Pro-Traveler Tips: The Best Things To Do In Venice, Italy
My first dance with the City of Canals was on my honeymoon, in 2014. My hubby and I spent three days there, between Capri and then traveling through the Swiss Alps… and I couldn’t get enough! I quickly fell in love with the history, the architecture and the romance of the city.
When we decided to celebrate our 7 year honeymoon anniversary (we took a delayed honeymoon!), I felt called to develop a sense of familiarity with Venice, so I booked my flight and blocked out a week in my calendar to dive deeper into one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
I’m so excited to clue you in on all of the ways you can curate an absolutely unforgettable Italy itinerary! Let’s get into it...
WHEN TO GO
Both times, I visited the first week of October. The weather was wonderful... high 70’s, and warm enough at night that a light jacket or scarf suffices. The tourist season wraps up at the end of November, so the city is lively but not crowded. This past week, with tourism just reopening to Americans after the pandemic travel restrictions, I found that the Venetians were so incredibly welcoming!
SIGHTS + TOURS
Doges Palace: Built in the 14th century and added onto over the years, the palace is built in the unique Venetian Gothic style that makes the city so unique! The Doge was the leader of the former Republic of Venice - the longest lasting Republic in the world. It is SO incredibly beautiful and impressive, from the largest room without columns in Europe, to the intricate ceilings and displays of art. If you love Versailles, the Doges is a must visit. Be prepared for the dark history of Venice as well, with a visit to the prisons underneath the Palace, and the Bridge of Sighs which stretches across the canal.
Pro Traveler Tip: Spend the money for the audio guide tour! Budget 1.5-2 hours to visit it!
Basilica: Regardless of your religion, the Venice Basilica is a place of reverence that will inspire you. The Italo-Byzantine architecture, gold plated mosaics, columns and treasures displayed are unforgettable.
Jewish Ghetto Tour: Luca, a local Venetian, was the most wonderful guide for the tour through the first Jewish Ghetto in the world. The history is tragic and eye opening to see that discrimination against Jewish people started far before Hitler, but to ensure we don’t repeat what has happened in the past, it’s so important to learn what has happened.
A Tale of Venice: After this tour with MarieLaura, I became a traveler, not a tourist. Understanding the history of Venice while supporting local business, and taking home memories (instead of cheaply made masks and souvenirs made in China) is a way to practice sustainable tourism. From learning about the bridges of Venice, to its history as a powerful Republic, to the original uses of the “good luck” hooks above some buildings (hint - it’s dark!), I have so much appreciation for the complexity of Venice.
Ghosts + Ghouls Tour with Alexander: If you like a good scare or are interested in the macabre-- DO NOT MISS THIS. I wanted to understand the darker history of such a magical place, and Alexander over delivered! My travel partner and I were so terrified after the tour ended at 11.30pm, that I called my husband and kept him on speaker the entire way back to our Airbnb! I didn’t fall asleep till 5am… and with the lights on!
Airbnb: My first five days in Venice, I stayed in the most beautiful Airbnb, in the central district of San Polo. Not only is it possible to walk everywhere within 25 minutes, but some of the best restaurants are located within minutes, and it’s much less touristy than the San Marco district. If you’re staying for more than two days, I definitely recommend renting a place!
Ca Maria Adele Hotel: Pure elegance and impeccable service! We stayed here on our honeymoon, and this trip, when my husband joined me, we chose the hotel again! You arrive by water taxi and they serve you an aperitif when you check in! It’s luxe, quiet, and SO worth a splurge for a breakfast in bed one day (some of the best food I ate - Venice is NOT known for their breakfast)!
EATS + DRINKS
Make reservations the day before, as most great restaurants in Venice are quite small, and because Europeans spend several hours eating, they may only have one or two tables available! Also, Yelp isn’t widely used in Europe, but Trip Advisor is! Google maps and Yelp aren’t great about accuracy on reporting correct opening time or days, so call in advance to confirm!
Also, there is a LOT of incredible food in hole and the walls… just usually not in the most touristy areas! Follow your nose and look for delicious food eaten by locals speaking Italian! And if you’re gluten and dairy free but eat meat, you can live off the prosciutto and melon with a spritz!
A Le Tole: This delightful, hip little restaurant not only had live music, BUT... gluten free pizza that was delicious!
Wisteria Restaurant: Michelin starred, experimental, delicious... and only a tasting menu (so, be ready for adventure)! This newish restaurant opened two years ago and is SO worth the cost (fyi - Michelin star in Europe is less than half the cost of visiting one in the states)! Plus, they have the most incredible gluten free bread and were able to modify it to be dairy + gluten free!
Pro Traveler Tip: Spend the $40+ to buy a bottle of wine for the chefs… they are young and quite cute!... the sommelier even let me saber it!
Frary’s: The most darling middle eastern restaurant with just a few tables, right next to a canal! Not only was everything scrumptious, but they are gluten free, dairy free and even vegan! Listen up: do NOT miss the mint tea. Just tell the server any dietary restrictions and let them surprise you!
The “Theater” Grocery Store: If you need groceries and aren’t able to go to the open air Rialto Market, this beautiful theater turned grocery store has a high, gorgeous ceiling and is the largest grocery store in Venice! Make sure to stock up on band aids... because you’ll get blisters from all the walking if you don’t bring the right shoes!
Harry’s Bar: This tiny, 90 year old bar is famous for their ex-pats, aristocrats, and royalty that visited! Pull up a seat that once sat Frank Lloyd Wright, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote or Orson Welles! While they claim to be home of the Bellini, Yelp reviews will recommend something else!
Tanowska’s American Bar: I walked by it and thought “my husband will LOVE this place”... and two hours later, he texted me he was there! This little bar has the most FRIENDLY bartender, Ray, who will tell you he’s the worst barman in Venice! He’s in ALL the photos on the website, and is a sweetheart. Just be careful, he may pour you shots of tequila and Jack Daniels in the wee hours!
Caffe Florian: Set in the midst of Saint Mark’s square, next to the Basillica and Doges Palace, Caffe Florian will give you ALL the feels. Order a $20 spritz or one of their famous hot chocolates (you’re paying for the experience, not the drink!), listen to the full band and watch the sunset over the square. It’s a memory you won’t forget! Make sure to go inside and see the velvet wallpaper and gold decor!
Spritz’s! They are EVERYWHERE and typically $2.50-$3 Euro! Aperol spritzes are the drink of choice for tourists, but try the Select spritz, which is a less sweet version that locals love (and I prefer).
Venice Cooking Class (Michele): This was a once in a lifetime experience so incredible, I did it twice in a week!! Michele is a talented chef who has worked in Michelin starred restaurants and has more than 30 years experience, who began offering private cooking classes to spend more time with his daughter (restaurant life can be brutal!). He is SO extremely passionate, friendly, insanely talented (my goodness….I can’t describe how good the food was!!) and I learned so much...while drinking wine!
Water Taxi (from the airport): There’s no way to arrive in Venice like cruising into the lagoon in one of the history, wooden water taxis….smelling the salt air and the wind blowing your hair as you cruise in to be dropped dockside at your hotel! It’s definitely pricier than taking the Vaporetto (the “water bus”) but SO worth it at least once on your trip!
Gondolier shoes: These Venice made shoes, once worn only by gondoliers, are SO incredibly comfortable and stylish (I brought home 4 pairs for myself and bought SO many as gifts)! There are two shops, but don’t miss the tiny, beautifully decorated one near the Rialto bridge!
Rialto Market: Stop by the Rialto market for beautiful produce and food (even fresh fish!), especially if you’ve rented an Airbnb! The Venice lagoon has seafood that’s not found anywhere else in the world! It’s an experience you and your nose won’t forget (yes, the fish market is definitely “fragrant”)!
WALK!!! Get lost! The only way to see Venice is by walking without a map or your phone, following your fancy down tiny alleys and into stores that call your name!
DOCUMENT IT - PHOTOS IN VENICE
Venice Photographer: To celebrate our 7 year anniversary and returning to our honeymoon spot, I booked a photographer! Oli is SO talented, sweet and the images she created are totally swoon worthy!
I hope you found value in this breakdown of my favorite ways to enjoy the charming sensations available to you throughout Venice, Italy! I'm eternally grateful for the opportunity to work from anywhere, travel, and nourish my soul while working in places and with people that inspire me. My dream is for you to be blessed with the same.
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