Venice Italy: A Quick Guide to the Above Ground Italian Atlantis

Lauren enjoying a mid-day Spritzer from a cafe next to one of the Venice canals.
Lauren enjoying a mid-day Spritzer next to the canal.

In August of 2016 my girlfriend and I bought tickets to Italy on a whim with no plan of action. I took my 3D Audio gear and an outdated guide book and we were off! We did four cities on our tour of Italy (Ravello, Rome, Florence, and Venice). We were flying back to London from Venice so we ending up staying longer then I would have wanted. It was the height of the summer, hot as Hades and expensive as heck. Overall we had a great time so let’s talk about what you need to know about this above ground Italian Atlantis!

A Brief Guide to Venice

Riding a gondola through the canals.
Riding a gondola through the canals.

Venice is very much a tourist destination and not much else. The crowds arrive on Monday and start to die down with Sunday night being the low point. You’ve probably seen the beautiful blue waters of the canals on Instagram but let me assure you that all the water is a greenish brown and is kind of dirty. It’s a very old and picturesque city that lacks in things to do compared to other parts of Italy but is definitely worth a short visit.

We spent four days here to wrap up our Italy trip, but Venice can really be done in one. Having exhausted all the top to-do’s by the second day we started spending most nights back in our Airbnb watching Stranger Things.

Getting Around

The main part of the city isn’t that big but the streets are a bit hard to navigate with all the waterways. Every time you think you’ve found your way you dead end to a street that ends in water with no bridge. The faster way to get to your destination is by the very reasonably priced water bus’s that travel along the main canals. If your in a big rush the water taxis are fast but expensive. We usually opted for the walking route because we like a challenge.

Dining

The most memorable beer.
The best of what the restaurant offered.

Most of the food in Venice is basic “touristic Italian”. I say that because the dishes are very plain, expensive, and if you look in the kitchen you will most likely see a non-Italian working the stove. Restaurants have plenty of outdoor seating which makes summer dining in the narrow streets fun.

We ate out every night and had beer or wine with our carbs and the bill was always pretty high. Sitting outside in the warm night air with a draft of Peroni was more memorable then any pasta or pizza we ate.

I think the tourist destinations that are the main cities of Italy produce a “this is the Italian food you think you should eat when your here so we make that” mentality. This leaves a lot to be desired with the food which is mostly bland pasta with olive oil and cheese. For more tastier and traditional dishes you’ll have to go outside the tourist hubs. Or go to New York, where I’m from, and eat some of the best Italian you’ll ever have.

Gondolas

We did it!
Our €80 hot as heck gondola ride.

Just like all the pictures show, these guys really do wear the red and white striped shirts with the hat. Prices for rides are universal throughout the city (€80 during the day, €100 at night) so when shopping around your looking for what features you want out of your experience. Some sing and some tell stories, but most don’t. They’ll all answer whatever questions you have and tipping 10% for an excellent ride is not expected but is appreciated.

We took our gondola ride in the middle of the day with the hot sun beating down on our heads and me sweating through the captains hat I bought as a laugh. Our gondolier was nice and told us some facts about the city but it was mostly quiet. My brother and his girlfriend took theirs at night and seemed to have a better time.

Beaches

Venice is made up of a bunch of islands, not just the main city. One of these islands, Lido, has the majority of beaches and is easy to get to from the main city via water bus. Lido feels more like a beach community with open air bars, restaurants and daiquiri stands. Yes, you can drink in public.

The beaches are fairly flat with nice sand and plenty of sun beds with umbrellas. Like all sun beds in Europe, they cost money, here we paid  €20 each. Very worth it since it was super hot that day, I almost went and bought one of those mankini’s that the Italians are such big fans of. The water was cold and refreshing but nothing like the clear water of the Amalfi Coast.

Drinking in Public

Yes! You can drink just about anywhere in Venice (and Italy for that matter). You and friend can run around drinking out of a bottle of wine and you’ll be fine, although other people might give you a disapproving look. Drinking in public is fine but acting like a drunken idiot is not looked open well. We didn’t really see any that behavior anyway.

St. Mark’s Square

St. Mark's Square in the early evening.
St. Mark’s Square in the early evening.

Also known as Piazza San Marco, is the main attraction in Venice. The square is huge and surrounded by tons of restaurants, ice cream shops, and some quaint bars. The main stay is the beautiful architecture of Saint Mark’s Basilica whose main bells ring on the hour. Night time is the best for seeing this mainstay as the lights cast a brilliant ambiance across the old buildings.

My pic was crap and this one was better
Credit: Brian & Jaclyn Drum, Wikipedia Commons.

The real gem of the square are the orchestras that play music outside the main restaurants. There are tons of seats surrounding the bandstand but be warned, it is incredibly expensive. Your basically paying  €25 per drink plus a service charge to be able to sit and watch the orchestra. Or you can stand and watch for free and meander around.

It’s quite the experience walking from orchestra to orchestra as they played different classical songs, and some not so classical. I’ve never seen anything like it and it was amazing. Which is why I came back the next night to record the scene in 3D Audio!

In Conclusion

Venice is a very cool historical city with plenty to walk around and see. Outside of taking pictures and eating, you might get bored. St. Mark’s Square is the highlight of the city and is definitely worth the visit. I suggest going to Venice for at least a day or two before moving on with your trip.

Garett using his 3D Audio gear.
Check out the companion article I wrote on recording Venice in 3D Audio.

I recorded the “St. Mark’s Square Orchestras” 3D Soundscape here in Venice, it’s an awesome immersive experience into brilliant live music. You can read about how I did it here.

To listen to “St. Mark’s Square Orchestras” you can download the Travelear app for free here.

If you want to see more pictures from this trip (including some crazy lightening in St. Mark’s Square) check out The Travelear Instagram.

Have you been to Venice? Did you love it? Is it like Venice Beach, California? Drop a comment or shoot me a message.

 

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