We’d been warned of the monetary risks of being a budget traveller in Venice. The city draws tourists to it like a moth to a flame, meaning that prices are high. But as it turns out, Venice is doable on a backpacker budget with the right guide and you don’t even have to stray too far from the beaten track.
On our first day in Venice, we tried to retrace our steps from the the previous night, where we’d marched across Venice from the bus station to our hostel. We’d stumbled across a square (I think Sotoportego del Banco Giro) that was buzzing with people and music and mercifully was near the Rialto Bridge so we could figure out where it was. Upon arrival we found some market stalls and noticed a gap with more stalls on the otherside of the square, towards the Rialto Mercato vaporetto (ferry) stop. There we found food. There were a couple of places that were busy and so took that as a good sign.
At Al Merca, we discovered that wine in Venice was cheap. As in backpacker cheap; usually around €2-€4 for a glass. We also found mini bread rolls stuffed with meats and cheeses (and I think fish too) for around €1.50 each. Perfect! It was tasty and the sun was out. I tried a Spritz, which seemed to be a Venetian favourite, and we sat against a wall to enjoy our lunch.
That night however we experienced something different. We taken a nap in the evening and awoke hungry. We’d been recommended some places but our limited map was useless against the many lanes of Venice. At least it was for us with our already poor sense of direction. Instead we wandered until we found somewhere with something we could afford on the menu. We were on the banks by the Rialto Bridge (we were not going to find cheap and cheerful here) when we found a place that was expensive with cheaper pizza.
It was a lovely place to sit with people all around and a glass of wine, under the heaters. But the pizza was average. The rest of the food around us smelt delicious though. I think we learnt to go to a place where the whole menu is reasonable as opposed to a few items. These dishes will not be as good.
At least the setting was nice and close to the place we’d had our lunch. Returning to that spot, one of the busy bars from earlier- Muro- was open and so we settled down for the night with some wines.
The next day was Easter Sunday and time for our free walking tour. I cannot recommend these enough. While they may have free in the name, really they work on tips but this means that they are available on any budget- you just give what you think it was worth and what you can afford. Ideally, we should have done this the day before. Not only did it give us an insightful view into the city and its history, but our guide pointed out reasonably priced and tasty places to eat on the way. Finally, we could track down some proper Venetian food. Our guide also showed us some typical Italian Easter cakes and treated us all to a little chocolate egg to celebrate the day.
After our tour ended at around 2pm, it was too early for us to head to any of the restaurant our guide had recommended. We only wanted a snacky lunch. We wandered through a little alleyway, left of the main passageway heading north out of San Marco square and after a little exploring we came across Rossosapore- a restaurant which also sold slices of pizza to go, for around €3. We’d spotted several people milling around outside which we took as a good sign and indeed it was. Finally, we’d found our good pizza.
Whilst you do tend to associate Italian food with pizza and pasta, the way to do meals in Venice is cicchetti- Venetian tapas. Whenever you visit a place, you should sample the local cuisine. It’s as good a way as any to immerse yourself in the culture. With cicchetti, you can also control your budget. I tend to have a hearty appetite, but I was surprised to find the small portions very filling.
Our tour guide had recommended a place near the Rialto Bridge called Taverna Del Campiello Remer. During Happy Hour (I’m not sure exactly what time this runs from but we arrived a bit after 6pm) it was €5 for all you can eat cicchetti and a drink (including wine of course). The food was delicious. Bruschetta (I think) with various toppings- tomatoes, olives, fish and other spreads), pasta and risotto. It was fantastic. Afterwards we took a drink outside and sat on the dock looking out at the bridge. We would never have found it if it wasn’t for our tour guide as it was hidden down an alleyway but this meant that it was secluded and peaceful.
The next morning, we grabbed some breakfast at our hostel- Generator. On our first day, we had opted for their €4 and while it was fine, it wasn’t delicious. However, at the counter they offered other breakfasts. For €3.50, we had good coffee (in fact this was the first cappuccino I’ve ever had that I’ve enjoyed), orange juice and a croissant, stuffed full of chocolate. This was the way to start our last day.
The second and last place we were able to go to at the suggestion of our tour guide (and also one of my friends from home) was Trattoria Ca’ Doro alla Vedova. She told us that they did the best meatballs and she was right. They were delicious and I’d never tasted anything like it. You could get a table but it seemed that this was more if you wanted a meal, so it was a little awkward for us hovering by the bar at the door munching away but it was totally worth it. I’d walk back to Venice for one of those. We also tried the salmon. So much yum.
Our final meal was near the train station at Ferrovia. We had wandered over in that direction from our bus stop at Piazzale Roma in search of food before our departure and ended up at Brek Ristorante. I can’t tell you exactly what I had, it was a sandwich in some kind of crusty, doughy bread with cheese, prosciutto and courgette and whilst it was expensive (over €7 for that and an iced tea (bottled, soft drinks do seem to cost quite a bit, at least more than wine and coffee) it was good and we were able to have one last meal by the river, surrounded by crowds, before it was time to leave.