With its romantic canals, winding pathways and stunning beauty, Venice, or Venezia as the Italians call it, is truly a city like no other.
Venice is a place to lose yourself in the charm, embrace the slower pace, and marvel at the city in a lagoon.
Getting to and around Venice
The capital of the Veneto region, Venice actually spans a wide range of geography from the mainland areas of Mestre and Marghera to the islands in the lagoon, which includes the historic center, the destination sought by most visitors. For purposes of this article, references to Venice are to the historic area except where noted.
If you travel to Venice by air, you will arrive at the Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE), which is 6 km (3.7 miles) from the Venice tourist area.
Venice has two train stations – Venezia Mestre station, which is on the mainland, and the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia located offshore in the lagoon.
Venice is an easy and enjoyable walking city, but many of paths require climbing steps on the bridges over the side canals – a note to keep in mind if arriving by train. Even though your hotel may be located only a half mile away from the station, dragging roller bags on cobblestones and carrying them up and over the bridges generally makes taking a water taxi or a water bus, called a vaporetto, a better option.
Leaving the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia’s main entrance, the water taxis and water buses are located just outside – you’ll see the floating docks. Just as with taxis and buses on land, a water taxi will get you to your location quicker and also cost quite a bit more that a vaporetto.
Venice travel tip
The waterbus area near the train station is chaotic during high season. Call your hotel before arriving in Venice and ask which vaporetto stop is the closest to your hotel so you have an idea where you are headed.
The No. 1 Vaporetto stops on both sides of the Grand Canal. The direction the boat is headed is displayed at the dock and on the boat. The boats come along about every 10 minutes during the day in the summer, less frequent at non-peak times. If you are staying several days, a multi-day pass is the most economical method of transportation. Be sure and validate your pass prior to boarding the boat.
The vaporetti are run by Actv in Venice. Maps, timetables and pricing information can be found on the Actv website.
Things to do in Venice
One simply must get out and wander the streets of Venice.
Choose an afternoon and head out away from the Grand Canal and the tourist attractions. The winding alleys and narrow cobblestone streets that weave their way around the islands reveal a new myriad of colors and delights with each turn.
Discover. Absorb. Explore. It will be some of the best time you spend in Venice.
Be sure and take your map and vaporetto pass – you will probably get lost and will need to find your way back to your hotel.
Ride the Vaporetto No. 1 up and down the Grand Canal
A ride up and down the Grand Canal on Vaperetto No. 1 is a great and inexpensive way to take in the sights.
From the railway station to San Marco, it is about a 40 minute one way journey (more or less, it’s Venice).
Set out in the early morning or late evening for the best chance to get a spot along the rail or, on some boats, one of the seats in the front or the back. The boats get quite busy in the afternoon and early evening.
Take in some culture at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Amazing art and architecture are in abundance in Venice, but if you must choose only one museum to visit, make it the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Home to some of the best European and American art of the 20th century located in Italy, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection houses Guggenheim’s personal collection of masterpieces including works by Picasso, Braque, Duchamp, Ernst, Dalí, and Pollock. The museum also hosts visiting exhibitions on an ongoing basis.
Located along the Grand Canal between the Accademia Bridge and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, the museum is open daily 10am-6pm, except Tuesdays and December 25. If arriving by Vaporetto No. 1 – direction Lido, take the Accademia or Salute stops.
Relax with an Aperol Spritz
According to Gruppo Compari, the owners of Aperol…
In Veneto, the homeland of Spritz, around 300,000 Aperol Spritzes are consumed every day, that’s more than 200 Spritzes a minute!”
Spritz is the orange-colored aperitif found throughout Venice consisting of Aperol, Prosecco, a splash of sparkling water, and typically either an orange slice or an olive. Also found made with Campari, the Aperol version is sweeter and has a lower alcohol content, making it a good drink to end the afternoon or start the evening.
Shop at the Mercato di Rialto
Each morning, Tuesday through Saturday, locals and visitors alike head to the Rialto Market to shop at the vegetable market (erberia) and fish market (pescheria).
The assortment is vast – fruits, vegetables, types of fish you’ve never heard of, pasta, dried tomatoes, nuts – and the list goes on.
The market is located near the Rialto Bridge. Take the Rialto Mercato stop on Vaporetto No. 1 and turn right. The market is just past the souvenir vendors.
Visit Piazza San Marco
One of the most beautiful squares in the world, Piazza San Marco, is home to Basilica di San Marco, Campanile di San Marco (the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica), Torre dell’Orologio (The Clock Tower), dozens of high-end shops, and the largest crowds you’ll find in Venice.
Considered a masterpiece of Romanic-Byzantine architecture, Basilica di San Marco was built to house the reliquary of Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice.
The Campanile di San Marco, or Saint Mark’s bell tower, was built around the 10th century. In 1902, the tower fell down and, as the story goes, a communal council met the same evening and approved the funds for reconstruction. The rebuilding of the tower took 10 years and the new campanile was inaugurated on April 25, 1912 to celebrate Saint Mark’s feast.
Across the piazza is the Torre dell’Orologio. Dating back to the 15th century, the tower features a gold and blue clock with the signs of the zodiac and the phases of the moon.
Take a gondola ride
When most people think of Venice, they envision a quiet gondola ride through the canals of the ancient city.
In reality, gondola rides are touristy, overpriced and at times the Grand Canal is so overcrowded with gondolas that it makes the 101 in California look like a casual experience.
All true. But, if a gondola ride in Venice is what you’ve dreamed of – do it.
But, here’s a few things to keep in mind before you head out with the guy in the striped shirt. Gondola fares are regulated and set by the City of Venice. The standard fee is for a 40 minute ride with 6 people in the gondola. After 7 pm, the fee is higher and longer rides can be purchased in increments. Venice gondola fares can be found here.
Since the Grand Canal can be viewed by the much cheaper vaporetto, ask the gondolier to take you through some quiet, side canals for a better use of the fare and a more enjoyable time.
Where we stayed
For this trip to Venice, we stayed at the Hotel L’Orologio Venezia.
Located along the Grand Canal, it is a lovely boutique hotel in a great location only a few steps from the Rialto Market.
The hotel is new and modern and the staff is helpful, friendly, and speaks fluent English.
The rooms are air-conditioned, quiet and playfully decorated with the clock theme of the hotel. We had a suite with a separate sitting area off of the bedroom and the bathroom was large with a great shower.
Before the night ends
As the sun begins to set, Venice is wrapped in a warm glow that slowly changes to shimmering beauty.
Whether your perfect evening is dining in one of the fine Venetian restaurants, trying your hand at a game of chance at the Casino Venezia, an evening boat ride along the canal, or all three, Venice will deliver the experiences that will have you dreaming to return as soon as you leave.