There’s a reason why Venice Italy is one of the most instagramed locations in the world. Besides the turquoise canal waterways, dreamlike architecture and friendly locals, Venzia’s picturesque nature runs as deep as her age old tales of Marco Polo and Casanova. Undoubtedly you’ve heard of the numerous problems this city endures on a daily basis such as: rising water, overpriced rent and throngs of pushy cruise ship patrons. Don’t let the bad rap deter you from experiencing one of the most unique locations Italy has to offer, simply plan accordingly!
I spent three days wandering the streets of Venice last year with a group of friends. We took the high speed rail from the posh city of Milan and arrived in Venice in a few short hours. Little did we know that our first sight of the city from the train station would bring tears to our eyes! I will always remember how that first glimpse of the Grand Canal felt more surreal than real. Due to the acqua alta (rising water) there is no guarantee Venice will be around for our children and grandchildren to see, so be sure to stop and take it all in! With three full days under our belts we merely scratched the surface of these intriguing islands.
St. Marks Square
Venice is absolutely teeming with history and worm holes into the past. St. Mark’s Square is the bustling heart of the island and home to the famous St. Mark’s Basilica which houses the remains of the city’s patron saint, Saint Mark. This square is packed shoulder to shoulder with tourists during the day and even more so when a cruise ship is in port. If you are staying on the island, visit the square in the early evening once the cruise ship passengers have returned to their respective ships.
If a tour inside the Basilica is on your itinerary, book a private tour well in advance; this will secure you skip-the-line access which will save you hours of precious time. A dress code of covered shoulders and knees is required for all inside access. The basilica boasts the treasures of the crusades, tomb of Saint Mark, a boulder from Galgotha, a golden Pall and an ancient baptistery. Native Catholic Venetians can still be baptized inside the basilica. Don’t be surprised if you see spots of standing water inside the church, some say it’s the heaviest location on the island which makes it prone to flooding.
Doge's Palace & Bridge of Sighs
Immediately to the right of the Basilica is the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. The Palace was home to the Doge of Venice who essentially acted as the City’s ruling body in the 1800’s. If you committed a crime in Venice your case would be tried before the Doge, who would either grant you pardon or sentence your guilt. After prisoners were sentenced they were escorted across the enclosed foot bridge to the prison. Local lore claims many prisoners paused on the bridge, took their last look at the city of Venice, and let out a heavy sigh knowing they would never see their beloved city again; thus the coined named “Bridge of Sighs”.
The Doge’s Palace and attached prison are worth a visit for first timers. The palace is adorned with period Venetian style and paintings. Stop on the Bridge of Sighs and take a look out before you descend into the eerie cold prison. Admission lines can be long, especially during times of inclement weather. If you plan on seeing the Correr Museum, Ca’ Rezzonico, Casa de Carlo Goldoni or the Murano Glass Museum look into the “Venice Museum Pass.” The pass pays for itself with admission to 11 attractions and grants you priority skip-the-line access.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Outside of St. Mark’s Square you will find yourself in a labyrinth of streets, bridges and alleyways (read: lost). While googlemaps.com is a good resource locating your general whereabouts, you will find it offers little to no assistance in some areas. That’s OK! Embrace getting lost in Venice as part of your adventure, some of the fondest memories I have of my time in Venice was simply being lost. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is just one of those places where being lost is obligatory to finding its entrance.
At the tip of the St. Mark’s Basin is the world renowned Peggy Guggenheim Collection. You may recognize the name from the Guggenheim Family’s many museums and art collections. The venue is rarely crowed and it’s easy to purchase an admission ticket the day of your visit. However, admission is not covered in the aforementioned Museum Pass.
Libera Acqua Alta
If you have been following me for any appreciable amount of time, you will be familiar with my love of books. Venice was no stranger to my obsession and is home to a few surreal little bookstores. My personal favorite is Acqua Alta or ‘High Water.’ Conveniently located near the Jewish Ghetto and Marco Polo’s home this makes a great stop while hoping through districts. If you are in the Castello District pop in, peruse the Italian books kept in a bathtub and a canoe. Be sure to venture out the back door and climb the tall stacks of old books and peer over the canal below, you will be glad you did!
get outta town.
One newsletter a month on the full moon.
After your fill of bibliotheca at Acqua Alta venture north to the Jewish Ghetto. This quant district is where most of the Venetian natives call home. During the day, this area is a quiet refuge from the crowed St. Mark’s Square & Rialto Bridge and offers many off the beaten path eateries and picturesque flower lined balconies. Grab a table al fresco, have an aperitivo and watch the afternoon go by.
Speaking of aperitifs… there is no better place to do a bacaro crawl for vino and cicchetti than Venice! Italy was literally the birth place of “happy hour.” Don’t miss out! Carve out some time to walk my tried & true wine and cicchetti cantina crawl.
“The poetry of the earth is never dead.” -John Keats