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We are so glad to have booked this as a private tour for just four of us. Venice is ALWAYS crowded during the day and especially when there are 4 or 5 cruise ships in port.
After meeting our professional guide in St Mark's square we went directly into Doge's palace and as the tour says we did skip the line which was very long. As a private tour we were able to move about more freely than the large tours and were able to interact with her and ask questions about everything we were seeing.
Her knowledge of the palace and all of the rooms was exceptional.
There are many aspects to the Palace. the 'Secret' rooms ar a separate tour and entrance fee, so be aware of that before you book. We chose not to do this because of time restraints, but each 'section' of the palace has different ticket pricing and entrance times.
We also toured the interior of the Basilica which was beautiful.
An added bonus was that she got us into the Murano Glass facility right there in Venice. While it is not the full factory, there was a glass blowing exhibition and we were the only 4 people viewing it! Once inside you have all of the Murano pieces available to purchase. Because of our short schedule, this was an unexpected treat at no charge and saved us at least a half day to go to the island for the full factory tour.
Guide was very knowledgeable and informative. Skipping all of the lines particularly into ST. Marks was well worth it.
Roger S USA
Due to the incredible crowds, both of these tours were very difficult. It was hard to move around. Our guide did her best to move us to areas that were quiet and she could explain about the Basilica and Palace. It was an incredible experience, one not to be missed. Try and find the least busy times to go though.
It was not a skip the line tour during our trip. First we have to wait in line to get the ticket for Doge’s Palace and then another line to get in. The line for St. Mark’s Basilica was so long it would have taken us more than 2 hours to get in. Our guide Rosenna was awesome! She made it happen!
This could have been an amazing tour. Sadly, it was anything but, and that was entirely due to our lousy guide. My husband and I had spent considerable time learning about our destinations before taking our multi-week Italian vacation and decided to improve our trip through private tours at really special locations. 8 of our 9 tours were 5 stars and have already become happy memories. Those tours had great guides who knew their subjects inside and out.
Our key tour in Venice, this one was miserable and our guide ignored critical visit details more below. My husband and I are eager, educated tourists who are respectful of our surroundings and love to learn. We left this tour feeling like we could have had a better experience with an audio guide, and we hate those things. This tour's guide, Gianna, had a poor delivery and a lack of consideration that caused us quite a bit of anger and frustration at the end.
To start, Gianna gave us the impression that she was disinterested in our tour. That we were just another set of tourists to run through the two sites. She arrived moments before its start time--we had been worried we'd gone to the wrong meeting point--and went through the entire tour as if on autopilot. She has a heavy accent and tends to talk to the ground, which wouldn't have been an issue if she'd paused to make sure we heard / understood what she'd said now and again.
The only time she really seemed to show any kind of excitement was to walk me up to the guards at both the Basilica and Palace to show them my small backpack purse and confirm that it needed to be checked. Of course they said yes, despite letting through plenty of big backpacks and Gianna's own massive shoulder bag at least 4x my bag's size her coat hanging off. I felt like I'd been tattled on. Twice. Off we went to both checked bag locations--one across the Square!--where I had to turn over my purse to an open cubicle. Nice.
Gianna's touring style was to walk into a room or in front of a set of stairs and talk for 10 minutes then leave the space. She didn't really gesture to interesting points or make the space interesting in any way. She talked on and on, without passion or even an attempt to make the tour fun or exciting. She just spewed historic facts at us, again, like an audio guide. She didn't ask us if we understood or followed or even pause long enough for us to ask questions until the end of her lectures. She spoke for so long we had to put down our bags when we still had them. Unlike our other tours where we had fun and felt energized, this one was exhausting.
What was frustrating about the tour was Gianna's inability to answer some basic questions or point out important details, the reason for our taking this tour in the first place! For example, I'd point to a painting that covered an entire wall of the Palace and asked about the subject matter. She didn't know. This happened multiple times. Sometimes she said, oh, it's an allegory... An allegory of what?? Another example was when we passed through a room that was very crowded with several guided groups. She walked through saying we'd skip it and go to the next, then started to walk to the next room after her talk. When I asked about going back to the one we'd skipped, she said, oh, if you want to, but then didn't know much about the paintings. Again, this was very different from our other guides who had all been experts and highly knowledgeable. I gave up on asking questions.
What truly ANGERED us about this tour was that we were so close to the 4 horses and didn't get to see them. Why? Not because I hadn't mentioned my interest in the horses to our guide. Not that I hadn't said I was an avid horse person. Not because we hadn't said we wanted to see them. No, the reason was because our guide ignored all of this and took us outside of the Basilica to end our tour on time instead of telling us they were right up the stairs in the museum. She never asked if there was anything else we wanted to see or if we had any questions before leaving. No. She just walked out and in our ignorance we had followed her.
Once we walked outside with Gianna our tickets were void and our ability to walk up the stairs to see the horses disappeared. We tried to buy another ticket to get back in during our Venice stay but the lines were so long we couldn't make it. So one of our chief reasons for visiting Venice didn't happen because our guide phoned in her tour and was more interested in herself than making sure we had a good experience. I was VERY ANGRY and deeply disappointed about this.
Given the number of tourists who visit Venice every year, Gianna will probably keep on giving tours to people who will then say private tours aren't worth it. Fortunately for us we had other guides who were fantastic so we can point to her as the cause for our this one's poor quality.
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