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Venice. thought I knew area to stay in, but see there's much more!

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We are just here for four nights, over Christmas, and, I THOUGHT I would absolutely stay in San Marco area....close to sites, save on cold walking to get to areas we'd like to see. (my family, we are early 50's and two teen boys...all active people!).

BUT!! started looking at apartment rentals (which we usually do when we travel) and finding more about areas like....

.....Dorsoduro (south of C. Margherita I hear, and NOT too near the P. Roma) as I hear the university area is lively with later night people watching, activity...not looking for bars/dancing! Just restaurants and activity as the daylight hours are minimal. BUT, have to take transportation to SM area.

....Castello...more middle class so great food, great prices...plus walk to SM area. I hear stay near Via Garibaldi? and I suppose, the closer to SM basilic, the less walking involved. Maybe help me here on areas?

....San Polo...walkable across Rialto bridge to SM area. lots of restaurants, a good food area and markets.

I don't know if any of the other areas are too interesting to us.

Our 'wants' are REASONABLE walking/transportation to sites. GREAT FOOD!!! We won't cook at home, other than breakfast items, so markets are not critical other than being interesting to see. CHARACTER in the neighborhood. CANALS, don't want roads galore! Something to do after the sun goes down! People watch. Coffee houses. Restaurants that are great food, we don't care how casual the place is, in fact, we love casual, but finding great family run eats is great!! Interesting shopping (for me) but not expensive, and I won't shop much!! Would love to be able to have a boat rental, but that's another question!! I guess we just want to see Venice and get to know our little part of it!!

BUDGET? we don't mind $250-$300 a night, so other than right spanking in SM, seems our options are pretty open!

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