By Rachael Funk
The capital of northern Italy’s region of Veneto, Venice is famous for its canals, carnival and central square, Piazza San Marco. Venice thrives on tourism and is loaded with attractions and history. The floating city is comprised of 117 small islands linked by bridges and, of course, canals.
What to know
Venice is an undeniably romantic tourist destination, and bustles with visitors year-round. Its beauty and charm are sure to impress, but prepare yourself to navigate through crowds. Don’t let this dissuade you from the top attractions like the Rialto Bridge or St. Mark’s Square; the crowds are large because they're worthwhile stops!
When to Go
The height of tourism season in Venice is in late spring and summer, when the weather is warmest and summer festivals are in full swing. Late summer is a popular time to visit, but be aware the city can be oppressively hot during this time, which can make the canal odors more pungent. If you’d like to visit when tourists aren’t cramming into all your favorite stops, try going in September – November, when rates drop and most of the tourists have gone home. Acqua alta flooding tends to happen in the colder months, so be sure to pack some rain boots if you visit around that time.
How to Get Around
Venice is a walking city, so be sure to bring a supportive pair of shoes! Google Maps does not do a great job of navigating Venice, so don’t rely on your phone for directions. Bring a map or ask a local if you get lost. The city’s narrow streets can be tricky to navigate, so give yourself plenty of extra time to reach your destination and give yourself permission to explore the places you unexpectedly end up! Gondola rides are a great opportunity for photos, but costs €80 for a 40-minute ride before 7pm and €100 for 40 minutes after 7 pm, so avoid using these as your main transportation.
Where to Eat
Venetians have long-standing food traditions and are very proud of how they eat. Old customs are still in place such as taking their coffee while standing and lined up against tall café tables. Venice is an excellent place to find fresh seafood and the delicious Italian food you may expect from the region. If you know where to look, you can find exciting dishes such as squid-ink spaghetti, pasta e fasioi, and marinated sardines. Here are a few favorites for hungry Venetians.
- Il Paradiso Perduto Cannaregio, 2540, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy +39 041 720581
- Ostaria Boccadoro Calle Larga Widmann, 5405/a, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy +39 041 521 1021
- La Zucca Santa Croce 1762, 1762, 30135 Venezia VE, Italy +39 041 524 1570
- Riviera Ristorante per Onnivori Fondamenta Zattere Al Ponte Lungo, 1473, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy +39 041 522 7621
- CoVino Calle del Pestrin, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy +39 041 241 2705
- Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti Fondamenta della Toletta Dorsoduro, 1169/A, Venice, Italy +39 041 523 8944
- Trattoria alla Madonna Calle della Madonna, 594, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy +39 041 522 3824
What to See
Saint Mark’s Basilica
You can find this elaborate church in St. Mark’s square. Created by using a variety of architectural stylings, the grandeur of this church is hard to overlook. Four bronze horses welcome you into the entrance which his covered in Pala d’Oro mosaics. It’s a great idea to buy your ticket online beforehand, and taking advantage of skipping the lines for an extra fee.
The two mile stretch of Grand Canal is considered Venice’s main street. If you choose to spring for a gondola ride, this is a great place to do it as it is one of Venice’s most photographed areas. You can hop onto a public waterbus for a less expensive ride, or opt for the vaporetto.
An icon of Venice, the Rialto Bridge stretches over the Grand Canal and connects the San Marco and San Polo districts. Originally made of wood, the bridge was ornately recreated with stone after the wood bridge collapsed in the early 1500s.
Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs is an important historical landmark in the city. A popular attraction, the bridge connects Doge’s Palace to Prigioni Nuove. According to legend, criminals were taken over the bridge from the palace and sigh as they took one last backward glance at Venice and continue onward to their punishment.
Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
A mouthful to say, this breathtaking attraction is a gothic-style church which has stood since the 14th century. The exterior of the building is minimal when compared to the other churches in the area, however the interior is truly opulent. Inside, you’ll find works by Titian, Bellini, and Vivarini, among other famous artists.
Tips and Tricks
You can buy a one-way ferry ticket for €6.50 from a machine, or onboard for an extra €1. If you need to buy a ticket onboard, notify staff immediately, or you may face a fine of €60+!
Want to know if you’re getting the best fruit-flavored gelato? Take a peek at the color. Usually, the more vibrant the color, the more artificial fruit flavors are used.
Bring mosquito repellant! These annoying bugs breed in still water and are very common during the spring and summer months.
Murano, Torcello, and Burano Islands
Don’t ignore the outer islands! Spend a great day island hopping between the incredibly Instagrammable islands and sampling fresh seafood on Burano. Visit the glass factory on Murano, where you can see glass blowers creating art right in front of you. The oldest of the inhabited islands, Torcello is renowned for its lace making legacy.
Tucked into the northeast of the Veneto region, the Dolomites are an essential stop for anyone traveling within reach. Bursting with popular wineries, the area tantalizes nature lovers with gorgeous stops such as Lake Misurina and Cortina. See the Italian Alps firsthand and breathe in the fresh air as you take in the unforgettable views.
Hop onto a high-speed train and allow yourself to be whisked away to Florence! Only a two hour journey from Venice, Florence offers attractions such as the Uffizi Gallery, panoramic views from the top of the Duomo, and picturesque streets that beg for exploration.
Italy’s largest and most famous lake, Lake Garda is the ideal spot to spend a day in relaxation on the water’s edge. Emanating a true Mediterranean atmosphere, the lake is surrounded by lemon and olive trees, cypresses, and magnolia. Spend the day on and in the lake, or venture out to learn about how olive oil is produced nearby.
Very close to Lake Garda, Verona has many idyllic piazzas to explore. The city is famous in part for being the setting of several of Shakespeare’s plays like Romeo and Juliet. You can visit the places mentioned in the well-known plays, as well as exploring the historical center, stop by the Basilica, or take in the architecture of Verona’s Duomo.