If you are coming to Venice from within Italy, the best way to travel is by train. There are few parking spaces in Piazzale Roma, and these are normally costly and almost always occupied. If you decide to drive to Tronchetto, you will find that the situation there is not much better. It makes sense to leave your car in Mestre in a supervised car park and take a train into the center of Venice. When you arrive in Venice, make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes, as you will walk a lot—not because the city is large, but because the numerous bridges all have stairs.
A few words about the layout of the city: Venice is divided into six zones, and the addresses have consecutive numbers, e.g. Cannaregio 1, 2. As well as having popolare addresses, each building has an official address, e.g. Calle delle Vele. The popular address and the official address are always written together e.g. Cannaregio 1234, Calle delle Vele. The tricky thing is that each zone has the same street name, so postmen have a very difficult (and highly respected) job since the official address (in this case Calle delle Vele) is never enough to make sure the post goes to the right place.
The six zones or sestiere are as follows: San Marco, San Polo, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, Castello and Santa Croce. Although there are six zones, it is possible to cross the city on foot in under an hour. The zones do not really have strict divisions, but they are characterized in different ways: Dursoduro is the university district; Cannaregio is home to the historic ghetto ; San Marco has the Basilica and the Piazza , which is probably one of the world's most famous squares; San Polo is a down-to-earth area where the locals live and hang out; Castello has the beautiful Giardini and the Biennale (Venice Arts Festival); Santa Croce is next to the station, just after the Ponte degli Scalzi.
Venice is the only European city (and one of the few in the world) to have its public transport entirely on the water. Run by ACTV, the timetable constantly changes, depending on the tide. The main waterway in Venice (il Canal Grande) is shaped like an "S"; this means that if you want to travel from San Marco to Rialto by boat, it will take you twice as long as it would to walk (even if you were walking at a snail's pace). The Grand Canal has only three bridges (a fourth is due to open soon), but at certain points along the canal you can cheaply hire a traghetto (a passenger gondola) to cross the stretch of water; saving a great deal of time.
The main ACTV lines are: no. 1, which sails from Piazzale Roma to Lido with several stops on the Grand Canal; it is very slow (it takes half an hour from start to finish) and should be used if you want to go sightseeing. There are two circular routes, no. 41 (anticlockwise) and no. 42 (clockwise) which travel around the whole of the city from San Zaccaria to Piazzale Roma via Giudecca, Cimitero and Murano. No. 51 and no. 52 travel as far as Lido with fewer stops. The no. 82 goes from Lido to Rialto, stopping at Giudecca, Piazzale Roma, Tronchetto and Ferrovia, with San Zaccaria as its final destination.
If you prefer taxis, be prepared to pay far more for a water taxi compared to one on the mainland. You should always tell the driver your destination and find out the price before stepping aboard. Gondolas are also subject to additional charges. They will charge you for an hour even if your trip only lasts 50 minutes.
The restaurants in Venice offer a wide variety of cuisines, ranging from international fast food to five-star Italian dishes. Many of the specialties are seafood based, and there are excellent vegetables in-season from the gardens of the Isola di Sant'Erasmo. In autumn, look out for the Torbolino: an immature Pinot Nero whose arrival announces that winter is on its way.
For a light snack try an osteria or bar which serves cicchetti (meaning "a pick-me-up"), usually meatballs, fried vegetables, anchovies, olives and cured meats, or even a sandwich, whose delicious dough is made from the city water.
There are many bars and osterie close to the Rialto Market, which serve fresh food—they are subject to a quality control, which is carried out daily by the local residents. Places like Da Pinto offer high-quality Venetian dishes that cater to locals and tourists alike. Venice loves to have a good drink, as does the whole of the Veneto region. There are many popular wine bars that have become real institutions. Unnamed house wines of varying quality can be found everywhere; to be sure of a good bouquet try Do Mori . A few years ago the Da Fiore , also in this area, was named best restaurant in the world.
A lot of Venice's top-quality gourmet restaurants can be found in San Marco, the most prestigious area of the city. Harry's Bar is a name to remember, as are Do Forni and Antico Pignolo . One of the other cafes located in the piazza, famous for it's coffees, teas, desserts and light lunches, Caffè Florian looks out onto the piazza and offers an exquisite, unforgettable experience.
Cannaregio, Santa Croce & San Polo
Situated near Piazzale Roma and the University, off the tourist trail, Campo Santa Margherita is always reasonable. This area consists predominantly of pubs, bakeries, gelaterie (ice cream shops) and pizzerias, which cater for a mostly student clientèle. In summer it's the only area that stays open until late at night, much against the will of the elderly population in this district. This is also the "artistic" quarter, where actors, directors, architects, designers and a range of other artistic types hang out. Antico Dolo is one of the most popular eateries that can be found in these districts.