italy travel tip: skip the free walking tour, but do wander venice at night

When the hubs and I visited Venice in 2012, I wasn’t all that impressed. Granted, we were staying on a campground one ferry ride away from actual Venice. We took the ferry over in the morning, had a walking tour, then had the afternoon to wander around until our scheduled gondola ride.

(A word of advice: Skip the walking tour. It was mostly a lot of standing around while our guide attempted to regale us with stories about Christopher Columbus and mental hospitals hiding in plain sight and ancient Venice being built upon wood pilings without a whole lot to look at. Also, gondola rides are overrated. The gondoliers were either on their phones or were yelling at each other. Not the super romantic experience it’s always been made out to be.)

There is something charming about the cobbled streets, the lack of motor vehicles, the canals, the bridges, the gondolas. But after a while, all of the shops, most selling Murano glass beads and other jewelry and decorative masks, all start to look the same. And, if you want to sit down, in most places, you have to pay a fee in addition to buying food or a drink, which is kinda shitty. You’re not allowed to sit on public stairs, even—people actually shoo you off the steps. If you need to sit, there’s a garden by the docks that has benches where you can rest your feet amongst the flowers.

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I wasn’t super amped about visiting Venice with the ladies this May, I’ll admit. However, I found this visit to be much more enjoyable than the last.

For one thing, the hotel we stayed in was lovely: The San Cassiano Residenza d’Epoca Ca’ Favretto. You guys, it’s an actual castle, right on the Grand Canal. So much character. So many antiques. And the view—amazing.

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But let me tell you, from experience, if you take the train into Venice, for the love of God, TAKE A WATER TAXI TO THE HOTEL. When I pulled the directions originally, it said 5 minutes’ walking time from the station to the hotel. But there are over a hundred bridges joining together the Venetian islands. We went over at least twenty of them trying to find our hotel.

Imagine us, four women, each with a suitcase, an overnight bag, and a purse, dragging all of this along with them up and over and down and it was not fun. Plus, the street names on the buildings didn’t always match the street names on the map. So if you’re using trusty Google maps on your phone as you navigate the streets and alleys of Venice, trust the blue dot and ignore the street names.

Rialto Bridge

But by the time we were departing Venice, we’d wised up. We paid 50 euros for a water taxi and it was totally worth every penny. He dropped us right in front of the train station and it was such a breeze and worth every penny.

When in Venice, be prepared for the sheer volume of bridges, but also prepare yourself for the sheer number of people (i.e., tourists) swarming the place. Seriously, walking from one place to the other feels like you’re among a slow-moving hoard of zombies.


BUT, on the plus side, there are TWO GROMS in Venice. TWO Groms, you guys. And it was a spur-of-the-moment quest for Grom at ten o’clock at night that led to one of my favorite nights in Italy.

My friend Amanda went with me on my important quest for ice cream. And damn, Venice is hella charming at night, you guys. It’s cute enough during the day, but there’s something magical about it at night. The street lamps come on, the beams shimmering on the water, the yellow light bouncing off the cobblestones, ah! it’s beautiful!

It’s much quieter at night, too. Far fewer people schlepping along the streets, more people crowded and having a grand old time at bars and restaurants, and yet, in places, it felt like a sleepy little town. It was so nice to just wander around, snapping photos, soaking it all in. All while enjoying my crema di Grom. Don’t mind if I do!

The charm of Venice at night, coupled with the charm of the San Cassiano Hotel, is enough to make me want to return to Venice with the hubs. I’d love to just while away a day chilling along the Canal, sipping wine and watching the boats go by. I didn’t quite understand the hype of Venice before—but I do now. Ahh, charming, charming Venice. There’s no other word for it.

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Italy Travel Tip: Skip the Free Venice Walking Tour, But Do Explore at Night


Published by ashleymmaynard

Oh, hey. I'm Ashley. My passion is travel: from planning to adventuring and everything in between! I'm here to impart my wisdom on epic but affordable travel: how-tos, must-dos, and don't-dos!

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