Venice (Italy): 2 weeks as Digital Nomads
After a month and a half in Rome, we decide to spend two weeks in Venice to enjoy the good weather before the arrival of winter. This is a first for us! We visited a lot of fake Venice, small Venice, green Venice…. but for the REAL Venice, we waited until 2020 to go there.
We arrived in Venice by train. The train crosses a kind of narrow path, surrounded by water. It looks like we are going to the Keys. The water does not seem so deep because I saw people with their feet in the water and it only reaches their knees. We see a lot of fishermen too. Frankly, arriving in Venice by train is an experience in itself. Be careful, the closest train station to Venice is Santa Lucia.
Once out of the station, we are immediately offered a cab, but be careful, it is a water cab, that is to say a cab boat, with very high rates (like 80€). It is much cheaper to take public transportation (always by boat, more info later).
Upon learning of our arrival in Venice, even Tom Cruise rushed to the scene to shoot Mission Impossible 7, before declaring himself helpless in front of the Covid, which knocked out 12 members of the crew. So even for Tom Cruise, defeating the Covid is Mission Impossible.
I think we are very lucky because one week before our arrival, Venice was on the verge of acqua alta (a natural phenomenon that takes place between September and April, some tides that are too high flood part of the city and damage many houses and businesses)… but the dikes, which took years to be functional, worked perfectly well (they rise automatically to prevent high tides) and saved Venice from a big flood.
I saw the water rise quite critically during my stay but each time, it withdrew just in time, so that I could observe the phenomenon in tourist mode, without getting my feet wet. My sister, who came to Venice last year, has a bad memory of the omnipresence of the water and was convinced that I could die at any moment drowning in my sleep ahaha
On the official website, you can see the tide forecasts. From 82cm, there are puddles on Saint Mark’s square because this part is very low.
From 95cm, you start to see floods everywhere but you can still walk on wooden planks installed in the city (for a tide up to 135cm).
Beyond that, even wooden boards won’t be able to keep your feet dry. But the good news is that it only lasts a few hours and tides > 140cm are extremely rare.
We took care to reserve an apartment on the second floor, overlooking a small canal, but on the second floor anyway.
Having never set foot in Venice before, I have no idea what the costs are in normal times (excluding covid). Our Airbnb is located near the Arsenale station, 16 minutes walk from St. Mark’s Square (for the link to our airbnbs, see our article). You can get up to 50€ discount on your first Airbnb booking by clicking here
Those who know Venice are hurting our wallet when they hear the news, but thanks to Covid, we have benefited from the more affordable prices: 688€ for 14 nights, or 49€/night for a F2 of about 40m² with fiber optics, kitchen, washing machine + 30€ of tourist taxes (3€ per night and per person but capped at 15€/person, i.e. 5 days max per stay) in the middle of the All Saints’ Day vacations.
Our owner of Airbnb says that St. Mark’s isn’t the place to be for lodging, as there are many places to go shopping, but no place to shop, or eat cheaply. Whereas near Arsenale, at home, it looks like a small village.
By staying for 2 weeks, you ask yourself very practical questions such as where to go, where to shop, where to receive parcels or simply where to throw out the garbage.
Structure of Venice
There are several islands.
The main and most touristic part is crossed by a canal called Grand Canal, shaped like an upside down S. The San Marco and San Polo neighborhoods are the most touristy.
I really like the island of San Giorgio Maggiore (next to Giudecca), for the panoramic view of St. Mark’s Square & the Doge’s Palace.
Lido Island has a huge beach, while Murano Island is famous for its glass artists.
San Michele Island simply has a huge cemetery and a church.
Burano Island, much further away, is known for its lace museum & its colorful houses very Instagram.
Where to stay?
If your budget allows it, look for an apartment in the San Marco district, San Polo if you don’t stay long, and go exclusively to restaurants, to be able to visit as much as possible.
Castello and Dorsoduro are cheaper but very nice too because there are great walks along the waterfront and more options to eat local.
Cannaregio is more commercial, there is the Jewish quarter where you can eat very well for cheap.
Santa Croce is next to the train station, it is less convenient to visit, but there are more choices of cheap accommodation & hotels.
In Venice you can’t get around except on foot or by boat. Public transport here is by boat.
There are so many small bridges and small streets that even the bike isn’t used. Inhabitants must have a year subscription to travel unlimitedly by boat, but for tourists, the boat rates are super high: 7,5€ for one trip (possible connections for 75 minutes), or 20€ for 24h, 30€ for 48h, 40€ for 72h and 60€ for 168h (7 days). You can even buy the tickets in advance on the Civitatis website here (it’s the same price as on site).
On the Grand Canal, the width is quite large so there are only a few bridges. So the boats on the Grand Canal zig zag, so you can go from one bank to the other without having to walk to the next bridge.
Beware, there is often very thick fog. When this is the case, all boats 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2 are no longer in service (you will see at the piers, the arrival time of these boats is no longer displayed), only boats 1 and 2 are working normally. So allow time to get to the airport or train station because boats 1 and 2 take a longer route and you may be late.
There are also cabs, but they are very expensive. And the gondolas, out of price, are rather used to entertain tourists rather than being a real means of transportation. Some inhabitants have their own docks, their own boats, but this is a minority.
To walk from St. Mark’s Square to the train station for example, it takes me about 29 minutes on foot, and the boat, taking a longer path and stopping everywhere, takes 27 minutes.
Honestly, I think that apart from visiting the surrounding islands (which have no bridge connecting to the main island), the boat isn’t necessary. But I still took the map because after walking all day in the small streets, it feels good to just sit in the boat to go back home.
I think a lot of people who work in Venice are in the commuting business. Because at the end of the day, there are a lot of people walking to the train station to go home on the other side (Porto Marghera), they all take the same path. Many tourists also choose to sleep on an island nearby, or next to the other train station in Venice (Porto Marghera)
There are supermarkets everywhere, we often see COOP. The one next to our house is so small with narrow shelves that at rush hour you can’t even go from one shelf to the other, but you can queue at the front door, loading your basket as you go around the shelves. As restaurants are now closed from 6pm in Italy (anti-Covid measures), we have lunch at the restaurant at noon and buy fresh pasta and ready-made sauces for dinner. Our favorite fresh pasta store is Giacomo Rizzo. The base is prepared in advance, but it is when we choose the shape of pasta we want, that the salesman goes to the back store and prepares it for us. It’s so cool! They also sell a few Asian products for those who are tired of eating Italian food all the time 😀
Every morning, there is a team in charge of collecting garbage bags in front of each house every day except Sunday, around 9am. If we can’t wait for them, there are garbage boats parked everywhere. For public garbage, a team will walk to collect them and then load them onto garbage boats. These boats bring the garbage cans back to the station, where the garbage cans are transferred to huge containers. There are extra sorting, and collection days vary according to the type of garbage (glass, or paper etc.).
The stations are very small, there is one right next to my Airbnb but it is never open, you wonder if people really work there lol. I always have my parcels delivered by the private carriers in the tobacco shops (I’ve talked about it here). I saw the DHL boat mooring in one of the small canals. The delivery often ends on foot.
In 2 weeks, as we are working and the weather isn’t nice every day, it is difficult to visit everything but I will still give you my favorite places in this article. You will also find a personalized Google Maps that I made with my sister for Italy here.
- The essentials (see the corresponding travel notebook)
- Saint Mark’s Square: a huge tourist square
- saint Mark’s Basilica: golden mosaic everywhere
- the Doge’s Palace: sumptuous rooms, decorated from floor to ceiling
- Rialto Bridge: bridge with stores
- Bridge of Sighs: connects the old prisons to the interrogation cells of the Doge’s Palace, you can walk on it while visiting the Doge’s Palace but otherwise you can see it from two other bridges
- Academy Bridge: which gives the best view of Venice
- Take a gondola ride: tourist activity but very nice because it allows you to explore small canals that you wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise
- Saint Mark’s Square: a huge tourist square
- Panoramic views (see the corresponding travel notebook)
- From the campanile of the Place St Marc (10€/person, elevator ride)
- From the bell tower of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore (6€/person, elevator up). You can get to the island by taking the boat n°2
- From the department store T Fondaco dei Tedeschi by DFS (free access)
- Very nice but not unavoidable (see the corresponding travel notebook)
- Venice Arsenal : Shipyard plays a decisive role in the construction of the Venetian Empire by allowing the rapid production of many ships.
- Church of Santa Maria di Nazareth: right next to the train station, this is the most beautiful church in Venice
- Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (3€/person), very pretty
- Campo San Polo: 2nd largest square in Venice, very relaxed atmosphere
- Scuola Grande de San Rocco (8€/person) : sumptuous room, there is only one like it but it is more elaborate than in the Doge’s Palace
- Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo (10€/person), spiral staircase, panoramic view
- Murano Island & its glass artists (5€/person to access a real workshop)
- Lido Island & its beach (only in summer): transparent water, fine sand
- Unusual (cf. the corresponding travel notebook)
- Jewish quarter of Venice: nice and local atmosphere, even if it is a bit small. Falafel at 5€ to fall
- Benedetto Marcello Conservatory of Venice: stay right in front to listen to classical music played in each room of the conservatory
- Squero de San Trovaso: Gondola making workshop, to be observed from the other side because you cannot visit the workshop
- Shopping or window-shopping :
- Acqua Alta Bookstore: where all the books are stored high up or in boats for fear of being flooded
- Handmade miniature bookcases at La Bottega di Pre
- Magic Venice Carnival: handcrafted porcelain dolls dressed in traditional clothes
- More Venezia: beautiful leather bags made in Italy
- Charta S.n.c. : Exceptional showcase but not at all nice seller
I will prepare a travel notebook by category.
See you soon!