Our first stop on what I dubbed my “Ancient Cities Tour” was Venice, Italy. Walking around Venice was like stepping into a watercolor postcard – beautiful complimentary colors, singers on gondolas, and the sunset illuminating the sparkling water. Unlike other cities we visited, Venice was exactly what I imagined, and exceeded any expectations I had. We only spent a day and a half there before heading to Rome, so next time I go to Italy I will definitely come back to revisit.
We started the morning by taking a vaporetto (or, waterbus) through the Grand Canal to the other side of the island so we could make our way back on foot by sunset. It was the perfect way to start the day – we got to see city from the inside as we made our way down through it on the water. We got off at Arsenale and had our first meal in Italy – breakfast and espresso!
After breakfast, the sun had burned off the clouds and we were in need of gelato! We grabbed a cone and headed to our first big tourist spot, the Piazza San Marco and the beautiful Basilica di San Marco, which are free to visit! From there, we kept heading west and just wandered around, taking in all the beautiful sights.
The Grand Canal can be crossed using water taxis, but Alaina and I made our way to the bridges, and the view from those vantage points were incredible. One of our favorite viewing spots was from the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge). From there, we could see men stacking their boats with supplies, tourists filtering through souvenir stands, and restaurants getting ready for the next meal time.
We visited the Gallerie dell’Accademia to get our fill of medieval Italy, but the history stop we most enjoyed was the Teatro La Fenice, or the Venice Opera House. Tickets for an audio tour were €10, and it was Alaina’s favorite part of Venice! The photo below is the back entrance to the theatre where boats could dock and drop off their lavish patrons.
Our day ended with a lovely three course seafood dinner and bottle of wine by the canal. Venice by night was an entirely new experience – the streets emptied and the lamps lit up the canal. We felt very safe walking around at night, and the quiet sounds of water rippling and wine glasses clinking put us at peace.
After dinner, we made our way back to our hostel that was off the island, but connected by a cheap shuttle bus. We stayed at the PLUS Camping Jolly hostel, which was only $12 a night! The accommodations were set up in a trailer with three beds, but it had a private shower and AC, and was a great value for the price. Any accommodations on the island itself are very expensive, so it was worth the shuttle in and out for us!
The next day, we were taking an afternoon train to Rome. We strapped on our backpacks and did another half day of exploring. We ended our magical visit to Venice with a stop at a trattoria to eat Pizza!
If you go to Venice and want ideas and cost for a backpacker-mid level budget, here’s what we spent and where we went in a day and a half:
Hostel: $12 a night X 2 = $24/pp
Food & Wine: €40 a day x 1.5 days = $65
Public Transit: €20 for buses & vaporetto through Venice (waterbus) = $21
Arsenale (medieval shipyard) – not free; didn’t go inside
Piazza San Marco – free
Basilica di San Marco – free
Peggy Guggenheim Collection – (closed the day we went) adult/reduced €15/9
Gallerie dell’Accademia – adult/reduced €11/8
Teatro La Fenice (Opera theatre) – theatre visits adult/reduced €10/6.50
Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) – free
Rialto Market – free
Total: ~ €21 = ~$22
Total cost: $131 pp for a day and a half + two nights in Venice, Italy!