Venice, the capital of Italy’s Veneto region, is renowned for its romantic canals, historic architecture, and rich cultural heritage.
It’s been some time since I last wrote. Settling down in London and working as a Spa Manager on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas kept my hands full. But today, I’m back to share some invaluable experiences and facts from my time in Venice, a city I had the pleasure of not just visiting but also briefly living in.
After spending considerable time in this floating city, I’ve gathered essential insights to help travellers make the most of their Venetian experience.
Check out the post about Pisa for more Italian experience!
I absolutely love just strolling through the beautiful Venetian alleys and getting lost in fabulous Venice, so if you want to do that, be my guest!
I highly encourage it! If you opened this post to find tips on how to maximize your journey, then look below and enjoy all the sights!
Table of Contents
- Island City: Venice isn’t your typical city. It stands majestically on over 100 small islands, all beautifully interconnected within a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Venice is the capital of the Veneto region.
- Historical Roots: The name “Venice” isn’t just for show. It’s a tribute to the ancient Veneti people who inhabited this region in the 10th Century BC.
- A City of Canals: Venice’s charm is in its waterways. Imagine a city with over 150 canals and 400 bridges. That’s Venice for you!
- Summer in Venice: Planning a trip? Maybe skip July and August. The heat, combined with high humidity and often non-existent AC, can be a bit overwhelming.
- Distinctive Smell: The smell and humidity levels during the summer months are quite high, so be ready if travelling during the peak season.
During my stay, I had the unique privilege of immersing myself in Venice’s culture. The Venetian alleys, the mesmerizing canals, the historic sites; every bit of it was an experience of a lifetime. If you’re ever in this part of the world, make sure to lose yourself in its beauty.
Top 5 to do:
1. Accademia Bridge
Whether on your first Venetian morning or late on a quiet Venetian night, the Punta Della Accademia is a place to swoon in the aquatic city. The Rialto may be Venice’s best-known bridge, but it’s this humbler wooden crossing further south that offers the most exalted Grand Canal views.
Looking east, you’ll see the canal curve and open out towards the lagoon, flanked by a run of some of the city’s most famous palazzi, among them the Babaro and Gritti.
On the tip of the southern Dorsoduro promontory, you’ll spot the Punta Della Dogana, formerly a customs office, now an art museum housing (part of) Francois Pinault’s art collection.
To its right, you can’t miss the proud and soaring dome of Santa Maria Della Salute.
2. St. Mark’s Basilica
If you’re eager to see St Mark’s Basilica, Sunday morning sang mass makes for a particularly evocative experience, whether you’re a hardened atheist, a believer, or somewhere in between.
The biggest and most important church in Venice, the building is an apogee of Venice’s hybrid of East and West, taking much of its architectural and decorative influence from Byzantium.
Its elaborate interior is based on a Greek cross, with a richly tessellated marble floor and no less than 8,000 square meters of shimmering gold ground mosaics adorning its upper walls and domes.
There are Sunday services at 09.00 and 10.30 am, including brief remarks in different languages.
3. Gondola Ride
Gondola fares are standard and set officially. As of this writing, rates are €80 for a daytime ride and €100 for rides after 7pm.
Rides last 40 minutes. If you want to extend your time on the water, you’ll pay €40 for each additional 20 minutes aboard – or €50 after 7 pm.
You can check the current gondola fares before you book. And be aware that if you book a gondola ride through a hotel or agency, there’s likely to be an additional fee. Gondolas hold six people.
They can be shared without affecting the fee. So, if you’re travelling solo or with another person, you can find other travellers with whom to share the ride. It’s not quite as romantic but will save you some euros.
4. Visit the top 5 Best museums in Venice
American heiress Peggy Guggenheim was an avid art collector who lived in Venice for three decades.
The unique 18th-century palace she called home is instantly recognizable on the Grand Canal for its low and understated stone façade amongst so many towering lace-like mansions on every side.
Though minimalist from the outside, today the palazzo has been converted into one of Italy’s most famous modern art museums.
Stroll through the heiress’s old dining room, study, and salons to admire work that spans from cubism to abstract expressionism.
Venice was a wealthy independent republic for hundreds of years with a Doge acting as the head of the government.
Starting back in 810, the Doge decided he needed a new palace fit for his princely role and moved his apartments and statehouse to the Rialto area.
A succession of Doge’s rebuilt the palace several times over the centuries, each making it grander and more opulent.
Set on the edge of St. Mark’s Square, the palace is now a museum where it is possible to walk through beautiful loggias, up a brilliant golden stucco staircase, and through the dazzling halls where Venice’s past powerhouse status is on full display.
Ca’ is the Venetian abbreviation for casa or “house” but this home sweet home happens to be an elaborate palace on the Grand Canal built by the Pesaro family in the 17th century.
The Pesaro’s were great collectors of art including commissioning works by Titian and Tintoretto, but their artwork was sold when the palace changed hands.
The last owner of Ca’ Pesaro was a duchess who donated the building to the City of Venice as a frescoed space for a museum of Modern Art.
The museum’s central hall showcases pieces of the work that the city has acquired at each Biennale since 1950. There are also notable paintings by the likes of Giorgio de Chirico, Joan Mirò, and Kandinsky.
The wealthy Venetian Republic had plenty of cash to splash out on art to decorate the noble palaces that sprung up along its picturesque canals.
As a result, the city has also been home to many notable Italian masters including Bellini, Canaletto, Tiepolo, and Titian, to name a few.
If this kind of pre-18th-century art is your particular cup of tea then the Gallerie dell’Accademia is the place to be. It has the best collection of period Venetian art, as well as that ever-so-famous drawing of the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci.
In 1478, a group of well-to-do Venetians banded together to establish a confraternity (think: a gentleman’s club with a charitable twist) dedicated to San Rocco – a saint believed to protect against the plague.
They erected their meeting hall next to the church that housed the remains of the saint and commissioned Tintoretto to decorate the new building.
The masterful Italian painter produced more than 60 works for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco based on the Old and New Testaments.
The result is a jaw-dropping series of salons that hold some of Tintoretto’s best work, as well as masterpieces by Titian and Tiepolo, among others.
5. Piazza San Marco
The grandiose Piazza San Marco is a Venetian must-see but can lose a lot of its magic by day, when crowds, cameras, street sellers, and pigeons flock the square, often entirely blocking the view towards the Basilica. To lose the crowds and gain a whole lot more atmosphere, visit first thing in the morning or late at night, when the great basilica, the clock tower, and the square’s elegant arcades are all illuminated in the dark.
Accommodation in Venice, Italy
I highly recommend getting a hotel as most of the Airbnb places have no AC, even when stated that they do.
The city is extremely humid due to the canals and during the summer months is hard to even breathe. It is really nice to come back to a cool room. However, if you don’t mind the heat, an Airbnb is a good cut in your trip’s cost.
They are half the price in the summer months!
Make sure you book early enough though because both hotels and Airbnbs jump in the high $300s closer to the date you are booking.
Things to be aware of in Venice, Italy
Beware of Shoplifters
Venice, like many tourist hotspots, has its share of petty criminals. While immersing yourself in the city’s beauty, it’s essential to remain vigilant. Shoplifters and pickpockets often target unsuspecting tourists, especially in crowded areas.
Here’s what you need to remember:
Stay Alert: These thieves have mastered the art of distraction. Always be cautious, especially when you feel someone is too close or trying to divert your attention.
Secure Your Belongings: Ensure that your bags are zipped and pockets sealed. If you’re wearing a backpack, consider wearing it in front in crowded areas. Using a money belt or hidden pouch can also be a wise choice.
Bargain While Shopping
One of the joys of visiting Venice is shopping in its vibrant markets and local shops. While branded stores have fixed prices, in local markets and smaller shops, there’s often room for negotiation.
The Art of Haggling: Start by expressing genuine interest in the item but suggest that it might be slightly beyond your budget. If the seller doesn’t offer a discount, ask politely if they can reduce the price.
Walk Away Strategy: If the seller remains firm on the price, thank them and begin to walk away. More often than not, they’ll call you back with a better offer.
Public Transport Etiquette
Venice boasts a unique public transport system, primarily revolving around water transport. While it’s efficient and offers a unique perspective of the city, it’s crucial to be aware of the rules.
Always Have a Valid Ticket: Before boarding any form of public transport, ensure you have a valid ticket. Validate it if necessary. This simple step can save you from hefty fines.
Spot Checks: Authorities often conduct random ticket checks. If caught without a valid ticket, you’ll be fined on the spot, which can be a substantial amount.
Let me know in the comment section if you need to know anything extra.
I’ll answer you directly, but I’ll also be able to curate a second blog post covering all the questions.