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Experience Venice for Less

A Budget Travel Guide for Venice, Italy

By Nick Herron

For the budget traveller there’s some good news and bad news about Venice. First, the bad news: Venice is an expensive city no matter how you try to save. Since its main share of tourism comes from the hordes of day tripping tourists who jam the city’s narrow walkways and crowd its fabled footbridges, prices are high; and you’ll be hard pressed to find a bargain to write home about.

The good news: Although Venice may be expensive and, at times, chock full of tourists, all it takes is one moonlit stroll through its streets, one view on a clear day from the top of the Campanile in Piazza San Marco, one quiet afternoon watching the Grand Canal and listening to the slosh of water as boats pass one another, and you’ll be absolutely smitten.

Head for a Hostel

Finding a cheap place to stay in Venice can be difficult. Since accommodation can make or break a trip, it’s a good idea to take your pick from one of a couple of (relatively) cheap Venice hostels. Many have private rooms for only a slight increase in price and hostels are generally a great resource to use for learning more about a city.

Albergo San Samuele – an attractive old Venice hostel/hotel hybrid – is a good choice. Located within walking distance of the heart of the city, it’s conveniently placed for exploring everything Venice has to offer. It’s also a sound option for those travelling in pairs with private rooms for 25 euros a person.

Make for the Market

We could reel off a nice array of restaurants where you’d find many the veneto’s specialty dishes risi e bisi, (rice and peas in a sort of risotto consistency) or fegato all veneziana (liver and onion) or any local fish on the menu that day… But to save money, you can eat just as well by finding smaller neighbourhood style grocery stores.

Local grocery stores are filled with fresh meats and cheeses that are at a fraction of the cost of meal at a restaurant, and after a stop at one, there are literally hundreds of hidden spots where you can easily lay a picnic spread out and enjoy a lazy afternoon’s eating and drinking.

A good place to go is the Campo Santo Vidal on the north end of the wooden ponte dell’accademia, one of three bridges that span the Grand Canal. Adjacent to the bridge there are park benches where you can enjoy some wonderful views of the city.

Out to the Islands

Once you’ve explored the main areas of Venice on foot, another money-saving activity is to explore a couple of the neighbouring islands: Murano and Burano. They’re only a short vaporetto ride away and are a part of Venice where infinitely fewer tourists bother to go.

Murano is known for its glass-blowing and Burano for its lace industry. Though buying might not be an option for a backpacker in Venice trying to do the city on the cheap, free demonstrations of the artisans at work on each respective island are certainly worth the visit.

Skip the Gondola Ride

Unless you’re willing to pay up to 80 Euros for a one-hour ride in a gondola, it’s better you search for an alternative experience to see the city from the water. Public ferries called traghetti – they look like a regular gondola only larger – cross the Grand Canal at points where there are no nearby bridges. And you can squeeze yourself onto one of these for about fifty cents.

For a longer ride down the canal, catch one of the many vaporetti that operate as Venice’s public transportation on water (3 euros for a single ticket, 11 euros for a day pass). Though these newer boats lack the romantic appeal of a gondola ride, they still offer amazing views of what is, undoubtedly, the world’s most ravishing cityscape.

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