We have a lot of our trip for Italy wrapped up. I don’t want to overbook us, but there are a few things I have left up in the air. One is a day in Florence. I wanted to do a photoshoot (we did this in Spain and loved it), and luckily just this morning I found a person who was willing to do a good photoshoot at a reasonable price on the day we had available. Oh, by the way, most of the museums are closed on Mondays in Florence, which I did not know when booking my trip, so while we can definitely fill our day with the reminding museums or wander around and relax, I also thought that it would be a good day to get some pictures taken.
The other day is the 19th, a day in Venice where everything is open, there is a lot to see, and I have absolutely nothing planned. I was making some progress on planning this day when I realized that it could be useful for someone reading this blog to see the series of planning, questioning, and decision making I go through when planning one day a city. Lucky for you, dear readers, and for myself as well, that city just happens to be lovely Venice, Italy!
We arrive in Venice sometime on the 18th. The time varies based on how early we get up in Florence and head to the train station for our roughly 2 hour journey. I have already booked a boat for a lagoon boat ride (aka, the Adriatic Sea portion of Venice, not the canals) that includes appetizers on the water while we watch the sunset. I thought that would be a beautiful start to what is supposed to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world! The problem is that the only full day we have in Venice, the 19th, had zero plans. Zero plans can be good, but that also puts us at risk leavin without seeing something we really wanted to see!
So, I knew that personally, my priorities were seeing St. Mark’s Basilica and to see the Doge’s Palace. The most logical day to see those would be on the 19th. Both the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace can have long waits, and that’s something I’d rather avoid overall, so I definitely would like tickets to see both of these place. However, once again I don’t want to feel too crowded during the day. We do have the morning of the 20th, possibly into the afternoon, to get to Milan for our one night stay (we fly out of Malpensa the next morning, the 21st), but I don’t want any plans at all that day. Just to clarify, while some of these decisions sound like they’ve already been settled, these decisions (like to stay near the train station in Milan for the one night so the morning is easier to take the train to the airport, and how I don’t want to do anything that morning), are things that I’ve been deciding bits and pieces throughout the planning process. I wanted to provide some background, though, so that you know why I’m worried about the 19th and not the 18th or the 20th.
Okay, so now that I have my priorities (Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica) and my date (the 19th), I need to figure out how to plan these things while skipping the lines and not rushing! That seems doable. While I’m not a huge fan of organized tours, for fact finding purposes I’m going to check out Viator. I like to look there first to see what tour are charging, but also, if there are no tours available for what I’m looking for, it’s highly likely that I’ve waited too long to book and won’t be able to get it.
I checked Viator and come up with several tours that cover both the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica (like this tour, for instance https://www.viator.com/tours/Venice/Skip-The-Line-St-Marks-Basilica-and-Doges-Palace-Tours/d522-13102P7). It looks like there are tours available and they are about $75 a person. For three people, that would be roughly $225 plus tax. That seems like a lot of money for three people to go into two sites, especially sites that don’t seem to be limited to a certain number of people a day. Still, I have a price to beat now and can keep exploring!
My next step is to go directly to the company that sells the tickets directly for Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s. Notice that I said directly! There are a lot of websites out there that sell tickets to sites, but they’re third party sellers, so while the tickets are valid, they are often marked up in price. (In all fairness, when searching for Doge’s Palace to try and purposefully find marked up 3rd party tickets, I couldn’t find any! It would seem that Venice has a pretty good control over that, but when I was looking for Milan tickets, there were many sites overcharging.) Sometimes it can be hard to find the actual direct ticket sales sites because companies are paying to get you to their overpriced sites. In the case of Doge’s Palace, however, and St. Mark’s Basilica, I found their websites pretty easily!
I find the best way to find the real ticket sites is to Google the name of the location (like St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice) without any other information at all! I don’t search for tickets or tours or anything, just the name of the place. As long as Google has the location listed as a museum or business, it will pop up as the first result with more information available. The excellent news is that usually the website will be linked, which will be the official website for the location you want to visit. Look at the menus or along the top for a feature to change to English (usually EN or a small British flag) or your language of choice and then explore the site. There will almost always be an option for tickets, taking you directly to the official location to buy tickets directly. You’ll know this way that you’re getting the best price! (However, you won’t be getting a tour necessarily unless that is one of the purchase options. If you absolutely want the tour option, then it is best to see if AirBnB has an Experience available to see what you want, or to bite the bullet and buy from a tour site like Viator.)
All right, so, I found both the real ticket sites. St. Mark’s Basilica actually has an incredibly cheap entrance free. For non-skip-the-line tickets, the entrance is free! That’s a deal I always enjoy, but that means waiting in line, which their website says is typically 45 minutes. That’s not the end of the world, but an alternative is to buy a ticket ahead of time for only €9! Still, the times are specific, and I’m trying to make sure we aren’t burned out. This is, after all, the last leg of our trip. So I scroll through the information and find that, lo and behold, you can buy a timed ticket as close to 10 minutes before your ticket time!
This is super exciting news! Why is this exciting? That means that I don’t have to purchase tickets to St. Mark’s Basilica ahead of time in order to still skip the line. It’s true: there is a risk in not buying timed tickets, and we may end up either not going to being forced to wait in line. Another truth, however, is that I can buy tickets for the Doge’s Palace, and then we can go about our day with a lot of flexibility! An hour before we want to go to St. Mark’s, if we want to, depending on what direction our relaxed day takes us, we can go online and buy timed tickets. Or, we can check the line and if it is short, we can get in for free! That sounds like a great solution to my concern that we might want to explore all day instead of being hemmed in by ticket times.
Finally, I decided to check out the tickets for the Doge’s Palace. I found their website using the message above, change the settings to English, and found that they had a quite user-friendly website that allowed me to easily find tickets, and also to understand all of my ticket options. Sometimes it is very difficult to understand what types of tickets you are buying on websites that have been translated into English. Not only was I able to see the ticket options, but I also found that I could purchase a senior ticket for my father without any further verification needed. He might need to show an ID at the door, but I could buy it online without any proof.
The website for Doge’s Palace offers many ticket options. Their standard a ticket includes the palace and four other museums near St. Mark’s Square. The price is €26 a person and is valid for three months. I also found that they offered a Museum Pass, which includes 10 museums and is valid for six months, including the Glass Museum and the Lace Museum. The ticket for the museum pass was €36 a person. If I were staying in Venice for several days, I would definitely purchase the Museum Pass, as I think there are some interesting places included in the ticket. But, in just the one day that we would be there, it would be a waste of money.
So, ultimately, I’m purchasing the timed Doge’s Palace ticket for two adults and one senior (€66 or $73.50). Interestingly enough, the Viator tour above was exactly $73.50 when I checked the prices. If I buy three €9 ($30 for three) tickets for St. Mark’s Basilica while we are there, the total cost for both places with skip the line passes (admittedly, without a tour) will be about $103. Ultimately, compared to the tour I will save $122!
So, what have I accomplished by today’s research? Well, I’ve found a way to get into both sites on my list of places I want to see in Venice. I’ll be able to see them without having to pay a lot of money, and I’ll be able to see them with quite a lot of flexibility. I’ll also be able to relax that day and not feel rushed as our schedule won’t be over packed. I feel pretty accomplished with my planning!
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing a bit of the process that I go into when planning a day of a trip. I don’t plan all trips like this, as I typically have several days in one city. For a short day or two trip in an area, you may want to consider some of the same aspects that I did while planning your trip! Good luck and have fun!