Discover Venice for a steal! – Part 1

Venice is one of the most famous cities of this planet, although it is tiny compared with many metropolitans all over the world which are equally famous. The fame is based on the special character of this city, which is built into the Mediterranean Sea and kind of an open air museum itself…

The capital of romance and love is – with no doubt – Venice in Italy. You will have this feeling of visiting & living in a big open air museum nowhere else and the special character of the water streets is unique as well, at least in Europe and within a city that has an age, historic charme and dimensions like Venice. There are many copies of this city, mostly in the US e.g. with Venice of Los Angeles – and in themeparks all over the worlds.

I don’t want to focus on facts and figures with this entry, for all of that you have the linked Wiki above and probably good traveler guides anyways. What I want to deliver here are some impressions and since I traveled there already two times (and certainly not the last time), insider knowledge for your convenience, how you can make it there and live there, even with a very small budget – in the historic center, on the island of Venezia and not on the mainland.

  • Your Trip: Plan your trip in advance and don’t haste through this city. Plan at least three to four days, directly on the island. Don’t consider a stay on the mainland, it’s not even cheaper, if you book the hotel about a month in advance.


  • When to go: Summer is fine of course, but Venice is overrun by tourists and in between July and September is main vacation time in Italy and the city is even more frequented. Summer can be nasty in Venice, since the city sometimes stinks when it is warm and you will not be able to enjoy your stay, when you have to fight for space on all main sights. I prefer to go in late Autumn and Winter. End of October to mid of January is a good time, although it is not really warm. So far the weather was always appreciable. Rain can occur, but you will have sun as well. I have never visited Venice for the Carnival, but if you plan to do that, book about one year in advance!
  • Getting there: If you arrive by ferry or train, everything is good – you can’t take a motorized vehicle onto the island! If you have a rental car within Italy, make it a one-way and return it in Venezia. If you have an own car or a rental you plan to use after your stay as well, park it on the mainland! The pricing differs drastically and it’s possible that you pay up to 30 EUR a day for public parking if you choose to park directly at the entrance of the historic city. This is very convenient and if you can afford it, you should do it. The options on the mainland are by far cheaper and if you choose the right hub, it costs about 5 – 10 EUR a day! Before you get off your vehicle make sure you have your Vaporetto pass ready to take the bus into the historic city, directly from the parking site. It is by far the most convenient way. You can buy the ticket until 7:00 PM (weekdays) in Mestre in Via Giuseppe Verdi 14, (List of ticket offices) upon your arrival and if you are under 27 the pass costs less – show your ID to prove the age!


  • Staying in Venice: You certainly have plentiful options via AirBNB but they are not necessarily cheaper than your average B&B which you can find offered at all common websites like Booking or tripadvisor. It’s up to you what you choose. Expect daily costs to be around 20 EUR per person in winter with the option to cook your food at home. I stayed once in Mestre, the first time I visited Venice and I would never do that again! Last time we stayed in the B&B Venice Hazel and I can recommend it for the price, cleanliness and proximity to all main sights.
  • Getting around in Venice: Many ‘Piazzas’ are touristic, some aren’t. As recommended get the Vaporetto pass – a single ride costs you at least 6 EUR. A Vaporetto is the big water bus, for up to 100 people. It’s not as romantic as the little gondola, but a ride with the gondola costs you 80 – 100 EUR for one hour and for two people. Something you’d do when you want to propose or you have sufficient funds – nothing for the traveler on a budget. The Vaporetto helps you to return to your area of choice – and to get away from there I recommend to walk the city and discover it.


  • Eating out-house & Groceries: The less tourists you see, the better is the food. The price range is from up to 5 EUR for a coffee (Piazza San Marco) to 0,90 EUR everywhere in the places where the locals go. Same is for Pizza which can cost you 5 EUR in the area of the University – or triple the price in the touristic areas while mostly worse in comparison. Get a feeling for yourself while you discover it. I prefer the food of Tuscany and Blogna by far, when it comes up to Italy but you can find really good food in Venice as well, you just have to have a closer look. For aperitivos I can highly recommend the area close to Ponte di Rialto, around the Rialto market place – which is lively at daytime and where you can buy great ingredients for your home cooking. The other groceries can be bought much cheaper at one of the few Coop supermarkets.

In Part 2 I will tell you a bit about the sights and options you have in regard to the sightseeing and about the tickets – because sightseeing is expensive as hell if you don’t do it properly, as is going to the toilet. I never do the average sightseeing when I am there, although it would probably be worth it. I choose to just enjoy the city itself as a great museum. On the other hand, there are plentiful options one should discover… With those first infos you will get there and around and you can easily stay a week for not more than 500 – 600 EUR for two persons if you do it right, most of the food included. Stay tuned. I will bring up the next entry for Venice in about two weeks and it will include many more impressions of the city. One last advice: Make sure you don’t act like a touristic bum while you are there, the Venezians hate it and if you see the masses of tourists you know why!

Italian Lasagna my way

Homemade food is great for several reasons: It’s cheaper to eat at home than outside, YOU choose the ingredients, you can control what you use and how fresh your ingredients are, and it’s a prove of your love for the people you are going to eat with. Today I present you my recipe for Italian lasagna al ragu. A very tasty recipe, which I cooked for several times, always revising the composition. It was the winning recipe from my voting two weeks ago. Enjoy!

Recently I asked you to select a recipe for my next cuisine entry by voting for it. The participation in this vote was sadly not very high. The Italian Lasagna in my modified version made the race and the poll remains open, so you can still chose and I can estimate tendencies.

First of all, what do we need for a proper lasagna? Here you got all the ingredients on a glance. It’s quite a lot isn’t it…

All ingredients for lasagna al ragu, missing in this picture: garlic, an onion and parsley

A tasty sugo al ragu, prepared with red wine, which is better known as bolognaise sauce, but the Italian distincts on this used term bolognaise, if you know what you are talking about or not – For veggies you can use all kinds of vegetables as replacement for the meat, I could imagine mushrooms are great as well, just try it, be creative!

Sugo al ragu
The ingredients for a sugo al ragu. I prefer to prepare it with red wine, it becomes much more tasty!

A sugo béchamela, which you probably better know as béchamel sauce. This is the white sauce, which is responsible for the creaminess of good lasagna.

Sugo bechamela is the white sauce inside of the lasagna and some like to use it stand-alone with stewed veggies, I don’t though.

Plates for lasagna, 2 kinds of cheese, mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano, and some spices, italian herbs, salt, pepper, a chili, garlic and fresh parsley.

The plates and the needed casserole. Put a cup of water under the first layer of plates, it assures everything will be soft after the needed cooking time – don’t forget that, it is important!

Sugo al ragu

Since I offered the recipe for sugo al ragu as a stand-alone recipe for all kinds of use, for example as sauce for your pasta, I will get more into detail here.

  • basic ingredients for nearly every European recipe of mine: olive oil, salt, pepper
  • ground beef, 500 g for a big casserole which will yield six portions of lasagna
  • fine sliced onions, take two small ones or a big one
  • tomatoes, around 5 – 6 for about 1 L of sugo and 2 spoons of tomato paste – you can take the binned tomatoes in one piece, they are great as well
  • 2 – 3 grated carrots
  • all the spices and red wine

OK, it’s quite easy. Put the sliced tomatoes in a high jar, add about 125 mL of water – you need it for getting the plates cooked, add the tomato paste,  some garlic in fine slices, 1 – 2 teaspoons of the italian herbs, 1 spoon of salt, pepper and a crushed chili. You purée everything to a homogenous sauce and put it aside.

In a pan you heat some olive oil, glaze the onions, then add the meat and roast it with the onions until it becomes slightly dark and you can smell the roasted aroma – in America until all the water is gone which is in the meat (we don’t have those issues in Europe), otherwise it won’t darken. When the meat turns dark, put the grated carrots and roast everything for another 5 min. under continuous stirring.

Then you quench with red vine, take a good glass, like 250 mL and leave it cook, until the liquid is gone again, before you put the tomato purée, which you prepared like described above. You leave this preparation cook for at least 30 min. at low heat and stirr from time to time. The obtained sauce is perfect for individual pasta sauce when you leave it stand over-night, for the lasagna you can use it right away.

Sugo bechamela

This one might be a little tricky without the knowledge about the behaviour of the ingredients.

  • 500 mL of milk and 250 mL of water
  • a good small bowl of flour
  • about 100 – 150 g of butter (I prefer if it is not too greasy)
  • salt and pepper

First of all put about 500 mL and 250 mL of water in a pot and add a good bowl – one of the smaller ones for breakfast – of flour. Don’t take too much, it is better to take less in the beginning and add some later, since you can’t undo “too much”. Important: The milk & water mixture has to be cold, while you add the flour, otherwise the flour starts gelling immediately due to its content of starch. If you make this mistake, you have big chunks of flour which do not desintegrate anymore! Add it while everything is cold and stirr strong to obtain a homogenous suspension which will be quite liquid by that time. Then start to heat and observe the increase of viscosity – in the end it has to be quite viscose, like a waffle or pancake dough. If you have to add flour later to obtain this consistency, add it through a sieve under permanent stirring. Add the butter in fine slices when you observe the increase of viscosity and stirr as long as the whole preparation needs to cook for a short moment and until all the butter is gone. You have the bechamela – spices can be added during the whole time.

Prepare the lasagna layer by layer

Since you got all the different ingredients now, start putting the plates into the casserole. A first layer, with some water, as bottom (see above). Then in equal portions bechamela and sugo as a layer.

The readily prepared main ingredients you layer up to the actual lasagna
Lasagna 05
Nice, isn’t it. Could have done the Austrian flag as well with those colors… 🙂
Lasagna 04
There you go, layer by layer – don’t forget to push the new layer tight for consistency!
Besides bechamela and ragu, put parmigiano and parsley into every layer

Add parsley and grated parmigiano reggiano as much as you want, before you put the next layer of plates. The next layer of plates has to be pushed quite strong onto the last one, this makes sure the consistency of the lasagna is good. And if you are done with layering, put the mozarella on top and the readily prepared lasagna into the oven for about 45 min. at 180°C, while you can increase the heat after 30 min. for the last 15 min. to 250°C for roasting the cheese. Done, enjoy it best with a glass of red wine!

The ready-to-eat lasagna, yields 6 portions in a big casserole and is all homemade – impress your future girlfriend boys, feed your family mums, enjoy a 3 – 4 day ratio of food singles!

The next recipe is due next month, if your input is big enough maybe in twoo weeks. Just make a selection by voting from the older entry you find here.