ABOVE: A brick-and-stone causeway links the
historic center of Venice to the distant Italian mainland.
Mistake #3: Commuting from the mainland
During the past year, about 15 per cent of the readers who
reserved hotels through our discout booking partner,
stayed at hotels in the mainland district of
Mestre, between Marco Polo Airport
and the cluster of 100 small offshore islands that form Venice's historic
reach the city, they had to take a train, bus, or taxi across the causeway that
runs 4 km (2.5 miles) from the Italian mainland. (See Google's
satellite photo of the Lagoon for a quick geography lesson.)
Why did so many readers choose to stay in outside of
Venice when they could have slept in one of the world's most beautiful cities?
In some cases, they might have been trying to save money
on a hotel room, but we're guessing that most of those travelers chose the
mainland simply because they were arriving in Venice by car. We can understand
their reasoning, but in their quest for free or cheap parking, they were missing
out on a unique travel experience. Here's why:
The best time to be in Venice (at least during high season)
is late in the day, after the hordes of day-trippers have gone home, or in
the early morning before new busloads of package tourists have arrived. The
city can be magical during its quieter hours--and because it's one of the
safest cities in Europe, you can wander the sleepy back streets and squares
at night without fear of being mugged.
If you do choose to stay on the mainland, be sure to pick a
hotel that allows quick commuting to Venice and isn't on an isolated stretch of
highway on the edge of town. On our
Mestre hotels page, we
describe several hotels that are right across the street from the
Mestre Railroad Station,
where frequent trains from
Mestre to Venice reach the city center in only 10 to 12 minutes.
Commuting from other locations
Three locations near the historic center are worth considering
(especially for leisurely visits during the hot and crowded summer months) as
long as you understand that you'll need to reach the sights by boat:
Lido di Venezia (a.k.a. "The Lido") is a
long, narrow strip of land that separates the Venetian Lagoon from the
Adriatic Sea. In the summer, it's popular with Italian families who come for
beach vacations, and it's only a few minutes away from the city by
vaporetto. Cars are allowed on the Lido,
which is accessible by ferry from
Giudecca is a car-free island across the Giudecca Canal from Venice's
main sights. Giudecca used to be a working-class district, but it's been
gentrified in the last few decades. The island is popular with backpackers
(who sleep in the Venice Hostel), the rich
(who stay at the Hotel Cipriani or as house
guests at Elton John's palazzo), and conventioneers (who meet in
the Molino Stucky Hilton, a 389-room hotel in a converted 19th Century flour
mill and cookie factory). Hotel shuttle boats and public water buses connect
Giudecca to the city center.
San Clemente Palace is an upscale
hotel on a 17-acre or 7-hectare private island, complete with a 12th Century
church, that was a mental asylum and a cat refuge in earlier decades. Free
hotel boats offer frequent service to the Piazza San Marco area.
Mistake #4: Following the crowd
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