The corona crisis has made it harder to travel and this has led to two trends in the digital nomad community. Some return home to take benefit of an established base and good and familiar health care, others slow the pace of travel and stay longer in one place. I decided to do the latter. Initially, I had booked a stay in Venice for 1 week in May 2020 however the travel restrictions made it impossible to visit. I decided that upon reopening I would do the one-month Venice digital nomad stay. And so I was heading to Venice a city and region hard hit by the first wave of the pandemic in the last week of June 2020.
There was something great about visiting this destination without mass tourism. Little to no queues for museums and attractions, quiet streets almost everywhere and cheaper accommodation. I loved it so much that I decided to return again in May 2021 but this time for a full 7 weeks. I am aware I was lucky to have severely reduced tourism numbers and that opportunities or bad situations (depending on your view) like this might not come again in a long time. However even with normal tourism to return there are still quieter months, October till March, minus the Venice carnival in February, where you can take advantage and do a month-long Venice digital nomad stay.
Here is what I learned and the tips I want to share with you.
The choice of accommodation is difficult to get 100% right and I made some mistakes, hopefully, you can learn from this for your Venice digital nomad stay.
I am more of slow travel digital nomad and travel by car and I bring a lot of additional luggage and equipment, e.g my own Nespresso coffee machine, with me. You can reach Venice by car but you can only get access to the entrance from there you have to walk your luggage, use a porter or use water transport to your accommodation.
I choose my first AirBnB apartment a 10-minute walk away from Piazzale Roma in the area called Santa Croce. My partner and I still had to walk 3 times up and down to the car and never mind the various bridges I had to cross and the 4 stories of stairs I had to climb. Some short term pain for a month-long gain is what ran through my head. Santa Croce is a very local area and is even in high tourist season nice and quiet. The big bonus for me was the canal view.
The downside of being close to the entrance is that all the museums and sights are a long walking distance away. You can take the water taxi but this is €7.50 one way and there is no monthly ticket option. I would easily walk 10-15 kilometres a day, it is a great way to stay fit but it is also very tiring.
For my second stay in May 2021, I decided to rent a place a lot more central near the Ghetto in Cannaregio, and I used a porter service for €30 to cut down on the number of times I had to walk to the car, two times at 25 minutes one way. I now could reach Piazza San Marco in 20 minutes of walking instead of the 35-40 minutes in Santa Croce.
So for one month-long stays, I would say, stay more in Central Venice as you can explore more with walking less. Also, try and get accommodation with canal views if you can.
As a Venice digital nomad, you will spend quite a bit of time working in your accommodation, from the start of June till the end of September you will need air conditioning. You can have windows open but there is a surprising amount of noise, from ducks to noisy “across the alley” neighbours.
Top Floor – you will get some sleep
The extra steps that it will take to reach the top floor are rewarded in extra sleep. Most apartments in Venice are poorly noise insulated. I had to endure noisy nocturnal top floor neighbours for 7 weeks, it turned me into a feisty Venetian. Get a top-floor apartment and get air conditioning so you can close the windows without hearing the neighbour from across the alley on her phone call to her sister.
Make sure your apartment caters for long stays
Most apartments in Venice are designed and rented out to visitors that stay over for 3 or 4 nights. Some, therefore, lack the facilities needed for a long term comfortable stay, like a washing machine, a dishwasher, cooking utensils and kitchenware. Ours was ok but remember I travel with my own coffee machine.
For most digital nomads having good Internet is crucial and unfortunately in Italy Internet speeds can be bad, I had to do twice with 20 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds. Uploading a YouTube video took 6 to 7 hours. Ask your Airbnb host before you book about Internet speeds. I also found in Italy that due to thick walls internet coverage in the apartment itself can be patchy. I always bring a mesh router with 3 stations with me to ensure good coverage wherever I rent. I use the TP-Link Deco M4.
This will not apply to a lot of you but if you arrive by car and do a long term stay. You need to park your car somewhere. Parking your car in Venice cost €25 a day in the commune run car park. I found a parking option in Mestre, which is on the mainland, at Hotel Delfino for €130 a month. You can pre-book this through parclick.com. Right opposite this hotel is the express bus to Venice.
Getting around Venice
- Walking – You will do a lot of walking in Venice, your shoes should be comfortable.
- Water Bus – The public water bus, also known as Vaporetto, is €7.50 one way no matter how long. You should use the waterbus only when you want to visit the other islands of Venice, like Lido, Murano, Burano, Giudecca and other small islands in the lagoon. There is also a water bus that goes directly to Venice Marco Polo airport operated by Alilaguna for 15 euros one way.
- Water Taxis – Water taxis are pricey and easily set you back €65 from the train station to San Marco. Good to try once or when you have a bit of luggage, but not as a daily transport option.
- Gondolas – The normal pre-covid price for a 30-minute romantic Gondola ride is €80, when tourism numbers are low this could be negotiated down to €50. This is the best way to experience the canals of Venice.
Make sure you have robust wheels on your suitcases as it's the hardest walk to do in Venice. I packed way too much and had to do a lot of walking to get set up in my apartment. So plan your packing. Only take what is needed as everything you have has to be carried at some point, that includes technology.
Depending on the season you should also pack a pair of wellies as Venice regularly floods which is known as Acqua Alta. However, with the MOSE mobile water gates now fully operational and protecting the lagoon, this should be something that will happen less frequent. Even during my summer stays there was still some high water flooding St Mark's square.
When you stay in Venice you have to pay a tourist tax to your host, you only have to pay for the first five days. Venice is thinking of increasing these rates as a way of encouraging people to stay longer and collect more money from daytrippers and cruise ship visitors. Anyway the longer you stay the less tourist tax per day you pay. So being a long-term Venice digital nomad pays.
Venice Will Captivate You
Venice has an enormous amount of sights and will never bore you, even when you stay for a couple of months. There are so many sights and museums you can visit one every day and still need half a year to do so. Once you stay long term you will not go to only the main sights and follow the well-marked tourist routes through Venice. I had to chance to get lost in the little narrow streets and find places where locals and students like to hang out for some nightlife, like Campo Santa Margherita, and Fondamenta dei Ormesini.
For the main sights, like Rialto Bridge, Doge's Palace (with its Bridge of Sighs), St Mark's Campanile and Basilica San Marco there was a complete absence of tourists. So where normally there are waiting lines of hours, I could enter almost straight away. The low season will have these benefits too. By doing slow travel you get to experience a city so much more and deeper. I have built a lot of contacts with local Venetians and shop owners and I feel this is a place I will return again for a long-term stay in an offseason.
You can venture into sightseeing territories like San Marco or San Polo during the day and disappear into Cannaregio at night. It is definitely not the most romantic area of Venice, that is the south shoreline with views of Giudecca. It is stunning to see.
Don't Sunbake Or Picnic In Venice
There are so many different water police scouting the canals. I witnessed two ladies sunbaking on the grand canal on a tiny wooden pontoon away from the main streets, it's illegal to do so. They got a €250 fine each. Don't drink beer or picnic on any of the bridges or canals it's illegal and especially tourists are getting fined whereas locals get away with it. You are not allowed to swim in the canals and even stand-up padel boarding is not allowed, yes I saw a few coming through my canal.
Venice has had rampant tourism for years and the covid pandemic has given them time to reassess how it wants to operate tourism on a more sustainable level. What I have noticed that police have become a lot more strict in enforcing rules.
Eating Out / Food / Drinks
Venice is not a cheap place to eat out if you want good food. There are plenty of places that serve a low-cost three-course meal but generally consist of simple pizza/pasta and a glass of cheap plonk. I was not impressed. So for me, it was cooking for myself and I would indulge in the occasional Aperol Spritz and my almost daily doses of gelato. Yes, ice cream in Venice is actually not pricey at all.
Besides the various spritzers, you should also try the local Bellini cocktail which is peach puree mixed with prosecco. Wine wise you have to try the Amarone di Valpolicella wines. It is a red wine that uses dried red grapes to create a strong powerful flavour. It also has a high alcohol percentage of up to 15-16 percent.
When it comes to food shopping the local discounted supermarket is called CRAI. It is a lot cheaper than any others and there are a few outlets all over Venice. From an experience point of view, you should shop at De Spar Teatro supermarket, which was a formal theatre and it's a wonderful shopping experience. Make sure you look up the frescos are gorgeous. Take a good sturdy backpack or wheely bag as you have to walk your groceries home.
La Biennale / Boat Show / Il Redentore
I happened to be in Venice for three iconic events. I highly recommend staying here when they happen. La Biennale lasts for four months it's situated all around Venice but the main event is held at Arsenale in the Castello Neighbourhood. This year's theme was “how do we live together”.
The boat show is wonderful to experience the latest in yacht lifestyle and is also close to the Arsenale.
The Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore, commonly known as Il Redentore, is a 16th-century Roman Catholic church located on the island of Giudecca. The Festa del Redentore is one of the most important traditional events in Venice. It celebrates the end of the plague of the 16th century and is a yearly event, around the 19th of June. They build a bridge for three days so I could walk from Dorsoduro to the island of Giudecca (normally a 15 euros return fare on the water bus) to the other side. It's amazing to experience. And to see the gondola racing is beautiful, you will never experience anything like it.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Venice missed its tourists big time, the whole city was suffering. Also here a program was initiated to have long-term remote workers stay it is called Venywhere. This website seems to target people that want to stay 3 to 6 months in Venice based upon a transitional contract, and this is a paid-for service. These longer stays will result in cheaper accommodation costs. Whereas finding a cheap month-long rental on Airbnb will get harder once tourism numbers are back to normal
Venice has so much to offer and you will not be bored staying one month. I would say look at accommodation costs first and then plan your Venice trip ahead. Remember with the low season you might get less desirable weather but you will get also fewer tourists and shorter queues. For me my 3 months in Venice in total is a memory of a lifetime, I felt Venetian.