The Littlest Travelers

The Lido is one of the most fashionable beach resorts in the area. Complete with shopping and snacks and waves and sand, you'll have everything you need to occupy the little surfer dudes for a full day, if necessary.

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European Venice0Italy0Travel0Guide

· First Things First
· Where to Stay
· Getting Around
· At Your Hotel
· Around Venice
· The Littlest Travelers
· Musts
· If You Have Time
· You Can Probably Skip It

First Things First

Located on a salt-water lagoon off the Adriatic Sea, about two and a half miles from the mainland, Venice is situated on more than 100 small islands. Its main waterway is the Grand Canal, which meanders from the famous Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) to the city's outskirts. Along the Grand Canal you'll see some of the most beautiful palaces in Europe, dating from the time of the princely Venetian merchants.

Italy is a member of the Eurozone, the group of countries that uses the Euro currency (€). Prices below are expressed in U.S. dollars for convenience; check the rate of exchange prior to arrival in Europe. English is not as commonly spoken, so a phrase book will get you far.

Where to Stay

No matter what, always make reservations. In the summer, when all the hotels are open, most of them are full. In low season, when many of the people are gone, many of the hotels are closed. Always be sure you have a place to stay before arriving. If you don't reserve in advance, then you'll find that only the more expensive hotels have vacant rooms. Most hotels are located near St. Marks Square, which is also where many of the most popular attractions are. The San Zulian and the Monte Carlo hotels offer great prices, and have ideal locations.

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Getting Around

Flights arrive at Marco Polo International Airport. Your least expensive option to transfer to your hotel is the ACTV #5 runs every half hour and costs about $2 for the short ride. However, you will be responsible for carrying your own bags from the rail station to your hotel which can be a great challenge.

Once in the city, either from the airport or if you've just gotten off a train, pick up a city map at the first tourist office or kiosk you can find. Moving around the city is easier than it appears at first glance and most things are in walking distance. Travel of foot is the most popular mode of transportation, but there are water taxis as well.

If you remember nothing else, it's that gondolas are expensive and should be used for fun, not for getting from place to place. There's a difference between a romantic gondola and a utilitarian water taxi. The bottom line is that a gondola ride can break your bank.

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At Your Hotel

Free city maps and other information can usually be obtained in hotel lobbies or from the front desk.

Check in, freshen up, and with your bags unpacked, get ready to fall in fall in love with a city so unique it has adopted numerous nicknames: "The Queen of the Adriatic", "The City of Water", and "The city of Bridges." You're now in the famous city of Venice!

Around Venice

Venice is another one of those European destinations that will surpass any preconceived expectations. The canals, architecture, and maritime culture are straight out of the movies and books. At times you may even feel as if your walking around on a Hollywood set. Be forewarned that this is a bustling and crowded city, especially during the summer months. If you're short on time, or if you want to spend less time sightseeing and more time soaking up the majestic atmosphere, then here's our list of the must-see attractions, a few sites that shouldn't be missed, and finally a few places that you should skip:

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Grand Canal Tour: Yes, it's one of those very touristy things, but it's popular for a reason. Settle down, chat with other tourists, and find yourself on a 2-mile ride through the heart of Venice. You'll pass by virtually all of its Gothic and Renaissance treasures. Prices vary. You can either make reservations or hop right on. The tour begins just off the Piassetta di San Marco, which is in front of the Doge's Palace.

Basilica di San Marco: A Byzantine church nearly 1,000 years old, St. Mark's is one of Europe's oldest, most beautiful, and most visited places of worship. We recommend taking a moment to view the mosaics, which are some of the oldest in Italy. The Old Testament scenes and the Madonna with Apostles and Evangelists are a must see as well. Entrance is free, but it's about $4 to get upstairs to the Museo Marciano and Loggia dei Cavalli. Take extra care with your belongings both inside and outside of the cathedral. Pick-pockets have been known to frequent this oft visited site. NOTE: Photography is strictly forbidden and visitors must be silent during their visit and wear appropriate clothing.

St. Mark's Bell Tower: Elevators! When do you get a view like that without having to clod up narrow, twisting staircases! Enjoy the view of Venice from the spot where holy men guilty of breaking the celibacy rule were suspended in wooden cages. They're depicted in some of the paintings at the Galleria dell'Accademia.

Galleria dell'Accademia: About $10 will get you in to see one of the most beautiful collections of art anywhere in Europe. Give yourself a half day if you're short on time, or a full day if you have time to spare.

Gondola Ride: You can't miss them. You'll have to pay in advance for the 50-minute ride, with supplements for each additional block of 25 minutes. Yes, you can pick up a souvenir gondolier outfit on your way out of town, no worries.

Risotto with Seafood: Or one of the many other dishes on the Venetian menus. Most restaurants offer outdoor, or (al fresco) dining most of the year. Wait for it if you have to. Here, unlike other parts of Italy, regional dishes are so favored that in fact they turn out better than something out-of-the-ordinary. That is, the specials and any menu item written in chalk is going to be excellent, while special request orders are expensive and take much longer to arrive.

Three Words: Baked Ice Cream.

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If You Have Time:

Piazza San Marco: You'll be through it many times, but lingering in it may or may not be on your agenda. This is the center of activity in "old" Venice (as if there's a new one) and the hub of the area most known to first-time visitors. Climb to the top of the Campanile, the tallest structure in the city for amazing views. Admission is about $6.

Rialto Market: Try to get here at least once, but don't worry if you can't. It's still a market: loud and busy. You'll find a huge fish market, and lots of ingredients for an impromptu picnic, if that's your thing. (If the market doesn't suit you, there are several places outside the market to get a take-out pizza.) On the way out, take the Ruga San Giovanni exit. It is here where you will find boutique shops with all sorts of odd items for sale.

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You Can Probably Skip It

Car rentals: You cannot drive in Venice!

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