My first trip to Venice was a cross between comedy and grateful sighs of pleasure. Laughs for the numerous times I got lost and shortness of breath for its awe inspiring beauty. I will start by saying that I absolutely and whole-heartedly loved this city. It lives up to what I expected. The morning of my first “alarm” I actually got up and grabbed my cell phone to capture the most beautiful Sunday morning sound that you can possibly hear, church bells waking you up. I remember lying in bed and thinking that my life went from being on call 24/7 to this moment in Venice:
Now on to seven myths that I was determined to find out for myself if they were true. I had heard how much this city smells like sewage. I remember the moment I arrived and felt this amazing excitement to be there. I arrived to catch my water taxi and inhaled as deeply as I possibly could.
Myth #1 Does it smell? No! I went in November and I did not smell anything besides salt water from the canals. However, I did read that sometimes they do repairs. When this happens, they must drain the canal and that can cause a smell. In addition, locals told me that in the Summer when the water levels are lower, the stagnant water in the smaller canals will stink a bit. However, none of this applied to me since I was not there when any of this happened. I will have to say that this is mostly a myth. After all, sometimes your own neighborhood can stink due to a myriad of reasons, but it isn’t the norm.
Myth #2 The food must be amazing here right? Yes and No. Italians know that Venice isn’t known for its thriving foodie scene, but there ARE some gems to explore just like in any other big city. Venice knows that people dream of coming here so they do not have to try so hard to win you over with their food. They simply know that you will visit anyway. So while your first Venetian experience fails your most idealistic expectations of dining in Italy for the first time, there IS good food here. My first dinner here was not impressive but the wine was on point.
To name three budget friendly places:
Trattoria Alla Rampa, Via Garibaldi 1135, Castello (Lunch Only). Tucked away behind a working class bar you will be able to find this local hangout with generous portions of fish, meats, and farm to table vegetables. Although there is no menu, it is suggested to order the daily lunch served only between 12:00 and 12:45 for approximately 13 to 15 Euros (includes two main dishes, wine, and coffee).
Rossopomodoro, Calle Larga San Marco 404: I asked a local where they liked to go for pizza and he said without a doubt that this was his favorite place. A variety of pizzas and pastas reasonably priced. Their pizzas are actually made in the only brick oven pizzeria in Venice. For those of you that are budget conscious, they automatically add an extra 2 Euros per person for service.
Al Bottegon, Fondamenta Nani 992: The Italian version of happy hour is called bacaro and a place you will love has been running for three generations in Venice. If you are a Cicchetti enthusiast---the name of small side dishes and snacks, this is the place for you. They also sell vino sfuso by the liter, which should definitely finish convincing you. What is this type of wine you may ask? It is known as a lesser quality wine that comes from grapes that were not considered good enough for bottling. However, it’s the best bang for your buck.
Rossopomodoro in Venice. Enjoy pizza from the only Brick Oven Pizzeria in Venice
Myth #3: It is expensive! Well, in comparison to what? Maybe it’s because I have lived in Washington, D.C. and New York City, but I found Venice wasn’t as bad as I had been told and the portions of food are usually generous. Are there cheaper cities? Of course. However, a trip to New York City will quickly convince you that Venice isn’t as painful to your pocket as you probably thought.
Myth #4: It is super crowded! Visit during the peak Summer season and of course it is crowded. You are in Venice! However, for more budget friendly prices and smaller crowds the best time to visit: November to March when hotel rates are half of what you’d pay in the Summer.
Myth #5: It is sinking! Yes, it is but at a very slow rate. Venetians are more concerned with flooding than they are with sinking. They refer to this phenomena as the acqua alta. When the tides rise in the northern Adriatic Sea, they cause flooding.
San Marco at Night is a sight to remember
Myth #6: Gondola rides are outrageously expensive! True! However, there IS a way! There are boats that cross the canal between the railroad station and St. Mark’s Basin. The traghetto ride, as the word hints at, is a “ghetto” version of the over priced gondola that moves you across the canal for 2 Euros a person. I don’t know about you, but that is way better than 80 or 100 Euros. Aren’t you still on the same water and enjoying the same views?
Rush hour in Venice
Myth #7: A day trip is more than enough to see it! Ok, maybe it is enough to check the bucket list of San Marco Square, The Basilica of San Marco, The Doge’s Palace, the ascent of the Campanile, and complete your gondola ride. But there is more! If you stay a couple of days you can discover Burano, Murano, and Torcello. What is there to find on these islands you ask?
Murano: Home of the world famous glass manufacturing industry. It is like Venice in miniature. The development of this island started around the 13th century.
Burano: An island that is known as a leader of handicrafts. It is also known for brightly painted houses. The island boasts a lace-making school that is still active and the Burano Lace Museum.
Torcello: Founded between the 5th and 6th centuries, Torcello was one of the first settlements of the lagoon. A visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta restored around the 11th century is a must. I will be honest with you. Torcello was my Venetian fling for the day. No regrets though and no feelings were hurt after my departure.
What else is there to do in Venice? Spritz. Lots of it. It is also called Spritz Veneziano and is a wine-based cocktail commonly served as an aperitif in Northeast Italy.