How To Have A Romantic Time In Venice On A Budget
The Debrief: Get loved up in Italy without bankrupting yourself
Venice isn’t synonymous with cheap travel, but it is a dreamy holiday destination for couples.
Somehow I managed to combine the two and have three picture-perfect days in the famous Italian city with my boyfriend without breaking the bank or breaking up – not easy in one of the most tourist-laden places in the world.
Here’s how you can recreate that Venetian charm can be for fewer Euros than you might think.
Every romantic image of Venice in film and popular culture features a slow, soporific boat-ride through green canals courtesy of a friendly man called Luigi. When I caught sight of people living the gondola-dream during my three-day break, I was filled with a raging holiday-envy – until I realised Luigi and co. charge A LOT for an hour on a beautiful love-shaped boat. Upwards of €80 in fact. And that’s just for a 30-minute ride.
Fake it till you make with a trip on a Traghetto – the €5 gondola-esque boat which takes you from one side of the Grand Canal to the other and which will fulfil your gondola fantasy if you don’t mind the brief and (shared) trip with the locals. If you want to travel in a boat for more than a few minutes, buy the Vaportetto pass from the tourist information point (five minutes from the main station, Santa Lucia) €7 for 60mins on multiple boats, €20 for a 24hrs or €38 for 48hrs.
Nothing screams romance louder than your own private caravan spot at PLUS Camping Jolly, located in Maghera, 10km from the city centre. We secured our very own love-shack, equipped with double bed and seating area on a serene campsite with swimming pools, restaurant, bar (with decent cocktails) and laundry service. Private rooms start at around €54 for two but if you’re into star gazing, a tent for two starts at just under €40 in August.
Transport to the centre of Venice is via the campsite shuttle-bus for an additional cost of €5 a day and you can even play ping-pong or football in the sports facilities if you’re one of those active couples (we didn’t fall into this bracket).
Eating on the cheap is easy if you know where not to go. Generally, any restaurant with menus written in several languages displaying garish photos out-front is a no-no. Same goes for flashy places within a 0.2 mile radius of St Mark’s Square – the closer you are to the tourist centre, the worse the food.
The best tip I picked up was to eat somewhere great at lunch because restaurants often have a set menu for a fraction of the price and are far less crowded. Just 20 minutes from St Mark’s Square is the more residential neighbourhood of Canneregio where we stumbled across Osteria Al Bacco – an amazing local haunt with a set menu at lunch for just €13 each. Feast on delicious Italian staples such as spaghetti alla puttanesca and lasagne al forno, served with salad and local fish.
Drinking like a local
Walking around all day in Venice is thirsty work but casual snacking and drinking adds up. Stock up on bottles of Bellini (a pink, Prosecco-based Italian cocktail) from mini-supermarkets and enjoy it by the canals, or pick up a Spritz cocktail (the refreshing drink that the locals favour) in a cheaper area like Campo Santa Margherita for around €3 a pop. If it’s coffee and cake you’re after, head to the street food area in Campo dei Frari for a calzone on the go (around €2) or iced coffee and cake from the Bottega del Caffè Dersut. Just be aware that many cafés in Venice will charge you extra to sit down so if you see locals sipping espressos by the bar, do the same!
Other tourist stuff
It’s worth sucking up the roaming charges and getting Google Maps as not everything is labelled on the free tourist maps. But if you want to find some quaint spots, turn it off and enjoy getting really, really lost. We found some beautiful bridges and (almost) silent streets around Calle del Modena. For the main attractions, head to St Mark’s Square where you can pay for entry to Saint Mark’s Basilica (around €20 if you want to skip the queue) or check out the gothic Doge’s Palace next door for an eye-watering €46 for entry per person.
If you’re cash strapped like we were then get your photos outside the buildings instead and take a stroll to the Rialto Bridge, the most famous of the four Venetian bridges spanning the Grand Canal and check out Venice Connected to pre-book discount entry ticket to the biggest attractions and public toilets (seriously) if you want to go hard on the culture.
Like this? Then you might also be interested in:
Follow Georgina on Twitter: @georginalawton
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating