Five Amazing ways To Avoid The Crowds In Venice

Grand Canal Venice

Venice is easily the most unique city on earth. Beautiful beyond belief, it is dreamy, romantic, and unfortunately often full of tourists. The bad news is when the cruise ships are in port they literally dump thousands of tourists into the city center. The good news is few of them venture beyond the stretch from the Rialto Bridge to the bridge of Sighs.

That means 95% of the city is wide open for you to explore, experience and fall in love with.

Supposedly the bigger ships will no longer be allowed in the lagoon, but the cruise industry has been able to snake their way around this for years, so I’ll believe it when I see it. In the meantime let’s look at 5 things that ensure you get an amazing Venetian experience, while avoiding the fanny-packed crowd.

1. Wander In Castello

Castello is the largest of the 6 neighborhoods or sestieri and delightfully, one the cruise ship crowd don’t seem to know about.

Castello, Venice

Technically the neighborhood begins when you cross the bridge at the Doge’s Palace. (Ponte della Paglia) The first couple of blocks still get the big tourist crowds, but from then until the uppermost edge of the lagoon you can see a much lesser traveled part of the city.

Castello is absolutely beautiful, and gives you a chance to experience a more low key, casual side of Venice. The neighborhood or sestiere is full of wonderful bars and restaurants, calli with houses that are hundreds of years old, and waterways with gondolas gliding by. You can find the Arsenale at its upper tip, and the beautiful city hospital building along the fundament nove. Between them there are loads of lesser visited sites, museums, churches filled with sensational art and picturesque little campi or city squares. 

Castello

From the fondamente nove at the upper edge you can take the vaporetto across to Murano and Burano. 

It is easy to spend an entire day wandering and exploring this neighborhood, and it will make you fall in love with Venice.

RELATED POST: 10 Fabulous Books Set In Venice

2. Pop Over To Isola San Giorgio

image of Isola San Giorgio via Venice-tourism.com

Just 3 minutes by vaporetto from the Doges Palace, the little island of San Giorgio affords you the very best views of the Doge’s Palace and Venice. The view from the campanile (bell tower) is without equal. Better still, not that many people come over here. There is loads to see on San Giorgio and it makes a wonderful pitstop on the way to the next place on the list:

3. Lunch On Giudecca

On Giudecca looking across to Dorsoduro

Giudecca feels like a world away from the crowds in Venice, but is only 3 minutes by vaporetto from Isola San Giorgio. Exit the vaporetto at the first stop then wander the length of the fondamenta, stopping at one of the fabulous eateries along the Giudecca Canal. Giudecca island is directly opposite Dorsoduro, so you look across the canal to another gorgeous part of Venice. This is the perfect view to enjoy with a chilled out vibe, some incredible seafood and a glass of frulane. Or a caffe macchiato with a view!

Coffee on Giudecca with a view

Giudecca is a really artsy island, so at a leisurely pace you can enjoy a photo exhibition, and artists’ retreat with showrooms inside a medieval cloister (to die for) as well as one of the few remaining gondola workshops in Venice. Giudecca is best enjoyed with no set agenda, just wander and take loads of photos.

Two of Venice’s most spectacular bars are here on the island, the Skyline Bar with its incredible views over Venice, and the Cipriani, the place to be for a madly chic early evening drink.

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4. Have An Aperitivo Along The Zattere

Directly opposite Giudecca, across the Giudecca Canal is the waterside promenade called the Zattere. Lined with bars and restaurants, the Zattere is a gorgeous place for a late afternoon aperitivo. (Or to eat at any time of day or night.)

Select spritz at Nico’s on the Zattere, looking across to Giudecca

Wherever I am in Italy I always make sure I am somewhere beautiful for aperitivo hour, that fabulous time at the end of the afternoon when Italians meet for a pre dinner drink. I make sure I have an aperitivo on the Zattere every time I’m in Venice. Again you are away from the crowds, it’s mellow and beautiful, and you have a wonderful view across the canal to the Redentore church and the length of Giudecca.

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5. Eat Cicchetti Away From The Crowds

Cicchetti at Vino Vero in Cannaregio

Pronounced chi-kett-ee, these Venetian finger foods are paired with un Ombra, a shadow of wine, and are enjoyed normally standing at a bacaro, or little wine bar. Perfect for aperitivo hour they are also available all day, and make a tremendous snack, or even a light lunch.

Most bacari change out their Cicchetti menu throughout the day, so there is an endless assortment of food options, all of them are just fantastic. Drop by the same bacaro a couple of hours later and you’ll often find all new options behind the glass case.

No trip to Venice is complete without eating Cicchetti. Avoid the highly touristed areas, and find little neighborhood bars full of Venetians and authentic, delicious finger foods. You will find authentic, non-touristy bacari all over Venice. Just look where the crowds are and head a block or two away in any direction. If completely lost (which happens in Venice all the time) just ask any Venetian on the street, in a shop, or even a gondolier walking by, where you can get some great cicchetti without the tourists and they’ll point you in the right direction!

6 Important Things To Consider When Planning Travel To Europe This Year

Are you planning a trip to Europe this year? Or maybe thinking about traveling to Europe (or anywhere)?

2022 looks like it’s going to be a huge year for international travel, and I awill be traveling a lot myself. There have been many uncertainties regarding international travel during the coronavirus pandemic, and plenty of intrepid travelers have lost money or run into problems with their international travel plans, so today I want to go over six things you need to prepare yourself for international travel in 2022.

1. What Is The Cancellation Policy?

There are a couple of things you need to do before you commit to putting down any deposits or buying any tickets. The first is to find out what this hotel/vacation rental/airline/event location’s cancellation policy is. Don’t commit to anything that doesn’t offer a full refund if there is a covid related cancellation.

Do Not accept a credit or a voucher. Only take a full refund. So many people were issued worthless vouchers or credits for travel that was cancelled in 2020, and are now finding that those credits or vouchers are worthless or have expired.

2. Choose Your Credit Card Wisely

image via SmarterTravel.com

The second thing to do before putting down any deposits or booking any flights is to find out what your credit card’s cancellation and refund policy is. If the tickets you booked for an event or the deposit you put down on an apartment were purchased with a credit card you might be able to have that card reverse the charges, especially if it is a travel card. There are several great credit cards for travel that don’t charge international transaction fees and that are more likely to help you get charges reversed. You can check out a list of the best credit cards for international travel, and their specific perks and fees here

Be careful using the credit card from the airline you are flying without checking the refund policy first. Their first loyalty will be to the airline, not to you. Weigh out the pros vs the cons on this one. The benefits of buying your flights with this card such as priority boarding, free checked bags and the miles you earn, may outweigh the risk of not getting a financial refund if the trip gets cancelled. (Also this may be offset by travel insurance)

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3. Pack A Mini Medical Kit

I learned this one the hard way, albeit thankfully not with covid.

Pack over the counter medical supplies to take should you contract covid while you are away. Yes, everywhere has pharmacies, but you may not be able to access them when you need. There may not be 24 hour pharmacies close to where you are staying (or in that city at all) and even when you do find open pharmacies you won’t necessarily find the medicines that work for you at home.

For example, I know that if I come down with a cold/flu/upper respiratory infection or any of those types of ailments at home I can treat them with DayQuil, NyQuil, Mucinex, Advil Cold and Sinus or any of a multitude of over the counter medicines available everywhere here in the U.S.

Travel Medical Kit, see here on Amazon

I have never seen any of those medications in Italy, France and Spain (the main places I travel to in Europe.) That doesn’t mean they don’t exist there or that there isn’t a local equivalent, but it pays to have what works for you with you. It can be really tricky trying to explain to a pharmacist in a foreign language what it is you are looking for, and more tricky trying to read the back of the box in a foreign language when you are sick.

I travel with the following items, linked here on Amazon: liquid capsules of DayQuil and NyQuil, Mucinex in capsule/tablet form, Motrin or Advil, normally in liquigel form, along with Zinc and also Liposomal Vitamin C. I take Zinc and Lipsomal Vitamin C every day when I’m traveling anyway, regardless of whether I’m feeling sick or healthy. And of course, the one time I did get sick while traveling was the one time I didn’t bother bringing any of my normal supplies with me. I was so annoyed with myself and have never made that mistake since! (I also have never fallen sick while traveling since.)

Your best bet is to consider what you would take if you were sick at home, and take those items with you, albeit in capsule form, not bottles. You can almost guarantee that if you bring a ziplock bag with your medical supplies you will never need them, and end up annoyed that you dragged them around with you, which in all honesty is the ideal outcome!

Last year I also brought a travel thermometer (that is still in its original packaging – I never needed to open it) and one of my travelers packed a little oxygen meter/pulse oximeter, that also never was unpackaged. It might feel like overkill now, but should you get sick while you’re away, or heaven forbid get covid, you’ll be glad to have both, even if just to show yourself you’re doing ok.

All of these items can pack down into a ziplock bag, and take up no space in your suitcase.

RELATED POST: WHAT TO PACK FOR ITALY, ESSENTIAL ITEMS FOR A PERFECT TRAVEL WARDROBE

4. KN95 Masks

On the Italo train to Salerno, October 2021

Masks are probably going to be a thing for a while yet. Where I live in the U.S no one wears a mask, but in Italy while I was there in 2021 they were required indoors, everywhere. Be it on a train, in a shop, in a museum – anytime you went indoors you were required to wear a mask.

International flights required masks to be worn at all times too, and many airlines only accepted surgical masks and N95/KN95 masks. When I was in Italy in June of 2021 masks were required at all times both indoors and outdoors.

Venice, June 2021

I advise my Glam Italia Tour travelers not to plan on wearing fabric masks in case they are not accepted. Also with the (current) Omicron variant doctors are saying fabric masks don’t provide sufficient protection. As surges spike masks go out of stock or have long wait times for delivery, so I order mine well ahead of time. While traveling in 2021 for three months total, I wore these masks and these masks. What I found most helpful with the KN95s was the nose clip stopped my glasses from fogging up, and the extra pouch in front of the mouth and nose stopped me from breathing the mask in, which tend to be the two things that drive me crazy with masks.

5. Buy Travel Insurance With Covid Cover

This is the most important thing on the list.

You should be buying travel insurance for all international trips anyway, to cover you for lost baggage, interrupted flights and most importantly major medical. Should you have something massive go wrong, such as a heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, break your leg, get in a bad car crash – any of the multitude of things that could potentially go wrong, you need a good comprehensive medical insurance cover. In regular times the big thing to look for with the medical portion of travel insurance is how much cover they provide to repatriate you if you are unable to fly home alone. For example if you had a bad stroke and were incapable of navigating an international airport alone, the insurance would provide a nurse to travel home with you.

Don’t buy the insurance the airline offers – that protects the airline first, not you.

Not all travel insurance policies have covid cover. Here is Forbes Magazine’s Top 10 Travel Insurance Policies With Covid Cover.

The things to look for with covid cover are as follows:

  • Does it cover you if the country closes to international travel?
  • Does it cover you if you test positive and are unable to fly?
  • Does it cover you for hospital treatment should you contract covid while overseas?
  • Does it provide quarantine coverage should you test positive while away and not be allowed to fly home?

At this time you are required to provide proof of a negative test before being allowed to board a flight to the U.S, as well as most other home countries. Should you test positive you will be required to stay in the country you have traveled to until you test negative. This can mean at best days, at worst weeks, of paying for accommodation or guarded quarantine (depending on which country you are in) until you test negative. This can run into thousands of dollars. You will also need food and drink during this time, and chances are you may not have budgeted for it.

RELATED POST: 15 Fabulous Books Set In Italy

6. What Is Your Vaccination Status?

Most countries will no longer allow entry to unvaccinated travelers. Before traveling make sure you know what your destination country considers fully vaccinated.

  • Do they mean 2 shots of an approved vaccine? (Different countries acknowledge different vaccines)
  • Do they require you to have had a booster shot?
  • Is there a time frame for when you have to have your most recent shot? One of my tour guides in Rome had a group turned away from the Vatican because although fully vaccinated (2 shots) their 2nd shot was more than 9 months prior. They were able to get a rapid test at a nearby pharmacy and come back an hour later, but it would have been good to know ahead of time.

In all likelihood covid will be around for a while. At the time of writing this Omicron is the variant du jour, but you can guarantee there will be more variants coming down the line. No doubt some will be mild and others will be bad. As such each country’s regulations and requirements regarding covid, testing, and vaccinations will keep changing and evolving. Personally I think this will just be part of travel from here on out. I wouldn’t cancel travel plans, or stop traveling until you think there might be a time of no masks or no covid. Instead, be prepared, get good insurance, and explore small group travel options instead of mass tourism travel.

New Untold Italy Podcast Episode!

I was super excited to be the guest for the December 31st episode of the Untold Italy Podcast. (Episode #104)

In this episode I talk about how I craft experiences for my travelers on my Glam Italia Tours and also for myself when I am traveling. By making a few tiny adjustments you can turn a good experience into a once in a lifetime, absolutely amazing experience, and in this episode I tell you exactly how I do it. It’s fabulous! I hope you will give it a listen!

5 Fabulous Italian Museums With Free Virtual Tours

Whether your summer travel plans have been postponed by the Coronavirus, your kids are home all day and need new entertainment, or maybe you just want to relive a trip from the past, you can get yourself a little taste of Italy by exploring the museums that offer virtual tours.

Italy has sensational museums, many of which get missed while tourists wait in long lines to visit the main attractions. Here is your chance to explore ancient Rome and Renaissance Florence from your laptop with a virtual tour. Four of these museums are written about in detail in my book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome, giving you specific things to look for and fascinating stories behind the people and pieces involved.

1. The Capitoline Museums

Capitoline Museum Rome, virtual tour

Perched on the hill overlooking the Roman Forum with a view along the Fori Imperiali to the Colosseum, the Capitoline Museum is one of the greatest museums in the world. With so many treasures from Ancient Rome to be discovered you can lose yourself here for hours, whether in the real world or the virtual one. There is a well laid out floor plan and it is easy to find your way around the virtual tour. Check it out here

2.Trajan’s Market

Across the street from the Capitoline Museum and the Roman Forum you can see another massive forum complex, Trajan’s Forum and Market. This one was designed by Apollodorus of Damascus, (the same guy who designed the Pantheon) and inaugurated in 112 A.D.

Trajan was the Emperor of Rome from 98 A.D until 117 A.D. The Empire’s most expansive growth happened during his rule.

At the end of his Forum stands the semi circular building of Trajan’s Market. This 170 room structure standing 35 meters above the level of the forum was actually used as offices and shops, nearly 2000 years ago! Part of the building is now the museum of Trajan’s Market and again, it is fantastic. You can take a virtual tour both of the museum and of the forum itself here.

Trajan’s Forum and Market are directly in front of one of my favorite places to visit in Rome, the Ancient Roman houses at Palazzo Valentini. This is an absolute must see when you are in Rome. You can read about it here.

3. The Ara Pacis

This is one of those fabulous secrets hiding in plain sight in the heart of Rome. Very few tourists seem to know about it, but once again it is one of my absolute favorites. Interestingly this is one of the few museums in the world dedicated to a single object, in this case a more than 2000 year old altar to peace.

The Ara Pacis in Rome. Augustus's altar to peace
The Ara Pacis in Rome

Augustus was the first Emperor of Rome. After centuries of war with other countries and decades of civil war at home he eventually brought peace to Rome. To celebrate this peace in 13 B.C. he built this huge marble altar. I wrote about it here and at length in Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome. The altar originally stood in the Campus Martius, but when the Tiber River was expanded a few centuries later the Ara Pacis became submerged under 4 meters of mud, disappearing for 1000 years.

Now restored to much of its old glory and housed inside a modern Richard Meier building full of natural light, it is a pretty incredible museum to visit. Part of what makes the altar so amazing is the carvings that cover the marble walls around it. Again they are detailed in my book, but you can still enjoy meandering around inside the museum looking at thm with the virtual tour, here.

4.The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums virtual tour
The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums house some of the greatest collections (of pretty much everything) in the world. Unless you are in Rome in the off season it is impossible to see much in the museums, and in all honesty you really need multiple days there. But lucky for us the Vatican has created some wonderful videos of the most famous rooms across the various wings of the complex. You can spend ages wandering through the virtual tour here. Even if you have been to the Vatican Museums before you will really enjoy this!

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

5. The Uffizi

Uffizi Gallery Florence Virtual Tour
The Uffizi in Florence

Just a quick train ride from Rome or a mere mouse-click on your laptop and you are in Florence, the heart of the Italian Renaissance and home to the best collection of Renaissance Art anywhere in the world. Florence has a tremendous virtual museum offering through a website called Hyper Visions. It takes you though the different artworks in a variety of ways. be sure to click into the Factories of Stories section (my favorite). While on the Hyper Visions site be sure to look at the Pitti Palace section too. At this time the Vasari Corridor section isn’t showing the artworks inside, but do click around on it as well as the Boboli Gardens section.

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