Shops and stalls selling souvenir articles made from Venetian glass or finely hand-crafted masks for the carnival are found everywhere especially along the main alleys all the way from the Santa Lucia railway station to the Rialto Bridge.
Stalls selling masks abound in Venice throughout the year and more so with the approach of the annual Venice Carnival in late February.
Though Venice is reputedly a place for rich tourists yet it is not beyond the means of travellers on a shoestring who are already in Europe i.e. if you are prepared to book some two months ahead. Thus if you are in Paris you can hop over to Venice for a city break for hardly 100 euros. For the night train ticket from Paris to Venice can cost as low as 35 euros (the fare is for a sleeper, it costs more for a cabin) if booked in advance. I paid only 28 euros for the one-and-a-half-hour flight from Venice to Paris with EasyJet for the return trip. Add to this the 22 euros for a night's stay (breakfast and bedsheets included) at the Ostello di Venezia, Venice's only youth hostel and your Venice weekend escapade can cost you not more than a hundred euros.
But of course there is nothing to stop you from taking the luxury Venice-Simplon Orient Express train or putting up in the same Hotel Danieli that Angelina Jolie stayed in with Johnny Depp when she used him as a red herring in the film "The Tourist" (a room here can cost anything from 270 euros to 2,300 euros a night!)
If you take a train to Venice you will arrive at the Santa Lucia railway station. And lo, what a sight awaits you! Just a short walk from there (almost at its footsteps) is the Grand Canal, Venice's main artery, with a vaporetto stop in front and the Scalzi Bridge slightly to the left. In fact wherever you go in Venice you cannot miss the S-shaped Grand Canal.
Where you are used to taking the subway in other European cities, here in Venice it is the vaporetto that is the most reliable and convenient form of transport along the maze of canals. Thus from the railway station here it is only a 5-minute ride on the vaporetto for Rialto Bridge and another 10 minutes from there to St Mark's Square. On your last day in Venice you could also take the vaporetto and get down at Ferrovia (if you are taking the train) or at Piazzale Roma, if you are taking a bus for the Marco Polo Airport. However if you are anywhere near the railway station (and if you are not laden with suitcases, that is) it could be more practical for you to just walk across the Calatrava Bridge for Piazzale Roma instead of waiting for the boat.
This is just one of over 150 canals in Venice.
Many shops are brightly lit up at night to cater to tourists.
Street scene in the Cannaregio district, near to the Jewish ghetto
The Calatrava Bridge.
A word about the Calatrava Bridge. Surprisingly there were only three bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice until September 2008 when a fourth bridge was open to the public making it possible to walk to the Piazzale Roma from the Santa Lucia railway station in just 5 to 10 minutes. This new steel and glass bridge is referred to by the locals as the Calatrava Bridge (Calatrava being the architect's name) though its official name on the map is Ponte della Costituzione (Bridge of the Constitution). There was much outcry over the amount of money spent on its construction but it has proved to be a boon for tourists who need only cross the bridge from the highly-animated Santa Lucia area to take their bus in the spiritless and uninspiring Piazzale Roma square for Venice's Marco Polo Airport.
AROUND THE SANTA LUCIA RAILWAY STATION
Don't be afraid to wander along the alleys to the left as you come out of the Santa Lucia railway station. It is a very lively area and you are unlikely to lose your way here. Besides if you should walk a bit further down you will find a spacious budget restaurant called BREK where one can have a satisfying lunch or dinner for around 10 euros, and slightly further on, the everything-you-need supermarket Billa, Venice's counterpart to England's Tesco.
Venice's Santa Lucia railway station is just by the side of the Grand Canal.
An astounding view of the Grand Canal greets the train traveller at the exit.
The Scalzi Bridge is to the left of the railway station.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN THE GRAND CANAL
Unbelievable! The vaporetto boats run 24 hours a day. The times of departure are shown on display boards outside each vaporetto stop.
Not to be confused with the vaporetto (you will sometimes see the word vaporetti - it's the plural) is the traghetto which is a "public" gondola that shuttles from one side of the Grand Canal to the other. Your 24-hour card is not valid for the traghetto boat but then, at 50 euro cents a ride, you're not going to make a scene out of it! Venetians normally stand during the short crossing and since the old gondola is really very narrow you are likely to follow suit and stand though it is better to lose your self-respect and try to sit if you have to rather than fall into the water! It might be worth trying it out just for the experience. After all at 50 euro cents a crossing, you cannot have a cheaper (or more exciting) gondola ride!
The vaporetto is the most common form of transport in Venice.
A gondola ride can cost 80 euros...
...or just 50 cents on a "rocking" traghetto!
There are only a few spots where one can board the traghetto though, the more convenient ones being at the Rialto market and Ca' d'Oro. On a map these are indicated with broken lines across the Grand Canal and the words "Traghetto gondole". Truth be told almost all the passengers on the traghetto are Venetians as you need some balancing skill not to fall off the boat. They don't have much choice when it comes to crossing the Grand Canal but when it's the vaporetto many Venetians would rather walk, seeing that by taking short cuts, they could arrive at their destination faster than if they were to wait for a vaporetto.
THE ACQUA ALTA
Although October is the rainy month you run the risk of finding yourself having to wear galoshes or wellingtons to wade through the waters that flood St Mark's Square anytime between November and April due to the rising tides.
Whatever it is (unless you like wading in flood waters) keep your fingers crossed that you will not arrive on days when there is acqua alta (high water) i.e. when the water level exceeds 90 cms above sea level and some of the streets and squares might be under a few cms of water and you need to put on your wellingtons. But with some luck you might be able to find some makeshift wooden "walkways" to get you out of the wet situation! Luckily though, as with the tides, "acqua alta" does not last the whole day long, probably for only 3-4 hours at a time. However it happens an average of 100 times in a year and when it is quite serious a siren will be heard (in fact the number of times the siren sounds denotes the intensity of the flood situation). Thus when the siren sounds once it is to indicate that the sea level is above 110cm, twice if above 120cm, 3 times if above 130cm and 4 siren sounds if over 140cm. The record of 194cm took place on November 4, 1966. In fact the most-visited place in Venice, the St. Mark's Square, is also the most prone to flooding, as it stands in about the lowest point in the city.
So visitors to Venice should not only check the weather forecast but also the tide forecast. You can check the latest tide forecast at the Tide Center here.