News from Us

A new year and a new look at Veniceforvisitors.com

Venice for Visitors logo

As we've reported in a post on our Europe for Visitors Blog, all of our travel-planning sites under the Europeforvisitors.com umbrella--including Venice for Visitors--have a new look for 2013. We've also made some changes under the hood to make the site faster and more useful to readers on desktop PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

First: We've switched from a three-column layout to a two-column design, with the editorial content on the left side of the page. Most navigation links are now in menus that you can reach via top links with headings such as "Transportation," "Planning," and "Hotels." You'll find this design especially convenient if you're using a smartphone or a small tablet, because you'll be able to read articles with a minimum of zooming and (on most devices) without horizontal scrolling.

Second: We've ditched our personal photo at the top of each page, replacing the page heading with a streamlined logo. (See enlarged sample above.) This change isn't likely to inspire headlines in The New York Times or The Guardian, but we mention it because it will put more visual emphasis on our editorial content while reducing the number of objects that your Web browser needs to download from our server.

Third: We're now serving all of our pages at Venice for Visitors, Europe for Visitors, and our related sites from a CDN (Content Delivery Network) with 23 data centers around the world. This already has reduced our average page-loading time by 60 per cent, according to Google Analytics, and other tests are showing that we're now among the fastest 10 percent of all Web sites.

But wait, there's more! In the next few weeks, we'll be launching a new mobile version of Venice for Visitors. It will contain our most popular and useful travel-planning articles (150 to 200 pages at launch), in a format that's designed for optimum viewing and navigation on iPhones, Android phones, and other smartphones. You can see an unofficial preview at m.veniceforvisitors.com, but be warned: The mobile site is still  under construction, so don't be surpirised if many of the internal links don't work.


New at Venice for Visitors: Venice Hotel Maps

Venice Hotel Map sample section

ABOVE: A small section of a full-page map that shows hotels near the San Marco Giardinetti waterbus stop and the Piazza San Marco.

Updated September 9, 2012

In the last few days, we've begun rolling out a new feature on our Venice for Visitors travel-planning site: a collection of interactive, full-page Venice Hotel Maps. These large, easy-to-read satellite-photo maps are based on Google Maps, which we've annotated and enhanced with commercial map-building software.

Unlike standard Google Maps, our Venice Hotel Maps have large, legible hotel icons. Just as important, we've placed the icons on the map manually, using our knowledge of Venice and our recent notes and photographs as references. This is a big improvement over standard Google Maps or the maps used by hotel-booking services, where markers are often based on GPS coordinates that can be inaccurate in crowded urban settings.

When you move your cursor over an "H" icon on a Venice Hotel Map, you'll see the hotel's name. Click on the icon, and you'll be taken to a mini-site for that hotel at Venere, a Rome-based subsidiary of Expedia that has negotiated discount rates with thousands of hotels throughout Italy. (In the few cases where Venere doesn't represent a hotel, we've used Booking.com as a backup.)

Tip: When using our Venice Hotel Maps, pay attention to the blue transportation icons. In the partial screen shot of our Piazza San Marco map above, you can see two blue icons at San Marco Giardinetti: one for the Alilaguna airport boat, and one for the ACTV vaporetto or public waterbus. If you're a slow walker or you're traveling with heavy luggage, you may find it convenient to choose a hotel near a boat stop.

Addendum (September 9): Since writing this post, we've added a new section to our Venice Hotel Maps. It's titled "Hotels near Alilaguna Airport Boat Stops," and it's just what the name implies: a collection of maps that show hotels within one bridge (or, in many cases, no bridges) of the Alilaguna airport boat's Linea Blu (Blue Line) and Linea Arancio (Orange Line). 

To make it even easier to find hotels, we've created an "Orientation Map" (see screen capture below) with icons for Venice's cruise terminals, airport buses, taxis, Alilaguna Orange and Blue Line airport boats, etc. Click on an icon, and you'll be taken to the relevant map.

To get started with our Venice Hotel Maps, please click here.

BELOW: A reduced-size screen capture of our new Venice Orientation Map with clickable icons.

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Personal plug: Minnesota State Flair

French Fries stand at Minnesota State Fair

ABOVE: Minnesota fairgoers settle for fried Idaho spuds instead of a fritto misto from the Venetian Lagoon.

You may wonder what the Minnesota State Fair has in common with Venice, and the answer is "Not much, except for the fact that they're both expensive" (though you'll find better deals on food in Venice, where--as a bonus--the gelato isn't deep-fried and served on a stick).

Still, Italians are big on family, and so are we--which means that we consider it both a duty and a pleasure to promote our daughter's new blog, Minnesota State Flair, a.k.a. "your year-round State Fair fix."

When we checked this morning, the lead article was "Get Ready for Greased Lightning at Andy's Grille," which is based on an interview with the restaurant's personable patriarch, Bob Andrus.

Other recent posts have covered such topics as "Canine Carny Cowboys," "Hamline Dining Hall's State Fair Ham Loaf" (from a church-sponsored eatery that's been at the Fair for 114 years), "Harness the Bear Within" (your chance to play Smokey, if you aren't too tall and can take the heat), and "Princess Kay of the Milky Way: Butter Beauties, aka 'Goodwill Ambassadors.'"

The blog is great fun even if you don't live in Minnesota, and we're especially proud of our daughter's hereditary affinity for alliteration.

URL: mnstateflair.blogspot.com

Photo: Minnesota State Fair, August 25-September 5.