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Destinations: Venice under 50 euro

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- (This article is part of the “Destinations” series which highlights things to see and places to go for Team Aviano members.)

I planned to visit Venice and spend less than 50 euro for the day. I was already down to 42 euro thanks to the ticket.

I wanted to stay off the beaten path and find out what Venice was like beneath the surface.

During the hour ride, I read my book and occasionally glanced at the view of the rolling landscape changing from countryside to urban towns as the train sped closer to Venice.

I stepped off of the train station and onto the busy sidewalk along the Grand Canal where crowds of people hussled to purchase water bus tickets or find water taxis.

Across the Grand Canal stood the San Simeone Piccolo church with its aqua green, Byzantine architectural dome, almost as if it was reflecting the water below. The Neoclassical architecture is one representation of the many styles that influence Venetian Gothic architecture.

I turned left and immediately encountered a Venetian mask stand. I was not surprised since it was the opening weekend of the famous Carnivale di Venezia, an annual festival held in Venice where people dress in classic Venetian attire and wear ornate masks.

So I bought a small mask for five euro. There was no need for an elaborate one, I had a budget to stick to and I was not dressed in classic Venetian attire anyways.

Weaving my way through the crowd, I knew there was one thing I needed to get before I started my visit … Frittelle!

These little pastries are only sold during Carnival season and are an absolute must. They are filled with different types of cream, I prefer the chocolate-filled.

My frittelle and glass of prosecco brought my cash to 34 euro. Now, with happy taste buds and a little sugar rush, I was ready to walk and tour the city, a free tour.

I followed the crowd along walkways and over bridges and every once in a while, I would come across someone dressed in ornate Venetian attire.

This person in costume was more than happy to pose for a photo, so do not hesitate to ask for a quick selfie with them. They are dressed to impress and would want nothing less.

I enjoyed getting off the beaten path, away from busy canals and walkways. I was able to see Venice for what it truly was other than a tourist destination. In small courtyards, children played with soccer balls against brick walls while the elderly sat and talked about the day’s events.

I got lost wandering through the neighborhoods but just kept an eye out for yellow signs that lead toward major sections of the city.

Tucked away in a back alley, you would almost miss it if you weren’t paying attention, was a wonderful hidden gem. It was a bookstore that has been in that corner for who knows how long.

Outside of this hidden bookstore were neat little knick-knacks for sale. Inside, there were more books in this store than I could even comprehend, so many that at least two large gondolas sat inside filled with books.

Exiting out of the store I came across another free Venice sight, an artist working in his studio on his newest Venetian mask.

After watching I knew it was about time for another snack, so I stopped at a wine bar for a light seven-euro lunch. If you want to eat in Venice without breaking the bank, stick to wine bars and small trattorias.

With 27 euro still in my pocket, I headed toward Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square, the only square with the title piazza. The square has been the city center for centuries, where people go to be seen and is perfect for people watching.

On my way back to the station from St. Mark’s Square, I stopped at a fairly large square with several cafés that hosted outdoor seating. Time to soak in more Venice sights.

I bought myself a glass of wine for 5 euro which came with some potato chips and croutons. While snacking, I noticed a man enjoying his afternoon sitting at the café enjoying the same view.

I paid my bill and headed for the train station, only to find I had just missed the Trieste train. I had an hour to kill, so what did I do?

You bet, I went back to the first shop and bought me another frittelle! They are too good to leave Venice without trying the different flavors.

I bought my train ticket home, boarded, pulled out my book and enjoyed the ride back to Pordenone.

When I got to the Pordenone station, I paid for my parking which was two euro, leaving a grand total of 11 euro left in my pocket after the day. I walked over five miles, so the 11 euro could have been used to take a water bus or I could have had some famous pasta-to-go sold throughout Venice in five-euro cups.

I was happy to get off the beaten path and find the hidden gems Venice had to offer. I highly recommend to look for the many free sights and take a walk through the quiet areas, as that's where I found some of the best spots.