WELCOME TO VENICE
NO MATTER your age or your travel experiences, your heart will surely beat a little faster as you enter Venice.
This historic city and living museum enchants and thrills from the minute you arrive to the moment you leave.
Yes, it is clogged with tourists most of the year, and yes, it can be expensive, but it's a dreamy destination to top every traveller's bucket list, and if you're careful you can do it on a budget.
FIVE THINGS TO DO IN VENICE - WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK.
Walk: Put on your walking shoes, don a hat, take a bottle of water and get lost. No matter how many tight alleyways you wander, canals you traverse or tiny piazzas you stumble upon, you'll find yourself back at St Mark's Square sooner or later.
Sit: There are many low walls by the canals to stop for a little rest. Myriad cafes sell inexpensive foccacias and pizzas where you can sit and snack.
Beware sitting in any of the cafes lining St Mark's Square. Seductive they are, but if the orchestra is playing, you'll be charged an "orchestra tax", and a cup of coffee could cost you $20. Stand by the famous Caffe Florian in St Mark's under the Procuratie Nuove, and sway to the soft music.
Take a tour: While Doge's Palace and St Mark's Basilica are a must-do, the queues could see you waiting for three or more hours. Not good for us seniors. Website viator.com offers a number of walking tours where you can skip the queues. Paying to walk, annoying, no? But queueing for three hours?
Board a vaporetto: A gondola ride is impossibly romantic...but horrendously expensive and well...getting in and out of a gondola is not easy for the senior traveller.
The vaporetti (water taxis) cost just a couple of euros and will take you all over the main waterways past every historic sight.
Buy a selfie stick: Hawkers sell these everywhere, and for five euros (less if you bargain them down) you'll have more fun that you thought possible taking photos and making videos of yourself against the gorgeous Venetian backdrops.
The further you venture from St Mark's, the less touristy the restaurants, but they are still few.
Best to accept the inevitable and dine at one of the myriad pretty restaurants by a canal.
Order a pasta dish (we had the most delicious spaghetti pesto ever at the Hotel La Piscina Ristorante by the water), and be served by attentive waiters in cream jackets as you watch the gondolas.
MUST DO EASY ADVENTURES
Get up early and visit the Rialto Markets at the foot of the Rialto Bridge. The fish market has been operating for 1000 years and now stallholders cling to tradition despite city authorities with a gleamy eye for development.
Spend a morning at the Guggenheim Museum on the Grand Canal and enjoy Picasso, Magritte, Kandinsky, Pollock and of course Max Ernst, the surrealist artist and her husband.
Try on masks. Some (not all) of the mask shops will let you spend an hour trying on the exquisite hand-
made masks so your Venetian Masked Ball fantasies will come to life.
ARRIVE IN STYLE.
Take a water taxi (viator.com/venice-shuttle) from the Marco Polo airport and arrive at the Grand Canal as if you own it. A shared water taxi (usually with just two others) costs around $80 for a couple. Wheel your suitcase from the airport along a pleasant walkway to a jetty where a boat driver will load your bags on board and then speed you off to the magical vista of Venice. If you're lucky, you'll be dropped off last and have a tour of the Grand Canal before arriving at your hotel feeling like royalty.
WHERE TO STAY.
This is the biggie. Many hotels charge upwards of $600 a night for a tiny room. Ouch.
We found a delightful privately owned apartment on-line for about $230 a night. (Appartamento Corte Bragadin, website: booking.com).
The owner met us at the jetty and walked us the few metres to a spacious apartment, with living room, kitchen, big bedroom and bathroom and that rare thing in Venice - a large garden. Having an apartment with kitchen and a nearby supermarket will save you so much money you could splash out on some beautiful Venetian glass.