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Top 11 Tourist Mistakes in Venice, Italy
(and how to avoid them)



Ponte della Liberta

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, Venere, 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 center.

Train on Venice railroad bridgeTo 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 beachThe 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 Tronchetto.

  • Molino Stucky HiltonLa 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.

  • Island of San ClementeThe 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.

Next page: Mistake #4: Following the crowd