6 Unspoken Rules of Etiquette in Venice You Should Know Before You Go

Respecting the Local Way of Life

Structurally, Venice is one of the most unique cities in the world. It’s no surprise that along with the distinctive layout of the city come some very specific and fascinatingly foreign etiquette rules to follow! Unless you do your research or speak to a local Venetian, there’s not really any way you’d know these rules, which runs you the risk of seeming like a disrespectful tourist — the last thing anyone wants!

So, let’s get right down to it. Here are the essential Venice travel tips you need to follow while navigating your way through the streets, canals, bridges and hidden narrow pathways of this enchanting city.

Don’t Roll Your Suitcase on the Bridges

There’s no getting around this one. With almost 400 bridges in Venice, it can be a little bit of a pain to have to carry a suitcase over multiple bridges just to get to your place of accommodation, but ultimately the rule is important to follow.

The bridges in Venice are very fragile and the stone is ancient so wheel-to-stone contact can cause breakage and unwanted damage to the bridge’s structure. The same goes for wheeling around a suitcase in an older building or shop — in most places it is a no-no.

Always Walk on the Right

Whether you’re crossing a bridge or getting lost in a dimly lit, narrow pathway, always walk on the right. This will help avoid the already big issue of people traffic jams.

With over 20 million tourists visiting Venice each year, this rule has become increasingly important for the small city of 55,000 citizens.

Be Extra Mindful of Single-Use Plastic Items

Because of its small size and unique infrastructure, Venice does not have space for tons of waste. The city is designed to be as eco-friendly as possible with clean water fountains located all around the city, as well as specialized cans for compost, recycling and trash.

Bring a reusable water bottle, carry a metal spoon with you for all the gelato you’ll be eating and opt for eating-in over take-away. Also, it’s important that you don’t throw anything in the water — it’s not a trash bin.

Don’t Treat the Canals Like Beaches

The canals are not for swimming in or picnicking near. Appropriate clothing (i.e. not a bathing suit) should be worn at all times. Venice is home to over 139 churches and many of the local Venetians are religious so it’s important to be respectful and not to peruse the city shirtless.

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Check Your Souvenirs

A lot of the Murano glass souvenir shops sell items not made in Venice. Yes, you read that correctly. Always make sure to check your souvenirs and buy from one of the many talented local artisans living in the city.

One of my favorite souvenirs I picked up was from a local paper craftsman who ran a store called Olbi Paolo — it is truly a hidden gem of a stationery store and the detail and effort put into the products is truly unmatched. Be sure to note its interesting hours as it’s open every day from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Restaurants & Tipping

The best way to eat like a local is to wander off the main streets and explore the less touristy areas. A sure way of spotting a tourist-targeted restaurant is to check out the layout of the menu — if it has a large selection of dishes and has photos, DON’T GO! Local restaurants will usually have just a few dishes and the menus will be written by hand on a chalkboard.

Also, be aware of what language is being spoken in the restaurants. If it’s Italian, you know you’re on the right track.

As for tipping, it is always a good idea to tip 5 to 12%. Unless there is something inherently unique about the restaurant you are going to, the service charge shouldn’t be more than one or two euros and it will be called “coperto,” which is normal. If the service charge is really high, it’s most likely a tourist trap!

Having the chance to visit Venice is a huge privilege as there is truly no other city like it on this planet. Lose yourself in the city, enjoy the heck out of your time there and above all show it the respect it deserves for warmly welcoming millions of visitors each year.

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