How to do (or how not to do) Venice on a budget

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By Jemima Stafford 2nd Year English Literature

With art and expensive tea aplenty, Jemima Stafford takes us on a winding path around Venice student style.

Pre-conceptions of Venice usually flit around notions of romance, ornate design, beautiful sunsets reflected in the multitudes of canals that slice the city into segments, and, typically, expense. I had always viewed Venice as being out of my reach as a city-break destination whilst being a student. However, with 20 pound return flights coming out of Bristol Airport when flying with budget airlines this January, it was too good an opportunity to miss. Wringing my hands whilst wandering spiritlessly around campus, having not really had a break over Christmas because of exams, gloomily waiting for results to be announced – the sight of cheap flights on Kayak was simply irresistible.

After being sufficiently ripped off by Ryanair (watch out – they've changed their baggage allowance policy) and then ripped off by the Venetian water-bus system (27 euros for an open return bus to the airport) we arrived at our Air BnB hostel, a delightfully pink building slowly crumbling into the surrounding canals. Hostels can be cheap, but depending on location Air BnB can be cheaper – and a hostel Air BnB is the winning combo for a budget. Quintessentially Venetian, with floral tapestry-style wallpaper adorned with gold leaf setting the romantic background for a not-so romantic reality of rickety, half-functioning furniture and an oven that didn't work in its entirety. You get what you pay for.

In the main area of San Marco, and anywhere around the Ponte di Rialto, you're unlikely to find a cup of tea for less than 7 euros. It's also easy to imagine a trip to Venice quickly becoming a nightmare in summer, with narrow streets being borderline claustrophobic without the millions of tourists. For meals out, it's better to wander outwards from the San Marco centre. We had dinner at Bar Puppa, a tiny ramshackle bar/restaurant populated by locals where you can grab a huge plate of pasta, any alcoholic drink, and post-dinner coffees for 15 euros. In Campo Santa Margherita food and drinks are cheaper and more authentic than elsewhere, and Venice Jazz Club is one bar that stays open late in the otherwise generally low-key and early-night vibe of the out-of-tourist season. There is no large supermarket in the centre of Venice, the closest one being on the mainland – we packed our Lidl supplies into an extra bag and bought it with us, defeating the need to spend loads on lunches and breakfasts out.

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Epigram / Jemima Stafford

Instead of investing in a cheesy gondola ride, you can get the same views of the Grand Canal for a fraction of the price (and without the same tourist emblem burnt onto your being like a highvisibility jacket) by hopping on a water-bus. On our second day we travelled to Borano, one of the many islands around Venice that are well-worth the visit. Out the window of the water-bus you look onto the vastness of the Adriatic, and on the other side the sun glints off the Alps. The perfect view for fostering that post-exam feeling of personal insignificance and perspective. Morano is the island populated solely by glass-making factories, and Borano is its' more attractive sister island, filled with multi-coloured buildings that make up a photographers' delight – although both are worth a visit, and with the all inclusive bus-ticket a multi-stop trip makes sense.

With Venice's rich art history, the Peggy Guggenheim collection is one of the best galleries to visit, with the heiress herself inhabiting the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni (where the collection is housed) for three decades. With a student ID, you'll be forking out 10 euros, but it's worth the cost. The collection itself holds works by some of the greatest artists of the 20th century, from Picasso to Braque and Mondrian, with casts by artists such as Ernst being nestled in the sculpture garden. If you're more into the older masterpieces, check out The Accademia, where Paolo and Carpaccio are on offer.

When telling friends and family I was off to Venice, but only for three days, the response I mostly received was, “don't worry about the short visiting time – you can do everything in Venice in a day.” What was meant by this I am unsure. Can you put an expiration date on the permanent state of enjoyment that comes from wandering around a beautiful Italian city where the streets are in themselves an outdoor art gallery? You can do Venice cheaply, if you time the flights right, and avoid the usual tourist-trap locations and traditions. On the other hand, when you're paying 7 euros for a cup of tea, three days might be the magic number if you're trying to stay on-budget.

Featured Image: Jemima Stafford/ Epigram


Have you been to a traditionally expensive place on the cheap? Let us know how!

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