Solo travel, once in a while, especially in a place like Venice is definitely a balm for the soul. Would definitely recommend, both.
Posted by Jennie
Here are some things that kept me up at night before I made my solo trip to Venice.
1. Venice is dangerous for tourists, more so for a solo female traveller.
2. The canals in Venice stink.
3. Venice is touristy.
4. The food is touristy and expensive.
5. There are no locals only tourists.
6. It’s complicated to move around.
7. Gettng lost in the maze of narrow streets and bridges.
So I’ve been to Venice before, 8 years ago to be exact. In May. At the height of the tourist season, and yes all of the above seemed true at that time. Not that my family and I didn’t enjoy, we have very fond memories of Venice, but solo travel is not the same.
I wanted to give Venice another chance, especially after watching the Venice episode of Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix.
Let’s answer my misconceptions above.
1. Like any city, you just have to be vigilant, especially in crowded places like Piazza San Marco. Having said that, my intuition or my danger radar didn’t pick up any of the usual be on your guard signs and it was a good feeling. It was quite liberating to not feel paranoid.
I walked and walked and walked and felt no fear. Even in dark alleys. Even on deserted bridges. Even late at night. I didn’t pick up any weird vibes.
In one of the tours I took, the guide said there are hundreds of cameras around Venice and maybe this is a deterrent to petty crime.
2. I almost cancelled my trip because of acqua alta or flooding. I’m glad I didn’t. I’m sure many did, because there were not too many tourists, which is unusual for Venice.
So no, the canals don’t stink and even during acqua alta, you can still enjoy the city. You just have to walk on planks in some areas and wear boots or colorful plastic shoe covers that say I love Venice.
Piazza San Marco is the first area to be submerged, so if you just stay away from that area during acqua alta you’ll be fine.
3. Venice is very touristy. I remember buying so many trinkets during that first visit. Everything from a paper mache mask that was a pain to carry, a sailor hat we still have, a lion and a miniature St. Mark’s Campanile, both Made in China! So thank goodness I was over that. Yes it’s touristy, but it’s touristy for a reason, it’s like no place else on Earth and sometimes touristy is fun.
4. There can be bad food. I remember in Somebody Feed Phil, he said to check if the restaurant had a kitchen, otherwise the food is generic and comes from some big commissary. In most trips food is hit or miss. This time around all my meals were hits and they were not overly expensive.
In fact, my most expensive meal was actually a drink at Harry’s Bar. You’ll see what I mean if you read on. I also encountered Filipino waiters once or twice and it’s always good to see a kababayan.
I’m glad I didn’t book a hotel in the touristy area around Piazza San Marco or Rialto. Sometimes central is not good. My little boutique hotel was in charming Campo Santo Stefano, about 10 minutes from Piazza San marco. Another less crowded part of the city is Dorsoduro where the Peggy Guggenheim museum is.
I did go to a touristy place. I went to Harry’s Bar which is both touristy and iconic. I just had to have a Bellini where it was invented. Where Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, Truman Capote and many other big names also had Bellini’s and probably didn’t pay the E22 that I did.
5. I remember reading somewhere that there are no locals in Venice, only hordes of tourists. In my early morning, afternoon and late night walks, I did encounter plenty of locals. Parents with small kids obviously on their way to and from school. Elderly people taking late night walks, people of all ages who had one thing in common, dogs. I noticed lots of dogs being walked. I don’t think tourists would bring their pets.
6. One of my favorite things about Venice is that there is not a single car. How refreshing to be able to walk without fear of being run over, to not hear honking cars or smell fumes. It’s quite easy to get around Venice on foot. There are over 400 bridges in Venice, but only 4 that cross the Grand Canal. In a day you can walk across all four of them several times, except maybe the Calatrava which connects Venice to the main land. But the Rialto, Academia and Saclzi are all walk, walk, walk.
Arriving by train, you simply have to buy a ticket and queue on the dock that corresponds to your stop. Leaving for the airport, take the Alilaguna, you can either buy a ticket in advance or buy one on board for a euro more.
7. Venice at first glance and even after you spend some time in it seems like a jumble of alleyways and bridges and dead ends. They were separate islands after all until the Austrians built the little bridges to connect the islands.
The fastest way to get yourself familiar with the city is to look at the signs. You’ll only need to be familiar with 3. There are signs everywhere towards the direction of All’Academia, Per Rialto and Per S. Marco, afterwards everything falls into place.