Myth 1: Venetian canals smell
Have someone ever told you that Venetian canals are… well, less attractive than you imagined? And that you might have to hold your nose when standing near one? We’ve heard this too. But this story is nothing more than a myth
This myth is typically spread by those who have never been to Venice and do not plan to visit mainly for this reason. But if you ask those who live in Venice or spent at least a few days there they’ll tell you that canals in Venice smell like the sea.
The truth is you can breathe easy on the Venetian shores – much easier than in our congested and polluted cities. The water in Venetian canals does not stand still. By ancient design, the canals are interconnected with the Venetian Lagoon and the open sea and constitute the city’s elaborate system of dealing with the pollution that has been successfully working for a thousand years. And only once a year, when the lifecycle of the seaweed ends there might be a faint smell akin to the one you can feel on any beach at low tide. However, Venetian canals are cleaned regularly and any smell that may appear is very short-lived.
Myth 2: The best time to visit Venice is in the Summer
Lots of people dream of picnicking on the canals and doing sunset promenades in Venice, thinking that Summer is the best season to enjoy the city sans jacket and scarf.
In reality the people who sustain this myth are those who never visited Venice in the midst of the tourist season. The problem is that ancient Venice with its maze of medieval alleyways and dead ends, narrow bridges, and public transportation system consisting of only small vaporetto boats, is not equipped to manage hordes of tourists without crowds and bottlenecks everywhere. This, along with heat and high humidity, makes for very uncomfortable sightseeing and inevitable lack of atmosphere and aura that define Venice.
The shoulder seasons, such as September-October or March-April make for far better relaxed and uncrowded experience in Venice and allow you to feel the authenticity and the unique ambiance of this beautiful city.
Myth 3: The most expensive cup of coffee in the world is in Venice’s famous café Florian.
The famous Venetian café Florian is the oldest continuously operating café in the world that was frequented by many historical figures from Goethe and Casanova to Lord Byron and Charles Dickens. Of course it’s an expensive place to have a cup of coffee but it’s certainly not the most expensive in the world.
Research conducted by the London branch of the American consulting firm Mercer has shown that the most expensive cup of coffee is actually sold in Moscow, Russia, where it costs on average $10.19 (including the tip). And in café Florian’s historic interiors you can have your coffee for mere 5 euro while seating on the same red velvet benches where Goldoni, Casanova, Goethe, Byron, Madame de Stael, Proust, Stravinsky, Modigliani and Brodsky once sat.
Myth 4: One day is enough time to see Venice
Lots of people visit Venice as a day-trip, including millions who visit the city by cruise ships every year. Those people, often armed with a quick “top-5-places-to-see”-type guidebook, hit all the hotspots in a quick succession: San Marco Square, The Basilica of San Marco, The Doge’s Palace, maybe the ascent of the Campanile, and an obligatory gondola trip along the Grand Canal. A few very efficient ones may even be able to squeeze in a visit to another museum or a church, if they skip lunch or grab a quick panini to go from a nameless corner shop.
Sure, that can all be done in one day but what have you really seen and experienced at the end of this long and tiresome hectic day? You have checked off a few boxes on a tourist’s must-see list and ran quickly through a bunch of attractions but this is akin to speed-dating: a quick glance, a short-lived impression, and no way to understand who is really in front of you.
In Venice’s case what is in front of you is a real treasure with layers of history and often deceiving looks, which needs to be studied and appreciated slowly. Venice’s history, culture, heritage, arts, cuisine, and its many quirks do not get revealed to a stranger during a one-day speed-sightseeing session.
By spending several non-rushed days in La Serenissima, visiting selected attractions, savoring slow long canal-side walks, lingering in the family restaurants and small wine bars, you will let yourself slowly get immersed in Venice’s colorful and mysterious world. You will be able to appreciate its character, its slow pace, its fragile yet perfectly balanced co-existence with water, and its attractions, which need to be viewed in the context of this city’s unique personality. And be prepared: you might just fall in love.
Myth 5: Staying overnight in Venice is very expensive. The best option is to stay on the mainland, in Mestre.
Like any city at the top of the must-see-before-you-die list, Venice has millions of people visiting every year and tens of thousands of hotel rooms to satisfy this demand. And of course the hotels in Venice’s historic center are usually not cheap. But do not think this is the whole truth and do not let this thinking convince you to stay on the mainland in Mestre.
Mestre is a small industrial town across the Lagoon that lacks any character. Have you really come all the way to Venice to spend your evenings on car-lined streets of a modern town with no history, offering mediocre restaurants and lacking any charm? Who said that you can’t find reasonably-priced accommodations in the center of Venice?
Besides luxury and boutique hotels, Venice has lots of cozy B&B’s and no-frills apartments for rent, which can be rented for around 100 euros per night in low season and slightly more in high season. Many major travel booking sites now also offer B&B’s, while websites such as VRBO and Homeaway offer a multitude of apartment choices in Venice in all price categories.
Of course you always need to be careful renting apartments from private persons, especially abroad, and make sure to avoid any listings that do not have multiple reviews, do not offer a way to talk directly to the owners, or seem suspicious in any way at any stage in the booking process.
Good luck in your future travels to Venice and please help us continue to dispel these myths that paint beautiful Venice in dark colors.