Boats and a Boatload of Wine: Hacking Venice on the Cheap

Boats and wine are two of my favorite things, ever.* So as I’m sure you can imagine I was ridiculously excited to be traveling to Venice. I mean, the city is built on a giant canal system! Boats are not only the norm, but often the only option to get around. And Italy is home to some of my favorite wine varietals in the world. Plus, we’d be meeting up with two of our good friends from San Francisco. Really, could it get any better?

The only thing giving us pause…budget. In addition to it’s architecture, history, and waterways, Venice is also famously Italy’s most expensive city. For two travelers on a strict budget we were a little anxious going in. But, with some careful planning and a few tricks along the way we were able to have an amazing time without totally destroying our bank account. Here’s how…

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Taking a Break in Bari

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned and you just need to hit pause. This is a mentality I’ve been consciously working on accepting this year and Bari was the latest…let’s say opportunity to practice?

The southern port city of Bari was our first stop on a 2-week adventure around Italy. We, like most travelers, ended up there because of it’s convenience as a transport hub rather than any particular draw from the city itself. The one and only ferry line in Montenegro docked in Bari, and from there we could easily hop a train up to Venice to meet our friends.

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Have you heard of Montenegro?

At only 9 years since it’s independence from Serbia and the former Yougoslavia, but with known civilizations dating back to the 6th century, Montenegro is the (second) newest old country in Europe. This blend of old and new could be felt in the historic Old Town fortresses that now housed trendy hotels and restaurants. It could also be seen in the pop-up stands along the roads where locals sold their homemade olive oils and fruits to beach-goers from all over Europe. In spite of (or perhaps because of?) a long history of political and boarder changes, the people we meet seemed rather unfazed by the latest developments.

A church dating back to the 9th century in Kotor's Old Town.
A church dating back to the 9th century in Kotor’s Old Town.

Our decision to visit was initially spurred by Schengen visa regulations — since Montenegro has not yet joined the majority of Europe under Schengen it meant we could spend our time exploring the country without the anxiety of knowing our 90-day clock was counting down. It also checked an important box for me: visit a country that we didn’t know existed before we started out on our trip.

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