“What news on the Rialto?”- The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare
Shakespeare never visited Venice, Padua, Rome or Verona. He just thought it safe to let his plays take part in foreign Italy, so he could tackle sensitive subjects. Clever chap!
I think of all Shakespeare’s Italian cities, Verona is the most famous. Who does not know what took place in fair Verona?
For a romantic Italian city trip for two my husband and I thought Venice was more romantic and less dramatic than Verona. Had Shakespeare visited Venice he may have written the following quote: To do or not to do, that is the question.
Today I will tell you what I would NOT do in Venice. However: to do or not to do, it’s up to you!
- Do NOT drink a coffee in one of the restaurants or on one of the terraces on the Piazza San Marco, unless you swim in your money. A cappuccino that you can buy and drink standing at the bar like a real Italian only costs around 1-2 euros in many of the charming streets of Venice, while you can easily spend 5 times as much on the Piazza San Marco. OK, you do get something for that price of course. Let’s be honest: having drunk a coffee in Caffè Florian is an experience. It is the oldest coffee room in the world and people like Charles Dickens, Henry James, Lord Byron, Goethe, Proust and Wagner have drunk their cup of coffee there as well. The interior is as impressive as those names, as are the waiters working there. (For some impressive impressions: click on this link)
- Do NOT visit the most famous bookstore in Venice, Libreria Acqua Alta, if you are really looking for a book. The place is crowded with books, cats and people and any overview is totally lost. It is very creatively decorated with baths, boats and gondolas serving as tables and shelves, but flooded like the city itself when there is “acqua alta” (see also point 10).
- Do NOT go to Venice with young children in a stroller. Venice has got 150 canals and roughly 400 bridges, most of which have got stairs! Unless you are keen on challenging your back and mood, I would wait a few more years before visiting Venice with your children. In the mean time you can do what we did, and go on a romantic trip for 2!
- Do NOT bring your bathing suit. Although there is water everywhere in Venice, you are not allowed to swim in the canals. Having seen and smelled lots and lots of motorboats during our weekend trip, I think this is solid advice.
- Do NOT book a gondola (unless – see also point 1 – you swim in your money). You pay around 80 euros for half an hour (and you share the gondola with others for this price). In the romantic evening hours, prices go up even more. I have seen traffic jams of gondolas around the Rialto Bridge area (see the first photo of this blog post) as well as in the small canals of this charming city and I am happy we spent our money on delicious Italian food, which brings me to the next point.
- Do NOT visit Venice (or Italy in general) when you want to loose weight. Italian food is simply the best and you should make sure to enjoy lots of it when visiting Venice. You can go for a “simple” pasta or pizza, opt for the traditional “cicchetti veneziani”, enjoy real Italian gelato or savour an exquisite 4 course menu. We enjoyed two delicious dinners, thanks to tips from friends (check out Trattoria Alla Madonna and Algiubaio, two restaurants that serve fantastic fish and homemade Italian desserts).
- Do NOT stick to pasta and pizza only. When in Venice, eat as the Venetians do and order a “cicchetti e ombre“, the Venetian version of tapas. Order a glass of wine (ombra) or a spritz and select which of all the yummy cicchettis appeal to you most. There is a “bacari” around almost every corner, so plenty of choice for an aperitif. When you like the idea of cicchetti e ombre and want to make them yourself, here are some idea in English and here some in German. I have made all of them and they are delicious!
- Do NOT sleep in every day of your stay. Venice is less crowded early in the morning, the light is beautiful on the water (perfect for photos) and you will feel very Italian sharing your first coffee of the day standing among Venetians. It is also a wonderful opportunity to watch loads of activities on the water and in the small streets. Fresh linnen is brought to hotels, the gondolas and taxi boats get polished, fresh fish and vegetables are brought to the fish market near the Rialto Bridge and garbage is collected in the small streets and brought to collecting spots near the canals, where special boats arrive to bring it elsewhere.
- Do NOT go to Venice without a map (on paper or on your phone). It is a city where you can easily get lost and though getting lost is one of the things I would advice you to do (it is awesome to wander through the smallest of streets and seeing the remotest of bridges, away from the crowded Rialto Bridge or San Marco Place) it is great if you can at least find your way back at some point!
- Do NOT forget to check the water heights before you go. Especially in the winter months, Venice sometimes gets really, really flooded, with water rising more than 90 centimetres. This phenomenon is called “acqua alta”. When you happen to visit Venice during “acqua alta” it will add something special to your visit. With just a bit of water in the streets, enjoy the opportunity to take superb photos and enjoy the puddles like a happy kid (wear wellies). In case there is serious “aqua alta” the Venetians will make sure you can still walk around in their city on special platforms, adding something adventurous to your stay.
I am sure that my list has convinced you that the question to go or not to go? is an easy one to answer.
And though Shakespeare claims that “love is blind and lovers cannot see” (from the Merchant of Venice), we have enjoyed seeing the beauty of Venice and we’ve completely fallen in love with the place. I cannot find words to express the impressions and although pictures often speak louder than words, even my photos can only lift a corner of the veil. Maybe this last photo (taken in garden of the Peggy Guggenheim Center in Venice) expresses my joy of having been in Venice.
Thank you for visiting Venice with me!