Venice is beautiful. And unique. And touristy. The first two are better than the latter, but with the delicious food, multi-colored buildings, arching bridges, and countless boats gliding scenically on the water, it’s not hard to see why so many people go there. We walked around Venice all day, arriving around noon by bus and departing around midnight by bus, with our big packs. That’s the beauty of Venice. There are probably tours you could take, definitely gondola rides you could pay for, but the best way to experience Venice is just to walk through it. Each building is different to its neighbor. No two bridges look the same. The city is full of brightly painted shutters and walls, absolutely looming over the water, with nothing but a thin sliver of pavement to separate them. Venice truly is the floating city.
There are a few good things to know before going to Venice, especially if you are traveling to Europe for the first time or if this is the first touristy destination you visit. First, get gelato here—but don’t spend more than two euros! You can actually find it for less. We walked around to all of the shops and restaurants, and you’ll find good deals in the front but the back is less crowded. Don’t bother eating in St. Mark’s Square unless you’re willing to spend a pretty penny (more on St. Mark’s later). The best gelato I had in Italy was in Venice; it was absolutely wonderful. Nothing like American ice cream. The food in Venice, holistically, is really yummy, and if you walk around a bit like we did you’ll be able to find something affordable. We didn’t buy the three course meals; we opted for two dishes of pasta (which we shared), a glass of wine, and saved the rest for gelato. Our pasta was delicious; we ate right on the Grand Canal, and spent around eleven euros each. Best pesto I’ve ever had was in Venice, and usually prefer my own!
One thing to be wary of, and this is specifically for St. Mark’s Square, are the “vendors”. I don’t call them real vendors because they aren’t really selling anything, just trying to bully you into giving away your money. We got caught in the middle of the Square by two men who randomly came up to us and poured dried pasta into our hands. We were then swarmed by flock of pigeons that flew onto our arms, gripping their tiny talons onto our wrists, and digging their little beaks into our hands full of feed. The pigeons kept coming, some flying overhead and perching on our shoulders and backpacks. Pretty soon, we were feeding about twenty pigeons, as the “vendor” kept filling our hands with feed. We continued to refuse, until the pigeons just became too much and we dropped the noodles on the floor and started to walk away. This is when the men became angry, demanding money for their “service.” We had gotten some good pictures with the pigeons, so I reached into my money belt to give him the only coin I had, a 50-cent. The man then complained loudly that I had a five-euro bill—which I did—which his “business” deserved and that 50 p was not enough. This ended it for me and I left him with nothing. They had never asked us if we wanted to feed the birds, didn’t “sell” the noodles to us, and continue to force them into our hands even while we refused. This is not a business. Be wary of people like this; I had already dealt with the numerous merchants who will pester you with goods, or beggars asking for money, but this sneaky method was new to us.
Besides that, Venice was beautiful and safe. My favorite part was eating dinner on the Grand Canal. We were so close that when big boats, like the water taxi, would drive by we’d have to pick up our feet a little to avoid an incoming wave that rolled over some of the pavement. Sitting outside adjacent to the colorfully reflective canal, watching slow boats motor tourists through the floating city, with a glass of white wine illuminated by only a candle at our table, was the perfect way to end the day.