If you were going to Venice, how long would you stay?
Every blog or travel site I have read so far claims that you can see Venice in 1, maybe 2 days. Well. I am going to have to disagree with all of them. I think it takes at least 4 days, ideally longer, to get the Venice experience. I mean sure, if all you want to do is visit the attractions in Piazza San Marco, take a tour, hit up the shops, and maybe get a cup of gelato, then yeah, 1 day is probably enough. But if you want to truly see what Venice has to offer, plan for a longer stay and read on for what to see and do.
Venice is divided into 6 neighborhoods. Most people who visit stick pretty close to the San Marco area. The adventurous ones might wander over the Rialto Bridge into San Polo – heads up, the Rialto Bridge has been under construction for a few years, so if you are planning a trip soon, you might not get to see the bridge. That still leaves Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, and Santa Croce to explore. Each neighborhood has its own personality, so it is worth checking out each of them.
Here is my Venice to-do list, starting with the obvious, and moving off the beaten path as we work our way down.
Go to Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco is grand central for visitors to Venice. This is where you can find the Basilica di San Marco, the Campanile di San Marco, Doge’s Palace and VERY expensive food and gifts. So – I have been to Venice twice now and have never actually made it inside any of these sites. Someday I might make it in there, but the crowds are just such a turn off to me so thus far I have only admired these from the outside (when the crowds are not around). Regardless, they are obviously on the list of things to see.
Visit the Gallerie dell’Accademica
Ok, so this one we spent way more time in than I cared to. If you talk to Dan though, we could have spent hours more, reading about every single piece of art in the museum. The Accademica is a must-see museum though. It has countless pieces of art that will blow your mind.
Visit the Museum of Leonardo Da Vinci’s machines
This is a one room exhibit, but there is a lot to see. You can view replicas of Da Vinci’s creations and play with them to observe how they work. The museum is a balance of reading about history and fidgeting with models of machines.
Visit the Casa di Carlo Goldoni
This is a short visit, but quite enjoyable. You can purchase a ticket to walk through what used to be the house of Carlo Goldoni. He created many theater pieces in his time and you can view the various rooms of the house which include an old puppet theater he played in as a child. Story aside though, it is fascinating being able to walk around in one of the palaces that line the Venice waterways. They provide a glimpse into what it used to look like living here hundreds of years ago.
Eat gelato…then eat more gelato
Eat as much gelato as you can get your hands on! Either grab a spot by the water or continue walking around as you enjoy this better alternative to ice cream. Two recommendations on places to go include Gelateria Nico in Dorsoduro, right on the edge of quiet and crowded areas, and Boutique Del Gelato, which is in San Marco, but very hidden within the streets making it quite difficult for many people to find.
I LOVE MARKETS! I live in California where the markets are plentiful because of all of our farms out here, but there is something special about the markets throughout Venice. I love watching people set up in the mornings and pack up at night – unloading crates from their boats and moving box after box over all of the stairwells. The Rialto Market is almost always open, but the fish market is only open certain hours. If you get the chance, go walk through there and check out the variety of seafood they offer. I bet there will be something you have never heard of…and also a few things that might gross you out.
Order food in Italian
Yes – when you are in Venice EVERYONE will speak to you in English. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get some practice in with your Italian food orders. I don’t know about you, but I think it is part of the experience, talking to locals in their language. They will peg most of us as visitors and just respond in English, but every once in a while I got to pretend I fit in when someone responded to me in Italian.
Watch the sunrise
There are so many benefits to getting up with the sun while you are visiting Venice. The obvious is that you get to see the beautiful sight of the sun rising over the water or the buildings, depending on where you are. You also get the experience of walking through completely deserted streets and even an almost deserted Piazza San Marco, a plaza that is packed to every square foot with tourists during the day. If you sit in the plaza, you can watch the sun rise behind the Basilica di San Marco.
Then, as an added bonus, as you leisurely wander back to your place to finish getting ready for the day, you can watch the Venetians getting ready for their day. The city is usually so full of tourists during the day that the city almost loses its culture. But in the morning, you can see the locals heading off to work and setting up shop. If your walk back home is long enough, you might be able to find an open cafe to grab your morning coffee.
Watch the sunset
There is no wrong way to do this, but however you do, I encourage you to watch the sky turn from sunny to dusk to dark while you are traveling through Venice. The sun setting is the perfect way to reflect on the beautiful day you just had and to be thankful for it. After all, you are lucky enough to be touring around a city that may not be here forever.
Pick up food in the local Coop
Yes, Venice is expensive…if you follow the typical guides for touring around the city. Restaurant food is expensive, but not as much so if you get out of the San Marco neighborhood. And if you really want to save some money, and have an authentic experience while you are at it, stop by the local grocery store, or even better, the Coop. You can get food for a pasta dinner back at your place, or sandwiches by the water. My recommendation is to pick up some “cheap”, but delicious wine, cheese and crackers, sit along a quiet spot on a canal, then just relax and people watch as you sip and snack.
Murano glass factory and Murano Island
The Murano glass factory is on Murano Island, so you need to get your tickets and plan a boat ride over to the island if you are going to do this tour. While you are on Murano, spend some time walking around and taking in the sites of another beautiful place. The glass factory tour is fascinating. You get to watch them blow some Murano Glass, hear about the history and then finish by walking through their Murano glass showroom filled with pieces that all of us can admire, but few of us can actually afford.
Another place that I have not experienced for myself yet, but I wish I had time to see it. This island is picturesque, with its colorful buildings and cute shops.
Take a boat ride around the lagoon
One tip I recommend is staying in an Air b&b while you are in Venice. It will be cheaper than a hotel and, if you pick a good place to stay, the hosts are likely to greet you when you arrive and give you local advice for your stay. Our host walked us through some of the streets and showed us her favorite places for aperitivo, gelato, and dinner.
They also offered to take on their boat to tour the lagoons as their guests. We unfortunately were unable to go because the morning they showed up to pick us up, it was so windy on the open water that the guys driving the boat was soaking wet. They didn’t think that it would be a pleasant experience for us – another adventure for another trip to Venice I suppose. And if your host doesn’t offer a ride through the lagoons, you can pay for a tour of the lagoons as well.
Sit at a coffee shop and relax
After all, what do you really have to do today? Take your time getting ready in the morning, sip on a coffee and look out at the water or the architecture. There is no rush, enjoy your time in Venice.
Walk into a random art gallery
Hang out around the Dorsoduro neighborhood and you are likely to run across many art galleries with their doors wide open. The art studios to find are the ones that simply look like a large workshop, with the artist off to the side, working on new pieces.
Venice was my favorite place in Italy to have aperitivo (wine or spritz and a light snack before dinner). Aperitivo is still a very popular piece of the culture in Venice. Our favorite places to go were in the San Polo District, by the Rialto Market – Caffe Vergnano, Naranzaria, Ancora. Grab your wine and walk over to the chapel steps or out to the dock to have a seat. If you choose to sit at one of the restaurant tables, inside or outside, it is quite expensive.
Get lost at night
The streets are fun to wander during the day, but it is even more fun to go for a nighttime stroll until you get lost, then wander around in the mostly empty streets until you find you way back home.
If I have not convinced you to spend a little more time in Venice, just know that this is not a complete list. There are over 100 beautiful churches to see, at least 10 museums and several parks to experience. And of course, if you want to front the money, take a gondola ride through the canals. Or see the other side of the picture and schedule a tour of one of the Gondola workshops.
Even if you do not fall as in love with Venice as I have, hopefully you can see that there is more to Venice than can be experienced in just 1 day.
What are your favorite things to do in Venice?