Polya Pencheva in Italy: My list of dos and don’ts for tourists in Venice and Milan

Recently, I had the chance to visit Milan and Venice, two of the cities I had only dreamt of seeing and exploring. It was an unforgettable ride which I’ll keep dear to my heart forever.

Being a tourist in a foreign country is certainly something that we all love because it is a fascinating experience, especially if you’ve never visited before. Of course, you want to take pictures, immerse yourself in the culture and explore as much as possible for the limited time you have, but you should
beware of the issues and complications you may encounter.

Travelling abroad is intriguing and breath-taking, but often there are tourist traps that can easily make your trip a nightmare.

In this post, I share my experiences and tips about what to do and what to avoid doing if you decide
to explore Milan and Venice:

San Marco Basilica (All photos by Polya Pencheva)


• Do get lost in the not so popular parts of the city. Although this may sound like a cliché, exploring parts of the towns you do not know can always be a great experience.

Thinking about Milan, everyone has heard of the Duomo cathedral and the stores in its vicinity. Go rogue and see what’s beyond.

There are amazing small quiet streets that will allow you to feel the Italian spirit and make you feel part of the culture. The same rule applies for Venice. The not so touristy canals are a great get-away from the noise of the most popular destinations and will give you the chance to taste authentic gelato.

• When in Venice, do visit the San Marco Basilica on a Sunday if possible. The opening time is 2 p.m. and if you arrive there by 1:30 p.m., the waiting time is going to get shortened significantly. Most likely it would take around 25 minutes to get in while the usual waiting time is between 45 and 60 minutes.

• Using public transport in a big city is always helpful, but rather than buying a one-time ticket, do purchase a 3-day card. It’ll allow you unlimited travel in the city. The same rule applies for Venice and Milan. However, there is a difference – while Milan’s 3-day cards cost a few euros, in Venice they are a bit pricey. So, think ahead before purchasing public transportation tickets.

Especially for the boat cards, there are discounts for people under the age of 29 and you can explore the Venice’s public transport at

• When in Lombardy, do visit the city of Bergamo, close to the airport. Spend a day exploring the old city and ride the funicular because the experience is a thousand percent something to do in Italy. I am mentioning this because there are fewer tourists and you’ll be able to relax on top of the La Città Alta. Furthermore, there are great restaurants such as Circolino which offers amazing food. And the best part is the view towards the mountains.

Beautiful city, but best not to stay here.


• In Milan and Venice, you will spot people with flowers, bracelets or other things. It is highly likely they will offer them to you. There’s no way you can miss them. Keep in mind these people are very persistent and even if you refuse to take their goods, they will keep offering them to you as a present. They usually come to you and offer you something – a rose or a bracelet. If you refuse to take it, they will keep saying that it’s either a present or you should take it for your girlfriend or wife. There’s even a chance they will hound you until you pay them. The thing is, don’t take these things unless you have planned on paying for them in the first place.

• Don’t visit the “Last Supper” in Santa Maria delle Grazie without having bought tickets in advance. Also, do not wait until the last moment to buy them because will likely be sold out and you will miss viewing this masterpiece. I am speaking from personal experience. One time, as I stood in front of the museum, the ticket office was closed and there was a sign saying, “Tickets are sold out.”

• Don’t completely rely on Google for finding restaurant reviews and discovering certain places. My experience taught me that something may be missing and there may be places with five stars that I’d rather skip. In this case, rather than being 100-percent reliant on the Internet, think about asking for recommendations because the locals know best.

• Don’t stay in Venice. Yes, exactly. Although this may sound like a crazy idea, moving through Venice with luggage could be rather complicated. Also, it is quite noisy. Rather than this, you can choose to stay in the nearby towns – Marghera and Mestre. There are regular buses that cost 1.50 euro that will take you to the city of Venice in 10 minutes and what is even better is that they run every 10 minutes.

Staying outside of the city is budget friendly, offers you the chance to explore another city and allows you to chill when you get tired of the big city’s noise.


Read more her about Italy here in Dispatches’ archives.

Polya Pencheva
+ posts

Polya Plamenova Pencheva is a young Bulgarian journalist based in Groningen, Netherlands. Polya holds a Master's degree in journalism from Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and loves writing and telling the untold stories of interesting people. You can find her dining at cute café, shopping at markets, scouting second-hand shops or just chillin' at home with something great to read.

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