With its maze-like alleys, canals, cobbled streets and tucked-away shops, by far the best and cheapest way to unlock Venice's secrets is on foot. It's not a big city – it could take just an hour to cross – but you'll need comfortable shoes and relatively good map-reading skills. However, some say getting lost is half the magic.
Blissfully traffic-free, travelling by water is the only other way to get around. The water buses, known as vaporetti or motoscafi, are frequent but costly, with a standard fare of AUD$8. A tourist travel card can reduce costs and lasts from twelve hours (AUD$20) up to a week (AUD$64). A Venice Card also offers unlimited travel for varying time periods and free entry to certain attractions.
The city's iconic gondolas offer the ultimate in romance and traverse some of the tinier canals. However, be warned that your excitement might be tempered by the vast expense. It varies, so make sure you confirm the rate before boarding. For a cheaper alternative hop on a gondola ferry or traghetto. They cross the Grand Canal at various points and cost around AUD50 cents.
For the tourist with deeper pockets, water taxis are sleek, speedy and convenient. But be prepared, they are eye-wateringly expensive. The clock starts at around AUD$12 and goes up by over a euro a minute. And this is before all sorts of additional charges, such as an extra $7 for a ride between 10pm and 7am. But hey, if you can afford it, go wild.
Venice's many charms means it draws crowds all year, with peak season from Easter to early October. Avoid July and August, when it's hot, sticky and at its busiest. Carnival time in February is colourful but crammed. A good time to go is the weeks before Easter, when it's mild and not as full. January is cold but quieter, and Venice in mist is enchanting.
In many of the city's restaurants you will see a service charge, or servizio, included in your bill. This is usually around 15%. If it isn't, you should tip this amount, provided you didn't get a hair in your spaghetti. Make sure you leave it in cash instead of adding it to your credit card bill, or your waiter will never see it.
Venice is one of Europe's safest cities, but it is not immune to crime. Pickpockets are your most likely foe. Be careful on vaporetti and in busy areas such as Piazza San Marco. Avoid ‘helpful' characters who offer to take photos or carry your bags out of the goodness of their hearts. They're after cash and could be a nuisance.
Venice is many things, but a budget destination it is not. One way that non-EU visitors can lessen the blow is to claim tax charged on purchases over AUD$198. Keep your receipts and show them at customs. If you're lucky they'll refund you immediately, otherwise they'll send the receipts back to the shop, which will then send you a rebate.
Daily flights leave from Sydney with Emirates and take around 22 hours in total flight time. There is one enforced stopover in Dubai.
Emirates flies from Brisbane to Venice with one stopover in Dubai. The trip takes just over 25 hours and you can take advantage of daily flights.
You can fly from Darwin using Jetstar, Qantas and Lufthansa. It takes just under 27 hours with stopovers in Singapore and Frankfurt along the way.
Two bus firms run between Marco Polo airport and Venice's Piazzale Roma, where the road ends. You can buy tickets for both in the arrivals area and the stations are just outside. The quickest option is an ATVO, which goes direct in 20 minutes and costs AUD$6. The ACTV will cost just AUD$4, but there are more stops and it has less luggage room.
Alilaguna water buses offer several routes into Venice from the airport and run frequently. One-way fares range from AUD$9 to $19, depending on where you're getting off. You can buy your ticket at arrivals, at the booth by the pier or from the conductor for a euro or two extra. To get to the pier, turn left out of the terminal and follow the signs.
Water taxis offer speed and convenience – often dropping you right at your hotel. The high-speed journey will be a memorable one, not least for the price which can be over AUD$130. You will find a water taxi ticket booth near the end of a covered walkway from the arrivals hall. Turn left after leaving the terminal and follow the signs for water taxis.
If you're not seduced by the idea of arriving in central Venice by water, you can take a road taxi to Piazzale Roma. They run all day and cost about AUD$50. Follow the signs on the arrivals level. As Piazzale Roma is the closest cars can get to the city, you'll need to reach your hotel by foot, water bus or water taxi.
The lavish cathedral in Piazza San Marco is a feast for the eyes inside and out. Soak in the art downstairs before climbing the stairs to see the bronze horse statues and get an incredible bird's-eye view of the square. Return in the evening to watch its mosaics glowing in the setting sun. General admission is free but some sections charge a small fee.
Located on the left bank of the Rialto Bridge this glorious food market is a riot of colour, sound and smells. Once you've dodged the trinket sellers outside, you'll find stall after stall of aromatic, brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, and mouthwatering cheeses, meats and fish. Go early to see it in full swing and avoid the worst of the crowds.
The city's top museum is home to a truly breathtaking collection of Venetian art. Aim to get there by 1pm, when most people are eating lunch, and you'll be able to wander through its 24 rooms in relative peace. There's a lot to take in but make sure you see Giorgione's ‘Tempest' and Titian's last work, 'Pieta'.
Visiting a ghetto might not normally be top of your to-do list on a holiday, but in Venice it should be. The historic Jewish quarter – once a foundry – is steeped in history and atmosphere. Spend a unique afternoon exploring its bookshops, synagogues and museum. To get there take a water bus to the Ponte delle Guglie stop, a few steps from the entrance.
With three-star Michelin chef Massimiliano Alajmo working his magic, this iconic establishment has risen to even greater culinary heights. Sit back and enjoy the view of Piazza San Marco while feasting on langoustine carpaccio, steamed lobster and hot chocolate and black pepper cake. It will cost you at least AU $190 a head for three courses, but your taste buds will love you forever.
This small but perfectly formed restaurant offers exquisite food and incredible service. You will feel like an honoured guest as you indulge in mouthwatering dishes like risotto with shrimp and champagne and salmon with honey. With the candlelight, a dreamy panna cotta for pudding and a bill of only AU $50, you'll feel like you've died and gone to food heaven.
Located at the back of Venice's famous Doge's Palace, this enormous canteen-like diner serves up generous helpings of delicious, fresh food. Originally set up to sate the appetites of tourists, it has become a favourite for hungry locals. AUD$17 will get you a starter, a meat or fish dish and a bottle of water. It's simple, tasty and refreshingly reasonable.
Hidden away in a small side street, this delightful local establishment is paradise for pizza lovers. A testament to its gorgeous food, it is much loved by Venetians and the lucky tourists who stumble across it. You can choose from a host of tantalising toppings. Try their prosciutto, artichoke and olives – a large slice will cost just AUD$2. Buon appetito!
Dark-panelled, candle-lit and soaked in ambience, this funky bar in Dorsoduro will soon have you enjoying blues and bossa nova. Prop up the bar with the locals or lose yourself in the rhythm at one of the small tables by the stage. It's the ideal way to unwind after a hard day's sightseeing.
Its sexy lighting and aluminium bar scream VIP, but in reality this snazzy little cocktail bar is friendly and laid-back. Mingle with Venice's happening crowd while sipping one of their delicious champagne cocktails, eating tasty cicchetti (Venetian snacks) and people-watching. It's very cool, very contemporary and a perfect after-dark destination.
This achingly hip bar, a favourite of Venetians, pumps out acid jazz, Italian rap and 70s tunes until 2am in the morning. Need a break from the dance floor? Grab a grappa and kick back in the lounge overlooking the canal. What more could you ask from a night out?
Jazz concerts, booming reggae and poetry readings, you never know what you'll be greeted by at this late-night, bohemian hangout. No matter what eclectic offerings are on, you'll soon fall in love with its alternative vibe. It attracts a cool mix of arty locals, students and fellow tourists who are always up for a party.
Start your day relishing the sensory delights of Rialto Market. Wander through stalls piled high with fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. Grab a bite to eat then head over to Piazza San Marco. Take a tour of its breathtaking basilica, making sure you catch the view from the top. Head away from the throng to have lunch in an authentic Venetian backstreet restaurant. Take a vaporetto down the Grand Canal or go for a gondola ride. Later head back to the Piazza San Marco for drinks and to see the basilica glowing in the setting sun.
Wander over to the Accademia in the morning and marvel at works by the likes of Titian and Giorgione. For a more modern feel, the Guggenheim is a short walk away. Refuel at one of the nearby pizzerias before heading east up to the Santa Maria della Salute church. Explore the myriad of tiny market stalls and shops then make your way over for an authentic Venetian supper at buzzing Campo di Santa Margherita square. While away your evening sipping wine, sampling local fare and people watching in one of the local Venetian bars.
Set off for the northern part of the island, exploring tiny, historical churches along the way. Stop in at the dimly lit Chiesa di San Geremia to see the embalmed remains of St Lucy. Wander through the atmospheric Jewish Quarter or Ghetto, before enjoying a relaxed canal-side lunch of exquisite seafood and a glass of wine. Hop on to a gondola ferry to the south side of the Grand Canal and then spend the evening absorbing the heady atmosphere of the city's old red-light district.
Grab coffee and a pastry before boarding a vaporetto for a day's tour of Venice's outlying islands. Watch the glass-blowing workshops in action at Murano and see the colourful facades of the houses and lace shops at Burano. Explore the sparsely populated island of Torcello, where you can visit the oldest building in the Venetian lagoon, the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, founded in 639AD. Head back to the island in time to see the sun set over the city, then treat yourself to a gourmet meal at Ristorante Quadri.
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