Venice: 10 Things NOT To Do – 10 To Do Instead

panorama over Venice lagoon italy

I hated Venice the first time I visited. I felt cheated, hustled, robbed (some of Venice’s prices should be criminal) and utterly underwhelmed. I couldn’t get close to the sights thanks to the crowds and at €16 for a Bellini in Venice’s most famous cocktail bar, I’d have expected fresh peaches. I left, I vowing never to go back. Venice wasn’t the Italy I loved. It was an anomaly to be written off as a bad experience.

10 Things To Do In Venice (And 10 Things NOT To Do)

But the thing is, every city deserves a second chance so years later, I tried again…and again…and again. In those repeat visits I’ve learned how to explore Venice, how to avoid the crowds and the best things to do in Venice to have the magical experience you’re hoping for. In this post, I’ll share those things with you.

1. Don’t attempt to see all the top Venice sights – pick a few and see them well

Alternative Venice Doge Palace

I’m all for cramming as many sights into as short a visit as possible but Venice is an exception to that rule. Why? The crowds. Even in shoulder season (late April/May), the crowds are so vast it’s impossible to speed around the city.  Do yourself a favour: take the pressure off, pick a couple of must see in Venice attractions and see them well.

St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge Palace were top of my sightseeing list and although it would have been nice to cram in a bunch of museums, I opted to take a locally guided tour of my top choices and see them properly. A good decision, it turned out because instead of queuing to get into the sights, the guide had pre-ordered priority access (part of the ticket) and we made our way straight up to the mezzanine. There, we got close-up access to the gold mosaic basilica, which was truly one of my Venice highlights (it’s a mosaic because Venice is too humid for plaster and frescoes). But just as amazing, I got a thick slathering of history.

Venice has history in spades and it’s best explored with an insider to take you through the stories that make up city’s history right the way up to the 21st century. For example, did you know that the copper horses at the top of St mark’s Basilica are replicas?  The real ones, which are thought to be the oldest on earth at about 2,000 years old, are located inside the terrace. Life size, it’s hard to imagine how these four horses have moved over the centuries from Constantinople to Rome and Paris (where they sat on top of the Arc de Triomph after Napoleon stole them). You can read more here.

doge palace

How to do it: I took the  St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace Fast Track Tour (€74). The tour includes a guided visit to St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge Palace with priority access tickets for both. For me, this was one of the best things to do in Venice. It also gave special access to the terrace (not available on most other tours), complete with spectacular views out over Venice. 

Venice Travel Tip: The crowds can be overwhelming in Venice but are most significantly influenced by the number of cruise ships docked each day. If you want to plan your trip to collide with as few Cruise ships as possible, check out this Cruise Ship Calendar.

What are the best things to do in Venice?

At the beginning of your research and not sure what are the top sights in Venice? Here’s a list of the top 10 best things to do in Venice for you to choose from:

  • St Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco): Venice’s main cathedral in gothic style with grand domes and lots of gold leaf inside. Completed in 1092.
  • Doge Palace (Palazzo Ducale): A grand palace that looks like a lacy pink wedding cake outside, now a museum so you can glimpse the residence of the Doge of Venice from 1340. Pretty sweet life, if you ask me. 
  • Bridge of Sighs – a white bridge best seen from inside (see how to below) linking the prison, interrogation and execution rooms in the Doge Palace. 
  • St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) – main public square in Venice dotted with shops, cafes, restaurants and many of the best sights in Venice. Named ‘the drawing room of Europe’ by Winston Churchill, apparently.  
  • St Mark’s Campanile (Campanile di San Marco) – the bell tower to the Basilica and an iconic sight (best viewed from San Giorgio Maggiorie island, details below). Nearly 100 metres high. You can climb the tower. 
  • St Mark’s Clocktower (Torre dell’Orologio) – Clock tower in St Mark’s Square from the Renaissance period.
  • Grand Canal  – Venice’s main canal that carves up the city. Best enjoyed by boat to view the buildings that line the banks. 
  • Rialto Bridge (Pont di Rialto) and Rialto Market (Mercado di Rialto) – Rialto bridge is the oldest out of only four bridges that cross the Grand Canal. Underneath, Rialto Market is a bustling free food market.
  • Peggy Guggenheim Museum – Venice’s best modern art museum set in an 18th century palace. Works typically from the 1950s onwards.
  • Academy Gallery (Gallerie dell’Accademia) – Where you’ll find art from the old grandmasters. Venice’s fine art museum collects work from before the 19th century and focuses on Venetian and Italian painters. 
  • Venice Lagoon and its islands: Murano, Burano and Lido –  Murano is the island known for its Venetian glass. Burano is famous for its lace and brightly coloured houses. Lido is most often visited for its sandy beaches. The islands sit within Venice lagoon and its famous turquoise waters.

2. Don’t stare across at the Bridge of Sighs – Go INSIDE the bridge and stare out

Alternative Venice Bridge of Sighs

If only Venice could triple the size of the bridge opposite the famous Bridge of Sighs, the congestion along the waterfront in Venice would ease around 50%* (*random guestimate). Clearly, that’s never going to happen and in order to get a good look at the Bridge of Sighs you’re going to need to battle with the masses.

What bemuses me most about the crowds in front of the Bridge of Sighs is that the significance of the bridge is the views it gives out over Venice. The bridge is named because prisoners inside the Doge Palace would walk through the interior of the bridge on the way to their execution in St Mark’s Square. The bridge and the tiny lattice gaps gave prisoners their very last view out over Venice before they died. And that last view is thought to have induced a final sigh at Venice’s beauty, hence the name: Bridge of Sighs. So, dear tourists, you might be stood at one of the most popular places to visit in Venice but – YOU’RE LOOKING THE WRONG WAY!

How to do it: Instead of sticking with the crowds, take a tour of the Doge Palace and the prisons. Wander through the Bridge of Sighs, take a look out over Venice (ignoring the crowds gawking in), sigh and be grateful you’re not off to be beheaded! A visit to the prisons and a walk inside the Bridge of Sighs is included in the tour I took and highly recommend:  St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace Fast Track Tour (€74). 

3. Don’t pay tourist prices (€10) for coffee – spend under €1.50 like the locals

Alternative Venice Music Cover Charge

Having a coffee in St Mark’s Square was on my list of top things to do in Venice. However, a friend warned me about the coffee and drinks prices in St Mark’s Square before I visited. “You have to pay for the music.” I laughed. She was joking, right? Wrong. Sit for a mid-sightseeing coffee at Caffé Florian, the most popular and obvious cafe overlooking St Mark’s Square, and you’ll be charged for the music. I’m not talking about a collection hat that comes around. I’m talking about an actual cover charge. I took that picture a while ago – it’s likely to be more than €6 now. That’s in addition to your coffee price (€6.50 for an espresso and €10.50 for a cappuccino or Americano). Sure, it might be the oldest café in Venice, but pushing €20 each for a hit of caffeine and some accompanying music? When you consider it costs only €20 to see an entire recital in Lucca, home of Puccini, that doesn’t feel like a great deal.

Walk a few paces to the right of Caffé Florian and the coffee price plummets to €1.20 for an espresso. You have to shuffle in among the locals and drink your coffee standing (which is how the Italians do it anyway) but for a quick caffeine fix while still enjoying being in the square, this is a much better option. Bonus: you can hear the music drifting out of Caffé Florian for free.

How to do it: Ask for a caffe (espresso) at Ai Do Leoni just to the right of St Marks Clock Tower, €1.20. If you’re really interested in Italian coffee, you can enjoy this Lonely Planet Experience: Venice Bakery and Desserts Tour. There is a whole etiquette around drinking coffee in Italy – if you’re confused about what to order and when, you can read more in my blog post How to Order Coffee in Italy.

4. Don’t take a Gondola ride – take a Venice boat tour instead

Alternative Venice Boat Ride

Read almost any article about what to do in Venice and it will tell you to take a Gondola ride. I get it. They’re iconic and compelling and some people feel entirely unable to go to Venice and not get in one – so do it, fulfil the dream and enjoy. But don’t think that’s where the waterways of Venice start and end. (I’ve got more details later on about booking a gondola tour in Venice).

One of the biggest appeals of the City of Canals is the water and how everything is conducted on it. Deliveries are made, commutes occur, children travel to school and even ambulances take the form of a boat. Once upon a time, Gondola’s used to be nothing more than a reality of Venetian life. These days, with more tourists than locals, the gondolas exist largely for tourist purposes. What’s more, unless you spend big, you’re going to be sharing a small boat space with a lot of strangers for a very short (30 minute stint) on the water.

Instead, take a 2-hour, spacious boat ride down the Grand Canal, under the Rialto bridge and out towards the smaller islands. Let the guide point out the old custom house that used to tax every boat coming in to trade with the Merchants of Venice; get to know a bit more about the Republic of Venice, the Italian government of old, see where the house of Prada sits; and sail past the Aman Grand Canal hotel where George Clooney got married. And all of this without the bumps and jolts felt by the much smaller Gondolas.

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

How to do it: I took the Venice 2-Hour Boat Tour With Grand Canal & Tower Climb of San Giorgio Maggiori tower with Walks of Italy (2hrs, €98). Don’t miss Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (picture above), which is situated on the strip between the Grand Canal and Piazza San Marco and is best viewed from the water. Don’t have the time or prefer to spend less? Here’s a shorter, more budget-friendly, 1 hour Grand Canal cruise (€30).

Booking a Gondola Ride in Venice

I get it. You can’t go to Venice and NOT take a gondola ride. Fair enough – it’s is an iconic part of Venice and tops most lists of Venice attractions. The question is, which one to choose? Here’s my recommendations.

Private gondola tour: If you prefer a private gondola (trust me, you should), this is the best rated private gondola ride. It’s €180 for 2 people / 20 mins but comes down to €30 per person if there are 6 of you. When I last checked the prices, there was a 25% discounted off the above price, which ran for months so do check.

Shared gondola tour: Here’s the best rated shared gondola ride in Venice (€32/30 mins).

Romantic Gondola tour: Just 2 of you? Special occasion? Want to add some sparkle (literally)? Book this very popular Romantic Private Gondola Ride for Two, (€140 for 2 people /20 mins), which includes a bottle of Prosecco.

5. Don’t climb San Marco Campanile – ascend San Giorgio Maggiore for the best views in Venice

View of Venice from San Giorigo Maggiore bell tower - things to do in Venice

San Marco Campanile, the big, tall bell tower in St Marks Square is definitely one of the most iconic Venice sites and people queue forever to go up it. However, the best views aren’t from the top of the tower, they’re from across the water, looking back at San Marco campanile.

How to do it: Head over to the small island of San Giorigo Maggiore and climb the bell tower there instead (I say climb – it’s actually a lift/elevator and there is no climbing option). By ascending the bell tower across the way, you get panoramic views across the whole of Venice island, including the famous campanile. This is one of my favourite views in Venice and always on my list when friends ask me what to see in Venice. A visit to San Giorgio Maggiore island is included in the Venice 2-Hour Boat Tour With Grand Canal & Tower Climb tour I took (€98).

6. Don’t linger around St Marks Square – head to Canareggio for crowd-free Venice

Alternative Venice Canareggio

The few locals left in Venice’s historic centre tend to spend most of their time in the Canareggio district. If you make the effort to head away from the water and the highlights of San Marco, where the main Venice tourist attractions can be found and therefore most of the day trippers tend to linger, you’ll see the crowds thin significantly. As though another part of Venice has opened up, with a modern shopping street but also the history of the Jewish Ghetto, in Canareggio you can spend a few hours getting to know real Venice without the crowds. This is definitely my favourite way to do my Venice sightseeing, soaking up local life. It’s also one of the best free things to do in Venice. Don’t miss Ponte de Chiodo in Canareggio – one of only two bridges in Venice without a parapet.

How to do it: Take a vaporetto to Ca’ d’Oro and head to Strada Nova (New Street). Continue on to Via Emanuele and ultimately onto Rio Tera S. Leonardo (it’s all the same street but the names change as you cross the bridges). Look out for a tiny sign above an alley written in Hebrew, which will take you into the Jewish Ghetto. You can loop back via Misericordia. Canareggio is a great option for food and drinks without the tourist prices. Don’t worry, it’s all on the map at the end of the post. If you want a local to show you around this area, you can book this Venice: Jewish Ghetto 2 Hour Tour (€74) Otherwise, you can try this more general, Private Walking Tour, for just €40.

7. Don’t play Russian Roulette with the food – take a Venice food tour with a local

Alternative Venice

One of the reasons I didn’t get along with Venice the first time was because of the food – over priced, hit and miss (at best) and served without much care (because, let’s face it, tourists don’t offer much by way of repeat-business). This time round, I promised my stomach I would do things better and I booked straight on to a food tour. I didn’t want to waste countless attempts (and euros), trying to pick out what might be the best places for chicchetti (small pieces of bread topped with fish, meat, cheese or vegetables and eaten as a snack with an aperitivo drink), tracking down the best market to buy fresh produce (especially helpful if you’re staying in a rental apartment) or scouring the warren of streets for a memorable dinner.

For 4 hours, I followed a local lady through the streets of Venice as she told stories, pointed out places of interest and, of course, shared all her inside info on the best places to eat in the city. With all the research in the world, I doubt I would have found the tiny chicchetti bar where gondola riders choose to snack and slurp their way through a quick bit of sustenance and a glass of wine on their breaks. Nor would I have taken myself down the narrow backstreets of old Venice, many of which are abandoned, and I definitely wouldn’t have ended up at the perfect local dinner spot. Not only was this a hugely satisfying tour (that review is left by my stomach), it was also one of the most fun things to do in Venice. Wine at 11am? Wine not?

How to do it: Take a food tour. I took a Rialto Market Food and Wine Lunchtime Tour of Venice  (€89). This tour is a wonderful blend of eating plus history along the way and includes 7 – yes, 7 eating stops – over 4 hours. Arrive hungry. Even if you don’t take a food tour in Venice, do stop by the Rialto Market. Not only is it one of the best things to see in Venice, it is also one of the best free things to do in Venice…if you can resist buying 4 kilos of cheese.

  • Not got 4 hours to spare? Try this Chichetti Dishes and Wine Bar with A Local. In case you didn’t know, Chicchetti is small bites like Spanish tapas and is best enjoyed with a drink. And with this tour, you get 5 eating and drinking stops in 2.5 hours (€90) – it’s no surprise this tour is ridiculously popular.
  • Want a third, popular option? This Venice: 2.5 hour Street Food Tour With a Local Guide gives you the best of both worlds combining Rialto Market and Chichetti (€39) 

8. Don’t go for a Bellini at Harry’s Bar – have an Aperol spritz with the locals

Alternative Venice

Having a Bellini at Harry’s bar in Venice is a bit like taking a Gondola ride – for some people, it’s a must do in Venice and, if that’s you, I won’t waste a second talking you out of it. But do be prepared.

If you didn’t know, the Bellini was invented in Venice by the owner of Harry’s bar. Sadly, the 1930s charm of the bar has long gone and as tourist queue up to hand over close to €30 per Bellini, it’s no surprise the process has turned into a conveyor belt. I sat at the bar and watched peach puree squeezed from a foil pack into glasses while Prosecco was squirted from a soda-style tap. No blending of peaches. No popping of corks. Not even a full 125ml champagne glass. (I’ve become a bit of an expert in Prosecco in recent years and now know that Prosecco has to be served from a bottle, so whatever was in that tap was just bog-standard sparkling wine). If you do visit Harry’s bar, try to go when white peaches are in season (summer) so you stand a chance of fresh fruit in your drink, not preserved puree.

If you don’t want to set yourself up for an expensive disappointment, ditch the Bellini and get on the Aperol Spritz train instead. Perhaps the most popular aperitivo you will see in Venice (and the rest of Italy) the Aperol spritz is a cocktail made with a large measure of Aperol (similar to Campari but much sweeter), topped with Prosecco – actual Prosecco – chilled with ice and served with a slice of orange and a dash of soda water. Be warned, it’s hard to tell how potent this almost all-booze drink is and it has a tendency to evaporate (from your glass into your mouth).

How to do it: Skip the waterfront (unless you want the view and are prepared to pay for it) and instead head deeper into the historic centre to look for a local’s bar. My favourite was Bacaro Risorto where they also sell very tasty chicchetti for €1.50 a piece. 

9. Don’t order pizza in Venice – have risotto or seafood instead

Eat seafood in Venice

Did you know that there’s a law in Venice prohibiting wood-fired ovens? The rule makes sense given so much of the city is made of wood and we hardly want to see the the city of Venice catch alight. What also made sense, after learning about the law, is why the few pizzas I tried during my first trip to the city just didn’t pass muster. Of course, the other reason to skip pizza in Venice is that pizza’s not from there. In a country where food is highly regional, you’ll do your taste buds a favour if you stick to what’s local. So, head to Naples if you’re really in Italy for good pizza, now every time I visit Venice I look out for risotto, polenta, seafood and tiramisu. If you’re brave enough, try the sepe al nero – cuttlefish served with ink. It comes second place after tripe on my list of least favourite Italian foods but, hey, at least I tried it. Twice. 

How to do it: Taking a food tour will give you a great introduction to the city’s food scene and you can ask your guide for food recommendations. This is the tour I took and loved. Otherwise, wander through the back streets and follow your nose. Want to find out more? Check out my list of the best restaurants in Venice, covering every dining category I can think of.

10. Don’t sweat away your day battling crowds – see Venice at night

St Marks Square at night

Finally, if all the day crowds want to make you jump into the lagoon and swim all the way out to the Adriatic sea, take some solace in the fact that once the night arrives, the city quietens considerably. Venice at night is truly magical. St Mark’s Square seems to expand back to its grand size; the bridges are passable and the narrow streets are near empty and inviting.

How to do it: Go out, explore, get lost, enjoy. Simply wandering the quiet streets is on of the best things to do in Venice at night. Pop into a bar if you must. Maybe I’ll see you there. 

Want to find out about Venice’s spookier side? Take this Venice: 2 hour Legends and Ghosts of Cannaregio Tour (€25). Accompanied by a guide, you’ll explore the city’s narrow streets and hidden spots while you listen to the legends that surround the city. Even if you’re not a believer, you’ll get to explore parts of Venice you wouldn’t otherwise see, under the cover of night away from the crowds.  Fun fact about Venice: it has a lesser known nickname, la serenissima, meaning serene. 

After a few nights wandering through Venice at night, I came to a strong realisation about the city. It’s not that I hate Venice – how could I? It’s beautiful, majestic and riddled with history – it’s just that I want to have it all to myself. Have you been to Venice? What do you think of the city? Any other recommendations for an alternative stay in Venice?


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Map of Things To Do In Venice

Map of things to do in Venice

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Things to do in Venice

 

82 thoughts on “Venice: 10 Things NOT To Do – 10 To Do Instead”

  1. Enjoyed the blog. We stayed on the mainland and trolleyed it across to the islands. Picked up lunch items at a bakery on the mainland and ate it in the island. We did find the the island super expensive but had beautiful views. Glad I went once but not on my bucket list to do again. But Tuscany, that is a different story. . . .

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  2. Hi Jo. We have visited Venice just once and are itching to go back – hopefully things will get back to normal in the next few months as we are hoping to go in October. Your blog and suggestions were a great way for us to decide what to do on our first trip. Have you heard any updates yet on travel restrictions to Italy due to covid? Also, just a couple of suggestions for you to check out on your next trip. We stayed at Hotel Antico Doge in Cannaregio and absolutely loved it; we will almost certainly stay there again on our next visit. We also dined a couple of times at Osteria Oliva Nera at the recommendation of some very good friends. Maybe a little pricey but were not disappointed at all with the food and service. And the owner, Isabella Zambon is an absolute gem. Thanks for your tips and insight.

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    • Hi David, thanks so much for your lovely comment and wonderful tips. I run a second website dedicated to the Prosecco region of Italy (and Venice) – Visit Prosecco Italy, so I’m hooked into the travel news there. At the moment, I think it’s too early to tell what travel will be like in October. I do, however, know that Italy’s tourism board is very keen to reopen for visitors and many hotels are making great strides for a safe stay (some offer in-room testing). My hunch is that October will be easier than ever (during the pandemic) to travel but I hope I haven’t jinxed us by saying that. Fingers crossed for your October trip and I recommend adding a Prosecco visit to your stay 🙂

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  3. Hi Jo,

    Excellent and informative post, and we will certainly take your advice. I’ve been to Venice 3x, but not in 25 years or so. I don’t recall massive crowds anywhere, so I expect this Venice will be very different from the one I remember. That said, we’re absolutely going AirB&B. The choices are overwhelming, though–there are so many good places available at reasonable prices! So, what I’m looking for is to pick an area to search for a place and I’m just adrift here. We’d like to be reasonably close to “touristy” stuff, but out of the main hubbub. Can you recommend an area–even down to a street or two–that you’d say “hey, if you can get a place here, you’ll be close to the thick of things but it’s also kind of where locals hang out!”? If that’s too tall an order, can you recommend an area (more detail = better!) that you’d happily stay?

    Thanks so much!

    Paul

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    • Hi Paul, I’m afraid you probably will notice a difference in crowds but Venice is just as beautiful. My absolute favourite area that ticks your local but not too far box is Cannaregio. I love the whole area so I don’t think you can go wrong. Have a great trip.

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  4. Really enjoyed this post – thank you. We’re heading to Venice in a few weeks and this has certainly helped us focus and given us the lowdown. All good info, which we will certainly use.

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  5. It’s a long bit away, but I’m surprising my wife with a trip to Italy…Venice and Rome, with a stint in Sweden as well. 🙂 I’m definitely using your tips to ensure we have a memorable experience! I saw some things about spending time @ Dolimite. Any suggestions about that?

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    • Just back from the Dolomites and wish I’d had more than the 8 days there with my son. We were there for the climbing, via ferrate and some walking but the place is amazing. The hub is Cortina but we stated 15mins drive from there which was great. All l can say is we are already planning a return visit. If your going out of ski season however lots of restaurants are closed and so, unless you research, it looks like pizza and more pizza – not true – we did source some really tasty Italian classics of the region. Enjoy if you head up there – the mountains and colours with the light are amazing.

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  6. Hi, I was just wondering for the St Mark Basilica and Doge’s Palace tour that you recommended, did it include the Secret Itineraries tour of the Doge’s Palace?

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  7. Hi Jo,

    I see the real hard work involved in writing such a detailed and informative blog.Really appreciated. I am staying 3 days in Lido for a conference, and then in Cannaregio for 3 days.

    I need your inputs on how to actually manage my evenings in Lido( till evening, I am in conference) and then in Cannaregio as well..
    I am looking for a serene, memorable historic holiday!

    Need your valuable suggestions please.

    Muralidhar

    Reply
    • Hi Muralidhar, my best tip if you’re staying on Lido is to buy the vaparetto pass and then you can take the boats all around Venice. That way you won’t feel stuck on the island at night. I hope you have a great trip.

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  8. Hi Jo,
    I am Italian and I think this article is very interesting. You have identified some points that are useful for every tourist (even for an Italian tourist coming from another region).
    I hope my notes can be useful: I noticed that some foreign tourists have a wrong perception of Italy (especially if they come from outside Europe).

    In Italy tourism activities are very important and many people work for tourists. This is true.
    About 13% of GDP in Italy comes from tourism-related activities and about 7% of working people are employed in hotel and restaurant activities. We can say that tourism is important in Italy. But I believe that we cannot say that the country lives only on tourism (I read in some websites about tourism destinations that 60% of the GDP in Italy comes from tourism !).

    When some tourists say that Italy is very touristy they often refer to these three places:
    Rome, Florence, Venice. The true is that they talk about some neighborhoods in these cities. Among these cities the one closest to the definition “it lives on tourism ” is definitely Venice. But at the same time the part of the city that tourists usually visit is included in a larger one that has about 260.000 inhabitants (Venice – 55.000 on the islands and the rest on the mainland).

    I think a lot of italian people look at that places as “dead neighborhoods” without social, cultural and economic vitality (outside tourism).
    The real country is in the neighboring districts, a few blocks away. I ask this question: what are you looking for ? a real country or a perception of a country ?

    You have to go off the beaten path!
    It is very likely that you will find something that is very different from what you know ..

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    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂 I agree that people have to wander off the beaten path but at the same time a lot of these ‘big hitters’ like Venice are a draw for a very obvious reason – their undeniable beauty. I think balance of visiting the larger and smaller places is the real trick.

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    • Hi, I’ve linked to some tour guides I used while I was in the city. They should be able to help you out.

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  9. Jo,
    I just got back from a trip from Italy that I will remember my whole life! My fiance and I took your advice in Venice and saw the bridge from the prison. The Doge’s palace was opulent and definitely worth it. We also went to the opera and literally got caught in flooding canals in our formal wear. Quite a story. I bought the phrasebook you suggested and learned basic Italian which saved us many times (my fiance’s thick NY accent was received warily, but the sentiment was appreciated). We also met up with French friends in Conegliano and the surrounding area and had wonderful food (cut to us driving up a steep mountain and my fiancee pointing to a brochure with smoked pork and asking our concierge “can I eat this?”), to which they are recommending to their loved ones. Thank you for your great advice. I can send pictures if you like!

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    • Oh I’m trilled you saw the bridge from within the prison – it’s quite a different experience, isn’t it. I probably shouldn’t laugh at your formal wear getting soaked but it crafts the picture of an adventure in my head! Sounds like you had a fantastic trip with plenty of stories to tell. Yes please to the pictures!

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  10. great advise, my husband and I have been to Venice four times now, we always stay out of the main tourist area. We love to get up early in the morning and walk around, it is so much quieter. We have always planned our trips for early April or late September, and we find that Venice is less busy, but that is changing too!
    Mostly we enjoy getting lost in the little lanes and buying food at the quieter little family-run shops, rather than the busy places near Saint Mark’s Square.

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  11. My partner and I were in Venice for a few weeks, late summer last year (she’s a travel writer too like you). I was terrified before we left Sydney that we would be eating terrible over priced food; and yet. I found this not to be the case at all, as we/I found good food in many locations and even several very close to pont Rialto. We were even complimented on our manners by our very Venetian host at one – though we did nothing except eat and drink and enjoy!

    That said, our first impressions of VENICE were both over and, underwhelming. The crowds certainly come as a shock even if you are expecting them – of course, we were also part of crowds..

    Thanks for the article, very good advice; just pick a couple of things and get stuck right in. The best way to enjoy Venice, i agree.

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    • Hi Kent, I’m glad my article helped. Good food in Venice? Tell me – tell us all. Where, where, where? I’m putting a guide together and any tried and tested tips are welcome. Congrats on the table manners. I’ve never received such a compliment but then I’m not particularly surprised by that 😉

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  12. Hi Jo
    Love your site. So informative. Going to Venice in May. Staying two nights at the Hotel Danieli. We are using Marriott points. My daughter woukd love to go on a processco tour. I see above you recommend a local. Do you know anyone we can contact?
    Also we like authentic food not touristy restaurants. Where do you recommend
    Thank you for your help

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    • Hi Sandi, I’ve set up a website dedicated to Prosecco and your daughter can contact Oriana or Cris using this link: if she needs any more help.

      As for Venice, tbh, if I want good food in Italy, the first thing I do is leave Venice (usually out to the Prosecco region where there are splendid, local restaurants. I’m still searching for the elusive ‘you have to go here’ restaurant in Venice. I ate here last time and had a better meal than elsewhere in Venice. Typically Canareggio is going to serve up better, more authentic food. Just sniff the air!

      Hope that helps.

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  13. I am in Venice and just read your tips and responses, and I agree completely. I arrived from Milan around noon yesterday and after getting to my hotel near St. Mark’s Square went on a walking tour of the neighborhood which include a Gondola launching point. 80 Euro for 30 minutes, or you could share with strangers (I’m traveling solo). I somehow ended up at the Basilica at 4:00 PM and was surprised to find a ten minute line and went right in. Same thing happened again today. After going to Murano my boat returned to the dock by the Doges Palace and there was zero, yes, zero people in a line that had to be 200 when passed in the morning. I paid my 20 Euros for the ticker and another 5 for the audioguide and walked right in. Last night after the Basilica I took the slow Vaporetto down the Grand Canal and tonight after dark I’m going to hang out in the square, which is about 100 feet from my hotel. Tomorrow is my last full and taking the advice above I’m going to go where my feet will take me with no map hope I get lost. I do have a three day Vaporetto Pass in case i get too lost. Thanks for your good advice.

    PS Tell Donna there is no comparison between Venice and the Road to Hana

    Reply
    • Hi Jim, sounds like you’ve had great luck – thanks for the tips. Hope you enjoyed the rest of your stay in Venice 🙂

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    • This has been very, very helpful, Jo. It will be our first time in Venice and you will help us save a lot of time. One thing I’d love to know is the name of the “perfect local dinner spot” you mention above. I’d really love to find that spot. Thanks again.

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  14. Oh, Jo,
    It’s like you are my travel spirit animal! Never have I had someone sum up my feelings re: Venice so accurately and concisely! For me, it was like the road to Hana, once is enough! Although I did that twice, too, and now 27 years later I find myself a guest on a trip to Italy w/my brother, sister-in-law and 3 teenage nieces. Naturally, Venice is on the must-do list, and naturally I began feeling dread and ungrateful, at a minimum! A trip to The Veneto w/Prosecco valley being so close by would suit my restaurant-owner self so nicely, but this is my niece’s sweet 16 present from her family, so I want it to be amazing. Your article has given me new enthusiasm, and hope, and the tools to make this part of the trip a highlight! Luckily, my suggestion of staying on the Lido and getting on the complimentary water taxi from our hotel waz well received so I am also looking forward to that! Thank you, thank you for such a gem- well written advice and solid alternatives to back it up!

    Reply
    • Ha ha! I confess, this post took me a couple of goes before I could properly capture my feelings about Venice. Glad you liked my suggestions and you should definitely get out of the Prosecco region. It’s the complete Venice antidote! Have a great trip.

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  15. This advice while valuable, is easily found by people who do their homework before they travel. Hope this article helps novice travelers.

    Reply
  16. May I add one of the most important advices for ALL of Italy: Don’t sit down to drink your coffee (“Caffè” is what you order and you get “Espresso” – and you should try that. It’s the best you will ever get). The cities (I think?) have a max price (~1€) for Coffee at the bar – and if they want to charge you more they are betraying you.
    And by the way: Sitting down with an espresso is a bad idea, because a coffee shot “dies” after a few seconds. So enjoy it immediately!

    Reply
    • Ilona, that’s great advice about the caffè in Italy. As a lover of getting a good deal, I always stand for my coffee. I didn’t know about the coffee dying though. Hmm, learn something new every day so thanks for that bit of info 🙂 I’d be interested to see if you had any other coffee tips that I haven’t included here:

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    • Hi Curt, I didn’t go to any wine bars as such but I did go to a few chiccheti bars that served good wine. My favourite was All’Arco, which was a hang out for the gondola ‘drivers’. It’s tiny, with just standing room that floods onto the street but for excellent wine, snacks and atmosphere, I really enjoyed it. Hope that helps?

      Reply
  17. Thank You for this wonderful article…I am traveling in May to Venice for the first time. I am saving all this useful info! Teresa

    Reply

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