Venice- budget TIPS and more

I am excited to share more of our trip to Venice. We only spent about 8 hours there but it has occupied 3 whole post, that’s how great it is- actually it’s even better than that! We live a quick 4 and a half hour drive away, we are closer to Venice than Paris so if you dying to see Italy, come on over for a stop in Switzerland too. Here’s a few tips for your visit.

1. Toilets– Be prepared to buy something in order to use the “facilities”. It’s interesting to me that in the states we can provide clean restrooms in almost every shop and certainly every restaurant, always including luxeries like tiolet paper and toilet seats. Here in Europe they can be shockingly stingy, unhygienic, frugal in regards to bathrooms and a drink of water (more on that another time). You do not have to sit down and eat a meal at a nice restaurant just to use their restroom, instead pop into a coffee shop or bar and order a drink or buy a pastry. Toilets are a topic that continues to baffle me. I will try and be as brief as possible: how is it that a country (they are not alone- France’s toilet situation is equally disturbing) willing to spend something like 20 percent of their average income on lingerie, has a shortage of clean restrooms that are supplied with toilet tissue?! My point is that you better use the restroom before you leave the hotel, and don’t drink too much while you are out site-seeing. I did not see any public restrooms, they may exist at the train-station or somewhere, but I did not see any. We took advantage of a break at a cafe that sold drinks and pastries, their restroom was clean, supplied with tissue, but as-is-common in Italy, did not have a toilet seat. I can’t explain it but I am trying to prepare you. Always carry tissues or wipes.


2. Accommodations- Venice is expensive. Budget travelers may decide to stay on the mainland and take a quick bus ride or train ride into the city. We stayed inland and our bus (comes every 10 min. ) got us to Venice in 15 min. We loved our hotel and loved being able to drive up and unload suitcases and get into a beautiful bed with beautiful linens, and be greeted by a lovely old Italian family, and feel like we were guest in their home rather than just another tourist. I would HIGHLY recommend this place- Casa Villa Gardenia. Unless you have a big budget (some hotels on the canal go for $12,000 per night and more- yep you read that right- 12 THOUSAND dollars a night) and are perhaps looking for a more romantic Venetian experience, but be prepared that schleping suitcases along stone streets is not easy, particularly if you get lost, which is a common recreational activity in Venice.


3. Eating– You can find budget food options, “street food” vendors usually come in the form of a tiny storefront window that passes out “small plates” or pizzas and sandwiches. Click below for more on eating like a local.


4. Snacking as your Walking- There are no bikes, or cars in Venice, you must be prepared to walk. Going anytime besides summer means that you might see some flooding. Prepare to wear good shoes, and ideally some that don’t get leaky soles- (avoid suede ballet flats. ) Also traveling with kids, you may be used to getting some resistance when taking long walks, we like to “snack their way through it”. We take candy they like – M&M’s work good- candy bars do not; as they keep up, we pass them one bite sized piece at a time. If you don’t bring your own, there are wonderful pastry shops all over the city filled with small individual sized treats, the perfect reward for getting just a little further along the sidewalk. We liked buying just one profiterole for about 1 Euro, and each taking a bite, then a short walk later there would be another bakery and another treat to sample. Meringue are also good, light and low in fat- if you worry about that sort of thing on vacation?


A few more tips for Venice

  • Smart phone GPS made our experience a whole lot easier (personally, I don’t think it’s fun to be lost with tired, hungry, little kids. TIP: If you get lost your kids will immediately be tired, hungry, and need to use the restroom).
  • Take tons of photos.
  • If your there during rainy season (September-April) its a good idea to wear rain boots.
  • Something you may not know but might want to notice~ the Venetian flag has 6 fringe for the 6 sections of the city and the end of the gondolas have the symbolic silver design with 6 fringe – also for six sections.
  • Venice is a great place to shop for beautiful and expensive jewelry.

Come back tomorrow to read about my one tip to travel in Turkey. In the mean time, start searching for flights, Venice is a great destination for off season travel deals and a little wet weather won’t ruin your visit.

all of

6 things you might miss at the Basilica di San Marco

entrance of san marcoIt’s hard to take a bad photo in Venice, everywhere you turn- literally- is a perfect backdrop. There are little bridges crossing canals, old distressed doorways, cracked building facades, sculptures, fountains, carvings, churches, boats, boats, and more boats. We spent only one day in Venice- probably 7-8 hours total. Spartacus and I had been there before so it was nice to try and do something new as well as revisiting some of the highlights.

dave and I
I mentioned in the Friday round up that we hired a guild. If you want her contact info send me an email at I will be glad to share. Venice is very particular about there tour guilds, they must pass a very difficult exam offered only once every two years. Venice requires a license and if they catch unauthorized people offering tour guilds they suffer big penalties. Our tour guild was excellent, her background was in Art History and she is a local to the area so she had so many good tips to share, it was worth the extra cost for us. However it is not cheap. Some people splurge on a gondola ride, we splurged on a personal tour guild.
Last time we were here years ago, we visited the Doge Palace- center of government- It was designed to be the home of the Doge (centralized so that the nobleman that elected him could keep an eye on him as a “checks and balance” system) and the place to meet with foreign leaders. It was impressive inside and out, and a popular tourist destination.

san marco- venice.moxiblog.comThis time we visited the Basilica of San Marco- the burial place of St. Mark. I enjoyed this tour more than the palace and felt that I learned quite a lot about Venice. The church is open to the public and there are always long lines of people, but worth a visit. The mosaics stand out immediately- covering the walls in glittering gold. You may notice in the first photo above that we visited during rainy season, but no worries the city is used to dealing with flooding water and there are platforms everywhere to walk on. If you do not have a tour guild to tell you, you might miss a few details:

cieling in st marcos

  • If you follow the crowds moving from the right side toward the front and center you will eventually peek through and arched opening and catch a glimpse of the stone coffin of Saint Mark. Originally it was in the lower level, but as you probably know, Venice floods- a lot, so they brought it up front and center.
  • interior goldThe view from the upper balcony is fantastic, so make the climb up the crowded staircase to the right when you first come in. Walk around to view the grand canal and palace on your left. From here take time to notice a few thing:
  • family shot- san marco___ The Doge’s palace on the Left has a very Venician feel- pointed arches and eastern-Moorish influences, while the building to the right ( I think it’s the library?) is very neoclassical and roman in design. This contrast reflects Venice divided interest as traders with the east and kinsmen with the west.

exterior phasade

  • Notice that parts of the church is covered in brick and the part where you are standing and all the other surrounding area is covered in marble, many kinds of marble in face. The church – like everything else, was originally built in brick, but when the powerful Venetians conquered Istanbul and other places in the east they brought back spoils from the battles, to include architectural salvage ( I thought that this was way cool, I mean not the stealing-their-lute-after-killing-them part, but the fact that recognition of beauty and desire to “recycle” it onto their architecture is not a new idea) . From this vantage point you can see the different types of carved columns and lots of different colors of marble that make up the facade of the church.
  • excellent view clock towerWalk back toward the entrance to the church and notice the clock tower to your right. This work of art is beautiful and an engineering wonder. Most of it is 500 years, the digital clock in the middle is only 200 years old. On top there are two sculptures “the Moors”, (called that because of the dark patina acquired by the bronze-of men ringing the bell) one is old and one is young, marking the passage of time they snap into action on the hour, so try and time your visit accordingly. The middle elements change every 5 minutes, 10 minutes and hourly. Finally the zodiac signs indicate the time of year from the long ray of the sun that acts as a hand, but look closely at the clock hand because just above the sun is a moon, and it changes according to the phases of the moon, ours was hard to see because it was a new moon.
  • horsesAt the upstairs balcony entrance are giant horses- replicas of the originals that are housed just inside and to the left. These horses are a THOUSAND years old, it kinda blows my mind that these giant beautiful animals were cast in bronze A THOUSAND years ago before modern tools and processes! They were then covered in gold leaf and must have been really stunning when they were new and shiny. They wore leather bridles and had eyes made of glass to seem more realistic, but over the years those elements have worn out but what remains is still very impressive, which is why they were brought inside for safe keeping.

oh the floors too

  • Before you leave the building, make sure you have taken a few minutes to look down and notice the floors, some people say they look like oriental rugs, it’s not coincidence, since Venetians traded with the east.

Do you love or hate Venice? Do you have any tips to share?  Any ideas on way’s to save $, or must see things to do?

Friday roundup

grand canalGuess how we are spending the weekend?!
Last night we left Switzerland south bound for Venice, as in Italia!

moxiblog in veniceI was so excited to get photographic proof of my whole family together at once,
I don’t even care that you can’t tell we are in Venice.

Last night, on the drive down we read a children’s version of Romeo and Juliet and stopped in Verona for a few hours to explore, see the Juliet statue and balcony, take a photo just before the iphone (our camera) promptly died and eat pizza & gelato. What fun! Verona is under-rated in my opinion. We walked on a long street paved with marble, and lined with fashionable shops and gelaterias. I wish we had more time to spend, but we had a deadline- off to Venice.

Today we spent the morning with our tour guild (HIGHLY RECOMMEND), and rode in a gondola. In the afternoon, after big bowls of pasta and calamari, we wandered through the market and weaved our way through the tiny streets to finally get back to our hotel. Here are a few sneak peaks and my inspiring links for the week, you will be able to tell whats been on my mind!

Tomorrow we are meeting up with our cruise ship and off to some ports South and East. I’ll update you next week on all the fun and tips for you to enjoy the same holiday too.

lucky shot_1

  •  Loving this toggled-fisherman-style-sweater for Sparticus and cold evenings at sea.
  • 10 tips for traveling to Europe with kids from Oh Happy Day, maybe I will be making a list of my own soon.
  • Only about 400 gondoliers in Venice at any given time, if you have ambitions of becoming one you must pass an exam and wait for someone to retire! This is the first woman to ever- in 916 years- to become a gondolier!
  • Lastly, check out the video for What To Eat In Venice