Doge’s Palace, Venice
Venice is perceived as expensive, and that turns many people off from going there. Like many other tourist destinations, it can be. Some things are outrageous such as the price of water taxis, and a gondola for one can set you back €85 for 30 minutes. If you go to a restaurant close to St Mark’s and order a glass of wine, two slices of pizza and a coke it can cost €19. But then if you are in Tokyo, London or New York you can end up paying a lot as well. By going further away from the main tourist areas, you can buy some things a bit more cheaply.
If you want a hotel on the Grand Canal, it will be expensive unless you go out of season. In October/November for example, prices can be 50% less. And that applies to the poshest of hotels like the Gritti Palace, the Danieli, and the Bauer. Apart from this, the main tourist areas are around St Marks and the Rialto. Here you will pay a higher amount and a good deal more if you want a Canal view. Prices around the station and P le Roma are a little cheaper. The are lots of private palazzos that have just a few rooms that are let out. Some are as pricey as hotels and others can be bargains. It will repay some research on them From the station you’ll find the Lista di Spagna which has at least a dozen hotels on it. This main walkway from the station to the Rialto has souvenir shops by the dozen, cafes and restaurants, ice cream sellers and hand-made paper shops. There are notices in some of the shops calling for support for Venetian made products. By and large, the souvenirs are the same price as in the pricier lanes off St Mark’s Square.
This time (the middle of July) we stayed closer to the Giudecca canal rather than the Grand Canal. The hotels are cheaper (just like they are on the Lido) but quieter as this is not so touristy. We were still only 10-15 minutes walk from the Rialto or the Guggenheim. And our 4-star hotel had a garden where we could breakfast. Our double room was less than £70 per night. By the Rialto, it would be double that.
The other place where there are cheaper hotels is in Mestre. This is on the Italian mainland and linked by the Ponte della Liberta to Venice. The first time I went to Venice in 1974, I stayed in a hotel here because I was told they were that much cheaper. Coupled with that is the fact that many hotels have swimming pools, gardens and more room to move about. If you have hired a car, you have the flexibility to travel around. The downside is that you either have to catch a bus (No.5) into the Piazzale Roma, drive and park or take a train. On the whole, I have managed to find hotels in Venice or on the Lido that are similarly priced albeit smaller.
The main supermarket is called Billa; there’s one on the Lido, one near St Basileo Vaporetto stop and others behind St Marks. They are open seven days a week until at least 8 pm. Here you can buy wine in a liter carton for just under €1 (but don’t buy it. It’s pretty much an acquired taste! Bottled wine at €3.49 is much more drinkable), beer for under one euro and water at three 1.5 liter bottles for about a euro. When you have drunk a bottle, top them up at any of the public taps that you’ll find scattered around, particularly in the squares. As for food, fruit and veg seem cheaper than in the UK with a kilo of peaches cost €1.69 and watermelon were €1 a kilo. UHT milk was €0.49 per liter, and dried pasta was €2.78 a kilo.
Eating at restaurants is a different thing. Don’t be surprised to see 12% service charge added to the bill. If there is a cover charge, don’t feel obliged to tip as well. And watch out for some restaurants near St Mark’s, the Rialto and the station. Some appear cheaper than others but have cover charges, tips added and a few still refuse credit cards, insisting on cash. A beer will cost you from €3.50, a soft drink €3 and a glass of wine, from €3.50. A Pizza can cost anywhere from about €8.50, the same for a standard pasta dish.
As for travel, that was covered in the article on “Getting Around Venice.” You can walk to most places in the main tourist areas other than Murano, the Lido and the smaller islands.
So to answer the question, is Venice expensive? It is, but then the center of London is expensive. Is it outrageously expensive? No, unless you stay in 5-star hotels and eat at the posher restaurants and take water taxis. It is quite possible to have a long weekend without breaking the bank and without running to the ATM’s every day. But if you are comparing costs with cheap Spanish or Turkish resorts, then it is pricey. But where else will you ever see anything like Venice?