Mention Venice even in a casual conversation and more often than not you are bound to unleash a monolog of “when I was in Venice…” type. What if you have never been to Venice? What if you want to go and just cannot bear the thought of crowds and the cliches? Well, I got you covered. This past October I embarked on a solo 3 day visit to Venice, my first time to this city. Ryan Air had a great deal on a round trip ticket from Krakow, so off I went just with a carry on and my camera. Read through for my survival tips and personal approach to this amazing city, camera in hand, of course.
I arrived at Marco Polo Airport and took the Alilaguna public transportation – 1 hr 15 minutes water bus to the heart of the city. It is great for sightseeing at the same time, and not crowded as the regular vaporettos you will see later on the canal. Some of my favorite impromptu photos are from the arrival, which happened to be right as the sun was hitting the roofs along the Grand Canal. I did not see that beautiful golden light again for the remainder of my stay. Lesson one: don’t wait for later, when you are more rested/less hungry/already checked in to the hotel. The view from water level was amazing, and affordable! Lesson two: public transportation rules.
Hotels – I am afraid no good news here in terms of price, so I went for the second most important thing – safety and ease of getting there, especially when traveling solo. Easy access is a relative term in Venice, so lesson three: come prepared with old fashion maps and notes, and don’t just rely on your phone. I came armed with maps and essay long notes (and drawings!) on how to get to the hotel. I got to hotel Flora, and for the remainder two nights to its sister hotel Novecento, without a hitch. Availability can be tricky when only portion of your stay runs into the weekend.
Food in Venice can of course be overwhelming, there might be a language barrier, you might not feel comfortable sitting by yourself at a white linen table. Myself, I prefer more casual dining when traveling, which does not mean I am willing to eat pizza, especially when in Venice. I also prefer to eat the evening meal early. Venice has a perfect solution to this: cicheti (lesson four!). Small bites such as fish balls, calamari, boiled potatoes (I could live on those alone) are served at the counter and eaten standing or perched on a bar stool. Usually served until 8pm or so. Order a glass of Savignion Blanc or Verduzzo and relax into people watching. My two places for cicheti were Trattoria E Bacaro da Fiore and Da Zemei near Rialto.
Venice is very walkable and less crowded especially before 8am, so head to Rialto Market on foot. I spent some time there just watching the food scene unfold. The seafood selection especially the local Nostrana type, is hard to absorb! Side street also hide some down to earth, but fantastic bakeries.
I steered clear of San Marco, except for an early morning outing, even though my hotels were there. I spent my walking energy on getting away from crowds, mostly in back corners of Dorsaduro, but also in San Polo. Dorsaduro is where I saw the most of ordinary, but charming Venetian life, with its Piazza Santa Maria and tucked away small shops and businesses. San Polo is where I stared at a marvel of a church I Frari and its masterpiece Asunta. Lesson five: churches have amazing art collections and tickets are very affordable as compared to museums. Time your visit right and you have a unique and very personal experience, away from the crowds.
There are is so much to see and feel in Venice, and so much pressure to check places, restaurants, and events off the list, to compare to what others did. But dare to create your own must see list, challenge your own expectations, find your silver lining, go ahead and document the details only you noticed, and others just rushed by…