You finally arrive in Venice, Italy for your dream vacation. After the saving, the planning, the packing, the long flight, you are finally there. You decide to sit and savor the moment in the Piazza San Marco with your first real Italian cappuccino. Then you try out one of the first phrases of Italian you learned in your “Travel Italian” class. Il conto per favore!
The cameriere brings out your check and you almost drop your nearly empty cup! 10€ for the cappuccino and a 20€ surcharge for sitting in the piazza. You have spent your daily food allowance in a 30 minute break.
Don’t despair. You can find less expensive places to snack (look for pizzeria’s and bars where you eat standing up) and there are a number of things you can do that are free and at least one that is inexpensive.
To start take this virtual video walking and boating tour of Venice:
1. Piazza San Marco
Chances are you have already found one free thing to do. Wander around Piazza San Marco. Just don’t sit down, if you do you will have to order something and it will most likely cost more than it is worth. If pigeon’s are your thing then you can wander among the birds, if not stick to the perimeter of the square.
2. Basilica di San Marco
Yes, the Basilica is free. You have to pay a fee, though it is relatively inexpensive, to see the Pala d’Oro.
3. Bridge of Sighs
You have to buy a ticket to the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) to see the inside of the bridge. But you can get a great view of the Bridge of Sighs by standing on the bridge over a canal to the side of the Palazzo. There is a very crowded side and an uncrowded side, try them both.
4. Ponte di Rialto
The Rialto Bridge is a great place for people watching and you get a beautiful view of the Grand Canal.
5. Mercato di Rialto
The Rialto markets are an assault on the senses. Vendors are yelling to sell their products, the colors of the fruits, vegetables, fish and meats are vibrant and then there is the smell which is sometimes a wonderful aroma of herbs and spices and other times the not so wonderful smell of fish left out a little too long.
6. Wander the Streets
The streets of Venice are a narrow, winding, maze. It does not take much of an imagination to transport you back to the 15th century. And it does not take much or long for you to get lost. When you are not sure where you are ask for Piazza San Marco and start over again.
7. Window Shop
I know I say to this in every city, but there are glass stores in Venice that are like museums.
8. Venice Canal Watching
Stand on one of the bridges away from the tourist area and watch what happens on the canals. It is amazing to watch big screen TV’s, ovens and refrigerators being unloaded. It is also impressive to see the oarsmen navigate some of the larger boats through the canals.
Venice is one of those places where what you hear can be almost as interesting as what you see. You can hear sea gulls calling, gondoliers singing, motor boats putting along, vendors hawking goods and tourists speaking a world of languages. What you won’t hear are cars, buses or motorcycles.
Okay so technically it is not free because you have to take the vaporetto to the island. But the ride over is worth the money and once you are there you can spend the day exploring one of the Lagoon Islands. Look into one of the workshops and you will see glass makers at work.