I expected not to like this tourist hot-spot, but the charming canals captured my heart.
As I discussed briefly in my last blog post, I stayed at Anda Venice Hostel in Mestre. Mestre is a city right outside of Venice. If you are looking to go to Venice and want to save some cash, stay in Mestre. The 15-minute public bus ride is extremely doable!
On day one, I got around for the day and headed to a grocery store. Enri and his friends had suggested buying bread, meat, cheese, and fruit to take into Venice with me due to food being so expensive. I took their advice and purchased my food before hopping onto the public bus to go to Venice.
Before heading out, I had purchased a 48-hour public transport pass online through a website. However, I did not realize I could only redeem the ticket once getting to a specific ticket machine in Venice. As a result, I had to pay 3 euros to ride the bus, which would have been 1.50 euros if I would have bought the bus ticket in advance from the ticket counter (go figure). After the bus dropped everyone off, I made my way to the vaporetto station to pick up my ticket. This turned into a headache of redeeming the ticket. If purchasing a public transport pass, wait to purchase the ticket when in Venice. Do not buy through a website. Your time will be saved along with your sanity! In my personal opinion, a public transport pass is NOT necessary if you do not plan on taking the vaporetto (public transport boat) from stop to stop. However, if you would like to take the vaporetto or island hop, than I HIGHLY recommend purchasing a 24/48/72-hour pass as a one-way vaporetto ticket is 7.50 euros. In other words, the public transport pass pays for itself after a few rides.
Once I finally got my ticket, I decided to wander around and explore before my free walking tour. Everything was beautiful once I walked away from all the tourist hubbub.
At 10:30ish am, I made my way to the meeting point for the free walking tour. I booked the Venice Free Walking Tour that covered Venice from the centuries north. If you are visiting Venice and want to learn more about the history and local life, the Venice from the centuries north is the tour for you! However, if you are looking for a tour of Doge’s Palace or St. Mark’s Square (touristy places) this tour is NOT for you!
My guide, Simone, happened to be from Lithuania and married an Italian and now resides in Venice. Throughout the whole 2.5 hour tour, she was engaging and funny. I loved listening to Simone talk about what being a local in Venice is like on a daily basis. For example, I would never have thought, “Oh! The police and ambulance travel by boat.”
If I were to return to Venice, I would book this same walking tour or another walking tour with this company. Venice Free Walking Tours as a company is trying to keep local Venetian restaurants in business. As such, each participant receives a free map of Venice. According to Simone, this exclusive map is the most accurate map of Venice–Google maps does not work always as I found out. Additionally, all of the guides picked out their favorite local restaurants and shops, which offer special discounts to Venice Free Walking Tour participants when they come to eat or shop.
Since the walking tour is free, participants tip their guide at the end. The tip can be however much or little as you like, but the tours are how the guides make money. Personally, I think more thought and time are put into a free tour because the guides know this is how they will receive their paycheck.
After the walking tour concluded, I headed to a shopping mall where Simone told our group you could see the Grand Canal without any people. The view was somewhat okay. I felt awkward taking photos because the window with the view happened to be located in a luxury shoe store. Haha!
Once I snapped some photos, I picked a restaurant out on my handy map: Baci & Pasta. The map advertised gnocchi, which I had been wanting to eat. For 8 euros, my pumpkin gnocchi (freshly made) with a gouda cheese sauce hit the spot. I cannot recommend this place enough!
After my quick bite to eat, I put my phone away and wandered the streets of Venice. According to Simone, no one has truly visited Venice without getting lost in the streets. So I did just that. I would turn left and then right, walk straight for a while, pop in a shop. For once, I did not feel obligated to go, go, go. Rather, I took in the sights and beauty of Venice.
When my legs tired of going up and down the bridges, I made my way to the vaporetto stop and took it back to the bus station. There, I hopped on the bus to head back to Mestre to go to my hostel. A perfect first day!
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