12 Things You Should Not Do in Venice, Italy

Traveling with Alice

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Venice is one of the most famous and visited cities in the world.

Every year millions of worldwide tourists reach Venice to see its art masterpieces, take a gondola ride, and buy expensive souvenirs.

There are some things we don’t like, as locals, for tourists to do, and some highly recommend you avoid for the sake of your health and wallet.

1. Don’t swim in the canals

I know it’s hot in Italy during the summer, I hate August in Veneto where the humidity rate is around 70%.

Jumping into a canal to take a refreshing bath is one of the worse ideas you can ever have for these two reasons:

  • all the dirt from the building sewer ends in the channel, the water isn’t clean, and you risk to get an unpleasant disease
  • it’s forbidden and, if the police catch you, you must pay a 350€ fee

2. Do not consume food sitting on the ground

I know, I know, restaurants are expensive. Grab your takeaway food and find a bench in a “campo” (square), or a lovely green area like the Giardini di Sant’Elena.

The ground can be filthy, and eating on the floor is also forbidden by law.

While having a picnic, don’t feed the pigeons. It is prohibited as there are too many of them. They poop everywhere and carry nasty diseases.

A friend of mine used to have a shop in the city center and many tourists used to eat in front of her shop windows. It isn’t polite, and you are probably ruining a shop business.

Another tip for you: don’t eat in Saint Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). Even coffee is super expensive there, if you visit Venice on a budget, avoid bars and restaurants around that area.

3. Don’t buy fake merchandise

If you have ever been to Italy, you will probably be familiar with the “vu’ cumprà” (want to buy).

They are irregular vendors, usually foreigners, who put a cloth on the ground to display their merchandise or show you souvenirs while walking around.

Buying from them is illegal, in fact, when they see the police, they run away!

All the stuff they sell is fake; so, they ask for a lower price than shops.

Be careful when approaching them. These sellers are rarely alone, and they help each other in case of trouble, even by starting fights.

Instead, buy one original souvenir from an Italian artisanal shop. Ask for a certificate of authenticity that guarantees the origin and the material’s quality.

I love the paper mache masks, the gondola reproductions, and the fans. Some painters in Piazza San Marco can sell their paintings. See if one of them is allowed to do so and get yourself a unique piece.

4. Don’t say “Ciao bella” to women

Ciao is enough. Italian women know they are beautiful, and I personally find it annoying someone approaching me that way. I will look at him in the worst way possible, asking myself, “What the hell does this guy want from me now?”

I don’t understand why tourists do it all the time, thinking they are funny.

You can either say “Buongiorno” (Good day — formal) or “Ciao” (Hello — informal).

A friend of mine has a shop; he always says “Ciao bella” when he can’t remember a girl’s name.

5. Don’t spend your whole paycheck on a gondola ride!

There is a special gondola that can carry you across the channel for about 1 €.

It’s the gondola ferry. It is bigger than the classic and much more expensive gondola. It has stops along the Grand Canal called “Stazi” where you can wait for it to take you across the channel.

As it is bigger than the other gondola, it also has two “gondolieri” (gondoliers) instead of one.

6. Don’t buy a single ticket to the museum

You can either buy the VeneziaUnica City Pass or visit art galleries and museums on the first Sunday of the month as some are free.

The VeneziaUnica City Pass offers you the possibility to buy a single ticket to access many attractions, use local transportation, and get discounts to eat in some restaurants.

7. No bicycles or cars in Venice

Venice is a strict pedestrian city. You cannot use your bicycle around the city center. You can only carry it by hand from Piazzale Roma to the Santa Lucia train station.

What about cars? You can leave yours in Piazzale Roma, but it is quite expensive, better to get the train or the bus to Venice.

Believe me or not, I’ve seen some crazy pictures of cars inside a channel or around the calli (Venice’s streets). It was Google Maps’ fault, they said!

8. Don’t forget your boots when the “Acqua Alta” strikes!

The “Acqua alta” (high water) event happens between October and January, several times and for many consecutive days. The water rises and can reach 166cm above sea level.

You can literally walk around the city in the water, up to your chest!

The Venetians use some gang walks placed all around town to avoid wandering in the water.

Be careful when walking on the gang walks, they might be slippery!

If you are planning to visit Venice in Autumn and Winter, check the “Acqua alta” level before reaching town.

Don’t buy cheap boots at the market, either you buy a strong pair of boots or it might as well you ask for two trash plastic bags at the reception of the hotel.

9. Avoid public toilets

Pee every time you can! I’m not joking. Do it when you eat at the restaurant, when you stop for a quick coffee at the bar and even if you go shopping in a big store.

Public toilets in Venice costs 1,50 € or 1 €, more or less like an espresso o cappuccino.

I know they have to cover the maintenance and the cleaning expenses, but isn’t it too much?

10. Don’t walk between the two columns in S. Mark’s Square

Saint Mark’s and Saint Todaro’s columns have always been considered the main gate to the square. So why not enter the square walking between them?

It is a matter of a folk belief. During the eighteenth century, local death sentences used to take place right in that spot.

This is why, still today, no Venetian will ever walk between the two columns. The punishment to do so is eternal bad luck!

11. Don’t eat fast food.

Do the Bacaro tour instead! The tour starts before dinner, happy hour time, and consists of visiting different Bacaro, the typical Venetian tavern (osteria), for a glass of wine and some “Cicchetti” (appetizer).

The Bacari (plural) aren’t fancy places; they are rustic and full of old bottles of wine. You can get an “ombra de vin” (a glass of wine) for about 1.50 € followed by a few appetizers like meatball and crouton with salt cod.

Ask some local to point you the right Bacaro where to start, make sure to visit at least 3 or 4 taverns with your friends to have fun and meet some Italians chillin’ after work or lessons at the university.

Other local dishes you can eat in Venice are the “fegato alla veneziana” (Venetian style liver) cooked with butter, vinegar and onions; the “baccalà mantecato” (creamed cod) usually served on bread croutons and the “sarde in saor” (sardine with onions).

If you are a sweet lover, like me, you must try the apple fritter of Tonolo, the most famous patisserie in Venice located in Calle San Pantalon. A must-have when in town for the Mardi Gras.

12. Skip another visit to Saint Mark’s Cathedral and see these places instead!

Not your first time in Venice? Then skip the crowded Saint Mark’s Cathedral and visit these places!

  • Contarini del Bovolo staircase, hidden in the Sestiere San Marco, it is an astonishing example of gothic architecture. A spiral staircase of 80 steps of Istrian stone, 26 meters high, will take you to the roof for an extraordinary view over the city.
  • Libreria Acqua Alta, a must-visit place for book lovers! A library full of old volumes with a staircase made of books, a gondola inside the shop, and cats wandering around. If you are looking for something specific or unique, this is your place!
  • Mercato di Rialto, a perfect occasion for a day in the life of a Venetian! From Monday to Saturday from 7.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m., the local fruits and vegetable market takes place in the Campo de l’Erbaria. From Tuesday to Saturday, there is also a fish market under the Logge della Pescaria (a lodge/porch). The first market in Rialto took place in 1097, and on the walls close to the fish counter, you can still see the plate with the measurements required for fishes to be sold according to the Serenissima laws.

Conclusion

I don’t live in Venice city center. Still, every time I visit, I see hordes of tourists pretending to do whatever they want in one of the world’s most beautiful and delicate cities.

Keep these tips in mind next time you visit Venice, it is part of the UNESCO Heritage, but most importantly, it is for everyone to enjoy, live, and admire.

References:

Forbidden Behaviour in Venice guide

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