Grado is a sunny, sandy peninsula between Venice and Trieste. It has several campsites, but the best is Villaggio Europa, with its own stretch of beach, a water park and chalets sleeping six from €62 a night
Back in the olden days (60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s), budget travellers - students in particular - could thumb their way around the continent, usually with a dog-eared copy of the Hitchhikers Guide to Europe stuffed in their backpack. Road junctions in/out of major cities would be full of queues of hopeful travellers, thumbs in the air, winning smiles on their faces and a slightly optimistic felt-tip-pen-scrawled destination board (saying something like "Sicily - ONO!" or more nebulously "South? please!" being brandished at each passing vehicle.
In these days of budget air travel, advance-booking websites and widespread increased 'fear of strangers'(mostly media fuelled - it's really not any more dangerous than it ever was - ie, not very dangerous at all with a bit of common sense), such scenes are sadly rare these days.
My tip is that in Italy, such budget travel is still a viable option for those on a shoestring budget. I last summer hitched from Genoa (having started in France, so coming from Nice) to Venice, via Milan, Verona and Padua, spending a couple of days in each interesting stop off. Italians seem more generous and open-minded to (ie less scared of) picking up and conversing with strangers, and if you show a bit of willingness to be friendly (a smattering of school-level Italian, or even an ATTEMPT at some basic words, really helps) you'll meet some really interesting, often very helpful people.
More than one driver offered me a meal or even a bed for the night (I stress I wasn't looking for this, but it was really nice when it happened), and nearly all had great local tips and advice, and at the very least a bit of local colour and insight.
Travel with a tent if you're doing this. Italians seem more ok with pitching up by the side of a road or in a public park for the night, than their northern European counterparts. I'm not sure if this is a legal thing, just saying they seem much more tolerant and even friendly about it.
When you get somewhere prohibitively expensive, such as Venice, you are still able (oldskool-style) to crash in the train station. Be prepared to be abruptly woken and moved on as the station starts to fill up, say from about 6.30am, so it's not perfect - but it's a place to lay your head for a few hours and see a truly beautiful city for just the cost of your food etc, rather than the literally hundreds of euros it would cost if you had to pay for accommodation/travel.
Doing this, I spent a few days each in Genoa, Milan, Verona and Venice (with the odd stop-off in between, depending on where my driver was going), and hitched back again, and the whole trip was just over a fortnight. I met some fantastic people, had lovely experiences, saw places that I could never in my wildest dreams afford if done through conventional travel means, and the whole thing cost approx 20 euros a day, give or take. And that included everything, even a couple of (supermarket-bought) beers in the evenings. There is no other transport/accommodation alternative that would have come close. Basically, without plucking up the courage to hitch/camp (which turned out to be a lovely way to do it anyway), I'd never have seen Venice and probably never would.
Obviously nice hotels, car-hires and train travel are plusher, but this really does mean that budget travellers can experience this richly fascinating country without spending the next 10 years paying off a credit card debt, and you might just meet some really interesting, often quite idiosyncratic locals along the way.
(Obviously, it suits a flexible itinerary rather than a fixed one! - but this can be an unexpected boon in itself...)
And you'll be reviving the dying art of hitching along the way, and also - perhaps - making people a little bit less unnecessarily afraid of strangers. As it should be ...
Obviously, take sensible precautions. Be clean (you're more likely to get picked up). Be friendly (you're less likely to get chucked out). Don't get in a car with someone who's clearly drunk or appears dodgy. Have an exit strategy, just in case (saying you feel car-sick and need to pull over usually works). Girls travelling alone should of course be particularly circumspect, but even then, with a bit of common sense the risks are far lower than you'd imagine. I know dozens of people who still do this, and there have been only a couple of dodgy incidents out of hundreds of rides, and even they weren't THAT serious. (For example, I've had more threatening experiences on the tube in London to be honest).
Oh, and if the local police do hassle you for camping in a lay-by or sleeping in a train station, just remember to be polite, smile and say you didn't realise - they're nearly always surprisingly helpful and understanding.
So if you're on a budget, go back to the 70s - pack a tent and stick your thumb out! It could open whole new worlds of otherwise unaffordable luxury destinations, and of all the places in Europe I've tried it, Italy is one of the most consistently friendly, safe and open to this of any I've ever been to, even today.
And all that money you save in flights/car-hire/trains/hotels, you can put towards an absurdly priced can of Coke in St Mark's Square. And it'll taste all the sweeter for knowing you hitched there for just pennies. See you there!
Everywhere! (though my Nice - Genoa - Milan - Verona - Venice - and return - trip is not a bad suggested starting route...)
These must be the cheapest drinks in Venice. Wine sells for 80c a glass at the Bacareto, and you can have a glass of prosecco for 2€ at the Bocon. You buy at the bar and there is limited seating at the Bocon, while at the Bacareto you simply sit on the stepped area at the edge of the canal.
Bacareto is in Campo de Tolentini near the Piazzale Roma bus station, and Bocon is in the Campo Santa Margharita.
I found this place while staying at the hotel next door. I popped in to sit at the bar for a prosecco and a huge plate of food arrived in front of me. I tried to send it back, but it turned out to be a complimentary bar snack! I knew this was an early evening custom in Venice, to give free snacks with a drink, but this was brushcetta, battered sweet peppers, grilled cheese ... Although I suspect it is the Italian equivalent of Pizza Express, it meant I ate for free each evening. You have to be sat at the bar, not in the restaurant and you will likely get your plate refilled with each drink. I refused a refill at first, only to be be answered with a shrug and a quizzical "But lady - it's free!" from the barman.
Calle Larga, 404, 30124 Venezia, Italy
+39 041 243 9951
Google map: bit.ly/12Lqyoc
For the design conscious traveler on a budget Campeggio Fusina, designed in 1959 by the modernist Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa, offers stylish, inexpensive camping with a stunning view across the lagoon to Venice (prices range from €8,50 for a tent to €92 for a four-berth static caravan).
The deep water channel just offshore treats you to a close-up of passing ships en route to Porto Maghera, Venice’s industrial secret. There’s a regular Vaparetto service from Fusina to Zattere that takes just 20 minutes, and there’s no better way to arrive in this city than to watch its majestic decaying architecture gradually loom out from the surrounding turquoise lagoon.
Once you’re there, be sure to visit the 55th International Art Biennale, on till 24 November at the Giardini and Arsenale. The Arsenale buildings housed the rope works and are worth seeing for the architecture alone. But be warned, the centre of Venice is not a cheap place, so to save money take lunch with you and enjoy it, and the visual feast that Venice offers, all’aperta!
We stayed here for a week,the owner was very helpful, met us from the bus, made sure we knew how everything worked in the apartment and where the most convenient shops, restaurants, etc, were located (very close).He also allowed us to leave our cases in the apartment on our final day, when we left Venice in the evening. We liked the view of the canal bridge from the windows, with all its comings and goings. Cheap,in quiet zone and three minutes' walk from Piazzale Roma or train station, all the main tourist attractions were near and could be reached by foot or waterbus stop (very close).
Some of the greatest take away pizzas in Venice are to be found here at MauMa’s. The shop is just to the right, straight across the little bridge to the east of the Campo dei Frari (in front of the Frari Church).
It has no official sign – we only found out its real name after talking to the exceedingly friendly owners, Mauro and Massimo. Their English is limited but it’s possible to get by without having Italian.
It’s a tiny place with a shutter front which, when open, houses an appetizing display of bulging calzone and pizza slices. Calzone are around three Euros and pizzas start from four Euros.
Both are very generous; with a thin, crispy crust and delightfully herby and flavourful tomato sauce.
The place is tiny with no seating so everything is to take away. Buy a soda while Massimo prepares your pizza to order before your eyes; in the light summer months you could just take it across the bridge into the campo to enjoy.
There are no official business hours (whenever the guys feel like opening up!) but it’s usually open every day except Wednesdays.
Undoubtedly some of the best (and cheapest) pizza in Venice. I’ll definitely be going back next time I visit the city, as much to chat to the lovely owners as to sample the mouth-watering fare.
Campo dei Frari, San Polo 30125, Venice
Google map: tinyurl.com/ybmhccm
If you would like a romantic break to Venice on the cheap try using a cheap airline and fly to neighbouring Treviso.
Treviso is a small pretty town very close to Venice with some nice restaurants and sights to see. Venice is just a short train journey away and can still be enjoyed!
All for walking a few hundred metres, you (1) bypass the huge queue for the Doge's Palace (2) get a joint ticket for both places, cheaper than separate.
52 Piazza San Marco, other end of St.Mark's square from the Doge's Palace
It's not easy to find budget accommodation in Venice, as we found on a recent tour of Italy. If you do manage to find somewhere cheap, there's usually a lock out or curfew so we were happy to find the more chilled out 'Venice Fish' by the canal.
This beautiful old 16th century palace is on one of the main streets in Venice, but inside the hostel is fun, modern and laid back, with big and homely rooms, and friendly, helpful staff.
It might not be as fancy as some hostels but breakfast and dinner are included, and the staff will take you out in search of local nightlife.
You're only a few minutes from the Casino, Rialto Bridge, and the train station.
Fantastic restaurant and bar, very popular and full of locals so get there early. Lovely atmosphere, good food, reasonable prices, limited but satisfying menu including vegitarian option. Proper Venetian feel with uncomplicated service - not fleecing tourists.
Calle del Pistor 3912, Near Ca' d'Oro, Cannaregio
Absolutely lovely B&B and not expensive for Venice. It's near to the centre, comfortable, friendly, clean, beautiful and has its own kitchen in the room. We felt really at home and comfortable there.
Calle Zotti 3904a, Cannaregio, Near Ca' d'Oro. www.alsaor.com
Fab takeaway pizzas from this little shop on Calle Mondo Nuovo in Castello. I'm not a great fan of the food in Venice - pretty overpiced and not really very good - apart from a little fish restaurant I know ...
But Cip Ciap is great if you want a quick bite on the run. You can buy by the slice or a whole pizza. I totally recommend the calzone con prosciutto.
Calle Mondo Nuovo, just off Piazza Santa Maria Formosa
The Art Academy B&B in Dorsoduro, Venice is a truly wonderful little gem. Tucked away by the side of the Accademia bridge you couldn't wish for a nicer to stay whilst exploring the marvels of Venice. The hosts Barbara and Mara were friendly and welcoming - despite our delayed 1 am appearance due to fog and an un-expected route via Trieste!
The rooms are immaculately clean and bright and spacious with simple furnishings. Some rooms have views of the Grand Canal..... the thrill of opening the shutters in the morning and seeing it all before you cannot be beaten.Rooms are available with en-suite or shared bathrooms, we opted for the latter and it was all perfectly fine.No queues or drama, perfectly nice bathroom with all the usual facilities. A lovely Italian breakfast is served in a room with views of the Grand Canal - so not much talking over breakfast but plenty of gawping!
Trust me, I have been to Venice before and places to stay that are as good as this, as centrally located and with such friendly & helpful hosts can be counted on the fingers of one hand. If flashy and fancy is your thing, then this isn't for you, but if you want to see and experience the friendlier side of Venice then do go and stay! Tell them Emma sent you!
A haven of a bar near the Rialto in Venice! Happy hour between 5 and 7.30pm makes the delicious cocktails very affordable.
This was actually recommended to me by another traveler and the fact that I'm passing on the tip says it all!
There may be tourists here but they are mostly backpackers and young people, giving the bar a fun international flavor.
The owners are super-friendly too and seem genuinely interested in their visitors, particularly those from elsewhere in Europe so be prepared to engage in some lively conversation!
San Marco 5546, Venice
Popping into this cheap little Venice restaurant near the train station on the way home bought an unusual surprise.
I've been told since that it's a chain but it's not like places in England. The dishes are simple but tasty and my pasta was cooked fresh to order while I watched.
The salad was also good quality and (another surprise!) we had a reasonably priced beer to accompany it too.
Lista di Spagna, Canneregio 124
I don't know what to say about this Venice hostel except that it's everything a good, cheap hostel should be.
The location is unbeatable, a five-minute stroll to Piazza San Marco and even closer to the Rialto Bridge. You really get the feeling that you're staying right in the heart of the city and on a typical Venetian street.
It's very reasonable for a private room – and a room that's nice and sunny, too!
They said they do special last minute deals that work out even cheaper, but, it's such a great place I can't imagine they've spare rooms all that often.
San Marco 3358, Salizada San Samuele, Venice, 30124
All I wanted was the five Cs
Cheap – in Venice that’s almost impossible, but this was very reasonable.
Cheerful – fabulous smile from the receptionist on arrival and every time we returned.
Cosy – ask for an attic room at the back so you can spy down into the locals' gardens below, and see the ocean liners berth in the distance. The breakfast room overlooks a local canal.
Clean – room was spotless and cleaned every day.
Convenient – 50 metres from Piazzale Roma bus station and car park, 250 metres from vaporetto number 1 stop, and 5 minutes from the railway station.
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