It is well known that Venice is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. The Italian city, located on the north east of the Adriatic Sea, is also one of the UNESCO world heritage sites.
For budget reasons we stayed in a hostel near Mestre train station (about 15 minutes from the centre by train). We arrived at night and were told they had fireworks on the island. They were celebrating the Redeemer Festival (Festa del Redentore), which is considered (by Venetians) as their own carnival. They celebrate it every year on the third weekend of July, and it commemorates the end of a plague in 1976. The fireworks went on for 45 minutes while the people were standing on bridges or in little venetian alleys to try to get the best views.
Avoiding tourist masses in Venice
We started the day very early. Our mission was to avoid the tourist masses in Venice and sightsee the city – basically we wanted to see what everyone else wants to see and try to do it without the crowds.
The reason for starting very early is simple. When you arrive in Venice, you will arrive at St. Lucia station. From there, every tourist strolls and walks taking pictures of every canal and bridge they see – always walking south to arrive to one of the main attractions in the city: Piazza San Marco. Consequently, tourists arrive on the square later on the day.
As a result we made sure to walk fast when we arrived, and saw the Piazza almost with almost no one there yet. The sight is incredibly beautiful and we could really appreciate the views without too many people and before the boiling heat.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time you will know that I am a huge fan of seeing cities from a high vantage point. Mountains, castles or bell towers do the trick. The Campanile (bell tower) in Venice is located right at the Piazza San Marco. The entrance fee is quite steep at 8€ per person, and you take an elevator ride to the top. I will leave some pictures here that speak louder than words.
After that we started just walking in Venice. We were literally going in the opposite direction of everyone else, who was going to the Square. Instead, we wandered, saw gondolas and also took pictures of deserted bridges and canals. We walked all the way to Ponte Rialto, and saw how all the gondolas started their journey from there. The bridge lets you cross one of the widest canals in the city. As a result you can not only see gondolas but Vaporetto’s and other types of boats as well.
We arrived back at the train station and walked all the way down again to Piazza San Marco again. There, we found thousands of people taking pictures in the boiling heat. You can see the difference here. We did high-five ourselves for thinking about this ;).
Getting lost in Venice
Suffering the boiling sun we walked to the Biennale gardens and explored the shadows in the area. After a copious Italian meal (of course) we decided to do what I believe is the second best decision we made that day: we walked and got lost.
We just turned streets and corners and alleys and discovered the real Venice. We went to the islands of Murano and Burano. Saw the laundry hanging on the streets and the old people sitting in a square talking. That was probably one of the best feelings: knowing that you’ve seen the tourist and main sights of the city but you managed to do so without a lot of people and then you wandered without destination. That was how we spent our afternoon and evening. I must say it was my favourite part of the day. We got to see so many beautiful random and narrow alleys and be alone in Venice.
In conclusion avoiding the tourist masses in Venice is not as hard as it seems! Be ready to walk a lot, have a bottle of water with you and enjoy getting lost.