When Travis and I spent a couple days in Venice, Italy this summer, I learned some things about the city. Usually, you only hear and read about the amazing things this city has to offer and nothing else. I’m going to tell you ten things about Venice that I learned that are not the typical sightseeing and restaurant recommendations. Keep in mind that this is from 2018. Venice was very different just ten years ago and it may be very different if you read this years from now.
1. Gondola drivers are some of the highest paid workers in Venice
Did you know they can make as much as $150,000 a year? That blew my mind! But then you think: each 20-30 minute gondola ride is 90 euro, their expenses are what? Cleaning and maintaining the gondola, paying taxes, and paying themselves? If they give enough rides, it makes sense! Travis and I didn’t do a gondola ride while we were there. The reason why is another point later.
2. Gondola rides are not as romantic as you imagine
Maybe it was different ten years ago, but now, the gondoliers talk on their phone and shout to their gondolier friends while driving you around. I never heard a single gondolier sing (though I heard you have to pay extra for that). It became a game for me to see how many gondoliers I found on their phone while they had customers in their gondolas. I made sure to get a photo for proof.
3. City shuts down at 8 pm
This is the reason Travis and I didn’t get to do a gondola ride on our last night. At first, we didn’t want to pay the 90 euro but then, on our last night, we thought what the heck, let’s do it! We went out around 7:30 pm to get dinner and do a gondola ride. By 8 pm, we were ready for the gondola ride and we found everything was closed. The gondolas stopped at 8, the restaurants had their doors closed (aside from a few bars open to watch the soccer game), almost nobody was outside – it was a ghost town!
This was SO surprising to us because we had come from Palermo in Sicily, Italy, where dinner didn’t start until 8 pm! Dinner at 8 is typical in Italy, so why did Venice shut down at 8?
Turns out, Venice is one of the most popular cruise ports in Europe! People come in the morning and by 8 pm, they’re all gone. It’s kind of sad really and hurts the Venetian economy. None of those people pay for hotels, they may not buy food because they get it on the cruise, and they just don’t spend much money in the city.
4. Almost every tourist is American
This may not be 100% accurate but while we were there, we noticed almost everyone around us sounded like an American. It was like reverse culture shock after spending a week in Greece and a few days in Sicily. We were in another country, on another continent, but everyone around us sounded like us. In Palermo, Italy, no one around was American. Waiters’ customs were Italian, as they should be. In Venice, we noticed the waiters knew American customs and did their job on a more American level. It’s hard to explain what I mean – you just have to go see for yourself 🙂
5. Feeding pigeons is ILLEGAL in Venice
Yes, I’m not making that up. I found this while looking through our hotel’s “rulebook.” However, I never actually saw a single police officer while in Venice. Clearly, lots of people feed pigeons in Venice, especially in St. Mark’s Square. Those dirty pigeons ruin the city by spreading dirt and feces around, so it’s understandable why you wouldn’t want tens of thousands of them around.
6. You can’t stop too long on bridges or sit on certain steps
Venetian authorities have come up with lots of rules to try to deal with so many tourists visiting the city every day. Among those is not stopping on bridges for too long, so the traffic can continue to move, and not sit on certain buildings’ steps – such as not having a picnic at popular tourist spots.
7. The Venetian government is spending billions of euros trying to prevent the city from sinking
The Mose flood barrier project costs more than 5 billion euros and it’s going to try to stop Venice from sinking. The project is supposed to be finished around 2022. I really hope it works because I love Venice and would love to go back much later.
8. There are no cars in Venice
You can take a bus, train, plane, or car to Venice, but to go into the main part of Venice (and most of the city), you only have two options: a boat or just walk. You can’t drive in Venice, and honestly, it’s awesome!
9. Street food in Venice is amazing
Have you heard of fresh pasta to go? Pasta in a box? Well, it’s a thing in Venice and it’s great! It’s also a cheap way to grab a bite to eat. There’s also lots of pizza by the slice, kebabs, gelato, and Italian sandwiches to keep you full all day. Oh, and did I forget to mention wine bar hopping?
10. Go to St. Mark’s Square but don’t stay the night, shop, or eat there
St. Mark’s Square is so beautiful!!! But it’s also SO expensive! Anything there is pretty much a tourist trap. You can try it if you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. We visited St. Mark’s Square but did all of our shopping, eating, drinking, and hotel staying outside of that mega-touristy spot.