After not being able to travel overseas for so long, and with many trips cancelled, my husband and I finally made it out of Australia for a long-dreamed-of bucket-list-ticking month in Venice. When people heard we were going to Italy for four weeks, they naturally assumed we’d be travelling all around the country and seeing as much as we could. In years gone by, that is certainly what we would have done. But apart from a night in Verona to tick a bucket list item of my husband’s (an event at the Arena), and two nights in Milan to tick another bucket list item of mine (the opera at Teatro Alla Scala), we stayed put in our favourite city in the world, apart from where we live. It was a fabulous month, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Now that I’m back at my desk, I thought I’d share some of the tips that made the trip wonderful. I hope it comes as no surprise that many of them involve being organised. Broadly, the tips fall into three categories:
- Making the most of our month in Venice
What is the best time to visit Venice? My favourite time of year to visit Venice, and this was my fourth time, is October. The weather is not too hot, making it pleasant to walk. Venice is a city made for walking. We arrived there on the last day of September, to fabulous weather. By the time we left at the end of October, the famous Acqua Alta was making an appearance. It’s certainly a unique experience.
What I loved most about my holiday was the pace. Because we devoted plenty of time to the city, there was no urgency to rush from one activity to the next. Being able to have a long lunch or a lie in and still enjoy Venetian life was wonderful. We had a “no rush” policy. If we missed one vaporetto, there’d be another along soon. We allowed buffer space around any hard deadlines, so that we could enjoy the journey to and from any appointments. There was always something to stop and marvel at, even when the streets became familiar. My advice would be to allow as much time as you possibly can for a Venetian holiday, and then “waste” some of it reading in a campo while schoolkids play soccer, or riding on a vaporetto to the end of the line, just for the heck of it.
My husband works as a consultant one day a week, and that didn’t change when we went to Venice. He set aside two mornings each week to continue on his projects. It was convenient for meetings, but still allowed time after lunch to explore. I too had the occasional email to deal with, which was done quickly. For anything else, I created an email folder titled “When I Get Home” and swiftly moved relevant incoming emails into that folder. It kept my inbox clutter free.
Let me start with a warning – do not use Euronet ATMs in Europe for cash withdrawals. The exchange rate is very poor and there are numerous complaints online about extra fees added without proper communication.
In happier news, there are some cool ways to save money in Venice. Firstly, with public transport. Of course, there are the usual 3-day or weekly passes, since that is the average tourist stay. Some offers even come with additional museum entries etc. But for our long visit, we invested in a Venezia L’Unica card. It’s similar to a Myki in Melbourne, an Opal in Sydney, or an Oyster card in London. It’s valid for five years, so you can bet we have our cards safely packed away for next time. In addition, we happened to conveniently buy them on the first of October so added a monthly pass to the card. That meant all over public transport was covered for the whole time in a very cost-effective way. No paying extra for each trip, and no second guessing if we wanted to save our legs and go just one stop.
Similarly, we invested a whole 12 Euros each in a Chorus Pass, a pass that gave entry to 17 different churches and museums. We made good use of it and visited 15 of the breathtaking sites.
If you’re over 65, as my husband is, be sure to mention it when entering museums, as there is often a discounted rate available. And if you’re a National Trust member, bring your membership card with you, as the Italian equivalent, FAI, honours it there.
Finally, Venice is famous for its expensive coffee in the Piazza San Marco. I personally believe it was worth every Euro to enjoy breakfast there on our second morning, but we didn’t make a habit of it. One thing we noticed is that any of the main sights – Rialto, San Marco, the Grand Canal – where tourists are thick on the ground, come with higher restaurant prices. If you can forgo the vista or experience and go just one street back from the main attraction, you will often get better value for your money.
Making the most of our month in Venice
My husband and I both enjoyed learning Italian before the trip. We used Duolingo. It meant that we could read and understand signs and menus, communicate effectively, and become immersed in local life more easily. Mind you, we are neither of us fluent, and the friendly Venetians mostly speak excellent English. But I really appreciated when a waiter would patiently let me order in Italian.
We had a great map. Believe it or not, Google Maps gets a little confused by the narrow streets and twists and turns in Venice. A good waterproof map would be worth your investment. And then put it away. One of the most pleasant things to do in life is to wander cobbled streets and discover hidden gems, which you may not stumble upon if you follow the quickest, most direct route every time.
Let’s talk about lists. I love them. And I had a lot of them dedicated to this trip. Before we travelled, my husband and I shared lists about what to pack; what to do before we left; and what we wanted to see and do. Once we arrived, we created more lists – words and phrases to look up when we got back to apartment; what we’d do each day, depending on weather, opening hours, work commitments and so on; a shopping list; and a list of souvenirs for family.
I am forever grateful to Chantal Imbach from Photos in Order for her help in organising my photos. The system she set up for us is foolproof and makes it super simple to keep track of them by date, place, etc. Every evening, we got back to our little nest and its wifi, we would ensure the photos from both our phones were uploaded into the correct folder. That made it easy to share a selection each day with family and friends. Alongside that nightly ritual, I kept a daily journal, documenting the little and big things we experienced.
And finally, if you ever find your way to Venice, or any other place in the world, reach out to meet a fellow professional organiser. I had met Irene Novello at an ICD conference in Orlando, Florida. I didn’t realise she lived in Venice until she spotted my Facebook posts and invited me for coffee. What a wonderful way to spend a morning, chatting with a local about the city and about organising in Italy.
I hope that you get the chance to realise your own bucket list dreams. It’s certainly worth the effort to make it happen. I’ve been grinning like a fool ever since we got back.
Now that I am back at my desk, I am back doing what I love… helping organisers to learn and grow their businesses. If you want some of that, get in touch. I can’t wait to help you.