“The City Without a Sewer,” “City of Bridges,” or “The Floating City,” Venice has many names. Once a mecca of art, literature and architecture, Venice is now a gracefully decaying museum, slowly sinking into the Adriatic Sea. Cruise ships have made Venice a popular stop, leading to thousands of tourists swamping the city by day. Residents have emigrated as the cost of living has increased, and tourist shops line the sidewalks and walkways. But the charm of a city with no roads, cars, bikes, or buses alleviates the frustration of frequent floods, crowded bridges, and confusing streets. In Venice, travel is by boat on one of the many canals or by foot. Restaurateurs, shopkeepers, and vendors make their way to the canals each morning and wheel their daily produce and goods by hand dolly down the cobbled sidewalks or balance boxes of wares on their heads. It can be back-breaking work, as not all the businesses are so lucky to be located right on a canal. Firefighters, police, carpenters and more effortlessly drive their boats down the busy canals, weaving around and through the expensive gondolas.
Venice is an expensive city to visit, with higher prices for everything from food and drinks to hotels. You can save money by walking or taking the Vaporetto Water Buses. Passes range from just 7 € a day, a bargain when you consider that a 30 minute gondola ride for the exact same views is 80 € per person. Rick Steves offers a great Grand Canal Audio Tour free on his mobile app. We opted for the Vaporettos instead of the gondolas, which turned out to be a great decision, as it poured during our day in Venice, and all the open gondolas were full of water. The Vaporettos were covered, and nice and dry! Don’t worry about carrying an umbrella, street merchants will instantly appear, ready to sell you a cheap poncho or umbrella the second a drop of rain falls.
You can also save some money by eating delicious Italian staples- pizza and gelato! Although pizza originates from the south of Italy in Naples, Venice offers some delicious pies, and you can buy it by the slice as you wander around. Pizza Al Volo and Pizzeria L’Angelo are two gems in Venice! Gelato is an amazing Italian style ice cream, and you must sample all the flavors. Skip breakfast, lunch or dinner, and go on a gelato tasting tour! It is definitely worth it. Don’t forget to order an aperitivo con aperol, a refreshing Venetian cocktail.
Our second night in Venice after a ridiculous downpour that flooded nearly all the sidewalks in the city, we attended Teatro La Fenice, the Venetian Opera house. We attended a performance of Verdi’s La Traviata. It was absolutely spectacular, and made even more so by the theater itself- rebuilt after a fire to look just as it did in 1792. I highly recommend you attend a performance or at the very least tour the theater while in Venice.
Our only language barrier issue was in checking into our hotel in Venice. We had booked a room with the Hotel Alloggi Sardegna, as it was one of the most affordable hotels in Venice near the train station. We had confirmed our reservations in advance via email with no issue and arrived in Venice in the early evening.
We found the hotel was located in a smaller back alley, with a small sign above the door. When I went to open the door, however, it appeared to be locked. The door was glass, and there was no reception area, only two doors on either side of a staircase which looked to be guest rooms. After trying the door several times with no success, I spotted a speaker button to the side of the door and pushed it.
A woman came over the speaker chattering in Italian. “I have a reservation,” I said slowly in English. The woman again chattered something in Italian. “I need to check in,” I said in English again, more slowly than before. Again the woman chatters something, and I catch the word “door.” “I can’t open the door,” I told her, as if speaking more and more slowly in English will help her understand I know absolutely no Italian. Blah blah blah blah in Italian…..”Alaina?” she asked. “Yes!! Yes I am Elaine!!” Finally something I could understand. “I come down, I come down, I come down!” she said in broken English. Now we were getting somewhere. I heard the door buzz, and pulled harder, and suddenly the door opened! I’m not sure if it was actually locked the entire time, or if I just couldn’t figure out how to open an Italian hotel door.
As we stepped into the entryway, a short round elderly Italian woman came flying down the stairs, “Alaina, Alaina!” she said smiling. “Yes! Hello!” I replied. She led us up the first flight of stairs to the landing with two doors on either side, just like the doors below. She opened the door to the right, and waved us inside, and we followed meekly behind, wondering who the heck we had emailed before as this lady did not speak English.
She pointed to a large doorknob on the nightstand by the bed with a key attached, and pointed to the door and her pocket, all the while talking to me in Italian. She seemed to ignore Mr. S. I tried to repeat in English what I thought she was saying, “The key to the room? We take it with us? Okay.” She grabbed the television remote and turned it on and off three times. Great, TV. works no problem. She grabbed another remote and pointed it at the unit on the wall which appeared to be an air conditioner. On, off, on, off, on, off. Okay, the air conditioning works! Blah blah blah blah, she pointed to a plug in on the wall, and shows us some inserts on the dresser. Points to the window and makes buzzing and zapping sounds. “This is for bugs? We can refill it?” Either she’s a great actress or I’m an awesome interpreter. Blah blah blah, eleven…doors lock…buzzer…blah blah blah one…no more! This seemed to be important. “I think, eleven o’clock the doors lock and we have to buzz to get in, and after one o’clock we’re locked out,” I told Mr. S. “We better be back on time just in case!”
“Passport, passport!” The Italian lady says, pointing at both of us. We obediently pull out our passports and hand them to her. She says something in Italian about writing our names down, and says, “Cinque minuti! Cinque minuti! Cinque minuti!” making the number five with her free hand before dashing out the door. “I think she’s bringing our passports back in 5 minutes,” I said, “Anyway I hope she does. I have no idea how we’re supposed to check out of this place.”
Minutes later she returned with our passports. Of course, then Mr. S. had to open his big mouth and ask a question. “Wi-Fi password?” he asked. I shook my head at him, but it was too late. The Italian lady went on a 10 minute tirade in Italian, gesturing at the buildings, the walls, shaking her head…no Wi-Fi…..tall buildings….bad contractor….two years…been paying for Wi-Fi…contract ends soon….soon have new Wi-Fi….not now…very sorry….no Wi-Fi. “That’s okay!” We both said. “Thank you!” She left, bowing and smiling, and disappeared somewhere in the hotel.
Luckily for us, at checkout time, a man who was apparently the housekeeper appeared, speaking perfect English and we got our receipt without an issue. The Hotel Alloggi in Venice made for an interesting stay- and story!