot on the islands every year. It’s probably very high on your bucket list places and if you’re planning a visit you’ll want to make the most of your time! After three visits over nine years I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself so I can help you out with these 11 mistakes you absolutely have to avoid making to have the best time in this magical city 🇮🇹
1. Having a drink or eating at St Mark’s Square
St Mark’s Square is probably the most famous place in Venice with its beautiful open plaza, columned arcades and the magnificent structure of St Mark’s Basilica at the eastern end. It seems like the perfect spot to stop for a drink or perhaps dinner. If you’re keeping an eye on your budget then this is a big mistake. Prices are hiked up here, considerably higher than anywhere else in Venice and it’ll only be after you stop elsewhere you realise your mistake. As an example, an Aperol spritz here will set you back around €15 whereas just about anywhere else in the city you’ll get change from a €5 note. Of course if you want to soak up the atmosphere here then you can do, just know that you’ll be charged for it at the end (with an added cover charge per person on top of that as well).
2. Visiting only for a day
A big mistake many people make when visiting Venice is only coming on a day trip. The first time I visited Venice in 2013 was like this. We stayed at Lake Garda and took a bus day tour. A day trip means you’ll likely arrive at 10am and leave by 5/6pm but you’re literally in the peak busy time of the city. So many people only have a day trip so the city is incredibly full at this time but early morning and later in the evening is when it becomes so much quieter and you can really enjoy Venice much more. I came away from the first visit not really liking Venice, it was busy, it was hot, the narrow streets were packed. On my subsequent two visits in 2016 & 2022 I stayed at least one night and this completely changed my mind. Yes, it still gets busy during the day with all of the day trippers but you have time early and later to really feel like you’re getting to know the city without the crowds. You’ll have more time to explore the less well known locations on a longer visit. A day trip won’t give you anywhere near enough time, Venice is actually pretty big and difficult to navigate so you might see a couple of souvenir tat shops, visit St Mark’s Square and taste some over priced, tourist trap piled high ice cream but that’s about it. Having made that mistake the first time, trust me you’ll leave feeling unsatisfied and knowing there’s so much more to see.
3. Only visiting one island
Many people that visit Venice (and especially those that visit just for a day) will only stay around the most well known part of the city – San Marco. A longer stay will let you venture further into the other 5 sestiere that are less popular and as well visit other islands. The Venetian Lagoon has other islands for you to visit which are a little quieter than Venice itself.
Don’t make the mistake of not taking a visit to at least one other island. Hop on a ferry and you’ve got a lot more options plus you can feel the wind in your hair and a breathtaking view of Venice as you jet off across the lagoon. Murano is popular as it is less than 20 minutes by ferry from Venice and is known for its glass. Its proximity does mean Murano can get crowded so keep going for another 25 minutes beyond to reach Burano. This is an absolute gem of a place and because in total its approximately 45 minutes on the ferry its considerably less busy. Even when the main areas seem crowded just move a street over and disappear amongst colourful alley ways to find a quieter spot. Burano is like a Disney picture book and every home a different colour.
4. Paying €80 for a gondola ride
Think of Venice and you think of gondolier’s in striped tops, drifting their gondolas along peaceful canals past shutter adorned buildings. The classic wooden gondola goes together with Venice as yellow cabs are synonymous with New York and so taking a gondola ride is pretty high on the agenda of anyone visiting the city. However, once you see the price you might be having second thoughts. In 2022 the price of a 25/30 min gondola ride is €80 during the day rising to €100 in the evening. This price is set for 1-6 people for a private tour. If that price seems out of budget, you don’t mind sharing and really you’re happy with a much shorter ride, it’s more about even just trying one then head to one of the traghetto stations to cross the grand canal. This will cost €2 instead and if you take one early enough you won’t have to share with too many others! It’s not quite the same but it does mean you can still complete a must do in Venice within your budget.
Alternatively you can try haggling with a gondolier but this is honestly not going to always give you the outcome you want, especially when it’s busy and in tourist seasons.
5. Taking the wrong ferry
Most people will arrive in or leave Venice from the train station (Santa Lucia) or the airport (probably with lots of luggage) and then hop on a ferry to reach where they’re staying. If you’re visiting other islands you’ll also be taking a ferry but there is a biiiig watch out! Don’t get on the wrong one. This is surprisingly easy to do, especially at ferry stops with lots of routes and people because they’re not particularly well signposted. On our way back from Murano, we had to yell at our friend who had got on the wrong ferry to jump back off again (thankfully she made it) and we then spent about 20 minutes trying to work out which one we should get. It’s an expensive mistake to make as well if you’ve not bought a day ticket because each ferry is €7.50 and you’ll have to buy a new one if you end up travelling on the wrong one.
6. Following the crowds
The streets and alleys of Venice are narrow and in the day can become very crowded and it’s easy to just follow along. But frequently taking a turn off from the main footfall will lead to considerably quieter paths and you’ll also find hidden corners. You’re also more likely to find better and cheaper food and drink options by ducking away from the more touristy, crowded spots since like plenty of popular cities, food in Venice gets more disappointing and with a hefty price tag the closer to a famous tourist attraction you get.
7. Eating pizza
Seems a strange mistake to make in Italy. ‘Surely if you should have pizza anywhere it’s in Italy?’ I hear you ask. Traditional Italian pizza is cooked in wood fired ovens but due to fire regulations as you can imagine they’re a pretty big fire hazard. So yes you can find pizza in Venice and sure you can have some and I’m sure it’s OK but if you’re visiting another city then save your pizza for one that is cooked the traditional Italian way. Instead, if you like seafood then opt for a more traditional Venetian dish and something that was freshly caught by local fishermen. For lunch, stop at a bar serving cicchetti (think Venice tapas but don’t call them that!), washed down with an aperitif.
8. Having a lie-in
I know. You’re on holiday. I’m sorry. But honestly, even if it’s just on one morning of your trip to Venice you should set an alarm early. You won’t regret it. Those places that you saw yesterday or that you’ll be visiting later that day along with crowds of other people? You’ll have them all to yourself. Both mornings I was in Venice on my last trip, the alarm was set for 5.30am and oh my days it was worth it. There’s something so magical about being in St Mark’s Square with just the pigeons for company or seeing the Bridge of Sighs with absolutely nobody else jostling for prime photographing position. You don’t need to set it quite as early if you’re not after the photos without anyone in at all but set it early enough so that you can soak up Venice before everyone else gets up. You’ll feel very smug as the day continues 😉
9. Not pre booking tickets to popular attractions
Plenty of tourists to Venice will arrive in the city without an agenda or booked tickets and whilst this is great for flexibility it’s less great if everywhere you want to visit has already sold their tickets and you can’t visit during your trip. We booked the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo in advance and I’m glad we did because when booking, quite a few time slots had already gone, and you couldn’t buy a ticket on the door. Whilst you do want to leave yourself with room for a morning espresso or afternoon spritz, book the places you most want to see in advance to avoid disappointment and missing out.
10. Using Google maps
It’s tempting to get your phone out and follow Google maps but there’s a few reasons this is a mistake. First off you won’t soak up the streets and atmosphere of Venice if your head is looking down at your phone and you’re more likely to have to do that here than in many other places because it is incredibly easy to make a wrong turn! One of the best ways to explore Venice is to get lost and follow your instincts to just turn left and see what you find. The most popular spots like the Rialto Bridge & St Mark’s Square are often sign posted so you can generally find your way back to one of these if you do stray away (and you can always ask someone for directions as well). Another reason is because Google maps often takes you a dead end or to a non existent bridge across a canal. If you don’t have ‘avoid ferries’ turned on it will also take you a route that might include just one ferry stop which, at €7.50 (unless you have a day pass) is an expensive mistake trip to make. I made this one on my last trip which ended up in quite a big detour to get to our accommodation!
11. Ordering a latte
So this is not just a mistake you can make in Venice but applies to any trip to Italy however I thought it was useful to mention specifically here! Chances are you’ll order a coffee during your time in Venice so if a latte is your drink of choice you’ll need to avoid asking for just that! Latte means milk in Italian so if you order a ‘latte’ in a café or restaurant you’ll find a glass of milk heading your way. Instead order a ‘caffè latte’ to avoid disappointment!
Hope this helps and that you have a wonderful stay in Venice 😊
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