After an unbelievable week in Venice, and suffering from the subsequent post-holiday blues, Maddie Dinnage shares her experience navigating one of the most notoriously expensive cities on a student budget.
Before you go:
- Do NOT Stay in Venice
It may be tempting to opt for accommodation in the heart of the floating city, but I’d recommend choosing a place to stay on the mainland if you’re trying to save money. We ended up staying in an airbnb in Mestre, which is conveniently connected to the island by road and rail across Liberty Bridge. You can take a short bus ride into the heart of Venice for less than €2, with public transport running frequently into the early hours. The nearest bus stop was only a two-minute walk away from our airbnb! Not only was staying on the mainland a fraction of the price, but I found that it gave us a perfect opportunity to see what the rest of Italy has to offer. We found ourselves wandering through the streets of Mestre, and ended up really enjoying the laid back atmosphere – a sharp contrast to the non-stop bustle of the island.
- Ditch the suitcase
I have never been one for packing light but I am slowly learning how to use my backpack space efficiently. I used to give into the temptation of bringing multiple outfit options before realising that I leave most of the clothes unworn. Bringing a small bag is not only a lot less stress, it can also cut the cost of your flight in half. I packed myself a few basic wardrobe staples that I could dress up and down throughout the day, and chose colours which would combine in multiple ways. The best part is that I have a lot less washing to do when I get home.
- Avoid visiting during the peak summer months.
Despite being a popular tourist destination all year-round, Venice is definitely busiest during July and August. Being a student certainly has its perks, as the academic year usually starts much later for us, and hence late September is an ideal time for a last minute getaway before the stress of the Autumn term. We found the weather to be just as lovely, though I did find myself feeling grateful for having brought a light sweater for the slightly cooler evenings. We did find ourselves to be amongst a considerably sizeable crowd of tourists during our trip, however I am certain that it does not compare to the chaos of peak season.
In my opinion, getting lost among and swallowed up by the winding alleyways and canals is all part of the Venetian experience!
While you’re there:
- Visit the art exhibitions!
As a self-proclaimed art fanatic, Venice was my dream destination. It truly has everything, ranging from the ornate, painted ceilings of the renaissance era, to contemporary collections of digital NFTs. All of my preconceptions regarding what can be defined as art and the effects of which it can achieve, were pushed to their limits. Many of the exhibits curated by La Biennale di Venezia are free to enter and can be found dotted all over the city. During the time of my visit, I was fortunate enough to attend La Biennale di Venezia’s The Milk of Dreams exhibition – which took place as part of the 59th international art exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia and curated by Cecilia Alemani. The collection showcased endless examples of differing artistic mediums, with each piece sharing a common evocation of a dream-like state. A truly thought-provoking experience, the exhibition contemplated several topical social issues and injustices, including, but not limited to, racial oppression, gender inequality, consumerist culture, and western capitalism. The exhibition cost €16 per person under 23, and took us around three hours. Although the tickets are slightly pricey, the experience was excellent value for money and I would thoroughly recommend attending if you get the chance.
- Avoid the water taxis, Venice is very walking-friendly!
If my trip taught me anything it’s that I rely far too heavily on public transport. A word of warning, if you go to Venice you will spend a majority of your time walking. In a floating city where roads and Ubers are replaced by canals and water taxis, it can be tempting to trade a daily dependence upon one form of transport for another. Despite transport within the island appearing seemingly cheap, individual journeys can add up to eat into a large portion of your budget. In my opinion, getting lost among and swallowed up by the winding alleyways and canals is all part of the Venetian experience! Walking from place to place was the perfect opportunity to appreciate every hidden corner of the island’s archaic beauty, and led to the discovery of several hidden gems! However, if you’d prefer to conserve your energy and keep your mileage to a minimum, planning in advance is a great way to ensure that your itinerary includes activities which are in close proximity to one another.
- If there’s one thing to splurge on, it’s the gondola ride!
During my pre-trip research, I repeatedly stumbled upon furious online debates regarding whether or not Venetian gondola rides are a complete waste of money. With the cost of a 30-minute ride averaging at around €80, it is tempting to forego the experience all together, especially if you’re working with a student budget. I can honestly attest to the fact that the ride is well worth the money. I felt so fortunate to see the city from an entirely new perspective, enjoying breathtaking views of the city’s frozen-in-time architecture and landmarks dating back to the middle ages. If you’re lucky, your gondola driver may be musically talented or you may be treated to an extensive commentary on the historical origins of the surrounding buildings. A standard gondola seats up to five, making for a much cheaper experience if you’re travelling with a group of friends, though it is also possible to share the boat with other tourists to minimise the cost.
I find that sometimes the simplest, less-stimulating activities make for the fondest memories
- Visit the vintage clothing shops!
As a lover of thrifted finds, I couldn’t stop myself from being dragged in by the allure of potential bargains. I thoroughly enjoyed scouring the rails of Vintageria Venezia and found some amazing vintage pieces. Overall, most items cost much less than those found in vintage shops back home. However, be sure to keep your limited bag space in mind!
- Explore the Leonardo Da Vinci museum!
With admission costing only €6.50 for under 26’s, the Da Vinci museum proved to be a perfect, low-cost, morning activity. Best known for his contributions to the art world as the creator of the most valuable painting in existence, The Mona Lisa, Da Vinci was the originator of lesser-known revolutionary research and inventions within the fields of medicine, theology, physics, mechanics and technology. By gazing upon both digital and physical recreations of Da Vinci’s drawings, writings and paintings, and interacting with mechanical reproductions of his original inventions, we accumulated an extensive catalogue of knowledge regarding Da Vinci’s life and the long-standing effects of his work across several planes of human experience. It was a perfect means of obtaining a new insight into such a renowned figure of world history and it has something to satisfy the interests of STEM, medicine and humanities students alike!
- Sip on an Aperol Spritz and eat gelato by the grand canal at sunset
I find that sometimes the simplest, less-stimulating activities make for the fondest memories. Being able to debrief after back-to-back sightseeing amongst the most picturesque surroundings is the perfect way to end a long day.
In-article images courtesy of Maddie Dinnage. Permission for use granted to Impact. No changes made to these images
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