Staying near Verona with our own car, we realised it was possible to drive from Verona to Venice. The opportunity of ticking off such a popular ‘bucket list’ destination was too good to miss, so we got in the car and made the just over an hour journey to one of the world’s most famous locations.
Needless to say, you can’t drive a car in to Venice itself, but they do have a number of huge car parks on the outskirts. We picked on the ‘Tronchetto‘ multi-storey, which had spaces available when we arrived and was relatively reasonably priced for a full day.
On leaving the car park we were immediately accosted by ticket-sellers trying to persuade us to buy a boat trip from a harbour next to the car park round to Venice city itself.
We were extremely tempted, but the costs were high (as per the cost of everything in Venice it seems) so we resisted and instead headed for the somewhat less glamorous (but fast and efficient) ‘Venice People Mover‘ monorail, which connects the car parking area with the main ‘Piazzale Roma’ square – the ‘gateway’ entrance to Venice itself.
Arriving at Piazzale Roma, you’re greeted with a bewildering range of options for transport, including the iconic Venice gondolas, the water taxis and water buses that shuttle you from the Piazzale Roma to all the major sights of Venice. Either that or you can walk!
Gondolas are clearly the big attraction but, with six of us, the cost made them out of the question! To some, they’re just an over-priced gimmick. Others see them as an essential part of the Venice experience. I’m leaning more to the former than the latter, but if we didn’t have to keep to such a tight budget on these types of holiday, I’m sure we’d have done one and enjoyed it as much as everyone else we saw in them!
Water taxis are proper, more luxurious engine-powered boats, with an even higher price tag. The water buses are for the rest of the masses: Big, ugly diesel-powered boats that chug up and down the waterways, crammed full of people much like a land bus, stopping off at drop-off points all over the city.
We opted for the water bus and bought a ticket from a stall in the Piazzale Roma, which got us a one-way journey in to the city. We had no real idea where we were going or where we intended to get off but when we reached ‘Piazza San Marco’ virtually everyone on the water bus got off, so we followed them.
Now we were right in the heart of Venice and from here we could walk around and see the sights.
Piazza San Marco is the main public square, surrounding by some truly incredible architecture including St Mark’s Church and the clock tower. It’s quite a sight and a real photo opportunity, as you can tell by the thousands of tourists cramming and jostling for the best position for group photos and selfies!
From here, we spent a while just wandering the streets, generally getting lost down the myriad of alleyways, looking in shops and taking tons of photos. It feels like every path you take, every corner you turn is another photo opportunity. Whatever direction you point your camera in Venice, you’re virtually guaranteed of a great photo.
We eventually made our way to the famous ‘Rialto’ bridge, which crosses the ‘Grand Canal’ and started hunting for somewhere to stop for lunch.
There are hundreds of restaurants in Venice, almost all with outside seating along the waterfronts. They were all absolutely packed and prices were extremely high by our usual standards.
We eventually found somewhere that appeared the most reasonably priced but it turned out we got what we paid for as the quality of the food was awful.
Back at the village we were staying in, the local restaurants served mind-blowingly delicious food from fresh local ingredients at reasonable (not cheap, but certainly well priced) costs. Our lunch in Venice was literally just like an Asda frozen chicken burger heated up in a microwave, yet was almost double the cost!
You’ve got to face facts when you come somewhere like this though. You’re always going to pay a premium in a location like this and, if visitors are prepared to pay it, then who are we to argue! Just be prepared that if you’re eating out here, you’re either going to pay a high price or eat bad quality food.
At the far edge of Saint Mark’s Square is a quay on the waterfront with one of the most famous views in Venice – over the water with gondolas lined up in the foreground and the domed roof of the Santa Maria della Salute church in the background.
Here we came across a street artist drawing cartoons of tourists (for about €15). He was extremely popular with a long queue and lots of spectators watching his amazing work.
Our youngest daughter Emma was desperate to get hers done; we agreed and she was well pleased with the result, which she’s had stuck up above her bed at home ever since!
There’s no doubt Venice deserves its reputation and popularity – it’s a memorable place and if you have the opportunity to go, you should take it.
But the overwhelming feeling we had, bearing in mind we were there in the height of the summer holidays, was just how busy it was. It was crazily crowded and often we found ourselves, when walking down the narrow streets and across the narrow bridges, shuffling slowly along, shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of other people all trying to go the same direction, many of them stopping randomly and blocking the way while they take endless selfies!
It was also burning hot and, walking around the crowded streets and squares, carrying our bags, trying to keep track of the children, the temperature got pretty uncomfortable.
We love the hot sunny weather (you wouldn’t be going to Italy for a summer holiday if you weren’t expecting anything less!) But it got a bit intense in Venice and it was a relief when we eventually got back to the peace and quiet of the villa and the refreshing pool, which was extremely welcome at the end of this day!
If you’re thinking of going to Venice and staying there, we’d strongly recommend doing it outside of peak season. Day after day of the huge crowds combined with the intense heat and high prices would just be too much for us.
But if you’re in the region on a summer holiday and have the opportunity to visit Venice, you have to take it. It’s an incredible place and one you’ll remember for a lifetime!