Venice is one of the cheaper cities to visit in Italy. This may sound strange given how expensive it is to stay within the historic center of Venice itself, but in terms of seeing the sights of the city, much of it can be done for free because the best thing about Venice is walking and discovering, and also the views along canals and across the lagoon. Here are some options and tips for discovering the free experiences in Venice.
There is something lovely around just about every corner in Venice. Stand atop the Rialto Bridge and just gaze down the Grand Canal to see some of the prettiest architecture in town. The hideous multi-level car park in Piazzale Roma has one good side to it: from the rooftop you can see across Venice. It’s not quite the view you’ll get from around Saint Mark’s Square but it has the advantage of being free.
Some of Venice’s churches charge an entry fee (you can buy a Chorus Pass ticket which enables cheaper entry to the 16 in this scheme) but most of them have free entry and are stuffed full of amazing art. Even Saint Mark’s Basilica is free for the church itself.
Sentimanna della Cultura is a week held each year when the state museums are free of charge. In 2012 it was April 14-22 and it is always either April or May. This includes Accademia, Ca D’oro and also the archeological and oriental museums.
As with most of Italy you have to pay to sit on the beach, renting a sunlounger as part of the privilege, but on the Lido there is a free section of beach straight across the island from the vaporetto stop. It’s called spiaggia libera (free beach) – take something to sit on.
When the Venice Biennale is on during odd numbered years, there is art dotted in amazing buildings around the city, which are normally closed to the public. Entry is free (though you have to pay to go to the Arsenale and Giardini sites of the exhibition).
Look for these signs when you want to find for free entry: ingresso libero (free entry) and gratis or gratuito.
I recommend spending your travel money in Venice on accommodation within historic Venice itself (ie not Venice Mestre) which saves you the train or bus ride in each day, and on the vaporetto which will save you time, exhaustion and get you out to the islands of Murano, Burano, Torcello and the Lido.