Venice, Italy is a magical city of canals and bridges. Built originally to avoid invading barbarians, today it is a near perfect preservation of art and architecture. This sanctuary on the lagoon is virtually the same as it was five hundred years ago, which adds to the fascinating character of the city.
Because Venice is on a lagoon, the water plays a crucial role in transportation. The most popular way to approach Venice is by boat or train.
The closest airport is the one near Mestre on the mainland, an industrial city without much charm in itself, called [http://www.veniceairport.it/?lan=en Marco Polo]. There is another one in Treviso, its very small and at 40 Km of Venice. Both airports have bus connections with Venice (Piazzale Roma). Marco Polo airport runs a free shuttle bus to the Alilaguna water-bus jetty where 10 euros gets you a leisurely 1 hour boat trip to San Marco via Murano, Lido and the Arsenale. Alternatively you can travel in style (and much faster) by hiring one of the speedy water-taxis for about 80 euros.
Trains from the mainland run through Mestre and to the Santa Lucia train station on the west side of Venice (make sure you don't get confused with Venezia Mestre which is the last stop on the mainland!). From here, water buses (vaporetti) or water taxis can take you to hotels or other locations on the islands.
Is not a good option. Cars can arrive in Venice, but are left on the parking at the entrance to the city (Piazzale Roma or Tronchetto - Europe's largest car park.) Car parking is expensive here and the tailbacks can be quite large, an alternative is to use the car parks on the mainland (terra firma) and catch a vaporetto or bus into Venice.
The Piazzale Roma bus station is well served by vaporetti and water-taxis.
Ships arrive at the Stazione Marittima which is at the west end of the main islands, it is served by vaporetti and water taxis.
Boats are the "cars" of Venice, which gives it much of its charm. There are vaporetti which are the public water taxis, and they run along the banks of the Grand Canal. They offer a bit of excitement as they don't truly "dock" as much as pull up along the platform, requiring passengers to leap precariously across the gap. There are also private water taxis that work the same way as automobile taxis.
The Vaporetti water taxi seems the most logical. If you are going to be in Venice for a few days visiting, it is a lot cheaper to get the Vaporetti than to get a private water taxi. Although the private water taxi may look more romantic, and you get to ride it with only your family, it is way more expenisive, and truthfully not worth it. If you want to have a romantic ride along the river take a gondala ride, it is much better :)
There are 1 day, 3 day and 7 day Venice Cards available, in two variations (Blue and Orange). The basic Blue cards provide unlimited travel on the ACTV travel services (vaporetti, motoscafi and buses) and free use of the AMAV staffed toilets. The Orange card also provides free entrance to some of the museums (those covered by the Museum Card). Note that neither card includes the Alilaguna water-bus which serves Marco Polo airport unles you pay a surcharge. Travel cards are extremely useful since the basic fare for one vaporetto journey is typically 3.50 euro whereas 1 day Blue cards cost 14 euro, 3 day costs 29 euro and 7 day 51 euro (prices correct December 2004). There are cheaper 1 and 3 day ACTV travel tickets available (10.50 euro and 22 euro) but these are pure travel cards and offer no discounts or other goodies (like a free map and case) which come with the Venice Cards. Discounts on many of these cards are available for the under 30's or by buying online, it pays to look around.
Otherwise, take a walk! The city is not that big, and you can walk from one end to the other in a few hours, and along the way discover the marvelous art and architecture around every corner.
Don't miss the Rialto Bridge, the Piazza San Marco, and one or both of the Campaniles; San Marco and San Giorgio.
Check the monuments timetables, are very strict.
Take a Gondola if you can afford, it's expensive, but the Gondolero maybe can decrease the price if you ask (but they can also decrease the time...). Pact the conditions (price and time) before start!
Venice is so beautiful. If you are looking for something to do, you can always SHOP. Venice is full of little stores in every corner and crevace. They are wonderful,they sell lots of masks that are hand made, and also glass is very popular. On one island you can go watch them make and blow glass! While going through Venice you need to take in the beauty of it all. Walk through the alley ways, and take the water taxi to different parts of the island, sometimes at night you can just go sit in a main area and watch people and tourists. It is wonderful. There are many museums and churchs that are around the city that allow tourists to go in a visit. They are a good thing to keep you busy throughtout your visit.
Many times a week, there are musical concerts featuring music of the composers who called Venice home. Especially popular are performances of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. What better experience than listening to the music in the same halls where Vivaldi himself visited.
Venice still has some residents who work in non-tourism industries, but these are quite few today.
The city is well known for its artisans and artwork. Visitors are drawn to its glasswork and its decorative Venetian masks. Watch out also for the hand-made paper and the exquisite miniature buildings made by Moro (watch out for fakes !! Moro "signs" his on the back.
Venice is packed with wonderful restaurants, featuring cuisine of the Veneto. Specialties include polenta, made of corn meal; risotto with cuttlefish ink sauce.
One of Venice's trademark foods is cuttlefish and its ink. This intense black ink serves as a sauce and ingredient for polenta (corn meal), risotto (rice), and pasta. These dishes are normally indicated by the Italian words "nella seppia" (in cuttlefish), "alla seppia" (in the style of cuttlefish), or "nero di seppia," (black of the cuttlefish). For example Polenta Nella Seppia is fried corn meal with the black ink of a cuttle fish. Despite the intensity in color, the ink has a surprisingly mild taste.
For fresh fruit (including chilled coconut!) watch out for the street market stalls.
Da Fiore is a Michellin starred restaurant that serves fish only.
Give a try on Spritz al Aperol, "La botte" close to Rialto is a good choice.
If you try the famous Grappa, be careful... it's almost pure alcohol!
The Bellini was invented in Harry's bar in Venice. It is a mix of white peach juice and Champagne.
Staying in a hotel on the Lido (15-20 minutes by Vaporetto) is a cheaper alternative to staying in Venice proper. The island of lido also has a long beach where tourists and Venecians alike go swimming during the summer months.
Allogi La Gondola, Calle del Forno 180 (Follow the canale grande, after crossing the big station bridge turn west for 150 meters) 20 Euro.
Hotel CaSa Linger, Fondamtenta S.Antonin castello 3541. 30 Euro.
Nice vacation rental with a view, timewise rental of one room only as well (budget) http://mitglied.lycos.de/serenissima/index_en.htm
San Clemente Palace is located on its own island. It is a peaceful and quiet respite from the hoards of tourists in venice. They provide a shuttle boat between the hotel and San Marco square.
It's considered a safe city. One can walk down the darkest alley in the middle of the night and feel completely safe. You have to take the habitual travellers precautions, however. Keep your valuables (like wallet and passport) close to you because there are gypsies that will take your money.
Around the Venetian lagoon are other smaller islands, which have since been deserted but are worth a visit. There is also the Lido, which is a long narrow island with more modern buildings, hosting a youth hostel and a hotel.