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Franco's favourite ... Venetian sightseeing (plus transportation)

Franco's favourite ... Venetian sightseeing (plus transportation)

Apr 20th, 2006, 12:53 PM
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Franco's favourite ... Venetian sightseeing (plus transportation)

Yes, there are too many tourists in Venice. No, they won't spoil your trip to Venice – provided that you don't make them spoil it. What I mean is: short visits to Venice in high season (i.e. one or two days) will quite probably make you HATE Venice. If you haven't time for more than the most famous (and most crowded) sights, and if you go to Venice when everyone goes (Carnival, May, July, August, September, even October), there is a fair chance that you'll end up as one of those telling "it's a Disneyland for adults", or nonsense like that. Personally, if I sum up all my visits over the last 16 years, I must have spent six to eight months in Venice, and I'm still discovering new wonders every day I spend there - it's impossible to get bored in Venice, or to know all of it.
First rule: never stay less than four nights, and never stay anywhere else than in the historic center (forget about the Lido, forget about Mestre – both are ugly, and first of all, you'd fall short of one of Venice's most stunning features: the total absence of any cars, for several days…).
Second rule: try to come to the most crowded points early in the morning, or in the evening – i.e. before the crowds arrive, or after they leave. This won't be possible for the Basilica of S. Marco, which you should nevertheless visit: it's the only point where you'll necessarily cross paths with the tourist masses (unless you come, say, in November, or in early February...).
Third rule: Don't limit yourself to the so-called "must-sees", like S. Marco, Accademia, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Grand Canal, the Bridge of Sighs, the Doge's Palace, S. Maria della Salute. I'll never know who is defining "must-sees" – ok, each of those sights is great, and certainly worth visiting, but there are other great sights in Venice, some of them just as great as those "must-sees": Scuola Grande di S. Rocco, Scuola di S. Giorgio degli Schiavoni, S. Sebastiano (see the three of them, and they'll outdo the Accademia, IMO), Gesuitti, the two churches of Torcello, SS. Redentore, the abbey and cloisters of S. Giorgio Maggiore (today the Fondazione Cini: totally unknown, but better than the church, which is by no means bad, either), S. Michele in Isola, S. Maria dei Miracoli, the Frari Church (ok, this one IS well-known), Ospedaletto, S. Giovanni Elemosinario, the Ghetto, the Arsenal (go inside when it's open for the Biennale), S. Maria Formosa, S. Giovanni Decollato, S. Nicolò dei Mendicoli, the Entrance to the University of Venice (nobody seems to know that – the one and only great 20th century sight of Venice!, work of Carlo Scarpa, Italy's greatest modern architect), Casa Goldoni (the house where playwright Carlo Goldoni lived, now a wonderful little museum), S. Lio ... I could go on and on!
Fourth rule: don't spend all the time racing from sight to sight. Take time to stroll through the lanes, take time to get completely lost (great fun!), take time to admire the city, which is maybe the greatest sight of them all. You might want to buy "Venice. Thirty Walks to Explore the City" by Paolo Giordani, Cicero editions (easy to find as soon as you're in Venice) – for me, that's the greatest book on Venice. Giordani doesn't say much about the "must-sees", about the big sights; he just touches them. His main topic is the city itself: he'll guide you into every hidden doorway, into every hidden courtyard. Terrific fun and delight for who loves this city.
Fifth rule: learn a few phrases of Italian before coming to Venice. You won't need them to communicate (everyone speaks English in Venice). But you'll need them to be accepted, and to be treated well. For the Venetians, faced with that abundance of tourists, it's a matter of politeness that you address them in their own language. You don't need to be perfect – just say one or two sentences, and show them that you're trying hard to speak Italian, and you'll find open-hearted, welcoming and generous people (and they'll speak a much better and much more fluent English with you than with English-only speakers, btw). If you stay a little longer, and if you really speak (some) Italian, you'll discover that Venice is a lively small Italian town like many others, just that transportation is much more difficult than anywhere else... and that the locals are rather eager to hide their everyday town life from the foreign crowds (and "foreigners" may come from Chicago or from Rome, there's no difference for the Venetians). No, it's not an error that I'm writing "town" instead of "city": despite her urban and world-famous art & architecture, Venice is a town today, with just 70.000 inhabitants. No, Venice is NOT "dying". It's just that she has no space to grow anywhere, being surrounded by water; and the amenities of modern dwelling are simply incompatible with the number of inhabitants Venice had once; noone would be willing today to accept the scarce housing room (and the dark and humid rat-holes) of centuries ago: apartments have been enlarged (which inevitably decreased their number), or converted into storage rooms (the rat-holes).

A recurring issue on Fodor's is transportation in Venice, so I'll say a few words on that matter. Water busses (vaporetti) may be fun to ride on, but they are extraordinarily slow; the locals don't use them much, cause if you have just a fair knowledge of the city, you're much quicker by foot. The prices for the water busses are unreasonably, just incredibly high: 5 Euros for a ride on the Grand Canal, 3,50 Euros for a "normal" ride (unless you are staying long enough or coming regularly enough to buy an abbonamento – a ticket for a whole month that becomes then a permit to buy "carnets", tickets for 90 Eurocents each). Nevertheless, for reaching the airport (the ever-recurring question, quite often twice a day on Fodor's!), it's by far the cheapest way to take the vaporetto to Piazzale Roma, and from there, the bus to the airport. Yes, it's possible to arrive early enough for your 6.50 a.m. flight. Vaporetti and busses are going all night through, though of course less frequently and with a reduced (but very well working) route plan. Water taxis have stratospheric prices, and though they are quite certainly convenient, I never use them.
Sixth rule: Pack light! You're being told that for each and every destination, but only in Venice you'll really learn the importance of this advice!!! Few things on a journey can be more exhausting than shlepping your luggage to, and from, your apartment or hotel in Venice.

Please note: This thread is not primarily meant for discussion... it's primarily meant for substituting myself while work won't permit regular posting during the next six or so months. I'll try to check once a week, however, so if anyone would like me to answer any questions related to accomodation in Venice, please post them here – I won't unfortunately be able to browse all the other threads...
franco is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 01:06 PM
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Franco, two questions before your work calls you away:

Does the Fondazione Cini now open the cloister of San Giorgio Maggiore to the public? I admit I haven't tried in a few years, but some time ago it was off limits to the public.

The entrance to the University of Venice by Carlo Scarpa: Where is it? I know his work at the Fondazione Querini-Stampalia but I had no idea he had also done something for the University.
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Apr 20th, 2006, 01:16 PM
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Eloise, the Fondazione Cini opens the gates every Saturday and Sunday, each full and half hours. The entrance fee is very high (12 Euros, if I recall it properly), but it's absolutely worth it... you see the two cloisters (the second a work of Palladio), the staircase and the library by Longhena, and the terrific dormitory by ... ummm, sorry, I don't recall the name: two architects, father and son, who don't seem to have build much else than this dormitory and the older cloister - but the dormitory is just GREAT.
And the entrance to the University is on the left side of S. Nicola da Tolentino; in fact, the university occupies the former abbey of S. Nicola.

Btw, I've made a typo (rather, a "pasto"): in my last paragraph, it should read "questions related to sightseeing and transportation in Venice", quite obviously - this is to become the sightseeing thread!!
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Apr 20th, 2006, 01:25 PM
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Thank you again, Franco!
Eloise is offline  
Apr 24th, 2006, 05:22 AM
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I thought I’d provide one final service: linking all “Franco’s favourite…” threads to each other, in order to make them more easily accessible to future users:

Venice:
food & restaurants: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34791666
accomodation: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34791672

Rome:
where to stay: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34792021
food & restaurants http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34792415
sightseeing: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34792538

Umbria: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34792839
franco is offline  
Apr 24th, 2006, 09:49 AM
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bookmarking..
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May 1st, 2006, 08:14 AM
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Just bookmarking.....
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May 1st, 2006, 08:48 AM
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ttt
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May 8th, 2006, 11:00 AM
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In case that anybody hesitates to ask just because of my currently scarce presence on Fodor’s, I’d like to repeat that if you’d like me to answer any questions related to the topic of this thread, just post them here – I’m checking rarely, but regularly, but only my “own” threads due to work pressure.
franco is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 01:25 PM
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ttt
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May 16th, 2006, 01:43 PM
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Grazie,Grazie,Grazie,
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May 16th, 2006, 02:29 PM
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Thank you so much! Very useful info.
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May 31st, 2006, 11:12 PM
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Franco,

I will be staying in Venice for a month - starting mid June - have heard of the Carta Venezia and the abbonamento which you mentioned but haven't been able to find out how to get them. Can you help?

Thanks, JaniceO
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Jun 1st, 2006, 02:13 AM
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After watching the Venice show on Globe Trekker last night and I am really worried about getting from the car drop off (we are driving to Venice from Siena) to our hotel. How do you maneuver a suitcase on and off the boats? I need to do more research about this.
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Jun 1st, 2006, 02:51 AM
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> How do you maneuver a suitcase on and off the boats?

Basically you are on your own (some boat staff may help you though especially if you are really having problems, aged or handcaped,etc) so packing light is important.
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Jun 1st, 2006, 04:25 AM
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Marianna- Unless I am mistaken, you will park in the Plaza Roma area. You will walk with your suitcase down to the canal side, buy your ticket, and find your vaporetto stop. You can get on and off the vaporetto fairly easily as long as you pack a rolling suitcase and you can lift it with ease. You will go into the stop enclosure, wait for the vaporetto to tie up, wait for the passengers to disembark, then you will go onto the boat with the other passengers. Try to stand some where in the middle so people aren't falling over your suitcase. Our standard for packing is that we can load up our stuff, run down and up the basement stairs, then out of the house and down and up the driveway. If you can do that without any undo pain and panting, you are ready to go! lynclarke
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Jun 1st, 2006, 07:31 AM
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Jun 2nd, 2006, 12:58 PM
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Marianna - maneuvering the suitcases on and off the boats is by far the smallest reason to worry. It's way easier than maneuvering them on and off a train, or on and off your car. The public boats' entrances are about four times as wide as a train's door, and there is no or only one step (depending on the current water level). No - the reason why you should actually pack light are by no means the boats: rather, it's about shlepping your luggage from the boat to your accomodation, and back. About shlepping it up and down the small bridges, with plenty of stairs... But as soon as you reach the boat, you'll feel relieved...

JaniceO - abbonamenti are being sold exclusively at the main ACTV (that's the Venice public transport company) ticket counter on Piazzale Roma (inside the small ACTV building that you're passing by when going from the parking lots to the vaporetto). You need a passport photograph of each person who wants an abbonamento, you have to fill in a longish form, and you have to pay, of course. They'll provide a provisional boat-and-bus-pass, since it takes some time until your definite pass (with your photo) is ready - after three weeks or so, you may pick it up. And I recommend to really pick it up - though you'll buy the abbonamento for but one month, the pass, when expired, will give you the right for several years (three, I think) to buy "carnets", inexpensive tickets like the locals do - just 90 Eurocents for a vaporetto ride! You'll appreciate that when coming back to Venice within the next three years...
franco is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2006, 06:04 PM
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Franco:
If you noted this, I missed it, so I'm making this remark. On the vaporetto to Murano, etc. I saw a beautiful park area on the left side of the canal between S. Marco and San Michele. What is that and is it worth a trip there on my next visit? Also, one of our favorite sights is a walk at sunrise around the Guidecca side of the canal and around the little canals and bridges. The sunrise is "golden".
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Jun 2nd, 2006, 10:09 PM
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JaniceO-look at this website for info. on the Carta Venezia, and post back if you have more questions -there are a lot of "Venicephiles" out here!

www.hellovenezia.it/en/tariffe.html

And prr-were you on Line 41 or 42 to Murano? If so, the park you saw could be, well, the Giardini Pubblici (public gardens) along the eastern edge of Venice, as you walk east along the waterfront away from the tourist areas of Piazza San Marco. This is indeed a lovely spot, and is where the Biennale modern art exposition is held.(not so great,btw). Vaporetto Line #1 stops at Giardini, as does Line 42 I believe.

If it is not Giardini you saw, it could have been one of a number of lovely little parks in the city (there are a couple in Castello-the Garden of Remembrance,(Parco dello Rimembranze) and the cloister garden at the church of San Francisco della Vigna, both lovely.

As for Venice itself, I agree that, for example, if you rent an apt. in Venice and speak a bit of the language, you are quite accepted there, and you do discover that Venice is, in fact, a lively and very viable small Italian town (and not AT ALL similar to that odious book by John Berendt, I am SO GLAD the mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, weighed in with an email to the NY Times expressing his disdain for that execrable work).

But I would not agree that "everyone" in Venice speaks English. I would say most speak some English in varying degrees of proficiency-enough to work within the tourist industry.

The Venetian world depends on tourism, after all-but I've observed their patience with the communication problems many times with the foreign invasion, where I've seen an amazing amount of grace under pressure and a willingness to help where possible.

And I also think that the Venetians, by and large, are some of the nicest people I've met anywhere in the world (oh, they have their cultural elitists-but I don't mind that-I can go one on one in that area!) (smile).

I don't know what Franco means when he says Venetians speak more fluent English with you when you speak a bit of Italian-that seems a rather odd statement to me, but whatever-I've not noticed any difference. One thing I do know, if you speak Italian, they DO give you things you don't get if you don't speak Italian-and btw, you should always ask for a "sconto" "discount"-in English or Italian -from apt. rentals to hotel rooms- through email and in person-you'd be surprised how often you'll succeed-and they'll think better of you for doing so!)

And no, Venice is not in any way a "dying city" (I do get disputes on that with some Venetians, however, Venetians, even more than Italians in other parts of the country, like to complain a lot!)

How many other places in the world are there where people still live in so many buildings that are 500-800 or so years old? Where there is so much well-preserved "sacred space"? Venice has survived with its artistic treasures for some 1,500-odd years, (and in amazingly good condition-considering its lagoon location- those ancient palazzi can't be all THAT fragile, as some groups would have you believe) and so one can only conclude that it will continue to do so for centuries to come.
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