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

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tour boat on Giudecca Canal

ABOVE: A tour boat on the Giudecca Canal. TOP INSET BELOW: Unless you're Johnny Depp, why would you want to cruise around Venice in a pirate ship?

Mistake #6: Taking unnecessary tours

Pirate ship in Giudecca CanalToo many tourists arrive in Venice, climb into a sightseeing boat, and cruise along the city's waterfront while a guide with a microphone tells them what they're seeing:

"On your left is the Ca' Bigoli, built in Venetian Gothic style by a 12th Century pasta trader who later became a doge. The interior, which you can't see because you're 50 meters away in a boat, was later redecorated with paintings by a student of Tintoretto..."

(Are you bored by our fictitious example? Think of how bored you'd be if you were in the boat, and how annoyed you'd feel after paying 40 or 50 euros for the equivalent of a narrated vaporetto ride.)

Our advice: Venice is a compact city that any reasonably healthy person can easily explore alone on foot. There's little reason to spend money on tours unless:

  • You have mobility problems;

  • You're pressed for time; or...

  • You enjoy learning cultural and historic tidbits during a private or semi-private walking tour with an expert guide like our friends at Walks Inside Venice.

If you're willing to explore Venice on your own, start by purchasing a good street map of Venice (such as the Touring Club of Italy's 1:5000 series) and a sightseeing-oriented guidebook. Then start walking.

Here are some ideas for do-it-yourself tours using public transportation:

  • No. 1 vaporetto rideRide up the Grand Canal on the No. 1 vaporetto. Sit up front if the boat has as open bow; otherwise, grab a seat in the stern, behind the enclosed cabin.

    To avoid crowds, catch the No. 1 vaporetto at the Piazzale Roma in the evening, when day-trippers are on their way home, and ride toward the Piazza San Marco. Stay on the boat until the San Zaccaria stop, or even a few stops beyond if you'd like to enjoy a pleasant walk along the waterfront. (Don't go any farther than S. Elena unless you plan to buy a return ticket at the Lido and ride back toward your starting point.)

  • Visit the major islands of the Lagoon by public transportation, following the itinerary in our self-guided islands tour.

  • traghettoRide a traghetto, or gondola ferry, across the Grand Canal. The trip is quick, but it costs almost nothing, and it's the best transportation deal in Venice. (Traghetti cross the canal at half a dozen points, and the routes are marked on most good maps.)

Suggestions for escorted tours

Ca' Foscari tourIf you do feel the need or desire for an escorted tour, see our Venice Tours, Transfers, and Day Trips page, which lists companies and individual guides.

Next page: Mistake #7: Overpacking

Top 11 Tourist Mistakes in Venice, Italy:
1. Hit-and-run visits
2. Staying in the wrong location
3. Commuting from the mainland
4. Following the crowd
5. Paying too much for transportation
6. Taking unnecessary tours
7. Overpacking
8. Buying useless souvenirs
9. Being careless with valuables
10. Annoying the locals
11. Not coming back