Venice is a beautiful city, there is no doubt about that, but over the past few years Venice has suffering the effects of over-tourism. 2020 changed all that of course, but when tourists return to Venice it is important to do everything we can to preserve the city. I would love for everyone to be able to visit Venice and enjoy the experience, so without simply telling people not to go there, here are some ideas for how you can be a responsible tourist in Venice and visit Venice sustainably.
Plan Your Trip to Venice Responsibly
Check out this short video with my top tips, and read on for more details:
Visit Venice in the Off Season
Venice is a hugely popular destination, so try to plan your visit to avoid peak times around summer and other school holidays. Venice is also popular as a weekend destination, so if you are able to take time during the week and avoid the weekend you will find it much quieter.
Of course, there are some special events when the city will be packed such as Carnival in February but choosing a quiet time to visit Venice can make a huge difference to your trip.
Spend More than a Day in Venice
Unfortunately, many visitors only spend one day in Venice, so they rush around, doing the same things as every other day tripper does – St Mark’s Square, a Gondola ride, Rialto Bridge…. However, take your time to explore Venice and other islands around the Lagoon and you will discover far more than the average tourist.
READ MORE: How Many Days in Venice is Enough?
Don’t Follow the Crowds
Certain areas in Venice are more popular than others, so expect St Mark’s Square, Rialto Bridge and the streets between them to be very busy. Instead of blindly following the crowds, if you see a quiet street, walk down it and take the scenic route. Venice is a wonderful city to get lost in, so explore the quieter neighbourhoods away from the main attractions to catch a glimpse of Venice without the crowds.
Take a Tour with a Local
If you take part in any tours or experiences while you are in Venice, make sure that the guide is a local, so you are putting money back into the community. Not only do local people know all the best places to visit, but they can also share with you a wealth of information that you simply won’t find in any of the guidebooks.
I did a glass making class with a local craftsman and enjoyed a Cicchetti food tour with a lovely local lady, so I felt confident my money was going to the right place.
Try to stick with a small group or private tours, although this can push the price up, it’s much more enjoyable strolling around Venice when there aren’t a hundred of you following someone waving a flag.
Taste the Local Food and Buy at the Market
Although you will find fast-food joints like McDonald’s and Burger King in Venice, skip the burgers and try some of the local specialities. The food in Venice is delicious, and it can be cheap too if you stick to local restaurants and avoid the tourist traps.
READ MORE: What to Eat in Venice
Buying fresh food to cook back at your accommodation is also a wonderful opportunity to try local fruit, vegetables and seafood. Markets on Venice are dying out as the local people move away, so supporting the stalls will help to preserve them for generations to come. Head to Rialto Market in the morning or buy something from the market stalls you’ll see dotted around the city.
Be Respectful of People Living in Venice
It can be frustrating having thousands of tourists right outside your front door (I know from living in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter). Be mindful of local people and of fellow tourists as you explore.
The main streets in Venice get very crowded, and when these streets are narrow it creates human traffic jams. Stick to the right-hand side (as if you were driving in Europe or the USA) so both lanes of traffic can keep moving.
Of course, everyone wants to take photographs and admire the views from the bridges but be considerate to other people and don’t block the bridges while you pose.
Explore the Veneto Region
Venice isn’t the only destination worth exploring in Veneto. Stay in Venice Mestre and use it as a base to explore the Veneto Region by train. You can easily get to destinations like Padua, Treviso, Verona and Lake Garda, as well as plenty of rural areas such as Prosecco-making vineyards!
Choose Your Accommodation Wisely
Try to book sustainable accommodation. There have been complaints about Airbnb pushing up rental prices so local people can’t afford to live in Venice anymore, so avoid booking a whole apartment through Airbnb. There are some lovely private rooms in locals’ homes which you can book instead, such as this recently renovated room in Sara & Giovanni’s apartment or this room in Giovanna’s family home.
Hostels have less impact on the environment per person than a hotel, as the dorm rooms are shared by more people and they need less heating, lighting and electricity than individual hotel rooms. I stayed at the Wombat’s Hostel in Venice Mestre, a lovely hostel which has sadly closed (hopefully temporarily) due to the crisis this year. If you are visiting Venice on a budget, check out the other hostels in Venice on Hostelworld.
Reduce your Plastic Use in Venice
We should all aim to reduce our plastic waste every day, not just while we’re travelling, but Venice is particularly vulnerable to the amount of waste as everything has to be transported off the island. Boats come by to collect the rubbish, but in many places, the bins fill up before the rubbish collectors have time to come and pick it up.
Eat Gelato in a Cone
I would never suggest not eating gelato in Venice, but instead of ordering it in a cup with a (usually plastic) spoon, order a cone so nothing will go to waste. Delicious and environmentally friendly!
Bring Your Own Water Bottle
Instead of buying bottled water, bring your own refillable water bottle with you, and fill up at one of the many water fountains in Venice. Most of the Campos (squares) will have a water fountain where you can fill up, so every time you see one just top up and you’ll save plastic and money! I love my Water to Go bottle (read my full review here) and take it everywhere with me – including to Venice.
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Bring a Cotton Bag for your Souvenirs
When you’re shopping at the market for food or in shops for something to buy from Venice, bring your own reusable bag so shopkeepers don’t have to give you a plastic bag to carry all your goodies.
Say No to Plastic Straws
Some restaurants and bars are already reducing their plastic use by not offering straws with their drinks, while others still add them automatically. Make sure you request drinks without straws, and if you need to bring your own bamboo or metal straw you can easily find them online.
Avoid the Cheap Plastic Masks
Although I wholeheartedly recommend buying something from Venice as a souvenir, skip the cheap imported plastic masks and spend the money on authentic Venetian souvenirs like a traditionally made mask which you will treasure forever.
You could even make your own at a mask workshop, try some locally made grappa and choose your favourite to take home, or choose from all sorts of products made by local artisans – just skip the plastic tat.
READ MORE: What Souvenirs to Buy in Venice
Follow the Rules to #EnjoyRespectVenezia
Venice City Council and the Municipal Police have some rules in place that must be followed in line with their campaign #EnjoyRespectVenezia, and you risk a fine if you do any of these
Don’t eat or drink sitting on the ground or outside the designated areas – Fine: €100-€200
Bringing a picnic is not illegal, but you have to find a suitable place to eat it like the public parks and gardens or a bench in a piazza – you can’t sit on the ground or on church or building steps in any of the piazzas in the city.
Don’t Bathe, Swim or Dive into the Canals – Fine €350
This is very dangerous due to the amount of boat trafffic, so don’t be tempted to go for a swim. If you want to hit the beach in Venice, take a Vapretto to Lido or Pellestrina islands, which has miles of sandy beach to enjoy.
Don’t walk around bare-chested or in a swimsuit – Fine: €250
Save your swimsuit for the beach. No-one wants to see that much of your body while admiring the architecture, no matter how hot it is!
Don’t bring a bicycle onto the island – Fine: €100
This applies to the ‘main’ island of Venice, and includes leading the bicycle by hand. You can ride a bike on the mainland around Mestre or on the island of Lido, where you can find bicycle hire shops. If you want to take a bike from the mainland to Lido, you’ll need to take the ferry as bikes aren’t allowed on the vaporetto waterbuses.
Don’t litter or dump rubbish in public areas – Fine: €350
Just don’t. There is enough waste left behind by visitors, don’t make it harder for people to clean up after you!
Don’t feed pigeons or seagulls – Fine: €25-500
As fun as it might be to stand in St Mark’s Square covered with flying rats, please don’t feed the pigeons. There are often people selling birdseed in St Mark’s Square to tempt you, but don’t do it – you could be landed with a heavy fine, and it’s gross. As for the seagulls, if you are eating a picnic (in designated areas) then watch out for them, they might swoop down and steal your food!
Don’t camp in public areas – Fine: €200
Camping is not allowed on Venice Island so don’t try it!
Don’t deface public or private property with graffiti – Fine: €400
Street art is very rare in Venice for this reason, so don’t be tempted to create your own masterpiece on the walls of the city.
Don’t place locks on bridges or monuments – Fine: €100
You know those love locks that people attach to bridges to show their love will last forever? The weight of the locks can do serious damage to the bridges they are attached to, so find another way to show your undying love!
Don’t buy counterfeit goods from illegal sellers – Fine: €100-7000
It isn’t always easy to spot counterfeit goods, but in Venice, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you are looking to buy souvenirs in Venice, avoid cheap knockoffs and support local artisans who handmake their goods like masks or glass jewellery.
If we all follow these simple suggestions when we visit Venice, hopefully we can preserve and enjoy the city for years to come! Do you have any more tips for making a trip to Venice more sustainable? Comment below and let me know what you think!
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