These tips about visiting Italy are for people who do not know Italy well. They are intentionally NOT guidebook-type facts (currency, electricity, etc.). Not specific to Venice, these cultural tidbits should provide an “insider’s view” and offer some useful info that might not be in other sources.
I have separated sentences into bullets to make reading this easier – forget grammar for now!
Before we get started – I’d like to share just one Italian phrase that can come in handy if you should need some assistance. Don’t worry about your pronunciation – Italian is a phonetic language – you pronounce every letter – say it like you see it — except for “H” which is silent:
POTREBBE AIUTARMI PER FAVORE – HO UN PROBLEMA.
(Can you help me please – I have a problem).
(Phonetic Transcription: pohtraybay eyeootahrmee – oh oon prohblaymah)
Emergencies– Medical/Stolen Documents
- You can consult the link for Emergency situations:
- The phone number gives an option for stolen passports – so don’t worry if it happens – they can help immediately. TEL: 041 541 5944
- No need to dial +39 when in Italy.
Water Public Transportation
- Private water taxis can be called by your hotel – but they are extremely expensive – so ask the “prezzo” (price) before you call. Private water taxis need to be arranged for. You cannot just find one.
- VeneziaUnica transportation pass: Hopefully, you have bought a VeneziaUnica transportation pass for 7 days – the timeframe starts from your validation. You need to validate it each time you take a Vaporetto (boats that function like a train or bus). See info below.
- Daytime Vaporetto: Lines are long and information is not super clear regarding Vaporetto. Please make sure you are going in the right direction BEFORE you get on the boat. Look for the map with an arrow in the direction of the Stops. Just like regular subway-type maps in any city. BEFORE you get on the boat yell the name of your stop audibly to the employee that is docking the boat to make sure it is the right boat. A mistake could cost you dearly in terms of time – unlike any other city in the world – you cannot just hail a Taxi if you decide to splurge!
- Venice transportation website: Consult this link for all transportation needs in Venice (land and water) – http://actv.avmspa.it/en/content/orari-servizio-di-navigazione-0. The times listed currently on the website are good for May. “N.3” goes to Murano from the Train Station. If you want to go to Murano from Venice go to Fondamento Nove and take “N.4.2” to the Murano stop.
- Late Night Vaporetto: After dinner, you need to consult the NMU timetable on the link. These are the Nocturnal Vaporetto that have different night hours. Just make sure you say Murano BEFORE you get on the boat to make sure it’s going there.
Call Center – 041 2424
This Call Center is for all information pertaining to your transportation and museum passes (VeneziaUnica card) – if the website you see is in Italian – you can change the language in the upper-right-hand corner Venezia Unica website: https://www.veneziaunica.it/en
Call center is for all your Venice and Murano questions with English-speaking staff
Ask to talk to Signora Letizia at 041 2424 – my favorite. But the entire office is great!
VeneziaUnica Day/Week Passes
- Venezia Unica Pass is the best buy! You can find all this info on the website link above.
- You should know that Venice is one of the top 5 most expensive cities in Europe – especially for the transportation! So regardless of how long you are staying, the best buy for the money is the Venezia Unica Pass for 7 days for 60 euro (without transport from the airport) and 72 euro with airport transportation.
- Validate your Venezia Unica Pass! BEFORE you board remember to validate the pass in the little machine at each boat dock.
- Skip the museum lines: If you buy these passes online with the museum option – you will be able to skip the lines which is absolutely necessary in May. There is NO SKIP LINE option if you buy these passes once you arrive. So buy them online!
- Simple Pass: If you do not plan on going to any museums, buy the simple pass.
- Museum passes: They often do NOT TELL the following:
- You need to convert the voucher you get via email IN VENICE. You can do it in the train station or airport or at any booth around town with the VeneziaUnica Red Sign.
- Museum voucher with the bar code: If you bought the Pass with Museum Option the Museum Voucher is separate from the Transportation Voucher. It has a bar code – which you must retain to SHOW at the museum to skip the lines. If you lose it – you have no way of getting a replacement.
Traveling on water
- On “non-GAS Conference days”, remember that you are in a city on water.
- After breakfast, think about needs that might arise later in the day. Visitors to Venice often forget that forgetting something at the hotel (like a sweater/jacket for the evening) is not a simple matter.
- Going back to to get something often involves going by boat! It takes time...and the lines alone can make it an arduous task.
Asking for information
- Patience is a virtue... Daily tourists in Venice outnumber the residents!
- YES – residents need tourism. BUT, Venice and the island of Murano have been over-run by mass tourism for decades and local merchants are not happy about it.
- So, if you get a lot of shrugged shoulders and meet few helpful people – just move on. Ask the next shop owner or person in front of you. Eventually, you will find a generous soul.
- No bare shoulders in churches: Your standard guidebooks tell you this. But, just thought I would remind you. Women must cover their shoulders with a shawl. Mini-mini-skirts and shorts can cause problems too. It’s up to the discretion of the guards (some churches have changed this rule).
- Sightseeing & Lines: Italy has “overtourism” in the summer – too many people are sightseeing in mid day. So, to ensure a positive experience try to visit famous squares, fountains, and monuments very early in the morning or after dinner.
- Cash/Credit Cards: Cash is the preferred payment for most shops and restaurants. Check before you presume you can use credit card even in fancy places. AmEx and Diners are rarely accepted throughout Italy. Visa is your best bet. Be sure your bank has no cash advance charges for overseas. If they do, a Debit Card is better. Be sure to bring some Euro with you because automatic cash machines are not easy to find in Venice and harder on Murano (read article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/seanmcquay/2017/04/06/dont-travel-abroad-with-just-a-credit-card/#66047c7c664f)
- Petty Theft: Even well-traveled adults need to know that Italy’s high tourist season favors the most expert pick-pockets – so do not keep wallets in back pockets and keep purses and back-packs IN FRONT OF YOU AT ALL TIMES...Many vacations have been ruined for not following this simple rule. Keep the address of the American Embassy in your wallet, just in case you lose your passport or documents are stolen.
- Air Conditioning: Of course in hotels you will have it. It is rarely used elsewhere. Electricity costs are much higher than in the U.S. Best bet – dress very lightly but bring a sweater or jacket.
- Taxi: Italy is not an easy country for taxis and there is NO UBER. Taxis are not allowed to roam freely – they are parked at TAXI STANDS, which are often near major monuments. So, look up taxi phone numbers over the internet for the big cities and save them on your cell phone. In the summer, the line can be busy for hours. Sometimes a nice restaurant owner will call you a taxi. FARES: in the bigger cities taxis are very costly because you pay BOTH ways – the trip the car makes (empty) coming to get you AND the trip to your destination! This is not a joke.
- Shopping Hours: With the exception of grocery stores, most shops close at 1:00 (some at 1:30) and reopen at 4pm. This is because Italians really value good old “down-time”. Many go home for lunch. Fast-food has never been popular in Italy – thankfully!
- Public Bathrooms: Due to too many tourists, many establishments place an “out of order” sign on their bathroom. The bathroom situation (scarcity) is one of the biggest problems for travelers in Italy. Also, be sure to bring Kleenex with you at all times. Toilet seats as we know them are reserved for hotels and luxury restaurants. You will see what I mean.
- Cultural Note: Italians really care about how you experience “their” food. So, do not get offended if they tell you how to order something or how to eat it. If you ask for cheese (Americans love to put grated cheese on everything), don’t be surprised if your waiter says: “No – that dish is not good with cheese!”.
- Store hours: Italy uses Military Time – 13:00 – 24:00 for afternoon hours. Just like clothes stores, boutiques and shops of all kinds being closed from 1– 4:00 so families can eat lunch together during the week – Sundays are for family time too. Start asking around on Saturday who is open on Sunday because many places are closed.
- Bar: If you have been to Italy you know this term refers to coffee shop and not a place for alcoholic drinks. BUT you can also get wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks at these coffee bars. Often, you must PAY FIRST and then you bring your cash-register receipt to the bar and place your order. Tipping not necessary, but a small coin on top of the receipt will be appreciated.
- Quick breakfasts and lunches are usually eaten standing up, rather than in a sit-down restaurant. Space is at a premium so if you want to sit down anywhere, there will be a price- tag attached to this luxury.
- Lunch Hours: Be sure to grab something to eat between 1:00 and 3:00 pm. Finding snacks or lunch after these hours might be difficult because in high-season everything sells out quickly. Restaurants will be open – but they will be packed in the summer – so try to get there very early and start with appetizers at 12:00 pm just to get the table. Kitchens do not remain open after these lunch hours because there is down-time before reopening for dinner.
- Dinner Hours: Dinner starts late – 7:30-8:00 pm is early and 8:30 pm is perfect. But don’t go too late since finding a kitchen open after 10:00 pm might be challenging.
- Reservations: Italy is changing and some places might reserve a table for you. So, if you have a favorite – it pays to ask. (NOTE: this language tip is very confusing: Posso prenotare - prenotare means reserve – pranzo/lunch- you can say dinner.)
- Splitting Dishes in Restaurants: You do not have to dine the Italian way - antipasto (appetizers), first (pasta), second (fish/meat, contorno (side-dish), etc. You can order either a first dish or a second. However, it is appreciated if each person at the table orders at least one dish (seems fair – places are small and you can sit for hours).
- Relax. Restaurants are small and tables are few, BUT they want you to sit and relax and enjoy yourself for a long time after eating. Treat yourself. There is no better country in the world to enjoy such excellent wine at such low prices. It is really unbelievable!
- Tipping: Guide books vary on this info. Take my advice – I am a native. Italians rarely tip waiters/waitresses or taxi drivers. Taxi drivers will not get angry (like in the USA) if you don’t tip. Restaurant staff are not used to tips – so instead of calculating 15-20 % of your bill, know that tips of any amount are always greatly appreciated: waiters do get salaries and sick days, but salaries throughout Italy are very, very, very low.
- Asking for the bill: You have NOT been forgotten or ignored!!! If your waitperson does not bring you the bill long after you have finished your meal, you need to ask for it (il conto per favore). If you don’t ask, they will not bring it! Really! It is considered rude to bring the bill, as if you are rushing someone to pay and leave. This is one of my favorite Italian customs. You might have noticed – Italians take eating very seriously and they respect your right to enjoy it to the fullest.
- English: In the big cities, most people working with the public understand a little and speak a little – but speak very slowly and be patient. Italy is mono-cultural and mono-lingual for the most part. With the exception of the last few years of mass immigration, most Italian kids have grown up with only Italian kids and there is not a lot of contact with different cultures, customs, and languages. In the small towns and villages, younger people might speak English, but the older, local citizens probably will not.
- Italian is a phonetic language – you say it like you see it. So jump in there and give it a try. Italians are very, very happy to have you trying their language – unlike another European country that I will not mention here to be politically correct.
- Television: if you are not staying in a major hotel television is rarely in English. There might be CNN at best, but I would not count on it.
These are some of my favorite links.
- For Transport from Marco Polo Airport:https://www.motoscafivenezia.it/
- Europe for Visitors: The GAS website link for Venice is also my favorite: https://www.europeforvisitors.com/venice/articles/murano_transportation.htm
- Lonely Planet website:
- Divertimento Group: If you would like to receive more Italian travel information, sign up for our newsletter!
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