There is a mystical quality to Venice’s (pop. 265,000) decadence. Her lavish palaces stand proudly on a steadily sinking network of wood, treading in the clouded waters of age-old canals lapping at the feet of her abandoned front doors. Venice’s labyrinthine streets lead to a treasury of Renaissance art, housed in scores of palaces, churches, and museums that are themselves architectural delights. But the same streets that once earned the name La Serenissima (Most Serene) are now saturated with visitors, as Venice grapples with an economy reliant on the same tourism that forces more and more of the native population away every year. Still, Romanticism dies hard, and the sinking city persists beyond the summer crowds and polluted waters, united by winding canals and the memory of a glorious past.
The train station is on the northwest edge of the city; be sure to get off at Santa Lucia, not Mestre on the mainland. Buses and boats arrive at Piazzale Roma, just across the Canal Grande from the train station. To get from either station to Piazza San Marco or the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge), take vaporetto #82 or follow the signs for the 40min. walk from the train station, exit left on Lista di Spagna.
Flights: Aeroporto Marco Polo (VCE; a041 260 61 11; www.veniceairport.it), 10km north of the city. Ticket office open daily 5:30am-9:30pm. Take the ATVO shuttlebus (041 520 55 30) from the airport to P. Roma (30min. every hr. ‚2.70).
Trains: Stazione Santa Lucia, northwest corner of the city. Open daily 3:45am- 12:30am. Info office at the left as you exit the platforms. Open daily 7am-9pm. To: Bologna (2hr. 1 per hr. ‚8); Florence (3hr. every 2hr. ‚27); Milan (3hr. 1-2 per hr. ‚13); Rome (4V2hr. 5 per day, ‚36-45).
Buses: ACTV (041 528 78 86), in P. Roma. Local buses and boats. ACTV long-dis- tance carrier runs buses to Padua (l2hrž every 30min, ‚3.50).
Public Transportation: The Canal Grande can be crossed on foot only at the Scalzi, Rialto, and Accademia ponti (bridges). Mostvaporetti (water buses) run 5am-midnight, the Notte line ll:30pm-5:30am. Single-ride ‚3.10. 24hr. biglietto turistico pass ‚9.30, 3-day ‚18.10 (‚13 with Rolling Venice Card), 7-day ‚31. Buy tickets from booths in front of vaporetti stops, self-serve dispensers at the ACTV office in P. Roma and the Rialto stop, or from the conductor. Pick up extra non timbrati (non-validated) tickets for when the booths aren’t open. Validate them yourself before boarding to avoid a fine. Lines #82 (faster) and #1 (slower) run from the station down Canale Grande and Canale della Giudecca; line #52 goes from the station through Canale della Giu- decca to Lido and along the city’s northern edge, then back to the station; line #12 runs from Fondamente Nuove to Murano, Burano, and Torcello.
ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Venice spans 118 bodies of land in a lagoon and is connected to the mainland by a thin causeway. The city is a veritable labyrinth and can confuse even its natives, most of whom simply set off in a general direction and then patiently weave their way. If you follow their example by ungluing your eyes from your map and going with the flow, you’ll discover some of the unexpected surprises that make Venice spectacular. A few tips will help you to orient yourself. Locate the following landmarks on a map: Ponte di Rialto (the bridge in the center), Piazza San Marco (central south), Ponte Accademia (the bridge in the southwest), Ferrovia (the train station, in the northwest), and Piazzale Roma (directly south of the station). The Canal Grande winds through the city, creating six sestieri (sections): Cannaregio, Castello, Santa Croce, San Polo, San Marco, and Dorsoduro. Within each sestiere, there are no street numbers door numbers in a section form one long, haphazard set, consisting of around 6000 numbers. While these boundaries are nebulous, they can give you a general sense of location. Cannaregio is in the north and includes the train station, Jewish ghetto, and Ca d’Oro; Castello extends east toward the Arsenale; San Marco fills in the area between the Ponte di Rialto and Ponte Accademia; Dorsoduro, across the bridge from S. Marco, stretches the length of Canale della Giudecca and up to Campo S. Pantalon; San Polo runs north from Chiesa S. Maria dei Frari to the Ponte di Rialto; and San Croce lies west of S. Polo, across the Canal Grande from the train station. If sestiere boundaries prove too vague, Venice’s parroctiie (parishes) provide a more defined idea of where you are; parrochia signs, like sestiere signs, are painted on the sides of buildings.
TOURIST, FINANCIAL, AND LOCAL SERVICES
Tourist Office: APT, Calle della Ascensione, S. Marco 71F (mfax 041 529 87 40; www.tourismovenezia.it), directly opposite the Basilica. Open M-Sa 9:30am-3:30pm. The APT desk at the nearby Venice Pavilion, Giardini E Reali, S. Marco 2 (s041 522 51 50) sells ACTV tickets. Open daily 9am-6pm.
AVA (041 171 52 88), in the train station, next to the tourist office. Makes same-day room reservations for a ‚1 fee. Open daily 9am-10pm. Branch offices in P. Roma ( 041 523 13 79) and the airport 041 541 51 33). Call for advance reservations.
Rolling Venice Card: Offers discounts on transportation and at over 200 restaurants, cafes, hotels, museums, and shops. Ages 14-29 only. Tourist office provides list of participating vendors. Cards cost ‚3 and are valid for one year from date of purchase. The card is sponsored by ACTV and can be purchased at the ACTV VeLa office (041 274 76 50) in P. Roma. Open daily 8:30am-6pm. The card is also available at any APT tourist office, and ACTV VeLa kiosks next to the Ferrovia, Rialto, S. Marco, and Vallaresso vaporetto stops.
Budget Travel: CTS, Fondamenta Tagliapietra Dorsoduro, 3252 (041 520 56 60; www.cts.it). From Campo S. Barnaba, cross the bridge and follow the road through the piazza. Turn left at the foot of the large bridge. Sells discounted student plane tickets and issues ISIC cards. English spoken. Open M-F 9:30am-l:30pm and 2:30-6pm.
Currency Exchange: Money exchangers charge high prices for service. Use banks whenever possible and inquire about fees beforehand. The streets around S. Marco and S. Polo are full of banks and ATMs. Many 24hr. automatic change machines, outside banks and next to ATMs, offer low commissions and decent rates.
EMERGENCY AND COMMUNICATIONS
Emergency: s 113. Ambulance: s 118.
Police: s 113 or 112. Carabinieri (tourist police): Campo S. Zaccaria, Castello 4693 A (041 27 41 11). Questura, V. Nicoladi 24 (041 271 55 11). Contact the Ques- tura if you have a serious complaint about your hotel.
Pharmacy: Farmacia Italo Inglese, Calle della Mandola, S. Marco 3717 (s041 522 48 37), Follow C. Cortesia out of Campo Manin. Open M-F 9am-12:30pm and 3:45-7:30pm, Sa 9am-12:30pm. Late-night and weekend pharmacies rotate; check the list posted in the window of any pharmacy.
Hospital: Ospedale Civile, Campo S.S. Giovanni e Paolo, Casteilo (041 529 41 11). Internet Access:
Casanova, Lista di Spagna, Cannaregio 158A (041 275 01 99). This hip bar has Internet access on 4 modern, high-speed computers. ‚7 per hr. students ‚4. Internet 9am-ll:30pm.
Surf In the Net, Calle del Campanile, S. Polo 2898a (041 244 02 76). From vaporetto: S. Toma, take Calle del Traghetto, and turn left. ‚7 per hr. students ‚5. Open M-Sa lOam-lOpm, Su llam-lOpm.
Net House, in Campo S. Stefano, S. Marco 2967-2958 (041 227 11 90). ‚9 per hr. with ISIC or Rolling Venice ‚6. M-Th 8am-2am, F-Su 24hr.
Post Office: Poste Venezia Centrale, Salizzada Fontego dei Tedeschi, S. Marco 5554 (041 271 71 11), off Campo S. Bartolomeo. Open M-Sa 8:30am-6:30pm. Postal Codes: S. Marco: 30124; Castello: 30122; S. Polo, S. Croce, and Cannaregio: 30121; Dorsoduro: 30123.
Plan to spend more for a room in Venice than anywhere else in Italy. Always agree on a price before booking, and if possible, make reservations at least one month ahead. Religious institutions around the city offer both dorms and private rooms during the summer for about ‚25-70. Options include Casa Murialdo, Fondamenta Madonna dell’Orto, Cannaregio 3512 ( 041 71 99 33); Casa Capitania, S. Croce 561 (041 520 30 99; open June-Sept.); Patronato Salesiano Leone XIII, Calle S. Domenico, Castello 1281 (041 240 36 11); Domus Cavanis, Dorsoduro 896 (041 528 73 74), near the Accademia Bridge; Ostello Santa Fosca, Cannaregio 2372 ( 041 71 57 75); Instituto Canossiano, F. delle Romite, Dorsoduro 1323 (041 240 97 11); and Instituto Ciliota, Calle Muneghe S. Stefano, S. Marco 2976 ( 041 520 48 88).
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