Venice: a luxurious kingdom by the sea

How to best spend your time and money in the crown jewel of Veneto

The Veneto region of Italy, and the country as a whole, is crawling with UNESCO heritage sites, but none draw throngs of tourists quite like Venice. With its sprawling, labyrinthine structure, gorgeous architecture, its place holding one of the world's biggest collections of modern art, and its unique construction around the Laguna Veneta, it's no wonder Venice is renowned the world over for its beauty.

Venice is not to be seen in one day; most of the city's daily visitors, which amounted to a good 27 million people in 2016, come for day trips, and leave to hotels in the mainland or to cruise ships. This is a rookie mistake, especially for those who truly want to get to know the city, which has so much more to offer than gondola rides and good food. Don't be that tourist the locals hate—tour Venice like you know what you're doing.

Here are some tips on how to best enjoy everything this shining city has to offer.

Stay in the city

E.R. Pulgar

Venice boasts a wide variety of hotels for every taste, from ultra-lux temples of opulence like the Boscolo Venezia, which features a lagoon-facing view, to more low-key hotels like the B&B Sandra, which has several locales strewn across the lagoon depending on where you would like to stay. For the more adventurous, or for those who want a more local flavor, Airbnbs or apartment services offer much better prices than most hotels—search well, and you may even end up with a balcony overlooking the lagoon for half the price. Either way, time and money you would have wasted commuting to and from the island can be put to much better use.

Shop at Ponte di Rialto

E.R. Pulgar

The iconic Ponte di Rialto, designed by Antonio da Ponte, is known for its beautiful arch, and for the multitude of shops at its center. Despite being cramped with tourists, this is the perfect place to get all your souvenir shopping out of the way while simultaneously experiencing one of the world's architectural marvels, and one of the most iconic parts of the city.

Get lost in the labyrinth, day or night

E.R. Pulgar

The real shops—where you'll find Carnivale masks, Venetian glass, and so much more—are hidden inside the winding alleyways of Venice, waiting to be discovered in little streets and uninhabited corners. Wander the streets, lined with art and music, and you'll be sure to find a new cafe, a bookstore, or an out-of-the-way museum. Even if you plot a course somewhere specific, know that you will get lost. Embrace that, and another side of Venice opens up. Don't be afraid to do this at night either; Venice is one of the safest cities in Europe, and its best-kept secrets reveal themselves in the wee hours of the morning.

Cut loose and dine at Piazza San Marco

E.R. Pulgar

Undoubtedly the most famous landmark of the city besides the city itself, the Piazza San Marco—known simply as La Piazza––is towered over by the Basilica San Marco. As ostentatious outside as it is inside, those who aren't afraid of heights will find the Campanile of the basilica a point of interest. The square is never dull, constantly ringing with the chatter of visitors and locals alike, as well as buzzing with music and activity. Go to any of the nearby restaurants, and take in the square as night descends over the Venetian cityscape.

Splurge on a gondola

E.R. Pulgar

The best way to travel the city's canals is probably by water taxi or, if you're lucky enough to befriend a local, by small boat––that said, what could possibly be more iconic or exemplary of Venice than the iconic image of two lovers floating lazily along in a gondola, serenaded by an oarsman's O sole mio? Maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but you'll want to pay the 80 euro to take a nighttime ride through the city, lit only by lamplights and the rising moon. It's a splurge, we know, but the privacy and length of time you'll get on the gondola is much more intimate than the brief canal crossing you would get with a traghetto, a short gondola ride which won't do justice to the entire experience. If you can afford it, there's no better way to truly experience the mystical beauty that can only be found in this city.

For more information on Venetian bookings and travel tips, visit Lonely Planet.

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Three Things to Consider When Planning Your Vacation

There are plenty of things to consider when planning your vacation. Make sure you have all your bases covered by the time you buy your plane ticket!

Going on vacation is wonderful after months of stress and work. There's just one last hurdle before hopping on that plane: planning.

There can be an overwhelming number of things to consider when planning your vacation (COVID-19 not least), but putting them in an itemized list helps. Here's a quick cheat-sheet for you to get a jump-start on that.

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Remember Your Budget

If you make a budget, which you definitely should, stick to it. Don't spend more than what you can afford when you start vacationing. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, so saddling yourself with debt will only dampen the fun of your trip. How much are you spending on living accommodations, food, activities, travel? How much are you setting aside in emergency funds in case something happens?

Plan for the Length of the Trip

Are you going out of town for a few months, or do you only have a week off? How much time you have can affect where you can go and how much you can enjoy it. If you only have a week and a half for a trip, then it's best not to go somewhere that's a 16-hour flight away. Half the trip is going to be spent on planes, and the other half will be spent being jet-lagged.

Trip length can also affect how you have to deal with your home while you're away. If you're away for long periods of time, do you need to hire people to cut your grass? Do you need to hire house sitters or babysitters? There are even things to know if you need to board your dog. Keep all these in mind for extended vacations.

Consider the Weather

You never want to ruin your vacation by heading somewhere beautiful in its offseason. Depending on the time of year, most activities could be canceled due to weather restrictions. Some places are ideal for winter trips, and other destinations are made to be enjoyed during the summer heat. Plan accordingly, and don't show up in a swimsuit when it's 50 degrees outside.

That rounds up the basics, but there are plenty more things to consider when planning your vacation. Give yourself wiggle room if any unique considerations pop up in your planning process.

There has never been a better time to learn a language than right now. While we can't really travel, we can still get ready to explore the world and other cultures through film, music, and food. But the key to all of this is language. It can be hard getting started on your own and so we found the perfect solution: Rosetta Stone.

We've been loving hunkering down and digging into Rosetta Stone, a language learning app with many different languages, the best lessons, and an affordable subscription. It's flexible and made to work for you, no matter what level you're starting at. Jump back into French without dusting off your highschool books or pick up Mandarin with a clean slate.

Thinking about Rosetta Stone for your language lessons? Here are the answers to your most pressing questions:

What languages do they offer?

With Rosetta Stone, you can choose from 25 different languages including Spanish, Arabic, and Japanese. When you get the Unlimited Languages subscription you gain access to all 25 and can switch between languages. While you may be intensely learning German, you can take a break and pick up some conversational Korean — all in one app.

What are the features?

What makes Rosetta Stone's lessons really work are the incredible learning features.

Phrasebook will teach you short, useful expressions that are sure to come in handy during your travels, letting you see the practical application of what you're learning. Seek & Speak brings the fun back into learning by having you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and taking photos of them to get the translated name. Even in an app, Rosetta Stone turns any environment into a classroom.

TruAccent is a speech engine within the program that provides instant feedback on your pronunciation so you know if you're on the right track. You'll grow more confident about speaking aloud and it's like having an accent coach in the room with you.

How long does it take every day?

Rosetta Stone's lessons are bite-sized, so all you need is 5 -10 minutes a day to sneak in some practice and work towards your language goals. Of course, you can do more if you want but there's no regimented schedule or pressure to speed ahead.

How does it compare to in-person classes?

With the Rosetta Stone app, your learning is within your control and designed to move at your pace. The app will tailor to your particular interests, strengths, and weaknesses! Plus, with the recent explosion of online classes, most people have fallen away from in-person instruction anyway.

Rosetta Stone brings you expert teaching, fun engaging lessons, and a multitude of language options all on-the-go. Take your classes whenever and wherever works best for you, conveniently on the app.

Is it suitable for all levels?

Absolutely. When you first start, the app allows you to choose a study plan based on your experience level. So, if you're a beginner you can start from scratch and those with some proficiency can advance to where they're comfortable.

How much does it cost?

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month and grants access to all 25 languages, cheaper than Netflix. You get an education at a great value and the best part is no ads while you learn!

We look forward to our Rosetta Stone lessons and highly recommend it to anyone eager to learn a new language or even brush up on an old one. This program makes learning fun, practical, convenient, and most importantly affordable.

Say bonjour, to the go-to language learning app and have the world right at your fingertips!

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!

Like so many out there I haven't been traveling. With everything going on these days I've been staying home, which I love, but it does have me itching to travel. The international section of Netflix just isn't satisfying my travel bug like it used to (trust me, if it's been recommended I've watched it).

I was looking for another way I could travel without leaving home so I did the rounds of take-out food: Chinese, German, Italian, and Mexican. This was fun and tasty but a pricey way to explore the world.

A friend of mine suggested taking a prepping approach to travel and try Rosetta Stone: a language learning program that offers an annual plan with access to 24+ languages.

I've always wanted to learn a new language but have had trouble committing. I was a bit wary about starting Rosetta Stone but ultimately decided to give it a shot.

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month for 12 months (what a deal). While I was determined to learn Spanish in anticipation of my dream trip to Spain, this plan allows me to switch to any of the other 24+ languages.

I was excited to get started and use the app. I figured with all of the extra time I had until I could actually go on my trip, I'd aspire to be near fluent by the time it happened.

Jumping right in, I took a ton of lessons through their app and really binged the language. I loved the focus on conversational language, phrases, and vocabulary but after about a week I had burned myself out a bit.

I ended up pulling back and doing 10-minute lessons a day. This was manageable and easy to incorporate into my schedule whether it was by doing a lesson over my morning coffee or winding down right before bed. Learning in bite-sized amounts helped me digest the information and really process what I was being taught.

After a couple of weeks, I was getting really comfortable with Rosetta Stone and was actually enjoying the learning process… even though I wasn't a big fan of language when I was in school. What really set this experience apart for me was the Phrasebook and Seek & SpeakⓇ features.

Phrasebook teaches short, useful expressions that I know will come in handy on my trip. Seek & SpeakⓇ definitely brought the fun back into learning for me, as it has you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and take photos of them. Once you do this it gives you a translation of each item (I've never enjoyed looking for cucumbers in my fridge before).

Watching so many telenovelas I knew how important the accent is (in any language) but difficult without an in-person instructor. Rosetta Stone realizes that too and uses TruAccentⓇ. The speech engine within the program gave me instant feedback so I knew that my pronunciation was on the right track and it made me more comfortable speaking aloud.

Rosetta Stone turned out to be a great choice for me. Now I'm daydreaming about traveling and feel like when the time comes I'll be ready to. I'm so confident in my learning that I've branched out and have done some lessons in Italian and French! I'm thinking, after Spain… maybe Rome and Paris? My destinations list is endless now!

Honestly, with Rosetta Stone, I feel more inspired than ever to travel and all this inspiration is happening right in my home. I can't wait to take what I've learned on the road but until then the preparation is still incredibly fun and useful.

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!