Venice: Instead of paying a minimum of 80 euros for a 45-minute gondola ride, pay 50 cents to take one of Venice’s public gondolas across the Grand Canal. The traghetto is a far less romantic experience — you’re usually crammed in and you’re unlikely to be serenaded — but at least you can say you’ve done the gondola thing.
I’m tired of the sky-high prices and sometimes rude behavior put forth by Venice’s gondaliers. Sure a gondalier ride is one of those must-have experiences but if you don’t have the bucks, a traghetto ride will give you a feel for the gondola.
Rome: If you have any energy left, cap it off with a trip to St. Peter’s Basilica, about a 25-minute walk. Admission lines are generally long, but the reward once you’re inside is astounding. The Vatican Museums, which include the Sistine Chapel, are closed Sundays, except for the last Sunday of the month, when they are open free from 8:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. (but you must enter before 12:20 p.m.).
The Times didn’t outright advise travelers to visit the Vatican Museums on the last Sunday of the month, but didn’t warn against it either (after all this piece is all about traveling cheap.) I’ll provide the caveat this paragraph should should have included:
“You really want to see long lines? Go to the Vatican on the last Sunday of the month. I guarantee a mob scene and nightmare. If you can afford a ticket, I recommend AVOIDING the Vatican on the last Sunday of the month. Trust me.”