Venice took my breath away. The canals, the food, and the vibrant architecture was enough to make me consider cancelling my return trip back to London so that I could stay there forever.
It gets sort of a bad reputation for being a tourist trap, and it is extremely touristy. I mean the entire island basically operates off of selling cheesy Venezia merch and there are enough gondolas full of hand-holding couples to make your head spin.
But nonetheless, it was perfect.
Because I had, not to toot my own horn, but what I would consider to be a flawless trip to Venice, here are my tips for how to spend 1 perfect day in Venice, Italy, without breaking the bank.
1. You don’t have to splurge on food.
Seriously- don’t. I think while I was there I spent a total of 25 euro on food? And man, did I eat my heart out.
My breakfast was a muffin and an espresso and it cost me 3 euro. I got gelato twice, and each time it cost me 2 euro for two scoops. For lunch I got a pinini and a coke which cost me 5 euro. For dinner I got boxed spaghetti (all over the place, highly recommend) which cost me 5 euro, and me and two friends split a bottle of wine that was 6 euro (so that’s 2 euro each). Then, throughout the day I got three glasses of wine which totaled 8 euro. So cheap! And everything was delicious.
Plus, don’t justify paying for a waterfront view, because if you head over to the canals near the Rialto bridge there are spots where you can sit on the steps and watch the gondolas.
2. You should splurge on a gondola ride.
I know, you’ll get there and they’ll be gut-wrenchingly expensive. I think the gondola drivers unionized since last time I was here because now there’s a standard cost of 80 euro for a 30 minute boat ride for up to 6 people. We had 6, so it cost each of us about 14 euro to do it.
I think it would’ve been worth it for me up to like, 30 euro? Which seems like a lot, but man it was gorgeous. The 30 minutes goes by really fast but as long as you don’t spend your entire time glued to your camera, which will be extremely difficult, you’ll get to take in some of Venice’s best sights from the water, which is a hard view to beat.
3. Walking is free.
Heck ya it is! My friends and I walked around 16 miles (yes. 16.) and we were there from 7am to 11pm. We spent so much time just going from end to end of the island looking at the houses, taking different side alleyways each time, and crossing bridge after bridge with our mouths open like dumb Americans who apparently have never seen water before.
Walking is the best way you can spend your time here, and I really suggest taking in as much of the island as you can as opposed to waiting in line and paying to go inside of the tourist spots like the Doges Palace and the Cathedral. Those are incredible, don’t get me wrong, but when you just have a day I wouldn’t recommend wasting time on long lines.
4. So is just sitting and people watching.
This was my favorite part. For lunch and dinner we sat on the steps by the water and ate our cheap to-go food and drank our wine and it was perfect. The sun was out so it was just warm enough to not need a jacket, and watching the gondolas bob up and down was mesmerizing.
It’s also fun to do this in the main square, because you’ll get a front row view to hundreds of screaming tourists trying to feed a pigeon, and then getting scared when too many of them start flying up into their hands. Priceless! Really! Because it’s free!
5. Don’t shell out for a nice hotel/AirBnB.
This is probably the best piece of advice I can give. We did two nights in Hostel Colombo, which was right off of the island, so that we could go morning to night in Venice without having to worry about catching a flight (which I really recommend as well.)
Our hostel was not extravagant, we had to pay 5 euro when we got there for sheets and towels (dang hidden fees), but total it was 24 euro for two nights in a 4 person female dorm, which is a price you really can’t complain about.
My friends and I got in at 12:30am, left at 6:30am, got back at 11:45pm, and left for our flight at 6am, so we spent next to no time in our hostel at all. Spending more on a room would’ve just felt like wasted cash at the end of it.
6. Learn basic Italian before you go!
This is a tip I’ll give for any foreign speaking country you go to. Venice is, again, touristy. Because of that most people will have at least conversational English down, but don’t be that guy who depends on their English skills to get around. They’ll like you so much more if you at least try.
Here are some words and phrases I recommend trying to get down before the trip:
Hello -> Buongiorno! OR Ciao
Goodbye -> arrivederci OR Ciao
How are you -> come sta?
Fine, thank you -> Bene, grazie
I don’t know -> non lo so
Please -> per favore
Thank you -> Grazie
You’re welcome -> prego!
I’m sorry -> mi dispiace
Excuse me -> mi scusi
Yes -> si
No -> no
Do you speak english -> parla inglese?
I don’t speak italian -> no parlo italiano
Where is the bathroom -> scusi, dov’e il bagno?
Check please -> Ci fa il conto, per favore?
Quanto viene -> how much does this come to?
There ya go! I tried to memorize as much as I could the days leading up to it, and then just kept these words and phrases in a note on my phone for if I was in a pinch. It was really helpful when we visited more local shops, because those owners don’t always know how to communicate with you and it’s nice if you can meet them halfway.
And, when in doubt, use google translate. That just made my Spanish professors cringe. Sry guys.
Venice was truly a dream and I think everybody should go! In total, I spent about 50 euro while I was there and $30 on the hostel, which was a total of about 100 USD. Flights aren’t too crazy from London, and if you’re lucky enough to be coming from inside of Italy, the train system is hard to beat for price.
So bottom line, GO. If you’re on a tight budget, you can make it work, and you won’t regret it.