Milan to Venice to Munich in 5 days
Between work and personal obligations, free time has been scarce. But, we managed to put 4 nights / 5 days aside to squeeze in a quick trip to Italy. There is SO MUCH to see and do, we feel shortchanged but it was a refreshing and rejuvenating experience to unplug. The dates we picked luckily coincided with the Biennale art expo in Venice which we highly recommend experiencing.
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Venice Score Card: 7.33/10
- Transportation: 6/10 (They have three transportation options: Ferries, walking, chartered boats. You can walk the entire city if you map it out well but it will take you a long time to get through the winding streets (which isn’t a bad thing). If you’re in a hurry, your best bet is to catch a ferry to another close station and walk from there. If you do not enjoy walking or have a hard time walking, chartered boats can get you through the city and drop you off pretty close to most locations as the canals snake throughout Venice but this is a much more expensive option)
- Price: 6/10 (lodging/food/experiences were about the same as a large city in the US. Most dine-in meals ran around $60 for 2 people and the hotel was about $200 per night)
- Safety: 9/10 (we felt safe just about everywhere along the way and didn’t see any signs of crime/drugs/prostitution)
- Food: 7/10 (They have some great restaurants but the bulk are traditional Italian (pizza and pasta). If you are looking to change it up, you’ll be low on options)
- Culture: 8/10 (they have a lot of traditional experiences, festivals, and Italian culture to take part in such as cooking classes, wine tastings, concerts, art exhibitions, etc.)
- History: 8/10 (it’s an old city with a lot of history)
- Excitement: 5/10 (It wasn’t extremely exciting or thrilling as it has a laid back vibe and things are taken in stride)
- Awe Inspiring: 7/10 (there were a lot of beautiful authentic views/experiences/places, which, because of the unique setting for the city — was very soul enriching)
- Technology Equipped: 8/10 (many shops offered free wifi as did hotels. We had service and coverage through T-Mobile during the trip. Venice has it’s own free wifi but you need to register to use it and the coverage seemed slow)
- Female Friendly: 9/10 (It’s a safe and friendly city for women, at no point did I feel unsafe walking the streets and we were out in daylight, night and late night hours)
- Solo Travel Recommended: 7/10 (is an exploratory city but everyone seems to be in their own group, you will meet people but many have their own schedules planned in advance and tagging along isn’t always possible)
- Language Barrier: 8/10 (the city is built around tourism now with very few locals living there, most if not everyone we encountered spoke English)
Official Name: Venezia
Size: 160.1 mi²
Islands: 118 submerged islands
Where to go in Venice (and Milan and Munich):
If you click on the four corner icon to the right you can open it up in a new window and click on the icons to read the information for each location (pricing, hours, important details) as well as download it or save it to your My Maps for Google to reference during your trip. Although we have it zoomed in on Venice, we did put things on the map for Milan, Munich, Florence and Rome.
Where to Stay
We found that the hotels were nicer and less expensive than the Airbnb’s in the area. They were also better located. There are a few happening areas in the city and we found that our area was one of them. As a rule of thumb, anything near a water taxi stop and a short walk to Saint Mark’s Square would be a safe bet as the majority of the popular destinations were scatted around there. Our friends love staying at Hotel Danieli which is a little bit down the wa
Getting to Venice by Car, Bus, Train
There are NO cars, bikes, scooters, or buses in Venice. There is a bus station right on the entrance to the city as well as a train station and 1 small parking lot. We recommend taking the train or bus in as they are less expensive and easier as the public transportation in Europe is so easy.
DRIVING: If you are doing a day trip, you can park your car in one of the many lots near Punta San Giuliano. They all close at night and do not permit overnight parking. If you are driving and staying overnight, we suggest using the lot across from the Hilton Garden Inn Venice Mestre San Giuliano (Via Orlanda, 1, 30173 Mestre, Venezia VE, Italy — see it labeled on our map). It’s 5 euro per day and it is locked at night.
It’s the grey building right after the overpass (after the yellow gas station — on the opposite side of the street as the Hilton).
In either case, you’ll need to grab a bus ticket for 1.50 euro (3 euro round trip). Tickets can usually be purchased at the bus station or at a vendor nearby (the bus driver will direct you where those vendors are if you can’t find one). Tickets are good for 75 minutes of transfers each way when redeemed. You won’t need to transfer, but just in case you hop on the wrong bus, rest assured your ticket will still be good until you figure out where to go. The bus runs nearly every 5 minutes so if you miss one, there’s another shortly after, and it goes straight to the entrance to Venice (our trip was less than 30 minutes). You’ll know you’re there as everyone will pile off and it’s the main stop after the very long bridge.
If you are driving and want to park near the entrance to the city, you will want to go over the bridge into Venice and look for the Venezia Tronchetto Parking lot. It’s much more expensive.
TRAIN: The train has a station right at the entrance to the city as well. The Water Taxi / Ferry lets you off right there and you can start your adventure. It’s a major stop and accessible from most cities. The train station is 1 canal away from the bus station.
Water Ferry / Taxis
They sell tickets for water taxis on their app (but it’s harder for foreigners to register, we weren’t able to registered for the app) as well as at the main stations. There are three types of tickets: a 75 minute ticket, a 1 day unlimited use ticket and multi-day tickets. The 75 min ticket is 7.50 euro and the 1 day unlimited use ticket is 20 euro (last we checked). If you want to check out the city from the water, the Water Ferry is a great way to do this. They hold a lot of people and stop frequently so it doesn’t always eliminate time.
If you want a quicker mode of transportation, you can hire a water taxi at most of the major areas of the city and they can take you to/from a specific spot in styles as well as quickly. These are generally motorized and will run you upwards of 50 euro depending on where you go (including transport to San Marco airport).
These guys are expensive but are the true Venice experience. Often times you can get someone to sing or play an instrument on your gondola as you are transported around. Generally, these cost either 80 euro for daytime ‘tours’ or 100 for evening ‘tours. Each tour lasts 30 minutes and will end where you started. It’s a flat fee for up to 6 people.
There are other gondolas used to transport people to/from one side of a canal to another. These are usually in operation on weekdays and cater to the working class. These are much less expensive, running around 2 euro each way.
Download / Cache a map of Venice. There are a ton of ‘streets’ and it’s easy to get lost as the wind throughout the city. What may appear to be a dead-end may be a through way and what may appear to be a canal to another street is actually leading you right to someones front porch. This will help you navigate to find the water taxi routes, sidewalks, canals, etc.
As the evening descends on Venice, fewer vendors accept credit card payment and more require euro’s. If you are looking for an ATM, you can find one in Saint Mark’s Square. If you have larger purchases, they will usually still accept credit card, though. We made due with 200 euro for 3 days in Venice and had plenty leftover.
Many of the nice restaurants require reservations, feel free to make them in advance. But, there are a lot of smaller restaurants and shop options regardless so feel free to wing it!
If you travel during the summer you’ll notice a smell. It’s from the heat and the sewage that floats through the canals (it was built several hundred years ago and not all buildings have updated plumbing) in conjunction with the high and low tides (low tides being smellier). We missed this and went in May so if you want to avoid it but still want warmer weather, late spring or early fall are great options.
Why Go To La Biennale Di Venezia?
If you like art or culture, you’ll love this experience. It was started in 1895 and has turned into a multi-medium art exhibition that lasts roughly 6 months (mid May until end of November) and takes place every 2 years. It encompasses traditional art (painting, sculpture, drawing, etc.) as well as theater, dance, architecture, music and film. Each country can participate and currently over 90 countries exhibit. Each represented country is given their own space to place a series of pieces in. The experience has grown so much that it takes up the Arsenal (an old ship building facility) which has primarily indoor but some outdoor warehouse type spaces each dedicated to a region or country for their pieces and the Garden which is more segmented into pavilion type structures for each country. Aside from that, some countries has their own showrooms scatter throughout Venice and other artists have pieces they place throughout the city (mainly very large pieces, from what we gathered). It was exhausting walking through everything, the spaces are massive and there is so much to see.
It cost € 25 euro for each of us to gain entrance to the paid (Arsenal and Garden) exhibits for the day. They have 2 day and unlimited passes as well. If you’re on a budget you can choose to view the free exhibits scattered throughout the city as well. If you have time, we suggest the 2 day pass as it’s tiring fitting it all into 1 day. It is also a bit less expensive if you book online before you come (as little at € 17,50/person).
Here are a few of the 2017 Biennale exhibits we enjoyed:
The one above is our favorite and best seen from the water. It’s called “Support” and was made with the intent of highlighting the rising water level in Venice from global warming. It’s located on the Ca’ Sagredo Hotel.
Packing List for 5 days in Italy/Germany:
- DJI Mavik, accessories and charger
- DSLR, charger and lenses
- Travel Tripod
- GoPro, batteries, accessories and charger
- headphones, headphone splitter, car charger, euro plug converter
- 2 laptops
- 2 backpacks, 1 duffel bag
- 1 pair jeans each, 2 button downs (Rodney), 2 dresses (Jenni), 1 pair of shorts each, walking shoes each, dressier shoes each (flats and a pair of heels for Jenni), sunglasses each, 5 pairs socks (Rodney), 2 pairs socks (Jenni), 5 underwear each, 1 swimsuit each, 1 comfy pair of pants for travel (each), 3 casual tops each, 1 jacket (Jenni), 1 suit coat (Rodney)
- Toiletries: travel toothpaste, toothbrushes, contact solution, deodorant, comb, brush, hair tie (Jenni), hairspray (Jenni), shampoo & conditioner (Jenni), small makeup (Jenni), sunscreen, straightener (Jenni)
- Airplane pillow (each)
Venice Fun Facts:
- Venice is built on former sand islands that had wooden stakes driven into them which petrified overtime. In total, the city is built on 118 of these little islands and all connected by bridges with canals going through them
- The layout of the city allowed it to be easily defended during the wars
- The sewage systems are antiquated and
- The bricks and mortar lining the canals needs to be fixed regularly due to the incoming and outgoing tides that push and pull the mortar and bricks in and out. To do this, they isolate a section, drain that portion of the canal, then fix or replace whatever is needed.
- They hold a lent celebration called the Carnival of Venice on Mardi Gras or the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which is where all the masks and masquerade events originated.
Venice Costs: $2297 for 5 days / 4 nights in Italy
- Flight $400 each
- Hotel in Milan (Airbnb) 1 night: $121
- Hotel in Venice 2 nights: $423
- Hotel in Munich 1 night: $110
- Car rental 3 days (Milan drop off in Venice): $125
- Car parking in Milan 1 night: $22.39
- Car parking in Venice 3 nights/4 days: $22.39
- Car gas: $23.52
- Tolls Milan to Venice: 21.32
- 6 hour Train Ride from Venice to Munich: $124 ($62 each)
- Food/drinks in Milan (1 day/1 night): 158
- Food/drinks in Venice (3 days/2 nights): $210
- Food/drinks on Train: $16.80
- Food/drinks in Munich (1 night/1 day): $53.65
- Souvenirs: $10
- La Biennale Tickets: $56
- Fly SFO (San Francisco) to EWR (Newark) to MXP (Milan), arrive in Milan Friday morning
- 7am get off the plane in Milan
- 9am Get the car rental (their computer system was down, it took forever). Tiny little thing but it was great on gas mileage! Beware, not all cars have AC (and some run on diesel).
- 10am arrive at Santa Maria delle Grazie and check out the church that holds the Last Supper painting. Tickets are needed in advance (it is advised to secure tickets at least 1 week in advance. Very rarely are there tickets available same day)
- 11am head to the Milan Cathedral, grab snacks at shops along the way
- 11:30am walk through the La Rinascente Milano and through to all the expensive shops
- 1:30 go grab more snacks and stop by a grocery
- 2:30pm head to meet our Airbnb host
- 3pm Arrive at our Airbnb in the Chinatown district and Jetlag hits, take a 4 hour nap
- 7pm wake up and get ready, do a little droning as the sun was setting
- 8pm Head to Ceresio 7 for dinner and a great city view with a swanky pool top lounge and DJ playing good beats. Highly recommend it.
- 11pm walk through the city and take photos at night by the Monumento ai Caduti Milanesi della Rivoluzione Fascista
- Midnight go back to bed
- 11am Wake up, eat breakfast, pack-up and head out
- 2:30pm arrive near Venice but took a while to find somewhere with overnight parking
- 4pm park the car, then grab a bus ticket, then hopped on the bus
- 4:30pm arrived in Venice
- 5:30pm arrived at hotel (Palazzo del Giglio) and dropped bags then went wandering around
- 7:30pm found a cute spot for a pizza dinner on the Grand Canal
- 9:30pm grabbed camera gear and wandered through the city more doing some night photography
- Midnight went back to the hotel to sleep
- 4:30am woke up and went to drone and take photos while wandering around the otherwise vacant city
- 9am grabbed breakfast at the hotel
- 11am slept
- 2pm woke up for snacks and headed to La Biennale Arsenal and Garden spots
- 6pm came back and grabbed a pasta dinner across from our hotel then and took a 2 hour food coma nap
- 9pm went looking for dinner and a souvenir mask
- 10pm grabbed gelato and appetizers in Saint Mark’s Square
- midnight headed home
- 6am Rodney woke up and droned a bit more (Jenni slept)
- 9am We ate breakfast then walked to where the ‘Support’ sculptures were and took photos
- 9:30am grabbed a short gondola ride (because you have to at some point when in Venice) then headed back to the hotel
- 10:30 packed up, checked out then took a water taxi ride to where the bus picks up
- 11am arrive at the bus station
- 11:30am arrive at our car
- 12am return our car to the Venice airport
- 12:15 grabbed a taxi to the bus station
- 12:45 made it to the train station and grabbed lunch at McDonald’s (break from the pizza and pasta)
- 2pm boarded our train to Munich
- 6pm grabbed dinner on the train
- 8pm arrived in Munich
- 8:30pm checked into our hotel in Munich and changed
- 9:30pm went to a rooftop spa called Blue where they had food and drinks
- 10:30pm grabbed food at a local place nearby
- 11:30pm went to bed
- 8am woke up and packed up
- 9am grabbed breakfast, a train ticket and boarded the train
- 11am arrived at the Munich Airport
- 4pm Arrived home at SFO
If We Had to Do It Again — Changes to the Schedule
- FOREGO THE CAR We hoped the sights from Milan to Venice were going to be peak our interest to stop, but they didn’t. Since we didn’t stop in Verona and didn’t see any good spots along the way that warranted any drone footage, we would have foregone the car rental and just done a train ticket from Milan to Venice. When taking into the cost of tolls, gas, parking and the car rental itself, it was more expensive and a bigger headache to do it the way we did.
- TAKE THE WATER TAXI / FERRY IN VENICE when in Venice we walked a bit then caught the ferry. We would have gotten the taxi off the bat to get closer to our hotel with our luggage. The water taxi’s in Venice have tickets that are good for 75 minutes (enough time to find your way if you get on the wrong ferry/taxi OR put your luggage down then go on a little boat cruise through the Grand Canal with the time you have left — our suggestion).
- RIDE BIKES IN MILAN we noticed yellow bikes you could rent for the day scattered throughout Milan. We suggest using that as a primary mode of transportation as parking is difficult, the streets have a bit of traffic and it’s a great way to see everything and stop along the way for a low price
- MORE TIME We could have used one more night in Milan and at least one more night in Venice especially since the art festival took up a lot of our time. If we had an extra day we would have stopped in Austria which was on the train route then picked up the train to Munich the next day.
- The trains in Europe are very comfortable (you can recline the seats down to make them into a bed) with air conditioning and power outlets. Since there is a direct from Munich to SFO if we were to head back, we would consider flying both into and out of Munich and taking the train to nearby cities (as a connecting flight often eats up just as much time but is a lot more of a headache and pricier).