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What Not To Do In Venice: The Top 5 Tourist Mistakes

Where: Venice, Italy
November 18, 2009 at 1:19 PM | by | ()

Gondolas, palaces and 'O Sole Mio"—ahhh, the usual romantic image of Venice. Granted, the city known as "La Serenissima," is quite lovely and enchanting, but also full of money potholes and tourist stereotypes.

Because we like you, and because we've had our fair share of Venice visits and wish all the same enjoyment for yours, we're helping you out with our list of What Not To Do In Venice: The Top 5 Tourist Mistakes.

Check them out, after the jump.

5. DON'T eat dinner before 8pm
This is a rule that most tourists, hungry after a long day of vaporetto-hopping (that'd be the water buses), can't hold to and thus they end up having an overpriced dinner of sub-par pasta at a kitschy restaurant, surrounded by other tourists. If you want the eat the best meals, an enjoy the local dishes in the company of people who may not be true Venetians but are at least Italian, then you need to hold off until the end of the cocktail hour, which usually runs between 6pm and 8pm.

Better yet, you should join in on the boozy fun. A good restaurant to target will appear closed, save for those having lively discussions at the bar. Some restaurants even lock the door during this time to keep out inquiring tourists, but we've always been able to get our Spritz on by telling them we're just looking to have an aperitif like them; that brings out the smiles and the welcomes.

4. DON'T attempt to dress in costume for Carnevale
Alright, you totally caught us here. Of the many times we've holed up in Venice, once was during Carnevale and we did break out the Euros for a plush black velvet cape with a hood that made us think of Anne Rice's seductive vampires. That's about as far as we went with the Carnevale fever, but this 10-day event in February before Lent brings out hoards of teenage girls from the Midwest who pay through the nose to have sparkly butterflies painted on their faces, or elderly Germans wearing leather masks priced in the hundreds, with feathers so outlandish you can see them coming from across the Campo.

The colors and pageantry of Carnevale is something best left to the professionals, who are paid by the city to get dressed in the costumes you imagine and stand in tourist hotspots, with the only goal of being in tourist photos for "atmosphere."

3. DON'T try to daytrip to the haunted and cemetery islands
If you've read any of Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery/thrillers, then perhaps a jaunt out to San Michele island, also known as the cemetery island, seems like a a great several-hour excursion from the bustle of St. Mark's Square. But to be worthwhile, you should either be a huge fan of cemeteries or of Ezra Pound or Stravinsky, since they're buried here. It can be reached from vaporetto 42 or 52 from the Fondamenta Nuove, if you decide to go.

But really don't have the island of Poveglia dead-set in your sights, or you could wind up dead. The island, which first gained American exposure on the TV Show "Scariest Places On Earth," is off limits to all public visitors, especially tourists. An abandoned island which served as the dying place of the victims of many plagues and then as an asylum and quarantine station, Poveglia is said to be uber-haunted, not to mention dangerous since the place has fallen into disrepair. No vaporetti or water taxis will take you here.

2. DON'T order a Bellini, especially at Harry's Bar
While we won't deny that a Bellini—a brunch-appropriate cocktail of prosecco and peach purée—is delicious, it's just ridiculously overpriced at bars and a mark of the tourist. We recommend buying a bottle of the pinky-orangey stuff and consuming it in the privacy of your room, rather than shelling out 20 Euros for a small juice-sized glass in the stuffy atmosphere of Harry's Bar. Plus, there's a Harry's Bar now also in NYC, Paris, Singapore, London, Amsterdam and San Francisco. If you want the froofy atmosphere, better head over to Florian's in the Piazza San Marco instead, where it's several Euro cheaper and you at least get it served in a flute.

1. DON'T take a gondola ride in summer, or at all
It's the typical image of a vacation in Venice: two lovers, snuggling into a gondola and whispering sweet nothings to each other and sipping prosecco as they pass beneath the famous bridges. But these days, you're more likely to find six fanny pack-sporting tourists crammed into a gondola, riding even lower in the water than normal. Taking a gondola is one of the most disappointing, money wasting excursions in all of European travel.

A 40-minute ride, which goes slowly remember so it's not like you'll see much of the city, starts at 80 Euro plus tip (after 7pm, it's 100 Euro plus tip). Luckily that's not per person, but per boatful—the reason most gondolas are packed. Now think of the summertime; Venice is very hot, very humid, and very smelly in the summer, and being that close to the canal is not recommended.

But remember we want you to have a good time in Venice, so here's a personal recommendation that we love: hop a traghetto instead. These are gondola shells, meaning without all the seats and trappings, and for under a Euro you can stand in one to be transported with other locals across the Grand Canal, quickly and cheaply. Good balance is recommended though, since you'll be standing up in a little boat on a small waterway filled with water taxis. When walking through Venice, follow signs for "Traghetti" which will take you to a dead end at the canal, where the boat will pull up and you'll hand over a few coins.

Related Stories:
· Where To Drink Jaunted's Favorite Spritz Cocktail In Venice [Jaunted]
· A Pilgrimmage To Harry's Bar-Some Places Are Best Left To History [Fabulous Travel]
· Venice Travel [Jaunted]

[Windows photo is Jaunted's own; masks photo via markb120; gondola photo via argusfoto]

Archived Comments:

Excellent advice

Following these suggestions would improve anyone's trip to Venice. But, although I would agree that a gondola ride in the summer is awful (and I would advise against going to Venice in the summer), I think a twilight gondola ride along the quiet canals in the fall is something worth doing once. I'd add one more tip: spend more than a day in Venice, and preferably at least 3 full days. Get out of sestiere San Marco and explore on foot.

Animal Lover?

Go inland a little until you find a grocery store and buy some cat food. Then stand near the offshoot canals with the locals and feed the kitties.

Not smelly!

I was there during the summer, and while it was crowded, I did not find it smelly. And DO take a gondola ride, are you kidding me? You're in Venice for cripes sake! I took a fantastic one (with several of my friends so it was cheaper) that hit all of the major land marks. Not to mention our gondolier was incredibly attractive....

Gondola Ride is a VENICE MUSTDO!

I was in Venice in july09 and I didn't find the gondola ride SMELLY at all. You cannot be in Venice and not go on a gondola ride. It is better that you book it in advance /online and I highly recommend going in the evening around 6:30 PM. It is so much fun!!!

Venice revisited

I totally agree with this top 5. Venice, like other major tourist cities in Europe and the world, is full of things that you actually don't need to see or do to enjoy the many wonders of the city. It doesn't take a lot of effort to avoid the tourist traps, most of them are not really genuine so why even bother? All major sights in Venice are easily reached by foot, the further you go from San Marco square the cheaper the restaurants get, etc. Try to look at Venice like it was couple of hundred years ago, you wouldn't pay 80 bucks for a stupid gondola ride or wear these fake masks... The manager of our last hotel in Venice took the time to show us some breathtakingly beautiful places not a lot of tourists go to, still have to thank him for that. So yes, Venice is amazing but try not to act all touristy :-)

Venice wine tour

One thing to do.. the Venice wine tour. It's a three-hour tour through the bars of the city that includes a gondola ride and four/five glasses of typical wine with appetizers. There are few groups that organize it at reasonable price. Here I found a very good one www.bacarotourvenice.com Definitely one of the best things to do in Venice!


Thanks Robert, this tour sounds nice! I'm going to Venice in May and I will try it surely!

Wine Tour in Venice

Hi Robert,I tried another wine tour in Venice,that seems to be less expensive than the one you suggested. I really loved this tour, the quality/price ratio was high,the wines were really good and the appetizers too. I chose the tour with five wines and cicchetti with the gondola. Here I found it www.venicewinetour.com I can suggest this tour to everyone Carl

Wine Tour in Venice

Thank you so much Carl, this wine tour in Venice sounds amazing!


I found some positive reviews about the tour mentioned by Carl in many forums so I decided to book that wine tour during my last vacations in Venice. I can safely say I was not disappointed, food and wine were just delicious. I would highly recommend this tour for anyone that hasn't been to Venice before. We did the wine tour(5 bars+gondola) which took us off the tourist track to restaurants and bars where the locals go. I cannot recommend this tour highly enough and at the price it is fantastic value. Here I found the tour that I chose: www.venicewinetour.com/product/wine-tour/ Highly, highly recommended!!

Best places to visit in Venice

With its beautiful cityscape, uniqueness, and cultural heritage, Venice tourism has been a major sector of Venetian industry. While wandering around the streets you feel like in a living museum. There are so many things to do and so many places to go in Venice. We listed some of them for you. You can check them from <a href="http://www.1000bestplace.com/best-places-to-visit-in-venice-italy">best places to visit in venice</a> link.


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