I was once asked to name the most overrated destination I’ve ever visited. That’s a hard question for me, because I believe even the most “blah” destination has cool attributes, just like the most crowded, overpriced “must-see” cities have redeeming qualities. When we visited Venice nine years ago, I thought it was a fantastic city. In fact, I felt then that it was the most beautiful city I had ever visited. But looking back, might Venice be the most overrated city on all the “must-see” lists? Yeah, I could see where some people could find Venice overrated.
When we decided to visit Italy, we mapped out the typical tourist week. We spent a couple of days in Rome, a few days in Florence and Tuscany, and finished things off with two nights in Venice. Every city was magical, historic, romantic and unforgettable. And it was all a whirlwind.
We started off the trip with exactly 48 hours in Rome, and somehow managed to visit the Borghese Gallery, the Vatican Museums and all of the ancient sites around the Roman Forum. We followed that up with three nights in Florence that saw us see all the great art museums, eat amazing food and spend a day touring Tuscany.
All of that art and history called for a couple of nights of just hanging out in Venice. We didn’t visit any museums, I think we only walked into one church and, most importantly, had no schedule to follow. Venice was relaxing and enchanting. And as our last trip before having our son, it was the perfect romantic getaway.
Yes, we paid for the overpriced gondola ride. I do have a couple of words of advice on that. Get a ride on a gondola that is docked on a quiet side canal. And go earlier in the day. The closer to sunset, meaning the closer to romantic time, means the higher the prices. Nine years ago we paid 70 euros for a 30-minute ride at about 4 p.m. on a side canal. Yeah, some might consider that an overpriced tourist trap activity. But nine years later I look back fondly on the experience and don’t really care about the money it cost.
But visiting Venice in May with the throngs of American, British and German tourists made for a crowded experience. I’m not sure if Venice is ever really not crowded, but at the end of May 2005, the streets of Venice were packed.
The restaurants are also overpriced and the quality of the food average at best. We did find a restaurant near a seafood market that was fabulous. We visited it twice. We passed up a restaurant out in a courtyard in a quiet residential area. I regret that decision to this day.
We also found this cool little café that was our second lunch one day (yes, we ate four meals per day in Italy).
Venice is a beautiful city. I think there often is a reason certain destinations are overrun with visitors, and it’s because the secret of how awesome that place is gets out. The secret on Venice got out many years ago.
So do I find Venice overrated as a destination? Nah, probably not. But that’s because I didn’t put it on some pedestal where it didn’t belong. I think Venice is an enchanting city, one that I’m happy to say I’ve experienced. I’m not sure I’ll return. But if I’m ever provided with the opportunity to, I won’t turn it down.
I mean, the late afternoon light reflecting off the beautiful old buildings was amazing.