Alternative Venice: 10 Things NOT To Do (and 10 To Do Instead)

Alternative Venice

If you’re looking for alternative Venice – a way to escape the crowds and make the most of this over-visited city, read on…


Map of the places in this post: Scroll to the end where I’ve created a Google map including all the places listed in this post. I’m working on a food guide to Venice but there’s every chance I’ll update the map before I finish the map so check back!  

Worried about visiting Venice after the 2019 floods? Don’t be. Venice is absolutely back to normal. As you can read in this article

“The tides are not an earthquake […] but something that comes and goes, and Venice has always lived with them. As tides come and go, soon the water disappears from the flooded squares and streets, and it’s business as usual at bars, restaurants and shops.   
Hoteliers made clear that all activities function properly in the city and that Venice is safe again for everyone, including children and the elderly. They stressed that “acqua alta” is nothing traumatic, but that many hotel guests even consider it a fun experience.”

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 I wanted to see thanks to the crowds and at €16 for a Bellini in Venice’s most famous cocktail bar, I’d have expected fresh peaches. As I packed up my bag, I vowed never to go back. Venice wasn’t the Italy I loved. It was an anomaly to be written off to bad experience, not to be encountered again.

But the thing is, every city deserves a second chance so 5 years later with a fresh set of eyes and a lot more experience at getting under the skin of places, I tried I again and although I didn’t become spellbound by the city (and I probably won’t be visiting a third time…probably…) I definitely had a more enjoyable experience this time because I chose to see Venice a different way.

Where to stay in Venice?

Budget: Generator Hostel. Check latest prices here.

Mid-range: Hilton Molino Stucky. Click here for latest prices.

Luxury: Gritti Palace.Click here for latest prices. 

You’ll find more details about where to stay in Venice at the end of this article. Otherwise, check out my detailed post about the best places to stay in Venice, including a guide to each area, on my related site, Visit Prosecco Italy.

Alternative Venice: 10 Things NOT To Do (and 10 To Do Instead)

In this article I’ll share with you what to do in Venice but it won’t include your standard itinerary – that’s where I failed last time. Instead I’ll be sharing 10 alternative ways to see the city while still enjoying the main sights and experiences. Here goes…

Going to Milan? Check out my guide to 40 things to do in Milan (that aren’t churches!)

1. Don’t attempt to see all the 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 (Florence: 72 hours, 72 museums and the €72 museum pass: GO!). Venice is an exception to that rule. Why? The crowds. Even in shoulder season (late April/May), the crowds in Venice are so vast that it’s impossible to speed around the city – a pace that’s required for maximum sightseeing.  Do yourself a favour: take the pressure off, pick a couple of must-sees and see them properly.

A word on the crowds in Venice

If there was a point in time when crowds were invented, I’m convinced that event occurred in Venice, and the tradition rages on. I get it – show me any bucket list and I’d be highly surprised if Venice isn’t on there. It’s definitely on the list of the 60,000 to 80,000 people who swarm onto Venice’s shores each day.

Sure, other cities get the same and even more footfall but the problem with Venice is that canals and narrow bridges were never built for the masses, at least not the volume the city sees today.

But worse still, Venice has sadly passed the point where it has more tourism than it has native Venetians. Today the historic centre is home to only 58,000 locals – that’s half what it was in the 1980s, most locals either got tired of the crowds or have been pushed out by the prices (because who can compete with the rich folk who want to own a vacation home in Venice).

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 the highlights for me in Venice (it’s a mosaic because Venice is too humid for plaster and frescoes). But just as amazing, I got a thick slathering of history. So many times I’ve stood in a place of significance, looked up at something quite clearly of interest and thought, “what the hell is it?”

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. 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.

The tour I took gave special access to the terrace (not available on most other tours), which comes complete with spectacular views out over Venice.

How to do it: I took the Legendary Venice St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace tour with Walks of Italy (€65). The tour includes a guided visit to St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge Palace with priority access tickets for both. 

Check details, prices and reviews here.

Pro Travel Tip: If you want to plan your trip to collide with as few Cruise ships as possible, check out this Cruise Ship Calendar.

Arriving in Venice: Speaking of a hassle free trip to Venice, I’d recommend booking a water taxi to take you from the airport to your hotel. That way, your first experience of Venice can be the magical, majestic arrival you’ve imagined (rather than taking the crammed tourist bus or public vaporetto ride along with the rest of the tourists). You can check prices here.

On one trip to Venice, I treated myself to the private boat transfer. It was relatively expensive at €200 but I was celebrating my birthday and it was a memorable treat (how to feel like the glitterati in one fell swoop). It’s actually a good deal if there are 4 – 6 of you. Here’s a private boat transfer here.

Alternatively, you can book a range of different transfer options from Venice or Treviso airports including private car, public boat and public bus. You’ll find a full choice of transfer options here.

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). But 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 tour groups, selfie-stick wielding couples and people who are otherwise simply trying to squeeze by.

But what bemuses me most about the fracas to get a shot in front of the Bridge of Sighs is that the whole significance of the bridge is the views it gives out over Venice. In case you didn’t know, the bridge is so 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’RE LOOKING THE WRONG WAY!

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!

How to do it: A visit to the prisons and a walk inside the Bridge of Sighs is included in the Legendary Venice St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace tour (as mentioned above).

Check details, prices and reviews here.

How not to be beheaded in Venice

Prisoners were once executed between the two columns crowned with St Mark’s lion and St Theodore in St Mark’s Square and superstitious locals won’t walk between the two columns through fear it will lead to an ugly death.

3. Don’t pay tourist prices (+$5) for coffee – spend under $1.50, like the locals

Alternative Venice Music Cover Charge

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? She wasn’t.

Sit yourself down for a mid-sightseeing coffee at Cafe Florian overlooking St Mark’s Square and you’ll be charged €6 for the music. I’m not talking about a collection hat that comes around. I’m talking about an actual €6 cover charge. That’s in addition to your coffee price (€3 for an espresso,  €5 for a cappuccino and €7 for filter coffee). Sure, it might be the oldest café in Venice, but nearly €10 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 Cafe 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.

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 take a Venetian Sweets and Coffee Tour.

Check details, reviews and prices here.

And if you’re after a taste of some Italian opera in Venice without blowing your budget, Virtuosi di Venezia offers a 1.5 hour performance in a small church with tickets under €25 each.

Check details and prices here.

Travel Tip: there is a whole etiquette around coffee in Italy – if you’re confused about what to order and when, you can read more here.

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

Alternative Venice Boat Ride

Read almost any article about 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.

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 board 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, see where the house of Prada sits; and sail past the hotel where George Clooney got married.

And all of this without the bumps and jolts felt by the much smaller Gondolas.

How to Do it: I took the Venice Cruise by Luxury Motor Boat: Grand Canal and Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiori tour with Walks of Italy (2hrs, €98).

Don’t have the time or prefer to spend less? Here’s a shorter, more budget-friendly, 1 hour Grand Canal cruise (€30).

Tip: don’t miss Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (picture below), which is situated on the strip between the Grand Canal and Piazza San Marco and is best viewed from the water.

Things to do in Venice Basilica Santa Maria della salute

Booking a Gondola Ride in Venice

Oh, FINE. Who am I kidding. You can’t resist that gondola ride, can you? Fair enough – it’s is an iconic part of Venice. Here’s the best rated shared gondola ride in Venice (€32/30 mins).

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.

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.

My favourite guidebooks for Venice

Alternative Venice Italian Guidebook

Lonely Planet Pocket Venice – it really does fit in your pocket and costs under $10/£7. Perfect for a city or short break – here it is on Amazon.

DK EyeWitness Venice & The Veneto – if you want a more detailed guide that covers a wider area. I especially love the 3D maps – here it is on Amazon.

Italian Phrasebook by Penguin (pic above) – this is one good looking (paperback) book. I learned extra Italian words just because I wanted to have it on show in cafes. I think the locals were impressed too. Or maybe they were laughing at my mangled Italian. Either way, it’s one of my favourite travel books – here it is on Amazon.

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

Alternative Venice Panoramic View

A bit like looking towards the Bridge of Sighs instead of out towards Venice, the best views of the San Marco Campanile aren’t from the top of the San Marco tower they’re from across the water, looking at the campanile.

Instead of climbing up the San Marco campanile, 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.

How to do it: a visit to San Giorgio Maggiore island is included in Venice Cruise by Luxury Motor Boat: Grand Canal and Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiori (see above).

Got a few days in Venice? Why not visit Prosecco?

Prosecco Tour

Most of us are familiar with Prosecco, the Champagne of Italy, but did you know that the Prosecco region is just an hour away from Venice? If you have a day or night to spare, why not spend it tasting a glass (or two) while enjoying views over the rolling vineyards.

I first visited in 2015 and created a post about How to Plan Your Own Prosecco Tour. It was so popular that I returned to the Prosecco region in November 2017 to research the area in more detail (hic) and with my my information gathered rapidly outgrowing the space in my Prosecco post, I decided the internet was ready for a Prosecco themed travel website (how was there not one already?). And so, I’ve launched a second site:

Visit Prosecco Italy


It’s the same kind of advice you find on Indiana Jo but entirely dedicated to Prosecco and visiting the Prosecco region of Italy. Most importantly of all, I have connected with several local drivers who can be your designated driver for the day. Better yet, I have recently worked with the drivers so you can book their tour services online. Check out the details here. 

Fun fact: did you know there is a Prosecco vending machine nestled in the Prosecco hills? Just up the road from where the above picture was taken.

6. Don’t linger around Piazza San Marco – head to Canareggio for crowd-free Venice

Alternative Venice Canareggio
Don’t miss Ponte de Chiodo – one of only two bridges in Venice without a parapet.

The few locals left in Venice’s historic centre tend to spend most of their time in the Canareggio district and if you make the effort to head away from the water and the highlights of San Marco, where 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.

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 uplift.

Want to experience Venice carnival but not visiting in spring? There are some great activities on year round from a carnival themed walking tour, a carnival pub crawl to carnival mask making website. You can browse your tour options here.

7. Don’t play Russian Roulette with the food – take a food tour by 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), 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.

How to do it: Take a food tour. I took a Rialto Market Food and Wine Lunchtime Tour of Venice. 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.

Not got 4 hours to spare? Try this tour (Chichetti Dishes and Wine Bar with A Local) which packs in 5 eateries into 2.5 hours.

And if you’re looking for a budget food tour that covers Rialto Market and Chichetti (but not the wine), check out this 2.5 hour Street Food Tour With a Local Guide

Alternative tours

Get Your Guide – If the tours above don’t tickle your fancy, check out Get Your Guide. You’ll find a whole host of full and half day tours in Venice and the beauty is you can compare prices and read reviews before you commit.

Check prices here.

Intrepid Travel – And if you’re looking for a more planned trip to Italy, my favourite tour company is Intrepid travel – above all else, they’ll take you places where you’re going to get those photo moments you won’t get on most other tours.

Check prices here.

8. Don’t go for a Bellini at Harry’s Bar – have a 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, they just have to do it 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 €16.50 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.

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 Apersol (similar to Campari but much sweeter), topped with Prosecco, chilled with ice and served with a slice of orange. Be warned, it’s hard to tell how potent this 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. 

Did you know: the owner of Harry’s bar is actually called Giuseppe Cipriani, not Harry and there’s a warm and fuzzy story behind the naming of the bar?

Top tip: 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.

Prefer to go with a local? Two good options are:

Venice Spritz Aperitif in St Mark’s Square (1 hour, €11)

Chicchetti and wine with a local (2.5 hours, €90)

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

Alternative Venice Seafood

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, but when in Venice, 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.

How to do it: taking a food tour (see above) will give you a great introduction to the city’s food scene and you can ask your guide for food recommendations. Otherwise, wander through the back streets and follow your nose!


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

Alternative Venice Sightseeing 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. 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.

Prefer a guide? Take an Evening Walking Tour. Accompanied by a guide, you’ll discover another side to Venice and fall under the charm of the city’s unique streets while learning about the history and legends of Venice.

Check details, reviews and prices here.

After a few nights wandering through Venice after dark, 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.

Accommodation in Venice Italy

Hotel booking tip: TripAdvisor is the fastest way to find hotel deals. It lets you search across the main hotel booking websites meaning you don’t have to spend time comparing prices. 

Giudecca island is an excellent choice away from the bustle of Venice. A few minutes away by vaparetto, with a good handful of restaurants to feed you at night and excellent views across towards San Marco, the island had everything you need plus a more peaceful fee.

Budget: Generator Hostel

Perfect if you’re on a budget in Venice. It’s very clean and has a great value happy hour (Apreol Spritz for only €2.50). Dorms and private rooms are available. Click here for more information and the latest prices.

Click here for latest prices on HostelWorld.

Mid-Range: Hilton Molino Stucky

Far removed from the boxy airport Hilton hotels you might otherwise be imagining, the building was once a flour mill and was integral to the city’s pasta production. Today, the building has been converted into a luxury space and the roof top terrace is reason enough to stay.

Click here for latest prices on TripAdvisor

Luxury: The Gritti Palace 

Centrally located, this 5-star hotel has views over the grand canal if you want a beautiful luxury stay.

Click here for latest prices on TripAdvisor

Want to reward the author?

I pay for 99% of my trips out of my own pocket. If you found this article helpful and want to make a small donation, it’s appreciated. Even $1 can help me find a new coffee shop or street food stall to recommend. All funds will be poured back into my travels which will be fed back into this blog. Thanks, you wonderful people!

Map of Things To Do In Venice

You can open the map in Google Maps (and save to you own/offline maps) here.

Like this guide to things to do in Venice? Share it on Pinterest…

Things to do in Venice

Have you been to Venice? What do you think of the city? Any other recommendations for an alternative stay in Venice?

If you liked this, you might also like: 

Looking for more tips and travel itineraries for Italy?

You might be interested some of my other articles:

One Day in Pisa

One Day in Lucca

Tavarnelle val di Pesa: Worth Leaving Florence For

How to Plan Your Own Prosecco Tour in Italy

How to Order Coffee in Italy

Is Naples Safe? The Answer From Someone Who’s Been

Urbino: Italy’s Best Kept Secret

Regional Food In Puglia: What and Where to Eat

A Taste of Urbino: Discovering Passatelli and Crescia

Is Naples Safe? The Answer from Someone Who’s Been

One Day in Lucca: What to See and Do in the Home of Puccini 

And, when it comes to planning your trip to Italy…

How to Book Cheap Hotels with Priceline Express Deals

Travel Insurance: Don’t get Screwed by the Small Print

101 Tips for Cheap Flights

Dynamic Pricing: Flight Pricing’s Biggest Scam

The 10 Travel Essentials I wouldn’t Travel Without


Article written by

Jo Fitzsimons is a freelance travel writer who has visited over 60 countries. is the place where she shares destination details, travel itineraries, planning and booking tips and trip tales. Her aim: to help you plan your travel adventure on your terms and to your budget.

81 Responses

  1. Paul Meyerson
    Paul Meyerson at | | Reply

    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!


  2. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth at | | Reply

    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.

  3. Steven B
    Steven B at | | Reply

    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?

    1. Di
      Di at | | Reply

      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.

  4. Deanna Ngo
    Deanna Ngo at | | Reply

    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?

  5. Muralidhar Sagi
    Muralidhar Sagi at | | Reply

    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.


  6. Gennaro
    Gennaro at | | Reply

    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 ..

  7. terwixonse
    terwixonse at | | Reply

    Help. I am looking for guide

  8. Maggie McLaughlin
    Maggie McLaughlin at | | Reply

    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!

  9. janice
    janice at | | Reply

    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.

  10. Kent Johnson
    Kent Johnson at | | Reply

    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.

  11. Sandi
    Sandi at | | Reply

    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

  12. Jim Epperson
    Jim Epperson at | | Reply

    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

    1. Jenifer Fritz
      Jenifer Fritz at | | Reply

      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.

  13. Donna in CA
    Donna in CA at | | Reply

    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!

  14. Menorca@Europe Diaries
    Menorca@Europe Diaries at | | Reply

    Wow! I’m visiting Venice for the first time this month and loved your suggestions! Have saved the post and am going to follow as many of your tips as I can 🙂 Thanks again!

  15. Jeanine
    Jeanine at | | Reply

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

  16. Ilona
    Ilona at | | Reply

    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!

  17. Curt
    Curt at | | Reply

    Any recommendation about a wine bar in Venice?

  18. Teresa Young
    Teresa Young at | | Reply

    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

  19. Where to Go in Sardinia - Self-Drive Itinerary | Indiana Jo
    Where to Go in Sardinia - Self-Drive Itinerary | Indiana Jo at |

    […] Alternative Venice: 10 Things NOT To Do and 10 To Do Instead […]

  20. 10 Best Sights in Florence (And 10 Alternatives) | Indiana Jo
    10 Best Sights in Florence (And 10 Alternatives) | Indiana Jo at |

    […] Alternative Venice: 10 Things Not To Do (And 10 To Do Instead) […]

  21. 3 Days in Florence: The Itinerary I Give My Friends | Indiana Jo
    3 Days in Florence: The Itinerary I Give My Friends | Indiana Jo at |

    […] Alternative Venice: 10 Things Not To Do (And 10 To Do Instead) […]

  22. Lisa.
    Lisa. at | | Reply

    I live in Venice and we would like to have it to ourselves too…The food is mostly frozen and it is very overpriced. The summer is so crowded. Even at night. We get around 30million visitors a year. In fact when we go out for dinner we go to the mainland to eat. It is an amazing city. But mass tourism has taken its toll.

  23. Iris Pase
    Iris Pase at | | Reply

    As an italian I cannot but agree with you! If it doesn’t bother you, I’ve shared your article on my blog’s fb page!

  24. Debbie
    Debbie at | | Reply

    We are going to Venice in September. I love your recommendations on the tours and will check them out

  25. olivialaurendreyer
    olivialaurendreyer at | | Reply

    Most helpful blog I’ve read yet, I was just going to devote half a day to Venice and do basically all the things you’re saying not to do that are touristy (which I would love to avoid). Thanks!

  26. Christie Sultemeier
    Christie Sultemeier at | | Reply

    Best article I’ve found! Thanks for sharing.

  27. Stephanie-Marie
    Stephanie-Marie at | | Reply

    Venice is home to my favourite little gallery. Peggy Guggenheim put together the loveliest collection and it’s worth an hour or two to browse through. My favourite was the Jackson Pollock room and the wishing tree in the courtyard. You write your wish on a piece of paper and hang it on the tree. I wished it would cool off as it had been 40C for days and later that day it rained and the temperature dropped considerably. In retrospect I should have wished for a million dollars!

  28. Marlies
    Marlies at | | Reply

    Thanks for these tips! I am looking for my parents and I love this!
    and now I wanna go as well of course!

    Marlies, Magnificent Escape

  29. dnardi710
    dnardi710 at | | Reply

    So glad I found this post! I am in the process of planning for a trip to Italy and was planning on booking a few of the Walks of Italy tours – glad to hear that are worth it!

  30. Martha
    Martha at | | Reply

    Your advice and suggestions are spot on. I made Venice my home for 35 years and living as a local is much different than experiencing it as a tourist. The farther you get from the Square the better.

  31. Rena
    Rena at | | Reply

    I agree with Paul tat the very best tip is to be prepared to spend some cash, and do your homework so you can make wise choices about where to splurge. We are getting ready to spend 10 days in Venice in Jan, arriving a few days before Carnivale starts. This will be our 3rd trip to beautiful Venice. Id love some advice about dos and don’ts during Carnivale. ere are a few things I’ve learned in previous trips: The Secret Tour of the Doge’s Palace is worth the 24 euro fee. No lines and the extra back stage places toured were cool. Did I mention no lines? I usually like traveling to discover but Venice is one place were some research and restaurant reservations come in handy. On our first trip, we had the worst meal of the trip at a pizza place ran by obviously non-Italians which seemed to be a front for the gambling going on in the back room. Sketchy. One last bit is to learn the Italian words for foods that you don’t like to eat so you know what you are ordering for a meal, or so you can ask questions wen pointing at cichetti bar. If you learn Italian vocabulary for all the items you like, it can be a long list and hard to recall wen looking at a menu. I TOTALLY agree with you about Canareggio but disagree about the gondola. Its pretty amazing to see the architecture up close from the view point of the slowly moving gondola. It is a splurge but I suggest using it as real transportation rater than making a loop – tell your gondolier that you’d like to get to ____ via the most beautiful canals and negotiate the price. Were renting an apartment tis time for about 129 euro per night, Ill let you know how that goes.

  32. stephentravels
    stephentravels at | | Reply

    I spent eight full days in Venice for my 40th birthday — plenty of time to see it all, or so I thought. Fighting the crowds, of course, was a constant battle, so your #5, #6, and #10 are particularly spot on, terrific ways to escape the masses and still see what makes Venice so irresistibly attractive. I would argue that taking a gondola ride is something that every visitor to this city should do, however, regardless of how touristy it is. But then, to counterbalance that, a ride on the very inexpensive vaporetto down the Grand Canal from start to finish, is the way to go.

  33. Paul
    Paul at | | Reply

    I agree with you about the Bellini. Must be one of the biggest rip offs in Venice. Not to mention the surly bartenders. After at least 5 trips to Venice, I would say to most people that you have to be prepared to spend some money.Venice is never going to be a cheap holiday destination. As an example, I find a private water taxi the best way to get to your hotel. It will cost around $110 Euro, but will save you a lot of time and aggravation. Regarding Cafe Florian, personally, I don’t go for the coffee, which indeed may be over priced, but sitting in San Marco at Cafe Florian with a a bottle of Prosecco in the early evening of a sunny day is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

  34. Nina
    Nina at | | Reply

    What is the best ticket to buy if I’m going from the airport to Venice but would also like to go to Lido.. I know I want to use the alilaguna, I’m just a little confused on how to use it. trip on the 25

  35. Michaell @ Foodscape
    Michaell @ Foodscape at | | Reply

    Wow do I wish I had read this before I went to Venice! I, also, was disappointed. Thanks for the great tips! If my husband and I ever go together I will be reading this first.

  36. Kelsie Kleinmeyer
    Kelsie Kleinmeyer at | | Reply

    Thanks for the tips! We will be there in late July. Planning to do the Rolling Venice card and then get the discounted youth travel cards. I’m also going to look into that tour you mentioned, as St. Marks and the Doge were the main two things I wanted to see. Otherwise, we plan to relax and explore!

  37. Bebett
    Bebett at | | Reply

    We will be in Italy June 17-July 2. We will start in Venice and have been apprehensive about the crowds. Are the crowds mostly from the cruises so that is why it is quieter at night? So glad to have found your website! Will be reading your other posts. Thank you!

  38. nicaraguayestravel (@nicaraguayes)
    nicaraguayestravel (@nicaraguayes) at | | Reply

    Cool blog and awesome post about my country, Italy I miss it so much although I love to travel and to live where I have been living in the past 6 years, Nicaragua a wounderful country!!
    keep up this nice blog I just stumbled here but I make sure to mark your page among my favourites!
    …and maybe we can work together some how, we are just launching a blog about travelling in Nicaragua and Central America…have you ever been here??

  39. Asi
    Asi at | | Reply

    I will be in Venice this Friday!! Great info !! Thank you 🙂

  40. Ayngelina
    Ayngelina at | | Reply

    Thanks for sharing my coffee post – who knew a cup of joe could be so complicated!

  41. Emma O'Reilly
    Emma O'Reilly at | | Reply

    Great feature, Jo – lots of useful information

Please comment with your real name using good manners.

Leave a Reply