I am going to Venice for a conference in the week after Easter. It’s the annual Renaissance Society of America conference that, every three years, is held in a European city. They just had to pick Venice so that the collective weight of all those scholars might help it sink. The conference is always very busy but I want to take advantage of being in Venice to try to understand it a bit better. I have never much liked the city because it’s even more overrun with tourists than is Florence. But there are some expat- and resident-written blogs similar to arttrav that I think can help me see Venice from a resident’s point of view, and I think with their help I’ll like it better.

venice_grand_canal

This is my pre-trip post in which I’m compiling some links and information that I’m gathering for myself (I can always access my blog and links while I’m there!), and that I hope can be useful to someone else, too.

Practical information: lodging, weather, wifi internet

The only planning I did really in advance was to book my apartment. I thought apartments and hotels would be really expensive, but I actually found many comfortable options of rental apartments in Venice from Oh-Venice.com within my budget. The other thing I booked in advance was my train ticket from Florence; with 30 days advance booking I got 30% off the Freccia Argento fast train (online booking only). I also wrote my conference paper in advance ;-).

My next concern is the weather in Venice. This winter in Italy we’ve had strange weather with lots of rain, snow in March, and as the world is going to hell in a handbasket I need to know if i’ll have to pack my rubber boots. I’m keeping an eye on the high water predictions, which are unfortunately only for the following 3 days. I can also spy on Piazza San Marco on the webcam.

Finally, the only other really important thing for me is to be always connected. Venice has wifi coverage that is free for residents and inexpensive for visitors (15 euros for 3 days). You can book this online and get discounted prices with 7 days advance booking on Venice-Connected, so I did that after checking the wifi coverage map. My iphone works on the Vodafone Italy cell network data pack; if you’re coming from abroad do whatever unlocking/ roaming negotiation you need to do to make your smart phone available while traveling. Most people would also get a map of Venice. I hope the rental company gives me one and otherwise i’ll use google maps on my iphone.

Vaporetto (transportation) information

We have been receiving very amusing chatty emails from RSA’s president, John Monfasani, who clearly knows his way around Venice very well. I copy here the information about how to take the vaporetto.

To ride a vaporetto, you must have a ticket or a pass. You buy the ticket at the ticket counter where you begin. If you do not already have a pass, you can buy one at the ticket counter. With a pass, you only flash it the first time before the little white gizmo at the entrance to the pontoon float where you wait for the vaporetto. You’ll hear a beep and see a quick green light. Your pass is now activated and is good for the length of the value of the pass. The only thing you have to do henceforth is keep it on your person. Do not try to validate it again. You do not have to show it to anyone unless asked to do so by an official (“controllo”).

From Venice airport to city

If you arrive by plane to Venice Marco Polo airport, you have several choices for proceeding on to your hotel. The most convenient and expensive option is, of course, a form of water taxi.

Another option is the service provided by Alilaguna, for which you can buy a ticket at the airport or online. The great advantage of Alilaguna is that you get on a boat at Marco Polo Airport and can relax until you reach your stop in Venice. The Alilaguna service runs only once an hour, however, and it can take up to an hour and half once on board before you reach your stop. Three Alilaguna lines run from the airport to Venice, so you need to know what stop you want in order to choose the correct line.

A third option, which involves a bit more effort, but is much cheaper and quicker (especially if you already have or plan to buy a vaporetto pass) is to take the public bus that is right in front of the exit of the airport. The buses leave during business hours about every fifteen minutes and take less than fifteen minutes to arrive in Venice proper. You buy your ticket in the airport at a booth immediately to the left of the exit from customs/baggage pickup. Once in Venice, you simply go to the bus depot’s vaporetto stop, i. e., “Piazzale Roma” and proceed exactly as you would if you were exiting the train station, which, incidentally, is one vaporetto stop away in the direction of San Marco.

Blogs about Venice

In order to get some inside information for my trip to Venice, I put out a call for help on twitter. Judy immediately referred me to her friend Nan of Living Venice Blog. I also know that @monicacesarato has a blog about living in Venice (she’s a tutor of Italian language).

Thanks’ to Nan’s blogroll I found Venice News (short news items/ blog including some exhibitions listings). I was also quite convinced that AKNickerson of The Gypsy’s Guide lived in Venice at some point; I can’t find much on her site but there is this useful post “The Gypsy’s Guide to Venice” with many links.

In Italian: Venezia da Vivere, a guide to the contemporary city, makes me think the city is not dead yet. Hooray!

And I must check out Frulalà, described as a design-addicted fresh fruit bar.

Exhibitions in Venice and other things to do

I have seen the major tourist attractions in Venice (everything around San Marco and many churches), although I’ll happily return to some of them. But these days, I’m more interested in special exhibitions.

The city of Venice has an events listing; it’s not a “select” list but rather an “everything dumped in” list. Nan’s Living Venice Blog has a great column of “goings on in citta”, her selections with links directly to the official sites (really good idea, i should copy it ;-)).

Here are some of the things I’m going to try to see:

  • March 20 to April 24: Exhibit of contemporary photography “Looking at/ Looking for” at Galleria Contemporaneo. (FREE)
  • at The Peggy Guggenheim Museum: THE AVANT-GARDES OF ABSTRACTION until May 30 2010. The PG is the first museum in Italy to develop QR-code interaction inside the museum making it worth a visit no matter what.
  • Ca’ Pesaro modern art gallery – I’ve never been. Currently there’s an exhibit on modern sculpture (Rodin and the like).
  • Fondazione Querini Stampalia (open T-Sun, 10/19, free guided tour at 11; Castello area): palazzo, library, meeting center, and contemporary art gallery. The two shows on right now are appealing.
  • Fondazione Cini on Isola san Giorgio Maggiore (where much of the RSA conference will be held) has the exhibit “Un Tesoro di Libri” opening on April 7 2010; The exhibition opens on Wednesday, 7 April and for conference attendees will stay open late on Thursday, 8 April, from 4:30 to 7PM.

If you’re looking for an enlightening guided experience in Venice, I suggest a tour with Context Travel. I’m particularly interested in their Ecology of Venice tour, not the least because much of the proceeds of which go to a foundation to save the city from its imminent demise.

MORE? Help me!

I’m still missing: un-touristy restaurant recommendations, a good place for an aperitivo with chicheti, and any other suggestion for something unique – a contemporary bookstore, a printmaker, a pretty street… whatever. So Venice lovers, come one come all and comment on this post!

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