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The following is basic information to make the most of a trip to Venice:
Airport/Train Stations: The airport for Venice is Marco Polo which is located on the mainland about 7 kilometres from the city. It takes about 20 minutes by the ACTV No 5 service bus or the ATVO coach or a land taxito reach PIazzale Roma which lies on the banks of the Grand canal at its western end. There is no rail link from Marco Polo to Venice. A water link is provided y the Alilaguna ferry service. See www.alilaguna.it for details of their routes, landing stages in Venice timetables and fares. There is no link by the ACTV water buses (vaporetti). Treviso airport is used by some cheapo airlines such as Ryanair. This is linked to Piazzale Roma in Venice by a coach service provided by ATVO which take c. 45 minutes for the journey. See www.atvo.it for details of timetables.
There is no need to be alarmist about thieves in Venice, which is probably the safest city in Italy. Pickpocketers are rare but do come into the city from time to time and may be found in the busiest areas -Santa Lucia railway station, the vaporetti, and around Piazza San Marco. It is nevertheless unwise to carry large amounts of money in notes with you and to flash them around so that everyone can see them. Take out with you when sightseeing as much as you are likely to need for the day for entrance to museums etc., meals and possibly a little for shopping.
If you are concerned then a money belt can be useful. There is no need to carry your Passport everywhere you go. In the very rare event of being asked by the police or anyone else to see your Passport a photocopy of the relevant pages is sufficient. Be aware of who is around you and never carry anything in a purse that you can’t live without. Men should always carry their wallet in their front pocket. Fortunately beggars of all kinds are rare in Venice, though you may occasionally find an elderly woman crouching by the entrance to a church or museum with a begging bowl but they are few and far between.
Your hotel will take your passport overnight. Don't worry, they're not after it. They are required by Italian law to register your stay and may from time to time have their books inspected.
Taxis – Asking how much they will charge you BEFORE you get into the taxi would be a good idea, however rides are metered (except for a few flat-rate routes, usually to and from airports), so the best you can come up with is an educated guess. Main cities however have standard rates to and from the airport. Having said this, it is usually about the same price to hire a car with a driver prior to your departure. There are plenty of online companies that offer this service.
Venice has several alternative ways of travelling from the airport to the centre of Venice apart from a taxi. There is no train station at Marco Polo airport but there is a regular coach service run by ATVO costing 6 euros to Piazzale Roma and taking about 20 minutes. Alternatively there is a little slower scheduled bus service (No. 5) run by ACTV on the same route costing 26 euros and taking c.35 minutes, making a stop outside mestre station on its way to Piazzale Roma. However luggage accommodation is not as good as on the ATVO coaches.
Many visitors prefer to travel to Venice across the lagoon as being a much more romantic approach. The landing stage can be reached by walking down the path signposted to the left of the exit to the Arrivals Hall but if you have very heavy luggage the taxis immediately outside the Arrivals hall will take you round the airport roads to the landing stage for a small fee.
Much quicker than the Alilaguna ferry, but much more expensive, are the private water taxis which can be booked on arrival at Marco Polo at the Consorzio Motoscafi Venezia or Veneziataxi desks in the Arrivals Hall. The private water taxis cost around 100 - 120 euros depending on the length of the journey. They take up to 4 passengers and their luggage for this inclusive price and have the great advantage of being quick - around 20/25 minutes - and taking you to the canalside nearest to your Hotel. Drivers to not expect a tip!
Cell Phones - many USA carriers now offer cellular service in Italy. However, you are roaming and rates are usually $1.00 or more plus taxes in and out. A better solution is to rent an international cellular phone from
www.PlanetFone.com. They'll deliver the international cell phone to you before you leave for your trip and the rates are very competitive. Don't hesitate to
request an instant quote. New discounts are posted periodically and AAA members save even with their membership. If you take care of your cell phone needs before your trip, you have that much more time to dedicate to your vacation.
Packing Pack for the season and pack comfortable shoes as the best way to visit is walking. Remember there are no wheeled vehicles anywhere on the streets of Venice once you are past Piazzale Roma, only the water buses! Also, Venice streets and museum floors are very hard! If you are going to wear a dress or shirt exposing your shoulders (it gets blistering hot in the summer), make sure you have a scarf or an extra shirt when entering a church as bare shoulders or skirts above the knee are frowned upon and you may well be refused entrance.
Hotel: Be sure your hotel is a 3 star or better for anything approaching luxury. Europe has a different rating system and 2 star hotels can be very basic, little more than B&Bs in terms of facilities. Do not leave money or valuables in your room, as it may be too much of a temptation. However many hotels have either small electronic safes in the bedrooms or a large safe in the Reception Office, using either of these facilities does not usually mean any charge. .If choosing an ultra-budget hotel, it may not be a bad idea to pack an old towel and a washcloth, as towels and washcloths may not necessarily be plentiful. Cheaper hotels may not have air conditioning, so windows sometimes need to be open but this will mean mosquitoes can gain access at night! Air conditioning is nearly essential especially during the summer when Venice can be hot and humid. It is advisable to close windows at night to keep mosquitoes out of a bedroom. Bed and Breakfasts may be a good alternative as many have excellent standards.
When you check out of the hotel, be sure to keep your receipt (see the info which follows about restaurant receipts, as the same rules apply).
If you are aged 65 and over do take either your passport or a copy of it with you to show it when you buy tickets to museums and galleries and entrance is FREE if you are a national of a member country of the European Union.. Whilst this true for members of EU countries it does not necessarily apply for other nationalities. Breakfast tends to be very simple – rolls, cheese, cappuccino, sometimes yogurt cereals and muesli. (They may serve jam with the roll – pretty standard with breakfast). It is sometimes included in the price of your room (but not always). Increasingly in the better Hotels a cooked breakfast is widely available - usually including scrambled or boiled eggs, bacon, sausages, and cooked tomatoes.
Restaurants: Be sure to notice if the service charge is included (such a service charge used to be rare but is becoming increasingly common in all Italian restaurants), as you don’t want to over-tip. Tip is “Mancia”, and should only be given for service rendered. Italians usually leave a very few Euros, just the loose change from the bill, as a tip for extra service.The Menu should be posted outside the restaurant stating both the service charge if any, and the 'Pane e Coperto' table charge customarily charged. Service charges vary but may be as much as 15% whilst the Pane e Coperto is only a few euros, between 1 and 5 per person usually. Beware if a menu is not visible from outside the restaurant; this is unusual and such an establishment should be avoided at all costs.
Every restaurant used to be required to give you a receipted bill (receipt) and to carry this with you after you leave the restaurant because sometimes an Inland Revenue Official would come up and ask to see it to make sure you have paid. This usually happened within 165 feet of the restaurant – if you could not produce it, you could be fined. While the above was once the case - and remains as an enduring urban myth - whether or not you're given one, customers have not risked a fine for not keeping their receipt/invoice/bill since a change in the law (decreto legge numero 269 del 2 ottobre 2003) abolished the requirement almost seven years ago.
The standard drink is wine and mineral water (“with gas” (meaning sparkling) or “without gas” (being regular water). The “table wines” in Italy are superb. They are often served in jugs or pitchers – excellent.
Both lunch (“Pranzo”) an dinner ("Cena") usually consist of several courses; antipasto, the pasta course (“primo”) takes the place of a soup course, not a main dish. which is the secondo.
Do not be surprised if your entrees are served at different times. Many times, they will just serve the dish when it comes out of the kitchen – so you may get your entrees at different times. (The waiter hasn’t forgotten, (s)he just wants to make sure you have the food at its very best). Remember that vegetables, including potatoes, are rarely includied with a dish, they are a separate order called 'contorni' and will come on a separate plate and indeed are often served as a separate course. Trattorias are the very best places to have lunch – you can get a prix-fixe menu usually for much less than a restaurant. Or an alternative is to visit a bar and have a selection of cicheti and a beer or a glass of wine.
The Cafes are very nice. You can sit for a long time with a drink and just enjoy “people watching.” There is a wonderful chilled coffee drink called “Caffe' Shakerato". This is a delicious drink to pick up your body and tired feet in the middle of the afternoon (so you have enough energy to make it to the gelateria for gelato!!) . Very Venetian and very refreshing is a "spritz", a mildly alcoholic aperitif with a blend of white wine with camparil or aperol and soda which can cost as little as 2 euros upwards.
Italian Gelato is an art form. You can get it in a cup or a cone. A popular choice is Nocciola (pronounced no-CHOH-la). It will be very difficult to choose one or two flavors, as they all look and taste fantastic.
A good general guide for Americans to eating in Italy is the book "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler" by Fred Plotkin, published in 2010 by Kyle Books. On the cover it says "Covering all of Italy - restaurants, trattorias, food fairs, festivals, bakeries, coffee bars, wine bars, bookstores, gourmet shops, markets, vineyards, farms, wineries, olive oil producers, cooking schools and much more". It is not really a recipe book as it only gives a total of 42 recipes in its 725 pages. Nor is it a convenient size to carry around all day as it is fairly heavy! But it is very useful and rewarding to read before you set off to Italy and is full of sensible guidance, especially the remarks about food in Italy being unlikely to resemble the so-called "Italian" food you eat in countries outside Italy. Portions are often nowhere near as large because they are intended to be part of a meal with many courses nor are the flavours necessarily the same as Italians make good use of herbs and other flavourings such as truffles.
Two other excellent guides to eating in Venice are "Chow! Venice" by Shannon Essa and Ruth Edenbaum which is published by the Wine Appreciation Guild and Chow Bella Books of San Francisco and a more detailed book with photographs written by a local lady Michela Scibilia called "Venice Osterie" and publshed by Vianello Photobooks
Shopping: The Markets are often the best places to fin d the bargains and negotiation is welcomed and expected. They can be found in several of the Venetian campos such as Campo Santa Margherita in Dorsoduro. They are also great entertainment, but again – watch your purse. Good buys are leather goods and jewelry. The main Fruit and vegetable and also the Fish market are to be found on the San polo side of the Rialto bridge and are well worth a visit, especially if you are self-catering in rented accommodation. KEEP ALL RECEIPTS (see info about restaurants – same rules apply). Watch “bargains” on gold and silver jewelry, as the assay marks may be a fake. Buying faked goods in Italy is an offence and you may well be fined heavily to beware, especially of offers in the street. Street sellers are moved on by the local police as such street trading is generally illegal.
Shops may have odd hours. They often open at 9 a.m. and then close about 12:30 until 3 pm and then are open again until 7.30 p.m. – and are closed on various mornings (Mon and Wed being the favorites). Italian made papers and book bindings are very luxurious.
Stamps: Italians tend to buy them from tobacconists (look for a large “T” sign above the door). You CAN get them at post offices, but because these offers lots of services these days (currency exchange -- with excellent rates incidentally, money transfer, investments, mobile phone service, you name it), you may have to take a number and wait forever to be served. Letterboxes are painted red in Italy.