This is a guest post from Susan Guillory of The Unexplorer.
Venice is truly one of the loveliest cities I have visited. Yes, there were hordes of visitors, but if you got away from the Grand Canal and into the neighborhoods, you encountered more locals than tourists. Still, there are a few things that you don’t have to see or do on your trip if you want to have a more authentic experience.
1. A Bellini at Harry’s Bar
We’d heard the buzz that Hemingway once made Harry’s Bar his Venice drink spot of choice, so when my friends and I stumbled across it accidentally, we decided to stop in for their famous Bellini. Bad choice.
The bar itself was plain and unassuming. Not even a plaque to commemorate the famous writer who’d bellied up to the bar. We ordered Bellinis without even looking at a menu, a decision we knew we regretted when the Americans at the next table told us their bill was “shocking.”
We’d paid about $3 or less for other Prosecco-based beverages in Venice, so we were expecting maybe double that. Nope. Each Bellini cost a whopping $18! And there was nothing remarkable about them.
So save yourself a ton of cash and get your Bellini anywhere but Harry’s.
2. A Gondola Ride
I confess: before my trip to Venice, I’d decided I was willing to shell out my share of the 80 Euros it costs to ride a gondola, if my friends were game. Upon arrival in Venice, I changed my mind. Yes, gondolas are fun to watch glide out of the tiny side canals and into the Grand Canal, but they’re pure Tourist Traps. If you want to see the sights by water, rent a taxi or take the vaporetto.
That being said, the gondolas and their drivers make excellent photo opps, so stand on a bridge along the Grand Canal, and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of great shots.
3. Food from Picture Menus
I happen to read an article on Facebook about food you shouldn’t order in Italy while I was in Venice. The article said that menus with photos of the food were geared toward tourists, and from that point forward, I made a point to avoid those restaurants.
If you’re concerned about not knowing what’s on the menu, all the menus we saw had English translations. And so many people speak English, you can always ask what something is (or better yet, ask for a food recommendation).
4. A Selfie Stick
If there was one ubiquitous factor in Venice, it was the selfie stick. Immigrants from every country crowded bridges and museum steps, proffering handfuls of cheaply made sticks you affix to your camera to — you guessed it — take selfies in front of Venice’s great landmarks.
First of all, you’re capable of taking a selfie without a stick that you then have to carry around. Secondly, will you ever use it again after your trip?
If you insist on buying one, for Pete’s sake, dicker down. I heard one vendor asking 12 Euros for one, while another vendor sold his for 3 Euros.
5. Museum and Transport Passes
Just like in any major city, Venice tourism companies offer you the amazing opportunity to see all the museums in the city — or get unlimited transportation — for one low, low price. Don’t give in unless you’ve planned to go to all the museums (and in fact have time to do so). I didn’t step foot in one museum, but I went into a handful of free churches, walked past amazing buildings, and took photos in Piazza San Marco without feeling like I needed to get my money’s worth (because all that was free).
Also beyond taking a vaporetto closeish to my AirBnB and then to the airport, I didn’t need any public transportation, so again, it’s not worth the money to get a transportation pass typically.
With all the money you save not indulging in these less-than-amazing experiences, you can take advantage of what Venice really shines at: leather purses are incredibly affordable, and the selection is unbelievable. Carnevale masks are a fun gift for a friend or yourself. And food, making sure to steer clear of those tourist menus, is more affordable than I’d been led to believe, and all of it delicious.