where gondolas are built
|One of the most enchanting cities on earth, La Serenissima is also one of the most daunting to visitors. Yet the seemingly impossible urban layout is exactly what gives Venice its charm. Here are some tips about how to get around and a few interesting places you might otherwise miss.|
If you are driving to Venice, you will either be dropping off your rental car or parking. To drop off your rental car, follow the autostrada to Venezia centro, staying in the middle lane on the causeway until the very end. The rental agencies are all on the right side of the street before the bus stops. To park, choose Mestre or much better yet, Tronchetto, the public structure that is located on the causeway leading into Venice. Piazzale Roma is the closest to the city, but you're unlikely to find a parking place, because it's the one used by all the car rental agencies and all Venetians with cars. If you choose Tronchetto, follow the autostrada to Venezia centro, staying in the right hand lane on the causeway. It will cost you about 20 Euro/day, and there is now a People Mover (shown at right, an above ground train such as you find at Disneyland) that costs only 1 Euro per person and connects you to the city in two stops. There is also a baggage deposit at Tronchetto. If you choose Mestre you'll need to follow the signs off the autostrada to Mestre centro and then to parcheggio. After you park, walk across the street and take the train into Venice, a 10-minute ride. A third option is Fusina, which is easy to access off the A4 (autostrada). After you park, you can take a boat non-stop to central Venice.
If Venice is only a small part of a longer trip you are taking, we recommend you repack your luggage before arriving in Venice so that you need only one or two small bags with wheels while there. You can leave the rest at the baggage deposit at the train station or Tronchetto parking structure.
Do get as detailed a map of the city as you can, and make sure it shows all the vaporetto and traghetto stops.
On your first night in town, go to bed early and set the alarm clock for a few minutes before dawn. It may sound excruciating, but from dawn until about 8:30am, Venice is even more enchanting than usual. You'll have the streets to yourself. Roam them freely without worrying about where you are. At 9:00, stop in a bar to have a tramezzino sandwich and an ombra (small glass of white wine: you earned it!). You'll be sharing the counter with plenty of locals; ask them where the heck you are. We guarantee you will never forget this early morning stroll.
A cheap (and more entertaining) alternative to the traditional gondola ride is to hop on a traghetto. For 2 Euro, you can cross the Grand Canal in a gondola (at San Marcuola, Santa Sofia, San Tomà, San Samuele and Santa Maria del Giglio), along with the real Venetians. The trick to looking like a local is to face toward the sidewalk when you get in (the traghetto will turn around when it takes off). If you really want to fit in, don't bother to sit down. Kids especially love riding a traghetto, but they are absolutely NOT accessible for wheelchairs or baby carriages or strollers. If you do want to take a romantic private gondola ride, you'll find a very affordable option by clicking here.
Speaking of youngsters, Venice is probably the best place in Italy to take them. Ride the elevator up to the top of the belltower at San Giorgio, take them to the beach at the Lido, show them the gondola workshop (squero di S. Trovaso, Rio di S. Trovaso, near the Zattere) or let them watch the glass-blowers on Murano (Fondamenta Giustinian 8, Murano; vaporetto stop: Museo. Open Tues-Sun). The most fascinating thing for kids (of all ages) may actually be the least known: the Naval Museum at the Arsenale. One section houses model ships from all over the earth; then walk along the canal toward the wooden bridge and you'll get to the second part, the shipyard where several historical boats are on display, including some impressive gondolas. If you keep on walking you'll reach the beautiful entrance to the former shipyards. (The museum is at Campo San Biagio 2148, Castello; vaporetto stop: Arsenale. Open Mon-Sat 9am-1 pm).
The cemetery island of San Michele is a fascinating place for a short side trip. In a truly mystical setting, you'll find the graves of Ezra Pound, Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky, along with scores of unknown Venetians (but not all of them: bones are periodically removed to make room for newcomers in this unique graveyard with no place to expand).
If you happen to see footprints embedded in the sidewalk, don't assume they were left there by a mischievous construction worker. Chances are they mark the spot where rival neighborhoods met to fight in days long gone by.
Venice is among the most threatened places in the world that will experience a major impact from global warming. The rise in water levels would cause unfathomable damage to the delicate city. So recently, the city welcomed a new solar-powered vaporetto to the Grand Canal. Powered by solar energy collected on the roof of the boat, it is not only emission free, it is also very quiet and does not produce troublesome waves - each of which are important issues on the Venetian canals. According to Family Travel Forum the "components of the shuttle boat require no external lubrication, do not have combustible parts and require no battery maintenance besides a change of battery once every seven years." Though still not available for public use, we hope to be riding one of these in the very near future!
|When you need a break from walking in Venice, visit the lagoon islands. Take the LN boat that leaves every hour from Fondamenta Nove and get off at the Faro stop on Murano. Here you can visit one of the ancient workshops for a free glass-blowing demonstration. Then continue on to Burano. This leg of the trip takes about half an hour, just enough time to relax before landing at colorful Burano, whose residents have entertained themselves for centuries painting their houses deep rich colors with white borders. It's a real competition, and you'll want to take loads of pictures. Plan to have lunch in one of the great trattorie on Burano, or pack a picnic for your third stop on enchanting Torcello, where there's lots of room for the kids to play. To get here, take T boat from the ACTV dock. It runs twice an hour and takes only five minutes to cross the narrow strip of water between the islands. You can also take a private guided tour to these islands, or join a small group tour.|
*Or treat yourselves to a private water taxi visit to the islands with In Italy's Companion Elena.