Post summary: Visiting Venice, Italy | Best things to do in Venice
There’s so many things to do in Venice, I feel like I could spend years exploring the narrow alleys and still yearn for the cobblestones and brilliant architecture. Can one ever get enough of Venice?
But I’ll let you in on a little secret — I was completely apprehensive about Venice and kept my expectations low. To me, Venice is the city of mixed reviews, to say the least.
“The notorious crowds,” “the smell!” (what smell?), I could go on forever. But if there’s anything I learned from my experience in Venice, it’s this: cities are best felt, not explained. Venice felt like magic.
If you have a trip to Italy on the horizon, read on to learn about the 10 BEST things to do in Venice!
Best Things to Do in Venice, Italy
#1. Get lost in Venice
If I can only offer you one bit of advice during your time in Venice, it’s this: get lost! Seriously, of all the places you can wander aimlessly, this is the one.
Duck into every nook, cranny or alley you can find! Where does it lead? If you’re lucky, a gelato shop!
Does a bookstore pique your curiosity? Hop in and find an Italian book to add to your bookshelf at home.
There’s no wrong way to get lost, and therefore no advice needed. This is what vacation is for!
#2. People Watch at Saint Mark’s Square
This is the largest and most well known square in Venice. Saint Marks Basilica is open to the public on Sundays or very rare occasions, so you may need to do some advance planning if you’d like to visit.
Whether or not you choose to go inside, make sure to get as close to the basilica as you can. Try to image it being designed and then built – it’s mind blowing.
Also, here’s a fun fact about San Marco bell tower: The tower was built in the 12 century but collapsed in 1902 and was promptly rebuilt to be identical to the previous one. At 320 feet tall, it’s the 5th tallest bell tower in Italy! How cool is that?
#3. Ride a gondola
Listen, to visit Venice from land alone is doing yourself a disservice. Venice is a city built on canals and is best explored from the water. And sure, gondola rides are not cheap ($80 for half hour) but this isn’t the place to save. It’s like visiting Paris but skipping the Eiffel Tower.
Cliche? Sure. But for good reason.
P.S. Did you know that there are NO cars in Venice? Everything is done by gondola or foot — even garbage pickup!
#4. Check out the Bridge of Sighs
The first time I heard of the Bridge of Sighs, I was stumped. Where in the world did that name come from?
Thankfully, I read up on Venice’s history prior to our trip and got to the bottom of it. So get this, this bridge connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in Doge’s Palace.
Here’s where folklore and legend come in — As prisoners crossed the bridge on their way to prison cells (or worse – the execution chair), they would catch the last glimpsing views of Venice and …. sigh.
#5. Walk across the Ponte Di Rialto Bridge
Ponte Di Rialto Bridge was built by the uncle of the man who built the Bridge of Sighs. Talk about keeping it in the family, huh?
There’s only 4 bridges that span the Great Canal, and this is the oldest of the bunch. Since this is such a beloved icon in the city, you’ll see many signs pointing in its direction — impossible to miss it.
Here’s another fun fact: The architect that designed Rialto Bridge outbid Michelangelo, Sansovino and Palladio for the contract.
#6. Peruse Libreria Acqua Alta Book Store
Fitting that a city built on water would be prepared for the worst. This bookstore is prepared — the books are kept in bathtubs and boats!
Not only is this charming, but it’s practical too. When the waterways rise (and consequently fill the store with inches of water), the water doesn’t damage the books. Talk about survival of the fittest!
P.S. We noticed a few stray cats during our visit — introverts rejoice! This is heaven on earth.
#7. Check out the Grand Canal
To understand the importance of the Grand Canal, one must understand that 60% of traffic passes through this lifeline. Find a restaurant (there’s so many peppered along the canal) and watch the world go by. Imagine what the area looked like 100 years ago…or longer.
#8. Go to Suso for gelato (you will never be the same)
Possibly the best gelato I’ve ever had in my life was in Venice. It’s hard to decide between pistachio and cherry cheesecake, so why not both?
#9. Explore Basilica Di Santa Maria Della Salute
For the life of me, I can’t understand why so many folks skip the magnificent Basilica Di Santa Maria Della Salute (simply called the Salute) during their visit to Venice. But hey! You won’t hear me complaining.
In 1630, Venice experienced an unusually devastating outbreak of the plague. As a votive offering for the city’s deliverance from the pestilence, the Republic of Venice vowed to build and dedicate a church to Our Lady of Health (or of Deliverance, Italian: Salute).
#10. Visit the Rialto Farmers Market
Rialto Farmers Market is nearly 1,000 years old! During the Venetian Empire, this market played an integral role in Venice’s standing. The market was filled to the brim with rare jewels, exotic spices, food, animals and clothing. It was an essential connection to the rest of Europe.
Today’d market is nowhere near as grand as it was in the past, but it’s still worth a visit. You’re sure to find an interesting spice or seafood for dinner.
P.S. During my visit I saw a swordfish that was bigger than me!
Visiting Venice? Brace for beauty
Venice is the perfect marriage of the past and present. It doesn’t feel like stepping back in time, rather it feels like everything was made to outlive time.
The city has an air about it that brings forth an elusive yet attainable charm. Colorful pastel apartments fencing in green canals, flowers draping from window sills, gelato around every corner and gondoliers singing their hearts out, it truly feels like a movie. But every time I visit, I can’t help but think of a modern day Atlantis.
Take me back to Venice and I will be so happy.
Until next time!
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