This week, I will help you enjoy the street of Venice in Italy, at a slow pace. But this can become your leading guidelines for any city in the world. It’s also a reminder of what you can do to slow travel in a romantic destination and not fall into the usual tourists’ traps. When we spent a few days in Italy last year, it was far from being the first time. As soon as we set foot on the main island, I felt that slow Venice style in the air.
Venice the mysterious
That’s when I realized that Venice is perfect to learn how to slow travel. The Venice Style is not something you grab from a book or a blog post. It’s something that you get when you walk the old paved streets any time of the day or the year.
A little bit of history here, I promise it will be a short one. Venice usual name is “The city of the Doges” (the Dukes). It once was a refuge for some merchant and traders from the Roman countryside, fleeing the invaders. These lands were closer to the inhospitable swamps than the fertile ground of Tuscany. The will they had to settle on the archipelagoes was strong. The skills they developed to make the land viable and fertile to their first of riches made them determined. They could accomplish a lot. Venice became a strong and powerful place for trading and exports. It became one step at a time, the beautiful city of the Doges.
Anyway, its dark streets were also the place of dark deeds. If nowadays the smallest alleys enjoy lighting, even if sometimes minimal, you can still feel the stories that happened there when you walk the streets at nighttime. Venice is mysterious, and make its visitors travel in time if they are willing to step into it.
Why slow travel with a Venice style?
So, let’s go back to my slow travel essence in Venice. Italy, in general, is adopting the “Dolce Vita,” the Slow Life. So how can it be different on an island bathing into the history, and cut from the mainland and its useless modernities? How could you not slow travel when you are surrounded by people enjoying slow living naturally. They do love technology; I believe that the rate of cellphones by citizens was higher than anywhere else in Europe during, at least, the first ten years of this exploding phenomenon.
Until no so long ago the iconic McDonald could not open a successful restaurant, how could it? How can fast food be welcome in the Dolce Vita land! Today if you want a McDonald lunch, you will find one on the archipelago. Only one, because if Italians live a slow life, they also have a practical sense. Hence the cellphones! Ok, this one is also because they love to chat!
So, in a land of Dolce Vita, you don’t have to learn how to Slow Travel, I figured out that you have to let go of your usual habits, and live in a Venice Style for a while.
First things first, where to settle?
You can opt for a hotel. You can also choose to sleep on the mainland. But what’s the point? You want to enjoy Venice; you must stay in Venice. You have to be able to go out at night and have a walk like a local, not like a stranger on the edge of your way back home. Choose a shorter stay if you prefer, but definitely stay in Venice.
Hotels are great, but Airbnb offers so much more! What a better way to feel the Venice style than living in a Venice home. A home that was once the place of Venetian people for real! Once again, you’ll have what you pay for. If you choose the cheapest shared room with furniture that could fit a hostel dormitory, this is what you’ll get.
Choose wisely, Think Italy, think history, think colourful and glittering! You don’t have to pay a lot more to enjoy these, But maybe you’ll have to look closer, book earlier. Remember that if Venice was once a tourist destination during the summer and the Carnival, it’s now more or less busy all year round. Don’t expect to book the perfect accommodation and have a good deal last minute.
Now where to eat?
If Italians know a thing or two about history, they also are great with food. Italian food appears on my top 3 list of the best cuisine in the world. Beware though, that there is a lot of gluten involved usually. If you have to eat gluten-free, it’s doable of course, but not the easiest.
You’ll find prepared food in four kinds of places:
Though it’s my first point, this wouldn’t be my first choice. But we always try to enjoy one when we travel. For Venice, I have one advice: look the small back street for excellent restaurants. Don’t go; I repeat DON’T go on the “simple” restaurant on squares or more busy streets. Their simple windows and tables don’t mean the price will be lower and the food more authentic. We are talking about a country where food is one of the 3rd religions with Catholicism and football (soccer). So, serious and respectful cooks will offer authentic cuisine. It’s a matter of principle.
Italians love to go out, and shine, they love beautiful restaurants with good food. But you’ll have to look for them because they are not given so easily to the tourists. You’ll have to deserve that dinner! You won’t pay more than in a touristy place, and you’ll have a wonderful culinary experience!
2- Grocery stores
Well if we can call them a “store” because in Venice nothing is that big. Anyway, you’ll find some for the usual during your stay on the islands. But don’t rely too much on them. Venice is not the place where you want to eat industrial food. There is so much more you can enjoy at a reasonable price in the streets! If you need some milk or toothpaste that’s ok. But if you can avoid buying food in there, it’s better. Don’t spoil your experience.
Italians indeed do have a way with coffee, and everything regarding Cafes. You can enjoy the most delicious breakfast. Once again choose wisely. But I don’t recall having a bad experience in a Cafe in Venice. I only know you can pay more or less depending on where you go. Regarding the choices, you can take it all: coffee, hot chocolate, pastries, ice-creams, all kind of tapas and small sandwiches, everything is delicious. Generally, I believe Italians offer what they do best, and what they love doing, so it will be fantastic.
You take-away your freshly prepared food. It’s a trickier choice here. There’s no right or wrong for sure. You can find the best food on a busy street in a small place that has room only for the owner-cook, and you can find the worse too! But you definitely have to try these. What we loved most was the now famous panini. They have nothing to do with the ones you’ll find anywhere else in the world!
Trust your guts and your eyes and choose what you are craving to taste. You won’t go wrong, maybe you’ll be a little disappointed, but you’ll learn. Failed tries are part of the travel experience!
So, what these have to do with my “general guidelines” about Slow Travelling? It’s all coming with observing what you have around you. Don’t seek for something you usually eat on the go. Look what the locals do, they can’t have it wrong. In Venice, in Italy, people go on a daily basis to cafes and trattorias. They enjoy going to the restaurant, but you won’t find many supermarkets. Do what locals do.
Then how can you tour Venice
This one will be my last point. Of course, you can spend money but mostly lose a lot of time on various guided tours. But you can also trust your inner compass and google maps, and manage on your own. Venice is not too big, and lots of people speak English. You can handle your way on your own and enjoy the archipelagos at your own pace.
The Internet is full of advice nowadays, why would you be pushed by a guide and a 20-person group to visit this place where you should indulge slow walks and strolls?
If you want to tour the other islands, like Burano or Murano to name the most famous, then try the local public transportation: the “Vaporetto.” And once again visit on your own. It’s easy and rewarding as you will stay longer where you need, and pass on the things that are no interest to you!
Once again, there are so many talented bloggers, full-time travellers, that offer their advice about many places in the world, even the most remote ones. Why endure a group visit? If you don’t want to be on your own, you can book a local private guide for few hours. Make sure that he is open to your requests, plan your visit before arriving in Venice, so you can be sure he will prepare something that suits you.
If you want a local guide, make him private. If you wish to keep to the classic experience, go on your own, the Internet and Italians have your back!
In the end, what is the Venice style?
So, this is how you can use the Venice style anywhere to slow travel! Choose a charming accommodation, eat like a local, tour at your own pace. When you are in Venice, these are the things you’ll be willing to do as long as you didn’t fully book your agenda with group tours. Venice is so inviting to a slower pace that you won’t have to push yourself too hard to achieve the “Dolce Vita.”
The thing is, you can enjoy this anywhere you go. The daily life is often a run from one appointment to the other. But vacation and the act of travelling is an invitation for a change in your usual pace. If not when on holiday then when? You should plan and get prepared for the basics, to not over plan your trip! Enjoying slow travel is the best way to start slow living! Embrace a Venice style whenever you leave your house to enjoy the places you go.
If you want to read more about Venice:
If you want more ideas about slow travelling: