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Venice without a Second Mortgage

Dateline: 09/03/99

Itís one of the worldís most beautiful cities.

Unfortunately, it is also among the most expensive places in Europe.

How do you see the splendor of Venice without taking that second

Start with the time of year you travel.

A visit in March or April will cost a fraction of what a summer tour
requires. Two-star hotels like Hotel Alcyone charge about 80 dollars a
night in March; a July booking comes in at 130 or more for the same
room in the same central location. Restaurants and tours also hike their
prices in the summer because they can get away with it.

Your choice of hotel should hinge on two variables: central location
and services. Stay too far from what you want to see, and youíll waste
valuable vacation time in transit. Just like at home, time is money.

And why pay for a fancy lobby, concierge service and turned-down
linens when you donít really want them? These items are often much of
the difference between a four-star hotel at 300 dollars a night and a
clean, comfortable two-star address at less than half that price.

Letís say you cannot alter your summer travel schedule--are you
doomed to paying top lira? Not if you follow a simple rule: eat where
the Venetian eats.

Food often accounts for the largest bite of your wallet after lodging.
Visitors tend to eat along the Piazza San Marco or near Rialto Bridge,
where touristy eateries extract hefty prices from people who will go
home and complain about the costs.

Hereís an alternative:  venture instead into the Dorsoduro section,
or other areas of Venice off the usual tourist path. These are easily
accessible by Veniceís version of mass transit, the vaporetto.

These floating versions of the common city bus run throughout the
miles of canals that criss-cross the city. From the railroad station, hop
on the main vaporetto line, exiting on the Grand Canal at Ponte
dellí Accademia.

Because recommendations come with complicated Venetian
addresses, itís often better to make your own discoveries by
chance. Neighborhood trattorias are often noisy, bustling places
where families sit down to enjoy a meal or socialize. Look for one
thatís busy and loud. You will enjoy good food and a much better
picture of Italian life and leisure.

If youíre really pinching your lira, consider making a picnic lunch.
Corner grocery stores feature fresh breads, meats and cheeses. You can
create a feast for pennies on the dollar when compared to many
restaurants--and have enough left over to splurge on Tuscan wine or
Italyís delightful gelato, a type of ice cream that will quickly become
habit-forming. There are few cities in the world with a better array of
settings for an outdoor feast.

With lodging and food costs in check, you will find your budget
becomes much less challenging.

Gondola rides are probably the quintessential Venetian experience,
but they can wreck your budget.  Donít let the cost deter you if this is
something youíve always wanted to do--just follow some guidelines.

Always negotiate the duration and cost of the ride before leaving the
dock. Fares are supposed to be regulated, but price gouging is a
time-honored tradition in this line of work. If privacy is not a priority,
consider teaming up with other travelers and splitting the costs. Most
gondolas hold up to eight people. Remember that rides after 8 p.m. are
more expensive, as are those accompanied by musicians.

Venice is a city to be savored. Leave the people who say it is too
expensive behind with your cares at the airport. Follow a few simple steps
and become another in the long list of admirers who find Venice among
the worldís most beautiful and inviting destinations.

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