An Ireland-based Filipino expat gives the lowdown on how to make the most of your visit to one of the most charming cities in the world
The Italian city of Venice draws millions and millions of tourists every year, banking on its enchanting waters, stunning architecture, mysterious passageways, which are harmonized by the clear blue skies it is frequently blessed with.
With all the elements of a perfect backdrop for an utterly romantic setting, it’s no wonder that Venice has been chosen as the location for a slew of Hollywood rom-coms like “The Tourist,” “Chasing Liberty,” and “Only You,” just to name a few.
The calmness of the canals and the soothing gondola rides best characterize love and romance, making Venice the City of Love.
As with other popular tourist destinations, there is an abundance of things to do in the city. Walking tours, and Grand Canal boat tours are convenient, but are quite expensive.
To squeeze the most out of your budget, opt instead for a 24-hour ACTV ticket. For just €20 you can get on a hop-on, hop-off vaporetto (water bus) – an excellent alternative to the €48-boat tour.
The ticket can be purchased at train and waterbus stations, and even at accredited hotels.
Here are 4 ways on how to best use your ACTV ticket:
Visit St. Mark’s Basilica
It is said that in January 828, the relics believed to be the body of St. Mark (the Gospel Evangelist) was brought from Alexandria (Egypt) to Venice. This led to making St. Mark as the city’s patron saint.
As a note, photography is not allowed inside the Basilica. Instead, to get prove to netizens that you went on holiday, take photos at St. Mark’s Square, which is right in front of the Basilica. But while you can pose with the pigeons, feeding them is banned, and fines are meted to those who ignore the ban.
Marvel at the Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) was the home of the Doge, the ruler of Venice. This was the seat of power and where important decisions concerning the political and public affairs of the Venetian Republic were made. When the Republic fell on 1797, Venice was subjected to French rule, then Austrian, and eventually, in 1866 when it became part of a united Italy. The Doge’s Palace was converted as a museum in 1923.
Let the Bridge of Sighs leave you in awe
Located near St. Mark’s Square, this bridge is always full of tourists. So what’s so special about this bridge? This bridge connects the Doge’s Palace and the New Prisons. Legend has it that the name came about when sighs of desperation were exhaled by captives crossing the bridge as they were taken down to their cells. They sighed because that was to be their final glimpse of the beauty of Venice.
Appreciate the wealth of art
Venice and its Lagoon were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987 for its unparalleled beauty. Apart from the city being already an architectural gem itself, it also has a vast collection of artworks. Its galleries and museums are a haven for art enthusiasts.
Some of the art places to visit are:
Ca’ D’Oro Gallerie (Golden House Gallery) – featuring art belonging to Baron Giorgio Franchetti.
Gallerie dell’Accademia (Academy of Fine Arts) – Venice’s painting museum, which houses one of several classic Madonna-and-child paintings by Giovanni Bellini.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection – Guggenheim was an American art dealer and collector from the 1930s-1950s. Her collection here includes the works by Picasso.
Off the tourist trail
Bear with me for a moment, and try to believe that despite the millions of tourists flocking to Venice, there are still places and things to do considered “off the beaten path.”
Here are 4 ways to experience Venice in a less touristy way:
The hype about Gondolas
Gondolas are synonymous with Venice, but the traghetto is an alternative way to have the “gondola experience” without breaking your bank. It is also a public transport that looks almost exactly like a gondola, save for being ornately decorated. For €2, it is technically the “5th” way to cross the Grand Canal. Note that it is a shared ride so be prepared to stand in case it is almost full.
Traverse the alleys, cross arching bridges and be ready to be in a maze. Look for the Grand Canal to find your way back.
For €2 a scoop, it is easy to get hooked to mounds of colorful gelato. Or, take a sweet bite of the cannoli, a traditional Sicilian dessert.
Indulge in a hearty Italian meal
They say you can’t leave Venice without having trying a classic Venetian dish: Spaghetti in Nero di Seppia, which is pasta with cuttlefish. The ink sack of the cuttlefish is used to create a deep black-coloured pasta sauce. The pasta noodles are handmade and not the typical dried pasta bought from supermarkets. The seafood ingredients are usually the restaurant’s fresh “catch of the day.”
Venice in Under €500 for 2 Adults
We stayed for 2 nights in Venice. It may be short and even with no gondolas and no pigeons, it was enough for us to experience its beauty. For this trip, we spent €470 (in Philippine Pesos (Php) 25850). Here is the breakdown:
To read more about Lorna’s travels, visit www.joeyslornawritesagain.weebly.com
By LORNA REAL-DEL ROSARIO
Photos by JOSE DEL ROSARIO