Venice is a province in Italy, as well as the very famous “city of water” that lies within this province. When I visited the province I stayed in Eraclea Mare, a town in the province Venice, about 60km away from Venice the city.
Although this trip was a long time ago, I can remember it as a nice trip, but without many highlights. The area does not have much nature, apart from pine-forest in Eraclea Mare that is suitable for horse-riding or a leisurely stroll, but not anything more adventurous than that. The rest of the area is rather flat and grassy, but located near the coast, which can be an enormous advantage on this are for the beach lover. The beaches are nice, clean and suitable for children and families, but nothing that you would go out of your way for.The ideal visitor for this are would be a somewhat relaxing traveller who adores chilling out in an alright area without having too much on the agenda. When they do want to go out, the touristy, but iconic little markets all over the area are a nice place to go and score some cheap fun accesoires. An even better option would be enjoying the cultural aspects of this area, because that is something it is rich of. Not only Venice itself, but also Treviso, Padua and Verona are cities that would be interested to anyone slightly interested in art and culture.
Personally I am more of an adventurous holiday-person, with exceptional days on the beach. I would therefore not recommend staying in the area for too long, unless you are a holiday-type that I described before: beaces, art and culture. I am very happy to have seen Venice, as this is a city you won’t see everyday, but travelling on quickly does not sound like too bad of an idea to me.
What to do in Venice?
So, once you got to this area, what should you do? As my brain didn’t bless me with a vibrant memory of all I’ve done and experienced, this is rather hard to recommend. I like to remind you that everything mentioned under this header is related to own experiences, so these are only the things that I did and remembered. Don’t forget to check out what else is around.
1. Venice, the city
This may be the obvious and most well-known place to visit in the area. Once a city is named after the province it’s in, it must mean that it ressembles pretty much the entire province by itself, and in case of Venice, I think that is very true. Characteristic houses next to the iconic street of water will make you look around in awe. Don’t forget to take a photo with a million doves and the cathedral at the background at piazza San Marco.
If you are thinking about having dinner in Venice, think twice. This area is so attractive to tourists that restaurant owners can shamelessly charge ridiculous amounts of money for a simple meal, while you would be able to get way better Italian food for less if you look for a different place to eat.
The price wars become even more clear when looking at the always nearly-empty cafés and terraces at Piazza San Marco. A top-view from the 98m high campanile will enable you to spot this from the sky. Obviously you’re not only going to climb up there to have a look at the empty terraces, but also to see the rest of the city and its complicated geography.
An additional only-in-venice experience is to step aboard one of the iconic gondolas and see the city from the water. I have’t done this myself, because again, watch your money and communicate clearly with your gondolier about his prices. Apparently there is an option for a very short, cheap trip on a gondola (if you just want to get the feeling) crossing the Canal Grande for only 50 cents. This can be done with the traghetto, a public gondola.
Last but not least are the Venetian masks. Venice has a rich history with these masks and they’re still used for the Carnival in Venice. However, the masks can be admired in stores and at souvenir market stalls all year round.
2. Go to the beach
This is probably not something you were hoping to read, because visits to the beach can happen at many holiday destinations. However, all beaches are a bit different and I always like to see beaches at different places. Check it the atmosphere matches the location, what the water is like, the setting. This way you can figure out what sort beaches you prefer or just collect as many different beaches as you can.
And even if “beach” just means a lot of sand next to an enourmous amount of water to you, still go, enjoy, have a laid-back day and get a tan.
3. Visit towns and markets
There is Venice (the city) and there is the rest of the province, which happens to contain a few more culture-rich cities that are always overshadowed by the fame of Venice. However, there are cute little mediterranean villages in the area, where shops still close in the afternoon, because the owners want to have a proper siesta and they don’t care about hungry tourists (take that into account though, shops might be closed somewhere in the range between noon and 3pm).
Because the campsite where I stayed was still a rough 60km away from Venice and the other bigger cities, there were many possibilities to explore the smaller towns. However, a campsite means tourists, so even here, finding a place where the cashiers do not try to flatter you with a greeting in what they hope is your language (German-Dutch confusion in my case) is rather rare and might require a few miles drive. That would be a good opportunity to explore a broader part of the area though, so no one is holding you back!
Also, don’t forget the cheesy markets. Touristy? Yes. But the cute little accessoires that you can get there for nearly nothing are amazing (and only socially accepted among other tourists, so it’s okay.
4. Have a gelato
“This girl has nog idea what she’s talking about” is what you might be thinking. Ice cream, really, is that so important? Yes, it is. Food is an important part of any culture and we all know that Italy is famous for its rich pasta’s and delicious pizza’s. This is true, Italian food is good! When I was in Venice I was too young for wine unfortunately, so I couldn’t yet judge that. However, what I could judge was the Italian ice cream, and really, they are absolutely amazing. Soft, creamy and the best of all, the come in a million different flavours. Being Dutch, I was hooked to liquorice ice cream. Something I have spent years searching for aftewards. If you’re on a diet, don’t go to Italy, because you’ll miss out on the best part. Just eat it!
5. Ride a horse or stroll down the pine forest
The beauty of this place is that a walk from any point in the area, to another point, would take you through a lovely, cool pine forest. Imagine walking from your accomodation to the beach or from the beach to a market and always finding that your route goes straight through the nature of the area. I remember a holiday in Spain where I had to cross a busy road to get to the beach, pine trees are much preffered. The forest area is large enough for a little tour on horseback if you prefer the animal to do the walking for you.
Where (not) to stay?
Camping Portofelice was my home for two or three weeks when I stayed in the area, although “camping” might give you the wrong impression. Their website now calls it a “holiday village” which might be closer to describe the fields, filled with chalets, bungelow tents, and stationary caravans. All this accomponied by large, modern sanitary buildings, a swimming pool with water slides and a game hall.
The camping has an actual campsite where you can set up your own tent, but since you can make use of all the facilities the holiday village has to offer, you’ll be paying for that. Portofelice is an ideal place for any family that just wants to give their kids a good time (there is an animation team and a tennis court too!) while they can relax a bit for themselves. Camping with luxuries would be the term to describe this place accurately.
Portofelice is a really nice and well-organised place to stay, however if you are not an average family, don’t like children or are on a budget I am sure there are many other nice places out there, with less tourists in your backyard.
Bucket list Venice:
(all those things I didn’t get around to, but still want to).
1. Venice Carnivale
It will be crowded, packed with tourists, but seeing Venice during the time of the year that it owes its history to seems like an experience, if I need to mention anything I would want to (re-)do in Venice. The costumes, the masks, all that in its full glory (although a bit commercialised) would be amazing.
The Venetian kitchen is often referred to as “frugal cuisine” because of its humble origin. Because I’m a vegetarian, I can unfortunately not try every single dish, as many contain meat or fish. However, there is a variety of traditional desserts and wines that I would love to take up in a report about the delicacies of this part of Italy.
What I was surprised to learn about Venice
Even after having been there, I never noticed that the Venetation language is different to the national Italian one, it is a completely different dialect, like Fries is different to Dutch and Catalonian is different to Spanish. This indicates how bad my knowledge of Italian is, as I have had the chance to listen to both Venetian and Italian and never even supsected that the two were different. I only learned this from an Italian studymate that happens to be from Venice. (I might try to speak to him about things to do in Venice, so maybe I can add something to the bucket list!)