Must-Dos for Carnival Season and Every Time Between (and on a Budget)!
1. Regardless of whether it is Carnival or not when you visit, you must go into a mask shop and buy yourself one of these gorgeous pieces of craftsmanship! Many outdoor tent vendors, and tourist shops will sell masks but nothing compares to what you find in a true quality mask shop. And none will compare to the experience you have if you visit one in which the masks are made themselves by hand. Watch the artists at their craft and treasure the variety you will find. Pick out one! There’s a different one for every liking of people! Converse and find out about their historic techniques!
2. Venice is known for its Murano Glass! Just off the main islands and water canals, this island is known as Murano. You’ll find it in ever corner shop from the train station to San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square) and beyond! One of the most beautiful is literally directly across the canal from the train station though I do advise you to shop around before you buy! Prices vary at each and every store you go to for often the very same thing! These include lots of glassware, glass jewelry, quills, leather bags, and the usual treasure trove of mugs, post cards, and souvenir masks for those back home. If you become especially fond, you can take a tour of the factory on Murano or even visit the Museum del Vetro and get a tour there too, a demonstration, or even a documentary screening.
3. Regarding these souvenirs, keep in mind who it is you are buying for if you are planning on buying gifts or just trinkets for yourself. Heaps of money can easily be spend even on just a block. The streets around the Rialto Bridge offer products of all kind high end to the less commitment affordable to tourist type of products. Warning: they suck you in! Like I said, shop around before you buy or within a few minutes even, you might find a store offering the exact same quill for 30 euros less as my friends found out on their purchase-heavy trip. Also, REMEMBER what you have bought so far to avoid over-buying. Often you can find simple Murano glass necklaces for only a euro each as they are made in mass quantities and not custom or unique— but the folks back home don’t need to know that! They’ll be glad you thought of them when you present them with a beautifully stunning bottle cap, necklace, bookmark, or figurine.
4. DO EXPLORE! Walking through the canals on a sunny Friday afternoon before the huge Saturday crowd came, my friends and I were boggled at all the wonderful wares, crafts, and variety of stores we found on our walk to St. Mark’s Square. We must’ve only walked two miles but it took us probably about 6 hours the very first time simply as we were so entrance by every display, window shopping, stopping for delicious candied apples, pears, and bananas covered in every kind of chocolate. Though to be honest, each of us snapping away photos of all the canals, window displays, carnival costumes, and each other probably took up the bulk of that time, especially at the breathtakingly beautiful Rialto Bridge. Stores run along both sides of a set of steps up and down it, but outside those stores are more steps to either side which each offer their unique and majestic view of the Grand Canal boats, gondolas, and ferries zip up and down. The bulk of restaurants seem to be located on the St. Marks side of the Rialto! Sunset viewing from over the bridge though is simply something you cannot miss! Beat the crowds there or you’ll have to beat your way through them!
5. Visit San Giorgio Maggiore Island and see panoramic views of Venice from there. A vaporetto (Line 2) will get you there in a jiff and is an experience in itself. The ticket costs 7 euros I believe, but like buses in Rome, nobody seems to check for them whatsoever (at least during busy Carnival Season)…this lead to us purchasing quite a few and realizing almost nobody else had even purchased one (I guess we get a good samaritans award for that day). The ride is fun and a great photo opportunity of various parts of Venice from the water while sitting inside, sitting outside or standing wherever you like. Inside San Giorgio, behind the main altar you’ll find a place you can buy tickets. For students, it is only three euros! (If you had heavy bags with us the way we did as we experienced this after checking out of our hotel before our evening train, you can leave these down in this area). Take the elevator up (luckily, you don’t need to trod up all those flights of those stairs) and be welcomed to gorgeous 360 degree views from the moment those elevator doors open. Don’t forget your camera!
6. Have lunch along the FondamentaZattere del PuntoLungo or FondamentadelleZattere as it may also be called. This street is a gorgeous part of Venice, whichis directly next to the water, a Southern part of the city. Several restaurants and cafes that offer dining on the water give you unobstructed views across the water to the island of San Giorgio and Guidecca Island while even further letting you see down an entire side of Venice and all the way back to the mainland. This may be a pricier of a meal (about 12-25 euros a plate) if you are trying to dine cheap, but it is well worth the expense for the experience, relaxation and photos!