Axis' survival guide to Venice

Axis' survival guide to Venice

During our visit to the 55th Venice Biennale, we gathered tips from art professionals and artists on how to make the most of your visit to the most famous contemporary art Biennale. Take a look at our practical guide.

What to Pack

  1. Top of the list is a really good map to help you find the collateral events that you hear about along the way. 
  2. Vivienne Bennett recommends the British Council's guide to Venice (we say cross reference this map with a street guide - then you won't get lost for long).
  3. An umbrella (we got soaked this year!) 
  4. Comfortable shoes 
  5. Sun cream
  6. Sunglasses for the morning after!
  7. Mosquito repellent or, as Richard Higlett recommends, Marmite, which mosquitoes apparently find repellent - who knew?!
  8. A bag with broad straps or a rucksack - you’ll be gathering print and information from all the exhibitions and the weight quickly builds up.


Pack a Venetian attitude

Embrace getting lost, it will mostly likely happen (despite what we said above) and that’s when you'll see the most beautiful sites of Venice. Expect and embrace Venice time, everything takes longer than expected, so if you have to be somewhere at a set time, make sure you give yourself plenty of leeway.


"Don't treat it like a competitive sport - take your time and you'll come away with more."

Seeing less is more when it comes to the Biennale, spending a little longer in a few pavilions is more rewarding than trying to cram everything in. Ask for recommendations on what to see and have a general plan for the day, but be prepared to adapt it if you come across something else.

Travelling around Venice

Vaporettos are the generic name for water bus, but technically there are three different kinds of boats used. The common ‘vaporetto’ used on the Grand Canal (route 1 and number 2), the ‘motoscafo’ used for the lagoon and the ‘motonave’, a boat with two decks used to take passengers to the Lido, Punta Sabioni and Treporti. 


If you intend to travel to the different islands during your trip, then purchasing an ACTV card will save you money, over purchasing single tickets at €7 a time. Once a ticket is purchased, make sure you validate it before boarding to avoid a fine.


"Make a note of the times that the night vaporetti run on your way out, as they are much less frequent than during the day."

All types of Vaporetti are wheelchair-accessible, but not necessarily easy to negotiate, particularly during the busiest times of the day. You can check the ACTV website for a full list of timetables and a handy pdf route map. 

"Smaller Vaporetto stops have boats moving in both directions! Check the sign or ask if you are not sure which direction the boat is travelling in."

Routes and Destinations


Lines 1 and 2 run along the Grand Canal and connect the Tronchetto with the train station, Piazzale Roma, Lido, and Giudecca.

Routes 4.1 and 4.2 go around the outside of Venice, serving the train station, Piazzale Roma, and Giudecca and going to Murano Island from Fondamente Nove.

Route 12 goes to Murano and Burano Islands from Fondamente Nove. The night water bus, route N, follows the number 2 route but skips the Giardini stop.

What to eat 

Sepe al nero, cuttlefish cooked in ink served with spaghetti or polenta, is our recommendation and of course plenty of gelato – pistachio and chocolate to finish, at least one per day consumed to keep your energy levels high.

To eat cheaply, head for a pizzeria, or do as the locals do and graze standing up at a bacaro counter.

For the morning after the night before, try a French Fry Pizza – this carb-tastic dish is sure to cure even the worst hangover, just ignore the stares you get when it's brought out! 

What to drink


Prosecco darling!

Ceri Hand recomends starting the day with one in our Vox pop film interview with her about this year's biennale.

Or as a recovery from the night before, a spritz does the job. It’s basically Campari or Aperol mixed with soda and prosecco. If you’ve got a sweet tooth opt for Aperol; if you like a bit of a bitter kick, then Campari is the spritz for you.

Treating yourself to a gondola ride


It was a work trip for us and, as work colleagues we thought we were close enough, so we skipped the gondola ride, but in the name of being excellent researchers we found out that gondola fares are set by officials - a standard ride costs £80.00 and lasts 40 minutes, if you want a cheaper price you can negotiate a shorter trip.

If you want to cut the cost of a ride without shortening the duration, invite people to share your gondola, as they hold up to six people.

More about 55th Venice Biennale on Axisweb