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Home » The Ultimate Venice Guide: Italian Palazzos, Luxurious Basilicas, and Art Through the Ages

The Ultimate Venice Guide: Italian Palazzos, Luxurious Basilicas, and Art Through the Ages

Venice — the eternal city on water, filled with a wide array of attractions. It has everything — art from different eras, from Leonardo da Vinci to Picasso and Dalí. Ancient monasteries, basilicas adorned with works by the best Italian masters, and Gothic cathedrals that awe with their magnificence. A city of festivities, where vibrant balls and carnivals take place, violinists play in the squares, and gondoliers in striped shirts glide through the canals.

Venice is truly unique, with no large squares or wide avenues. All public transport is water-based, and instead of cars, every Venetian has a boat. Why and who built Venice on water? Why did people start living there, and who are the real Venetians? Let’s find out.

Venice is one of the most expensive cities in Italy, and even a weekend trip can become a very costly affair. No matter how much money you bring, it’s likely not enough, as luxury and temptations to spend are around every corner. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to Venice on a budget. With the right skills, you can even save money in Venice.

How to Save money: Stay in Mestre, eat take-out pizza, pasta, and seafood from the market, and see Tintoretto and Titian in free basilicas..

History

The word “Venice” comes from the name of a group of local tribes, the Veneti, who originally inhabited these areas. During the Roman Empire, the territory of Venice was covered with swamps and small overgrown islands. There were no cities, let alone major regional centers, in the Venetian Lagoon at that time. The nearest significant city, Aquileia, is more than 120 kilometers from the center of modern Venice, and there were no famous Roman roads around the lagoon.

During the fall of the Western Roman Empire (5th century AD), everything changed dramatically. The population of nearby areas of Northern Italy, including the Po Valley, fled to the swampy islands in the Adriatic Sea to escape invasions and protect themselves from the barbarians, particularly Attila, the ruler of the Huns. Here, the absence of Roman roads played an important role: the barbarians could not reach these lands. Therefore, many citizens of the former empire fled to the Venetian Lagoon in search of safety. The people who fled there began driving piles and building houses directly on them.

The oldest building in the city is the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto (1071), located next to the famous Rialto Bridge. Photo: Jean-Pol Grandmont / Wikimedia.org
The oldest building in the city is the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto (1071), located next to the famous Rialto Bridge. Photo: Jean-Pol Grandmont / Wikimedia.org

The first stone structures in Venice date from approximately the 9th to 10th centuries. At this time, the oldest district of Venice, San Polo, was being developed. The first buildings, churches, and monasteries were immediately built from stone, as there were no forests around and no source of wood. However, most of these structures in Venice have not survived to the present day due to fires, floods, and simply the passage of time. Today, the oldest building in the city is the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto (1071), located near the famous Rialto Bridge.

Over time, it became clear that the local population needed to be united and governance established — thus, the Most Serene Republic of Venice was formed. Power in the republic was distributed between the Doge (head of state) and the Great Council, which consisted of representatives of leading Venetian families. The Doges ruled for life, and while the first ones still held significant power, by the Renaissance, they were elected more as a symbol of Venice, with the position being surrounded by numerous ceremonies.

One of the most interesting traditions was the “Marriage of the Sea.” Each year on Ascension Day, the Doge’s ship, accompanied by numerous boats and gondolas, sailed into the lagoon. Near the island of San Elena (now the Castello district), the Doge was met by a bishop in a boat with gilded sides. He blessed the Doge with holy water, and the Doge, in turn, threw a golden ring into the lagoon, proclaiming the Venetian Republic’s dominion over the Adriatic waters. This was accompanied by chants and festivities lasting several days. This tradition originated as early as the year 1000, though initially without golden rings or chants, evolving into a pompous Venetian celebration that lasted until the fall of the republic.

The peak of the republic occurred in the 8th to 12th centuries when Venice became a powerful maritime state. It controlled trade routes between Europe and the East and participated in all the Crusades as a supplier of ships. Crusaders traveled to Jerusalem on Venetian ships, which required payment, making Venice not just wealthy, but incredibly wealthy. The best artworks of the time, gold, and treasures from the Crusades, all settled in private collections and the luxurious palazzos of wealthy Venetians. Once, Venetians even plundered Constantinople, commemorated by the installation of four bronze horses and numerous smaller artifacts in the city’s main cathedral, St. Mark’s Basilica.

Venetian merchants and sailors excelled in trade, leading to a vibrant economic and cultural development of the city. One of the most famous Venetians was Marco Polo, a traveler and explorer who opened the land route to China from Europe. During his lifetime, Marco Polo’s travel books were controversial, often considered more fiction than fact. However, 150 years later, another famous Italian, Genoese Christopher Columbus, used Marco Polo’s books to prepare for his famous voyage. Today, Marco Polo’s identity remains contentious, but his books are considered invaluable sources of information on medieval life in India, China, Armenia, Iran, Mongolia, and other countries along his route.

During the Renaissance (15th–16th centuries), Venice became a European center of art, architecture, and culture. Renowned artists such as Titian, Tintoretto, and Giorgione lived and worked here. Modern Venice, with all its luxurious palaces, narrow streets, and winding canals, acquired its familiar appearance during this time. The city expanded, creating and reinforcing new islands, while continually deepening the lagoon.

Modern Venice, with all its luxurious palaces, narrow streets, and winding canals, acquired its familiar appearance in the 15th-16th centuries. Photo: Denys Barabanov / Unsplash.com
Modern Venice, with all its luxurious palaces, narrow streets, and winding canals, acquired its familiar appearance in the 15th-16th centuries. Photo: Denys Barabanov / Unsplash.com

In the late 18th century, with the rise of the neighboring Austrian Empire and the advent of the era of nation-states, Venice began to lose its influence and status as a maritime power. The Most Serene Republic of Venice finally fell and was incorporated into Italy in 1866 after the Third Italian War of Independence.

Districts of Venice

Venice is divided into districts (sestiere), of which there are six in total: San Marco, San Polo, Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, and Santa Croce. This structure has remained since the Middle Ages. Some districts are more touristy, others are home only to local residents, and some are primarily transport hubs.

It’s important to know that in Venice itself, especially in the districts of San Marco and San Polo, addresses often do not include street names, but only the sestiere number and building number. Additionally, there are no even and odd sides of the streets in the city, and understanding the numbering logic is impossible. Therefore, when choosing accommodation in the center, it is necessary to clarify in advance how to get there, especially if it is an Airbnb room. Even better, find landmarks nearby, which could be a basilica, a restaurant, or a famous bridge.

San Marco — Here are the Main Attractions

San Marco is the tourist mecca of Venice, where all the city’s most popular attractions are located: St. Mark’s Basilica, the campanile (bell tower, often square) of the basilica, St. Mark’s Square, and, of course, the Doge’s Palace.

St. Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark’s Basilica was founded in 829. Inside, it resembles the famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, while outside it looks more like an eclectic palace. The basilica has been rebuilt many times, acquiring new details. It features columns from Syria, bronze horses from Constantinople, a statue of the four Tetrarchs (rulers) from the time of two empires, and ancient mosaics. Inside the basilica are the relics of Venice’s patron saint, St. Mark. The basilica is located on the square of the same name, which is also a major attraction. During high tide, the square floods first, creating an unreal backdrop for photos — on such days, the basilica seems to float in the waters.

St. Mark's Basilica was founded in 829. Inside, it resembles the famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, while the exterior looks more like an eclectic palace. Photo: Lisa Boonaerts / Unsplash.com
St. Mark’s Basilica was founded in 829. Inside, it resembles the famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, while the exterior looks more like an eclectic palace. Photo: Lisa Boonaerts / Unsplash.com

St. Mark was one of the authors of the Gospel, a disciple of the apostle Peter, and lived in the 1st century AD in what is now Egypt. Venetians stole his relics from Alexandria and brought them to Venice. The saint’s body was wrapped in pig skins and transported at night. At customs, the Arab-Muslim officials did not even touch the cargo and did not inspect it. To commemorate this glorious story, the basilica features a mosaic vividly depicting the crossing of the border and the displeased faces of the customs officers. Since then (829 AD), all significant places in the city have borne the name of St. Mark — the main square, the main basilica, and the main scuola (charitable organization). For a time in the Middle Ages, Venice was even called the Republic of St. Mark.

The basilica has been rebuilt many times and has acquired numerous new details over the centuries. It features columns from Syria, bronze horses from Constantinople, a statue of the four Tetrarchs from the time of the two empires, and ancient mosaics. Photo: Marika Sartori / Unsplash.com
The basilica has been rebuilt many times and has acquired numerous new details over the centuries. It features columns from Syria, bronze horses from Constantinople, a statue of the four Tetrarchs from the time of the two empires, and ancient mosaics. Photo: Marika Sartori / Unsplash.com

Entry to St. Mark’s Basilica became paid in 2020, so if you find any information about free entry, it is outdated. The ticket now costs three euros. To access the observation deck, you need to buy a ticket to the treasury for seven euros inside the basilica, which includes the ticket to the observation deck. The treasury houses various ancient artifacts, mainly what the Venetians took during the sack of Constantinople.

Next to the basilica is the freestanding bell tower — the campanile, from which there is a stunning view of the lagoon. The entrance fee is ten euros. If you have to choose only one observation deck and are not particularly interested in the basilica’s treasury, it is better to go to the tower. The view from it is much more colorful than from the loggia of St. Mark’s Basilica.

St. Mark's Basilica is located on the square of the same name, which is also a major attraction. During the high water period, the square is the first to flood, creating a surreal backdrop for photos. Photo: Ruddi Hansen / Unsplash.com
St. Mark’s Basilica is located on the square of the same name, which is also a major attraction. During the high water period, the square is the first to flood, creating a surreal backdrop for photos. Photo: Ruddi Hansen / Unsplash.com

St. Mark’s Clock Tower

The second symbol of the city is the winged lion, as it is the symbol of St. Mark himself. The lion is depicted on the flag of Venice, and statues of winged lions can be found literally everywhere. One such place is the 15th-century St. Mark’s Clock Tower, located next to the basilica. The tower features a clock with zodiac signs, and the entire structure is adorned with numerous statues of varying sizes. The clock was designed to be visible from the lagoon to passing ships — as a symbol of the republic’s power and wealth. Today, the tower can be visited as part of a guided tour, where you can examine the clock mechanism from the inside. It is best to purchase the ticket online, and it costs 14 euros.

The clock on the tower was designed to be visible from the lagoon to passing ships, symbolizing the power and wealth of the republic. Photo: Mister No / Wikimedia.org, James Lee / Unsplash.com
The clock on the tower was designed to be visible from the lagoon to passing ships, symbolizing the power and wealth of the republic. Photo: Mister No / Wikimedia.org, James Lee / Unsplash.com

Since Venice is an extremely touristy city, queues are everywhere, at every palace and museum. Moreover, there might not be tickets available on-site for the desired museum as the number of visitors is usually limited. Therefore, it is better to buy tickets online on the City Pass Venezia Unica portal.

Doge’s Palace

Upon exiting St. Mark’s Square, you are greeted with a view of the lagoon and a stunning waterfront, where you can take fantastic photos of gondolas bobbing on the waves. This waterfront offers the best views of the sunset, with the sun illuminating the square and basilica, while gondolas and vaporettos (boats) traverse the waters of the Grand Canal.

Located on this waterfront is the 14th-century Doge’s Palace. It has suffered from fires and floods and has been rebuilt several times. The current appearance of the building — an Italian Gothic palace — is the result of the work of the brilliant architect Antonio da Ponte, also known for the famous Rialto Bridge. The palace not only housed the Doges of Venice but also accommodated the Senate, the Supreme Council, the Supreme Court, and several major departments. The richly decorated balcony served as a kind of festive tribune from which the Doge greeted the people, often announcing important news. Visitors to the city who docked at the palace from the lagoon found themselves at the feet of the ruler of the republic.

The richly decorated balcony served as a sort of ceremonial platform from which the Doge greeted the people and often announced important news. Photo: Didier Descouens / Wikimedia.org
The richly decorated balcony served as a sort of ceremonial platform from which the Doge greeted the people and often announced important news. Photo: Didier Descouens / Wikimedia.org

The Doge’s Palace can be visited as part of a tour. A comprehensive ticket costs 25 euros and includes visits to several halls of the palace, the prison, and the Bridge of Sighs. It is believed that convicted persons were led across this bridge to the court building, crying and sighing as they looked for the last time at the free waters of the lagoon through the tiny windows of the covered bridge — hence the name. You can view the Bridge of Sighs from the outside from the equally famous Ponte della Paglia (Bridge of Straw).

It is believed that condemned prisoners were led over the Bridge of Sighs to the courthouse. They would cry and sigh, looking out one last time at the free waters of the lagoon through the tiny windows on the covered bridge — hence the name.
It is believed that condemned prisoners were led over the Bridge of Sighs to the courthouse. They would cry and sigh, looking out one last time at the free waters of the lagoon through the tiny windows on the covered bridge — hence the name.

La Fenice Theatre

A little further into the San Marco district is La Fenice Theatre, founded in 1792. The theatre has burned down three times but was rebuilt and revived each time, like a phoenix, hence the name “Fenice.” The latest restoration of the theatre was completed in 2003. Inside, the luxurious 19th-century interiors and opulent boxes fully convey the wealth and grandeur of Venice. You can visit it as part of a tour — 12 euros for a ticket. Or you can attend a full performance, which mainly includes operas and ballets, and occasionally concerts. Tickets for performances are best purchased in advance on the website or at the theatre’s box office. The cheapest seat in the gallery costs ten euros.

The theater burned down three times, but each time it was rebuilt and revived, like a phoenix, hence the name "La Fenice". Photo: Kent Wang / Wikimedia.org
The theater burned down three times, but each time it was rebuilt and revived, like a phoenix, hence the name “La Fenice”. Photo: Kent Wang / Wikimedia.org

Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo

Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is a 15th-century palace. “Bovolo” translates from Italian as “snail.” Indeed, the main feature of the building is a spiral staircase with arches, twisting like a snail. From this very staircase, you get an unusual view of the city, where you can hardly see the waters of the lagoon and canals, just the rooftops of houses, the domes of the Santa Maria della Salute Basilica, and, of course, the campanile of St. Mark’s Basilica. Inside the palace, there is an exhibition hall with paintings, but this is not the main reason people come here. The ticket to visit the palazzo costs eight euros.

From the staircase, you get an unusual view of the city, where you can hardly see the waters of the lagoon and canals, but only the rooftops of houses, the dome of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, and the campanile of St. Mark's Basilica. Photo: Petra Venezia / Wikimedia.org
From the staircase, you get an unusual view of the city, where you can hardly see the waters of the lagoon and canals, but only the rooftops of houses, the dome of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, and the campanile of St. Mark’s Basilica. Photo: Petra Venezia / Wikimedia.org

Of course, this is far from all the interesting places in the San Marco district. For example, the cozy Campo Santo Stefano square is a favorite resting place for Venetians. The Palazzo Malipiero, built in the 11th century, where the famous Casanova lived as a child. The Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti, where art exhibitions, including contemporary art, are held in luxurious interiors. In general, you can stroll around the San Marco district for quite a long time, and the concentration of luxury, palaces, and exhibition halls here is off the charts. But at the same time, it is the noisiest and busiest, filled with tourists, hawkers, and pickpockets.

The cozy Campo Santo Stefano square is a favorite spot for Venetians to relax, and the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti, where art exhibitions, including contemporary art, are held in luxurious interiors. Photo: Didier Descouens / Wikimedia.org
The cozy Campo Santo Stefano square is a favorite spot for Venetians to relax, and the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti, where art exhibitions, including contemporary art, are held in luxurious interiors. Photo: Didier Descouens / Wikimedia.org

Basilica of Saint Stephen

Less popular with tourists but no less magnificent is the Basilica of Saint Stephen, built in the 14th–15th centuries in the San Marco district. Inside, the basilica resembles a Gothic temple — high coffered ceilings and vaulted portals, and the walls are decorated with works by Tintoretto and Paolo Veneziano. Inside, there is also the tomb of the famous Venetian doge Francesco Morosini. Besides being a legendary commander, he was also a bit eccentric, always walking around with his cat, and his prayer book had a pistol built into it. Today, this marvel of weaponry is kept in one of Venice’s museums.

Inside, the basilica resembles a Gothic church with high coffered ceilings and vaulted portals, and the walls are adorned with works by Tintoretto and Paolo Veneziano. Photo: Claytron / Wikimedia.org
Inside, the basilica resembles a Gothic church with high coffered ceilings and vaulted portals, and the walls are adorned with works by Tintoretto and Paolo Veneziano. Photo: Claytron / Wikimedia.org

Observation Deck at the Shopping Center

In addition to free basilicas, Venice even has a free observation deck with a stunning view of the city. It is located on the roof of the former Fondaco dei Tedeschi palace, which today houses a popular shopping center. You need to book your visit to the observation deck in advance on the shopping center’s website. You must arrive strictly on time, or better yet, 10–15 minutes early. If you miss your booking, the security guards at the entrance will simply not let you in — they check everything quite thoroughly. You can stay on the observation deck for 15 minutes, and the most beautiful views are in the first half of the day. There is no point in going there after sunset. Venice has rather weak illumination, and in the dark, almost nothing is visible from the observation deck.

In Venice, there is one free observation deck with a stunning view of the city. It is located on the roof of the former Fondaco dei Tedeschi palace, which today houses a popular shopping center. Photo: dfs.com
In Venice, there is one free observation deck with a stunning view of the city. It is located on the roof of the former Fondaco dei Tedeschi palace, which today houses a popular shopping center. Photo: dfs.com

San Polo — Rialto Bridge and the First Buildings in the City

San Polo is the oldest district of the city, established in the 9th century. Here, the first buildings in the city were constructed, and the first canals were fortified and cleared.

Rialto Bridge

For the classic tourist, San Polo is primarily associated with the Rialto Bridge. And it’s hard to argue with that. It’s not just a symbol of the district but, without exaggeration, a symbol of Venice itself, along with St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. It is the first and oldest bridge across the Grand Canal, and its prototype was likely built at the same time as the original development of the district. Initially, the bridge was wooden, and it was repeatedly destroyed and suffered from fires and floods. The current stone, snow-white Rialto Bridge is the creation of Antonio da Ponte and was erected in 1591.

Today's stone, white Rialto Bridge is the creation of Antonio da Ponte and was erected in 1591. Photo: Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash.com
Today’s stone, white Rialto Bridge is the creation of Antonio da Ponte and was erected in 1591. Photo: Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash.com

Rialto Market

But San Polo is famous and wonderful not only because of the Rialto Bridge. Next to the bridge is the Rialto Market, which literally embodies all of Venice. Here, in the very heart of the ancient city, fresh fish, octopuses, scallops, sea urchins, and other delicacies are sold. It’s best to come to the market in the first half of the day when the morning catch is just being laid out on the stalls. The establishments near the market will prepare the seafood you buy. The prices for a dish will be much more reasonable than in the local seafood restaurants. For 20 euros, you can have a full lunch with seafood and fish.

It is best to visit the market in the first half of the day when the morning catch is just being laid out on the stalls. Nearby establishments can cook the seafood you purchase. Photo: Derbrauni / Wikimedia.org, Egor Gordeev / Unsplash.comIt is best to visit the market in the first half of the day when the morning catch is just being laid out on the stalls. Nearby establishments can cook the seafood you purchase. Photo: Derbrauni / Wikimedia.org, Egor Gordeev / Unsplash.com

Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

The concentration of cathedrals in Venice is impressive. In this city of 300,000 people, there are more than 150 churches and basilicas of various denominations. If your trip budget includes visiting only one paid basilica, and you’ve already been to St. Mark’s, it should definitely be the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. This incredible Gothic church is richly decorated inside with works by Titian, Donatello, Bambini, and many other artists and sculptors. Yet, the cathedral has retained its Gothic style and does not resemble most of the basilicas in the city, which are usually brightly decorated with Baroque-style paintings. Here, bare brick, high vaults, slender arches, intricate stained-glass windows, and all the Gothic charm that so impresses with its grandeur are present. Entrance to the basilica is paid — five euros. The cathedral contains several tombs, mostly of Venetian doges, but it is also the burial place of Titian, one of the most brilliant representatives of the Late Renaissance. The luxurious marble tomb is adorned with sculptures and an inscription comparing the artist to Zeus in skill.

The Basilica dei Frari is an incredible Gothic church richly adorned inside with works by Titian, Donatello, Bambini, and many other artists and sculptors. Photo: Jean-Pol Grandmont, Didier Descouens / Wikimedia.org
The Basilica dei Frari is an incredible Gothic church richly adorned inside with works by Titian, Donatello, Bambini, and many other artists and sculptors. Photo: Jean-Pol Grandmont, Didier Descouens / Wikimedia.org

Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Next to the basilica is the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Scuole were medieval brotherhoods or charitable organizations of parishioners of a particular church. Members of the scuole were required to pay equal dues, which helped achieve equality among participants, regardless of their background. Aristocrats were even forbidden from leading a scuola. Such scuole existed throughout medieval Europe, but in Venice, they had their unique characteristics. The fact is that usually, scuole and their members, despite their contributions, were entirely dependent on the state and the church. However, in Venice, scuole were independent, and their governance was elective, despite each scuola’s initial affiliation with a specific monastery. Thus, scuole were not just brotherhoods but a real force and an association of people ready to defend their interests. This is why, after the fall of the Venetian Republic, all scuole were abolished. However, this did not prevent the largest of them from reviving after some time. The Scuola Grande di San Rocco was the first to be restored — literally two months after it was abolished.

Today, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco is the world’s largest repository of Tintoretto’s works. In 1564, when the brotherhood was at the peak of its wealth and membership, a competition was announced for the right to decorate the interior walls of the building. The Venetian painter Tintoretto won this competition and spent 23 years creating unique works for the building, resulting in 56 paintings that still adorn the scuola today.

To see all this splendor, you need to allocate at least one or two hours because some paintings are enormous, even by Renaissance standards. For example, the painting “Crucifixion” is 5×12 meters. Its incredible detail can captivate you for 20–30 minutes. In addition to Tintoretto’s works, the scuola also houses paintings by Titian, Giorgione, and other prominent artists. The works of sculptor Francesco Pianta are also interesting, who created an entire series of wooden sculptures. These allegorical and not always easily understood sculptures amaze with their intricate details. A ticket to the scuola costs ten euros.

Today, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco is the world's largest repository of Tintoretto's works. Photo: Bernard Blanc / Flickr.com
Today, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco is the world’s largest repository of Tintoretto’s works. Photo: Bernard Blanc / Flickr.com

On the small square between the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, street violinists often play. This is the perfect place to slow down after visiting the basilica or scuola, close your eyes, and let the incredible sounds of the city help you appreciate all the magnificent sights you have seen. An important note: it is not advisable to visit both the basilica and the scuola on the same trip, or at least separate them on different days. The fact is that both places abound with art, and of the same period — the paintings will simply blend in your mind.

Dorsoduro — The Venice of Brodsky and Polozkova’s Poems

The district of students, endless bars, and that relaxed Venice from the poems of Brodsky and Polozkova. Here, there is still plenty of art from all eras and majestic basilicas, but fewer tourists and more real Venetian life.

Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute is located on the outskirts of the Dorsoduro district. This baroque-style basilica stands out significantly against the backdrop of other buildings. It is impressive both externally and internally: it houses 12 works by Titian. However, the lighting leaves much to be desired, making it difficult to see the paintings in the dark. Perhaps, following the example of Roman basilicas, they will soon install paid lighting above each painting, but for now, visiting Santa Maria is completely free. It is the most beautiful cathedral in this district, and possibly in the entire city. And visiting it is still free.

Santa Maria della Salute is the most beautiful basilica in this area, and perhaps in the entire city. Visiting it is still free of charge. Photo: Dimitris Kamaras / Wikimedia.org
Santa Maria della Salute is the most beautiful basilica in this area, and perhaps in the entire city. Visiting it is still free of charge. Photo: Dimitris Kamaras / Wikimedia.org

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Lovers of contemporary art will enjoy the Peggy Guggenheim Collection — here are just a few of the artists whose works are featured: Dalí, Picasso, Kandinsky, Ernst, Klee. The museum is located in an 18th-century palazzo, right on the Grand Canal. To understand the luxury of this place, consider this fact: the palazzo has its own garden, a true treasure in this part of the city where land is scarce and very expensive. The ticket costs 17 euros, with an audio guide it will be easier to understand contemporary art, but more expensive — 24 euros. Tickets can be purchased both on the website and at the museum’s ticket offices, and queues are rarely encountered here.

Lovers of contemporary art will appreciate the Peggy Guggenheim Collection — here are just a few of the artists whose works are featured: Dalí, Picasso, Kandinsky, Ernst, Klee. Photo: guggenheim-venice.it
Lovers of contemporary art will appreciate the Peggy Guggenheim Collection — here are just a few of the artists whose works are featured: Dalí, Picasso, Kandinsky, Ernst, Klee. Photo: guggenheim-venice.it

Gallerie dell’Accademia

Another place for art lovers, but with a more classical focus, is the Gallerie dell’Accademia, which houses the largest collection of Venetian paintings from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Here are works by dozens of famous artists: Tintoretto, Bellini, Veronese, Giorgione, and even Leonardo da Vinci. It is in the Gallerie dell’Accademia that his legendary drawing “Vitruvian Man” with the ideal human proportions is kept. Another interesting piece is Tintoretto’s painting “The Stealing of the Body of St. Mark,” which vividly depicts the theft of the saint’s relics from Alexandria.

Admission to the museum is paid, card payment only, with a standard price of 15 euros for a one-day ticket. There is also a 22-euro ticket for two days, suitable for those who want to thoroughly explore the gallery’s extensive collection. It is traditionally better to buy the ticket on the website to avoid queues and ensure entry on the desired day. There are two small tricks that will allow you to save money quite legally. There are morning tickets — you must enter the museum before 9:15 AM — and Friday tickets for young people (aged 26–35), which are valid only in the evening, after 5:15 PM. Both cost ten euros.

Another place for art lovers, but this time for more classical art, is the Gallerie dell'Accademia, which houses the largest collection of Venetian paintings from the 14th to 17th centuries. Photo: Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice
Another place for art lovers, but this time for more classical art, is the Gallerie dell’Accademia, which houses the largest collection of Venetian paintings from the 14th to 17th centuries. Photo: Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

Accademia Bridge

Most likely, you will reach the gallery via the Accademia Bridge, one of the four large bridges over the Grand Canal. It is the southernmost and the only wooden one. The reason for this is simple: today’s famous Accademia Bridge was once merely a temporary solution. But, as it is known, nothing is more permanent than the temporary. In 1934, it was built to replace the destroyed iron bridge, which many Venetians considered controversial and unsuitable for the city in style. Therefore, by Mussolini’s order, the bridge was dismantled, and a temporary wooden structure was built. Later, in 1985, the bridge was rebuilt due to wear and tear and was again promised to be temporary. Several projects for a stone bridge even appeared. The authorities of Venice still claim that the bridge will soon be replaced with a more elegant and fitting one for the city. But no matter how controversial the appearance of the Accademia Bridge might be, the views from it are absolutely stunning. It can even be said that this is where you get the most postcard-worthy and vibrant photos. And due to its lesser popularity, there are not as many tourists here, and there is a chance to take good photos without dozens of other heads in the frame, as on the Rialto Bridge.

No matter how controversial the appearance of the Accademia Bridge may be, the views from it are absolutely stunning. You could even say that this is where the most picturesque and vivid postcard-like photos are taken
No matter how controversial the appearance of the Accademia Bridge may be, the views from it are absolutely stunning. You could even say that this is where the most picturesque and vivid postcard-like photos are taken

Ponte dei Pugni Bridge

Apart from the Accademia Bridge, the Dorsoduro district has, at first glance, an ordinary Venetian bridge called Ponte dei Pugni (Fist Fight Bridge). In the Middle Ages, fistfights between members of rival factions, who were parishioners of different churches, were officially allowed in Venice. Venetians loved this event, and there were even several places in the city where the fights were held. The goal was not to harm the opponent but to throw him into the canal as quickly as possible. The last mass brawl took place here on September 30, 1705, when the conflict turned into a knife fight, and several people even died. After that, the city authorities permanently banned fistfights. Today, in memory of this tradition, stone footprints are engraved on the bridge, and the name related to the ancient tradition has been preserved.

Fight on the Ponte dei Pugni Bridge in a painting by Josef Heintz the Younger, 1673
Fight on the Ponte dei Pugni Bridge in a painting by Josef Heintz the Younger, 1673

Carnival Masks

Not far from the Ponte dei Pugni is the Ca’Macana Original mask shop, where Stanley Kubrick himself bought masks for the film “Eyes Wide Shut.” Masks are an important symbol of the city, like gondolas or the Rialto Bridge. They are sold everywhere, but most are low-quality Chinese plastic masks that cost from one to three euros. A real Venetian mask should be made of papier-mâché, and it is not just a souvenir but pure art. The Dorsoduro district has many unique workshops that create masterpieces costing tens or sometimes even hundreds of euros.

Not far from the Ponte dei Pugni is the Ca’Macana Original carnival mask shop, where Stanley Kubrick himself bought masks for the film "Eyes Wide Shut." Photo: Ca’Macana Original
Not far from the Ponte dei Pugni is the Ca’Macana Original carnival mask shop, where Stanley Kubrick himself bought masks for the film “Eyes Wide Shut.” Photo: Ca’Macana Original

By the way, photo and especially video shooting are prohibited in most such stores. So you can come in, admire the beauty, examine all the small details, and even try on a mask, but taking pictures is not allowed. In most of these shops, you can not only buy a mask but also participate in a master class to create your own. A real Venetian mask will be an excellent souvenir and a reminder of your trip to Venice, especially if you personally took part in its creation.

"Here is coffee, and don't think about anything..."
“Here is coffee, and don’t think about anything…”

Fondamenta Zattere

Just beyond the point, on the side opposite the Grand Canal, begins the southernmost and longest promenade in the city — Fondamenta Zattere, stretching almost two kilometers. It’s quiet here, with not many people, making it a perfect place for a leisurely stroll and to immerse oneself in thought.

In the 16th century, at the end of the Zattere promenade, there was a hospital for seriously ill patients, essentially a hospice. Therefore, the institution was called the “Hospital of the Incurables.” Today, the part of the Zattere promenade where the hospital was located is known as the “Promenade of the Incurables,” thanks to the poet Joseph Brodsky. He invented this name himself; the Venetians never used it. Nevertheless, in the Russian-speaking community, everyone uses this toponym — “Promenade of the Incurables.” Brodsky also gave this name to his collection of essays about Venice. In 2009, a memorial plaque dedicated to Joseph Brodsky appeared on the promenade.

Fondamenta Zattere was Brodsky’s favorite place in Venice for a reason. The poet missed Saint Petersburg very much, a place he could not return to, and Zattere reminded him the most of the Neva embankments. It is situated by the open water, with only the dark waters of the lagoon and the silhouettes of the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. Due to its location, it is often quite windy here, again reminiscent of the capricious climate of the Northern capital. All of this together made the Promenade of the Incurables such an important and beloved place for the poet.

Right behind the cape, on the side opposite the Grand Canal, begins the city's southernmost and longest promenade (almost two kilometers) — the Fondamenta Zattere. Photo: Gary Bembridge / Wikimedia.org
Right behind the cape, on the side opposite the Grand Canal, begins the city’s southernmost and longest promenade (almost two kilometers) — the Fondamenta Zattere. Photo: Gary Bembridge / Wikimedia.org

Lookout at the Point

At the very edge of the Dorsoduro district, there is an excellent lookout point at the point near Punta della Dogana. You can sit, admire the passing gondolas, see where the waters of the Grand Canal merge with the lagoon, and in the distance, the dome and bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore Cathedral are visible. It’s a wonderful place to rest and one of the best photo spots in Dorsoduro.

At the very edge of the Dorsoduro district, there is an excellent viewpoint on the cape near Punta della Dogana
At the very edge of the Dorsoduro district, there is an excellent viewpoint on the cape near Punta della Dogana

Cannaregio — Where Venetians Simply Live

This is the most populated district of the city, home to one-third of all Venetians. Therefore, for an authentic experience of Venetian life and daily routines, you should come here. However, this does not mean that there are no classic attractions here.

Ca’ d’Oro Gallery

For example, the Ca’ d’Oro Gallery, located in a magnificent 15th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal. The architecture of the palazzo is a fine example of Venetian Gothic. Once, the building was covered in gold leaf, hence the name Ca’ d’Oro (“golden house” in Italian). The exterior decoration of the palazzo is very reminiscent of the Doge’s Palace. It’s all about the arches and columns, whose capitals are decorated with quatrefoil flowers, an unofficial symbol of Venetian architecture of that time. These quatrefoils are also found on the Doge’s Palace and other significant architectural monuments in Venice.

The architecture of the Ca' d'Oro gallery is a fine example of Venetian Gothic. Photo: Hervé Simon / Flickr.com
The architecture of the Ca’ d’Oro gallery is a fine example of Venetian Gothic. Photo: Hervé Simon / Flickr.com

Inside, there is a small but unique collection of paintings for Venice. In addition to famous Italian painters like Titian, Carpaccio, Perugino, and others, the collection includes works by Flemish artists such as Jan van Eyck and Anthony van Dyck. Another important reason to visit Ca’ d’Oro is the stunning view of the waters of the Grand Canal from the gallery’s lace-like terraces. Entrance to the gallery costs six euros.

As part of the Venice Biennale, Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn installed a sculpture in the city that reminds people to react to global warming before it's too late
As part of the Venice Biennale, Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn installed a sculpture in the city that reminds people to react to global warming before it’s too late

The Narrowest Street

Another popular attraction in the Cannaregio district is the narrowest street in the city — Calle Varisco. It may seem that almost every other street in this city is narrow, making it difficult for two pedestrians to pass each other. But here, only one person can pass, and even then sideways, as the width of this street is only 53 centimeters.

Tintoretto Lived Here

Speaking of Cannaregio as the most populated district of the city, it is impossible not to mention its most famous resident, whose name has already been mentioned several times in this text. This is the legendary painter Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto. The fact is that Jacopo’s father was a fabric dyer, and the son helped him from an early age, hence the nickname “tintoretto,” which means “little dyer” in Italian. It was his father who noticed Jacopo’s talent for drawing and apprenticed him to Titian himself. Titian quickly saw the enormous potential in his student and practically refused to teach him, fearing future competition. Tintoretto’s early works have not survived to this day, but contemporaries wrote that they clearly imitated Titian’s works. One way or another, today Tintoretto, like Titian, is one of the most famous Venetian painters of the Late Renaissance.

In the Cannaregio district, the house where the painter lived and worked for quite a long time is preserved, located on Fondamenta dei Mori. A commemorative plaque is installed on the facade of the building. The house is privately owned and closed to visitors; unfortunately, there is no museum telling about Tintoretto’s life.

Jewish Ghetto

Hidden from tourists’ eyes near the outskirts of Cannaregio is a very unusual place — the Jewish Ghetto (Ghetto Ebraico). Today, within the ghetto, there are several houses and a large square where you can find a Holocaust memorial, two functioning synagogues, the Jewish Museum, a library, and the kosher restaurant Ba Ghetto. The area of the former ghetto is isolated by canals and connected to the city by three bridges. In the Middle Ages, these bridges were closed off with gates to prevent Jews from leaving the area. These gates remained until the 18th century.

The area of the former ghetto is isolated by canals and connected to the city by three bridges. Photo: San Marco Venice / Wikimedia.org
The area of the former ghetto is isolated by canals and connected to the city by three bridges. Photo: San Marco Venice / Wikimedia.org

The first mentions of Jews in Venice date back to the 13th century, but they mainly lived on the island of Giudecca. By the 16th century, the Jewish population in the city exceeded five thousand people, and in 1516, the then Pope demanded their expulsion from the city. Expelling the Jews was unsuccessful, but they were relocated to the very outskirts of Venice, specifically to the Cannaregio district. To control them, the bridges with gates were constructed. This area was called “ghetto” because it housed a new foundry (Ghetto Nuovo in Italian). Over time, any area where Jews lived in isolation began to be called a “ghetto” — first in Italy and then worldwide. To continue living normally, some Jews converted to Christianity but secretly continued to practice Judaism. In Venice, this was severely punished, up to public execution. As a reminder of the punishment for such behavior, several memorial plaques with warnings were installed in the Cannaregio district. They explained the punishment awaiting baptized Jews who secretly continued to observe Jewish rituals. Today, one such plaque has been preserved; it is located at the entrance to the ghetto from the Cannaregio promenade.

New Foundry — Ghetto Nuovo in Italian. Over time, any area where Jews lived separately began to be called a "ghetto" — first in Italy, and then all over the world
New Foundry — Ghetto Nuovo in Italian. Over time, any area where Jews lived separately began to be called a “ghetto” — first in Italy, and then all over the world

Castello — The Greenest District

The greenest district in the eastern part of the city. Like Cannaregio, this is an area where mostly locals live, with fewer hotels and souvenir shops, but still plenty to see and places to walk. To immerse yourself in the spirit of ordinary, non-touristy Venice (or if you plan to stay for a long time), it is best to settle in these districts.

Giardini della Biennale

This district is called green for a reason: here lie the Biennale Gardens, established by order of Napoleon in 1807. For the park, four churches were demolished, and several hundred Venetians were relocated to other districts. But even that wasn’t enough. Part of the swamps around the current park had to be drained — such was Napoleon’s desire to see a large green area in densely built Venice. Land was always scarce in the city, and gardens and parks were an unaffordable luxury.

Since 1895 and to this day, art festivals have been held in the gardens. About 30 pavilions belong to different countries, hosting exhibitions inside. Some pavilions are in a state of disrepair, so for many years, Venetians have been demanding their demolition in favor of increasing green spaces in the park. Nevertheless, this is the largest green area in the city, where it is so pleasant to relax, especially in the scorching Italian summer.

This area is called "green" for a reason: it is home to the Biennale Gardens, established by order of Napoleon in 1807. Photo: Paolo Gamba / Flickr.com
This area is called “green” for a reason: it is home to the Biennale Gardens, established by order of Napoleon in 1807. Photo: Paolo Gamba / Flickr.com

Arsenal

The Arsenal is the main attraction of the district. Its appearance stands out sharply from the overall architecture of the city. Strict clock towers, crenellated walls, and the impressive marble portal Porta Magna, adorned with the symbol of Venice — the winged lion. In the Middle Ages, this was a huge enterprise combining a shipyard, forges, and armories. It was here that the famous Venetian ships that participated in the Crusades were built. Today, part of the Arsenal is still operational: it houses the base of the Italian Navy.

Near the entrance to the Arsenal, you can see several lion statues. This might seem unremarkable, as such statues adorn the entire city. But one lion stands out significantly in terms of style and material, with runic symbols on its side — this is the Piraeus Lion. The lion arrived in Venice in 1687, having previously been in the suburb of Athens in the town of Piraeus, hence its name. When and how the lion was made is unknown, but it once again demonstrates a distinctive trait of the Venetians — bringing the most beautiful and valuable things from around the world to the city. They brought the relics of St. Mark from Alexandria, ancient columns from Syria, and countless treasures from Constantinople.

The appearance of the Arsenal building stands out sharply from the overall architecture of the city. It features strict clock towers, crenellated walls, and the impressive marble Porta Magna portal, adorned with the symbol of Venice — the winged lion. Photo: Andrea Scanzani / Unsplash.com
The appearance of the Arsenal building stands out sharply from the overall architecture of the city. It features strict clock towers, crenellated walls, and the impressive marble Porta Magna portal, adorned with the symbol of Venice — the winged lion. Photo: Andrea Scanzani / Unsplash.com

Naval Historical Museum

In fact, the Arsenal area includes not only the towers and buildings behind the crenellated walls but also an entire promenade called Fondamenta Arsenale. At the end of the promenade, in the former granary building, is the Naval Historical Museum. Here you can see detailed models of Venetian ships from different eras. For example, the very ship on which the Doges performed their “marriage to the sea” ritual. There are original parts and fragments of various constructions. The museum does not offer audio guides or organized tours, so it is best to come prepared. Admission is ten euros, with tickets available on the website and at the box office.

The Naval History Museum has original parts and fragments of various Venetian ship structures. Photo: Andrew Balet / Wikimedia.org
The Naval History Museum has original parts and fragments of various Venetian ship structures. Photo: Andrew Balet / Wikimedia.org

Church of San Pietro di Castello

Behind the Arsenal, deep in the Castello district, on the island of the same name, is the unique Church of San Pietro di Castello. This church is famous not for its interiors or altarpieces but for its significance in the history of the city. From 1451, it held the status of the Cathedral of Venice, rather than the Basilica of San Marco. For almost 400 years, all important services were held here, and it was the seat of the Patriarch of Venice. The church is noticeable from afar due to its large dome and the snow-white bell tower, which has a significant tilt.

The church is visible from afar thanks to its large dome and the pristine white bell tower with a significant tilt. Photo: Didier Descouens / Wikimedia.org
The church is visible from afar thanks to its large dome and the pristine white bell tower with a significant tilt. Photo: Didier Descouens / Wikimedia.org

Santa Croce — Transport Hub

The gateway to Venice — you will most likely arrive here when you enter the city. Here is Piazzale Roma, the main transportation hub of the city, where buses arrive from the airports or the neighboring Mestre district. A bit further is the bus station and the Tronchetto pier, where buses from companies like Flixbus and Itabus arrive from other cities in Italy and neighboring countries. However, the Santa Lucia train station belongs to the Cannaregio district.

Banksy Art

Despite its logistical significance, there are things to see in Santa Croce as well. For instance, one of two Italian works by the contemporary street artist Banksy (the other is in Naples). The piece is called “The Migrant Child” and is located on the border with the Dorsoduro district, on the wall of a house. To get a detailed look at the work, you will need to be on the water or on the nearest bridge.

Banksy's work in Venice is called The Migrant Child and is located on the border with the Dorsoduro district, on the wall of a house. The artwork can be viewed in detail from the water or from the nearest bridge. Photo: Gorup de Besanez / Wikimedia.org
Banksy’s work in Venice is called The Migrant Child and is located on the border with the Dorsoduro district, on the wall of a house. The artwork can be viewed in detail from the water or from the nearest bridge. Photo: Gorup de Besanez / Wikimedia.org

Two Bridges

Santa Croce includes two bridges over the Grand Canal that lead to Cannaregio. These are the Constitution Bridge, the youngest of the large bridges, built in 2008. The bridge is made of steel, reinforced concrete, and glass, which does not fit into the overall picture of the city. There were many discussions around the construction of the bridge, which eventually led to protests and entire rallies. Venetians did not want to see such a large, purely modernist structure in their city. The bridge was built anyway, but due to protests, the grand opening had to be canceled.

The neighboring Scalzi Bridge, on the other hand, is a favorite among locals. Its light and airy construction fits perfectly with the city’s exterior. The name translates to “barefoot bridge” in English, all due to the nearby church of the Discalced Carmelite monks. The Scalzi Bridge offers an excellent view of the Grand Canal.

The Scalzi Bridge is a favorite among locals. Its light and airy structure perfectly fits into the urban environment
The Scalzi Bridge is a favorite among locals. Its light and airy structure perfectly fits into the urban environment

Church of Scalzi

It is located right next to the Santa Lucia train station, but tourists usually pass by without noticing it, which is a shame. The church resembles a Baroque jewel box — marble, columns, wall and ceiling frescoes, a brightly decorated altar, and huge sculptures. Everything about this place screams that you are in a wealthy Catholic church, similar to those often found in southern Italy, such as in Naples.

The Scalzi Church resembles a baroque jewel box — marble, columns, wall and ceiling paintings, a brightly decorated altar, and huge sculptures. Photo: Didier Descouens / Wikimedia.org
The Scalzi Church resembles a baroque jewel box — marble, columns, wall and ceiling paintings, a brightly decorated altar, and huge sculptures. Photo: Didier Descouens / Wikimedia.org

Church of San Simeone Piccolo

Near the bridge is an interesting building with a huge blue dome — this is the Church of San Simeone Piccolo. If you arrive in the city by train, this is the church that greets you as you step out of the station. It creates a kind of welcoming landscape — the sunlit waters of the Grand Canal, the magnificent Scalzi Bridge, and the blue dome of San Simeone Piccolo.

Next to the bridge is an interesting building with a large blue dome — this is the Church of San Simeon Piccolo. It greets everyone arriving in Venice by train
Next to the bridge is an interesting building with a large blue dome — this is the Church of San Simeon Piccolo. It greets everyone arriving in Venice by train

Simply Venice

You could describe the interesting places in Venice for a very long time — it is impossible to see the entire city in a lifetime. But still, the main attraction is Venice itself, not individual palazzos or basilicas.

Each house facing the water inevitably has one or two boats — the only available means of transport for Venetians
Each house facing the water inevitably has one or two boats — the only available means of transport for Venetians

Typical Venetian buildings are low, two to four stories high, in yellow-orange tones, often quite unattractive — without luxurious columns, Gothic arches, or other decorations. Cracked plaster, rusty iron hooks on the walls, which passing Venetians tap for luck. Wooden shutters painted in various shades of green. Here, shutters are not just a decorative element but a really useful thing that protects old windows from sunlight, wind, and rain. On the balconies, more often metal, less often stone, Venetians create entire gardens, as they clearly lack greenery. The buildings in the city are so dense that there is almost no room for squares and parks.

I write these lines, sitting on a white chair

under the open sky, in winter, in just

a jacket, tipsy, parting my cheeks

with phrases in my native tongue.

The coffee is cooling. The lagoon splashes, a hundred

small glints dimming the pupil, punishing

the urge to remember the landscape, capable

of existing without me.

Joseph Brodsky, “Venetian Stanzas,” 1982

Every house facing the water must have one or two boats — the only available means of transport for Venetians. Boats deliver mail, boxes of wine for restaurants, fruits and vegetables to small shops. Even ambulances and the police travel by boat — they are equipped with loud sirens, making them easy to spot among other transport on the waters of the Grand Canal. Some streets have cozy little squares, often filled with café terraces. And in larger squares, there will always be a monument to a respected Venetian.

Boats are used to deliver mail, crates of wine to restaurants, and fruits and vegetables to small shops
Boats are used to deliver mail, crates of wine to restaurants, and fruits and vegetables to small shops

And now, this whole picture comes together. Tightly packed old houses, mostly built in the 16th–18th centuries. Exposed brick bases, from which plaster and paint have long peeled off. Boats gently rocking on the waves of the canals. Endless bridges, some with interesting names and stories, and some unnamed, leading directly to the homes of locals. Laundry fluttering in the wind in the most remote alleys, away from the eyes of curious tourists. And somewhere, tourists bustle around — admiring Titian in churches and the interiors of palazzos, taking selfies in gondolas.

Walking through the streets and canals, getting lost in endless dead ends, emerging at the wrong embankments, and taking forty minutes instead of ten to get somewhere — this is the essence of Venice
Walking through the streets and canals, getting lost in endless dead ends, emerging at the wrong embankments, and taking forty minutes instead of ten to get somewhere — this is the essence of Venice

Walking through the streets and canals, getting lost in endless dead ends, ending up at the wrong embankments and taking forty minutes for a ten-minute walk — this is the spirit of Venice. For your first visit, plan to see a few iconic landmarks, and the rest of the time, put your phone with the map in your pocket and just enjoy the city itself. It is especially atmospheric to walk at dusk and after dark. The thing is, Venice has almost no street lighting, so you wander through the dark alleys, stumble upon small squares where Venetians dine by candlelight at dimly lit tables. You join one of them, order a glass of wine, and, closing your eyes, try to take in all the beauty that surrounds you.

Gondolas

Of course, the first image that comes to mind when you think of “Venice” is the Venetian gondola and the gondolier in a hat and striped shirt, singing Italian songs. Today, classic Venetian gondolas are not a means of transportation in the city; they are now a tourist attraction. The price for a ride is fixed — 90 euros during the day and 110 euros in the evening, payment in cash only. This is the price for the gondola, not per passenger; up to five people can ride in one gondola. Therefore, to save money, you can find fellow passengers or use services that will do this for you. Gondolas do not have a set route, and gondoliers solicit tourists near almost every bridge. During the high season, queues of gondolas form during the day, and traffic jams occur in the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge area, so it’s better to choose smaller canals for boarding.

The first image that comes to mind when you hear "Venice" is a Venetian gondola and a gondolier in a hat and striped shirt, singing Italian songs
The first image that comes to mind when you hear “Venice” is a Venetian gondola and a gondolier in a hat and striped shirt, singing Italian songs

There are fewer than 500 registered gondolas in Venice, usually owned by the gondoliers themselves and passed down along with the profession. The profession is considered very prestigious and traditionally male. The first female gondolier received her license only in 2010. To become a gondolier, you must pass a rather difficult driving exam and an English language test, as gondolas are now exclusively a tourist form of transport. After the exam, the Venice city hall issues a gondola license. Perhaps, along with the certificate, they also receive a gondolier’s hat and striped shirt, and are taught to sing Italian songs.

There are fewer than 500 registered gondolas in Venice, usually owned by the gondoliers themselves and passed down through generations along with the profession. Photo: Ays Be / Unsplash.com
There are fewer than 500 registered gondolas in Venice, usually owned by the gondoliers themselves and passed down through generations along with the profession. Photo: Ays Be / Unsplash.com

In the Dorsoduro area is one of the last shipyards in the city — Squero di San Trovaso, which has been operating since the 17th century. Today, as hundreds of years ago, gondolas are built and repaired here. Creating one gondola takes about 500 hours, so approximately 20 boats are built each year at all the shipyards in Venice, each costing around 35,000 euros.

All gondolas have the same shape, weight (700 kilograms), color (only black since 1562), consist of 280 parts made from specific types of wood, and various decorative elements that have acquired dozens of meanings over Venice’s millennia-long history. For example, the ferro — the iron prow at one end of the gondola. Its rounded top part symbolizes the traditional headdress of the Venetian Doges, the notch below it represents the arch of the Rialto Bridge, the six broad flat prongs symbolize the six Venetian sestieri, and the seventh prong, facing the opposite direction, represents the island of Giudecca. Between the broad prongs are three curved and thin ones — symbols of the main lagoon islands Murano, Burano, and Torcello. The curve of the ferro itself resembles the shape of the Grand Canal.

If you are interested in learning more about the creation of Venetian gondolas, you can book a private tour of the San Trovaso shipyard. You need to contact the workers by email (contacts here) and arrange a tour in advance, at least two to three weeks before your trip. Booking a tour on-site is quite difficult because the shipyard is actively used and there is not always the opportunity to take tourists through the workshops.

All gondolas have the same shape, weight (700 kilograms), color (only black since 1562), and consist of 280 parts. Photo: Diego Gennaro / Unsplash.com
All gondolas have the same shape, weight (700 kilograms), color (only black since 1562), and consist of 280 parts. Photo: Diego Gennaro / Unsplash.com

Islands of the Venetian Lagoon

The Venetian Lagoon is located in the Adriatic Sea and consists of 118 islands. They vary in size and purpose: some are inhabited, others are not, making them an excellent way to discover another side of Venice.

Burano

The Instagram star of the lagoon, thanks to its brightly colored houses, the island is a favorite photo spot for thousands of tourists. The tradition of painting houses in bright colors began in the 16th century to help sailors spot the island from a distance.

The island is also known for its lace workshops, where lace makers have been weaving intricate fabrics for centuries. There is even an entire Lace Museum — entrance is five euros. However, it is quite specific and will be interesting to those deeply immersed in the topic. The average visitor might find it boring. The island has many shops where you can buy lace items or simply admire the beauty.

How to get there: Vaporetto No. 12. Plan about two hours to visit the island.

The tradition of painting houses in bright colors began in the 16th century: it made it easier for sailors to see the island from afar. Photo: Salmen Bejaoui / Unsplash.com
The tradition of painting houses in bright colors began in the 16th century: it made it easier for sailors to see the island from afar. Photo: Salmen Bejaoui / Unsplash.com

Murano

This island is home to glass workshops where the world-famous Murano glass is created. In the 13th century, the authorities of Venice issued a decree requiring all glassblowers from across the lagoon to relocate to Murano. The reason was simple — glassmaking at that time was quite a fire hazard. Hence, the idea to concentrate all glassblowing workshops on one island to reduce the risk of fires in medieval Venice. Soon, Murano became famous far beyond Venice thanks to its exquisite glass products. Glassblowers created a wide range of items — from chandeliers and decorative vases to jewelry.

Today, as it was hundreds of years ago, Murano glass production thrives on the island. You can visit shops to view the items, visit the Murano Glass Museum, or go to one of the active glassblowing workshops. For example, at Original Murano Glass, masters create unique masterpieces right before your eyes, and a tour costs a reasonable five euros. The main thing is to book in advance.

Murano is the most popular island in the lagoon, and some hotels even organize free daily excursions for their guests, such as Kempinski. Therefore, in peak season, the island is as crowded as St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge.

How to get there: Several vaporetto (water bus) routes go to Murano. No. 3, 4.1, 4.2 depart from the main pier at Piazzale Roma. Route No. 7 is convenient to reach the island from St. Mark’s Square. And from the neighboring Burano, vaporetto No. 12 operates.

Today, as it was hundreds of years ago, the production of Murano glass thrives on the island. Photo: Dan Hadar, Clément Philippe / Unsplash.com
Today, as it was hundreds of years ago, the production of Murano glass thrives on the island. Photo: Dan Hadar, Clément Philippe / Unsplash.com

Lido

A long sandy spit protects the lagoon from the waters of the Adriatic. The island is most famous for the Venice Film Festival, held here since 1932. It was the first international film festival. The main prize is the Golden Lion, the symbol of Venice. The festival takes place every year in late August and early September.

Lido is one of the few places for beach holidays around Venice. Of course, the local beaches can’t compare with the waters of the Ligurian coast or Sicily, but if you are planning to visit Venice in the summer, it is a great opportunity to cool off and relax away from the hot city.

How to get there: There are many routes to Lido. The most popular and fastest is No. 14, from St. Mark’s Square directly to the island. The night route N winds around the entire city and takes more than an hour and a half, but it is a great option for a romantic stroll.

Lido is one of the few places for beach holidays in the vicinity of Venice. Photo: MOs810 / Wikimedia.org
Lido is one of the few places for beach holidays in the vicinity of Venice. Photo: MOs810 / Wikimedia.org

San Giorgio Maggiore

Standing in St. Mark’s Square, you can see the dome of the church and the bell tower in the distance — this is the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and its namesake church. The bell tower has a viewing platform offering an excellent view of Venice. Entrance to the viewing platform costs eight euros. The island is very picturesque and popular — not only with tourists but also with filmmakers. Several scenes from the James Bond film “Casino Royale” and “The Tourist” with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp were filmed here.

How to get there: Vaporetto No. 2 from St. Mark’s Square. The journey takes only ten minutes.

San Giorgio Maggiore island is very picturesque and popular — not only among tourists but also among filmmakers. Several scenes from the James Bond film "Casino Royale" and "The Tourist" with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp were filmed here. Photo: Anton Volnuhin / Unsplash.com
San Giorgio Maggiore island is very picturesque and popular — not only among tourists but also among filmmakers. Several scenes from the James Bond film “Casino Royale” and “The Tourist” with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp were filmed here. Photo: Anton Volnuhin / Unsplash.com

Torcello

One of the oldest continuously inhabited islands in the lagoon — it is believed that the first inhabitants appeared here in the 5th century, which means when people first came to Venice itself. There are no super-bright attractions here — of interest are the ancient 7th-century Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta and the Devil’s Bridge. It has no railings or parapets — that’s how dozens of bridges throughout Venice used to look.

But it is worth going to Torcello for the calm and sleepy atmosphere that cannot be found even in the most remote areas of Venice. Walk around, drink espresso, and observe everyday Italian life. By the way, it was for this atmosphere that Ernest Hemingway loved the island, living here for several years. The best time to visit is spring when the island is in bloom.

How to get there: Vaporetto No. 12.

A trip to Torcello is worth it for the calm and sleepy atmosphere, which cannot be found even in the most remote areas of Venice. Photo: Edoardo Bortoli / Unsplash.com
A trip to Torcello is worth it for the calm and sleepy atmosphere, which cannot be found even in the most remote areas of Venice. Photo: Edoardo Bortoli / Unsplash.com

Lazzaretto Nuovo

During outbreaks of the bubonic plague in the 15th–16th centuries, infected people were brought here, and arriving ships in the lagoon underwent quarantine here. If you are a fan of places filled with stories of mystical deaths and other horrors, you will find this interesting. Rumor has it that the ghost of the Venetian vampire lives here. Whether you believe in the mystical or not, the island is worth a visit. It’s best to visit with a guide; you need to book a tour in advance via Facebook with the organization responsible for the heritage protection of Lazzaretto Nuovo.

How to get there: Only one route stops here — No. 13. You need to inform the attendant at the station in advance that you need this stop. Since the island is uninhabited, the vaporetto stops there only upon request.

During the outbreaks of the bubonic plague in the 15th–16th centuries, infected people were taken to Lazzaretto Nuovo island, and ships arriving in the lagoon also underwent quarantine here. Photo: Lazzaretti Veneziani
During the outbreaks of the bubonic plague in the 15th–16th centuries, infected people were taken to Lazzaretto Nuovo island, and ships arriving in the lagoon also underwent quarantine here. Photo: Lazzaretti Veneziani

San Michele

People come to the island to visit the cemetery where many famous people are buried, such as the poet Joseph Brodsky, composer Igor Stravinsky, and theater director Sergei Diaghilev. However, not all of them are buried together — there is a so-called “Russian section” where Russian emigrants and their descendants, all Orthodox Christians, are buried. Brodsky was not Orthodox, and the Venetian authorities refused to bury him on the Catholic side. Therefore, his body ultimately found its final resting place in the Protestant section of the cemetery. The path to this burial was indeed long. The poet died in New York in 1996, but only a year later did his wife decide that the body should be buried in Venice. Today, the poet’s grave is modest, a simple gravestone without chapels or angels. Admirers of his work bring his favorite Camel cigarettes, small bottles of whiskey, and, of course, his collection of essays about Venice, “Watermark.”

How to get there: Vaporetto No. 4.1 from Piazzale Roma and No. 4.2 from St. Mark’s Square. The stop is simply called “Cemetery” (cimitero in Italian).

Food

In the most affordable restaurants in the city, the average bill for lunch for one person starts at 25 euros, plus various taxes and tips. But there are ways to save money. We already mentioned the restaurants near the Rialto market, where you can have the seafood you bought cooked. Secondly, pasta takeaway in boxes, a hearty meal will cost 4-6 euros. The most popular places of this format are We Love Italy and Bepe Bigoi. And, of course, pizza — in Venice, almost every step has various pizzerias where pizza costs 3-5 euros.

Takeaway pasta in boxes is a hearty meal that costs 4–6 euros. Photo: We Love Italy
Takeaway pasta in boxes is a hearty meal that costs 4–6 euros. Photo: We Love Italy

If you decide to save money by cooking for yourself but stay in Venice, keep in mind that there are not many full-sized supermarkets in the city, and prices in local shops and markets are quite high. In this case, it is better to rent an apartment in Mestre — there are plenty of supermarkets there. The cheapest groceries are, of course, in Lidl, a bit more expensive in COOP and Conad, but the latter have a lot of ready-made food.

What to Bring Home

Venice is associated with carnival masks, gondolier’s striped shirts, and Murano glass jewelry. Souvenir shops in the city are almost more numerous than galleries and pizzerias. Unfortunately, most of them sell goods from China today, making finding genuine Italian souvenirs a real challenge. But we have our list of interesting and unique shops where you can buy useful and original gifts.

Quorami Venezia — a shop for handmade leather accessories. All items are made from leather produced in the Tuscany region, and the workshop is located right in the store. They specialize in fantastic belts, and you can even choose the buckle for any belt to your taste. The shop has been family-run for two generations.

Il Baule d’Oriente — a handmade jewelry store offering vibrant wooden and beaded bracelets, large necklaces with intricate beads, and long earrings. Everything here is bright, unique, and worthy of detailed examination, just like the city itself. Prices are quite reasonable: for 7–10 euros, you can buy a unique piece. There are two stores in the city — one near the Santa Lucia train station and the other not far from St. Mark’s.

Nino & Friends — a chain of three sweet shops. What sets this shop apart from dozens of others is the free tastings. You can try all the fillings before buying and decide what you want to buy. Our favorite is the lemon candies in white chocolate. Prices are reasonable — a small gift box of candies costs 7–10 euros. Each candy has a distinct flavor. They also sell excellent limoncello and delicious truffle oil, but their specialty is chocolate. The shop windows are always brightly decorated with chocolate fountains, featuring the Rialto Bridge in some stores and entire chocolate gondolas in a chocolate Grand Canal in others. Sweet tooths will be delighted.

The highlight of the Nino & Friends store, which sets it apart from dozens of others, is the free tastings. Before buying, you can try all the fillings and decide which one you want to purchase. Photo: Nino & Friends
The highlight of the Nino & Friends store, which sets it apart from dozens of others, is the free tastings. Before buying, you can try all the fillings and decide which one you want to purchase. Photo: Nino & Friends

Friulane Dittura — one of the few shops in the city where traditional Venetian friulane slippers are handmade at a reasonable price — starting from 50 euros. The shop has been operating for over half a century and, as is customary in Italy, it is a family business. Friulane slippers originate from the northern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. In the Middle Ages, such footwear was considered for special occasions and was worn to festivals and Sunday masses in church, while in everyday life, Venetians preferred more practical wooden clogs. Because of their festive status, this footwear is often made from expensive materials like silk and velvet. Genuine friulane slippers are handmade, which can be identified by the characteristic stitching on the sole.

Friulane Dittura is one of the few stores in the city where traditional Venetian friulane slippers are handmade. Photo: Friulane Dittura
Friulane Dittura is one of the few stores in the city where traditional Venetian friulane slippers are handmade. Photo: Friulane Dittura

Taxes and Fees

Starting from April 25, 2024, all tourists entering Venice must obtain a QR code.

Tourists over 14 years old who visit without an overnight stay — from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM on certain days — from April 25 to May 5, and then every weekend until August, must pay a one-time fee of five euros on the municipal website. This new tourist tax is intended to boost Venice’s coffers from day-trippers. Among all the visitors to the city, they are the majority, and according to statistics, they do not bring much profit. The system has been attempted for many years and is currently in a test phase. Initially, controllers checked for the QR code and allowed payment on-site if it was missing. However, the fine for non-payment of the tax ranges from 50 to 300 euros.

Tourists staying overnight in Venice pay a tax at their hotel for each night — from 0.9 to five euros — depending on the hotel’s star rating, location, and season. This tax is collected on-site and is often requested in cash. Be sure to check the exact amount of the tax with your accommodation in advance. They also need to obtain a QR code.

The tax needs to be paid only for the first five days of stay. If you stay longer in one place, you don’t need to pay further. However, it’s not very clear how to prove this to the Italians. The author of this article spent a week in Venice in November 2023, and the apartment owner “kindly” took the tax for all seven nights without saying anything. Possibly, the situation might be different if you stay in hotels. In general, be prepared to stand up for your rights during long trips, and as an argument in disputes, we suggest using this information from the municipal website.

The new tourist tax is intended to replenish Venice's coffers at the expense of day-trippers. Among all the visitors to the city, they are the majority, and according to statistics, they do not bring in much profit. Photo: Levi van Leeuwen / Unsplash.com
The new tourist tax is intended to replenish Venice’s coffers at the expense of day-trippers. Among all the visitors to the city, they are the majority, and according to statistics, they do not bring in much profit. Photo: Levi van Leeuwen / Unsplash.com

Accommodation

Venice is a very touristy city, so there is accommodation to suit all tastes — from hostels to luxurious historic hotels. Early booking is key to success, at least three to four months in advance, and if you plan to visit during the carnival or from May to September, even earlier. The closer to the travel dates, the higher the prices and the fewer good options available. In addition to the usual Booking.com and Airbnb, Hostelworld is also popular here.

Prices for accommodation in Venice start from 50 euros for a hostel bed (with early booking) and go up endlessly. The average price for a room in a small hotel is 120 euros per night. Sometimes extremely low prices are due to the hotel being located not in Venice itself, but on the lagoon islands. You will have to get to your lodging by ferry — a one-way ticket costs 9.5 euros, and you will be tied to the schedule. Therefore, choose such options only if you are interested in the lagoon islands themselves, but definitely not to save on accommodation.

The most unique type of accommodation in Venice is historical hotels, which often have centuries of history. For example, the famous Hotel Royal Danieli, the very hotel where the film “The Tourist” with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie was filmed. The price for a double room starts at 800 euros in the low season. The hotel occupies a former palazzo building, located right next to the Doge’s Palace, and most rooms overlook the lagoon. The building was built in the 14th century and belonged to the famous Dandolo family. Many military leaders, priests, and even several doges came from this family. If you want to feel the grandeur of this place but don’t want to pay 1000 euros per night, you can visit the bar at the hotel and have a cocktail for 20–30 euros, joining this legendary place. The interiors of the bar are as luxurious as the rest of the palace — marble cladding, exquisite furniture, and even a genuine 16th-century map of Venice hangs on one of the walls. In the evenings, a pianist plays in the bar. The menu has an extensive bar list but a modest selection of dishes and snacks.

The Hotel Royal Danieli building was constructed in the 14th century and belonged to the famous Dandolo family. Many soldiers, priests, and even several doges came from this family. Photo: Hotel Royal Danieli
The Hotel Royal Danieli building was constructed in the 14th century and belonged to the famous Dandolo family. Many soldiers, priests, and even several doges came from this family. Photo: Hotel Royal Danieli

Another historic hotel is The Gritti Palace, also located in a 15th-century palazzo that once belonged to the famous Pisani family and was later sold to the Venetian jeweler family Gritti, hence the name. The hotel is located on the Grand Canal, and the terraces offer a magnificent view of Santa Maria della Salute. Rooms here cost from 1000 euros in November-December and go up to 6000 euros on peak dates.

Rooms at The Gritti Palace start at 1000 euros in November-December and go up to 6000. Photo: The Gritti Palace
Rooms at The Gritti Palace start at 1000 euros in November-December and go up to 6000. Photo: The Gritti Palace

Remember that Venice is a city with a thousand-year history, many houses are not just old, but dilapidated and were built 200–400 years ago. Mold, dampness, cold in winter, low ceilings, and inconvenient stairs — all this can be found even in popular boutique hotels with prices starting from 200 euros per night. Therefore, when booking, carefully read the reviews, especially those left by guests in the season when you are going. In summer, some hotels are unbearably stuffy and smell of mold, while in winter they are damp and very cold.

How to Save Money? To save on accommodation, you will have to stay not in the historic center of Venice, but in the nearby industrial district of Mestre. From there, you can reach the historic center by bus or train in 15–20 minutes for one and a half euros. Mestre has many stylish and affordable hostels; for example, a bed at Anda Venice costs from 29 euros. In addition to being cheaper, the taxes in Mestre are lower than in Venice, which also helps to save a bit.

Transportation in the City

There are no large roads or avenues in Venice, and walking in any part of the city is a pleasure because there are no cars, and the occasional mopeds are only found in the outskirts. Even bicycles are not allowed on the central streets. All transportation in the city is exclusively water-based.

Traghetto: This is a gondola-ferry that you can use to cross the Grand Canal in places where there are no large bridges. It is especially convenient to use them to quickly get from St. Mark's Square to the Dorsoduro district, which is located on the opposite side of the canal. The ride costs only two euros, cash only. There will be about eight to ten other people in the boat with you. The trip lasts only a couple of minutes, but it is the cheapest way to see the city from the water.

Vaporetto: The main transportation in Venice is the vaporetto water buses. They can be used to travel along the Grand Canal, around Venice itself, and to neighboring islands. All vaporettos are operated by the ACTV company, with a total of 25 routes. It is not necessary to understand all of them: the carrier's website has a convenient interactive map. Real-time boat schedules are well displayed on Google Maps.

Vaporetto stops look like white booths with yellow stripes. Often, several boats depart from one station, following different routes. Therefore, be attentive and ask for information from the attendants, who are usually present at each vaporetto stop. Most routes run until 11:00 PM, but there is one night route — N, which runs from St. Mark's Square to the Lido island, winding through almost the entire city. It runs all night, about once an hour.

The main mode of transportation in Venice is the water buses called vaporettos. They can be used to travel along the Grand Canal, around Venice itself, and to reach the neighboring islands.
The main mode of transportation in Venice is the water buses called vaporettos. They can be used to travel along the Grand Canal, around Venice itself, and to reach the neighboring islands.

Tickets can be purchased only at the largest stations, marked on the interactive map (ticket points). Therefore, if you plan to explore the remote corners of the city, it is better to buy round-trip tickets or a day pass in advance. All tickets have a time period during which they are active, starting from the moment they are validated. For example, if you buy a 24-hour ticket and validate it at 12:30 PM, it will be valid until 12:30 PM the next day. The cheapest ticket for 75 minutes costs 9.5 euros. During this time, you can transfer between boats as many times as you like. However, if you plan to use the vaporetto more than twice a day, it is more economical to buy a pass. A 24-hour pass costs 25 euros, which is an ideal option if you plan to visit the islands of Murano and Burano. There are also passes for 48 hours — 35 euros, 72 hours — 45 euros, and even for a whole week for 65 euros.

To get to Marco Polo Airport by vaporetto, you need a separate ticket, as none of the passes are valid on boats departing to and from the airport (more details in the "How to Get There" section).

Other Transportation

Various buses and trams can be useful if you are staying outside the center of Venice, for example, in the neighboring district of Mestre. The rest of the transport is also operated by ACTV, and if you already have a day pass for the vaporetto, you can use it to get to Mestre. However, buying such a pass just for the buses is not cost-effective, as a single trip costs only 1.5 euros. Tickets in Mestre are easy to buy at the ACTV ticket office at Piazzale Roma, from where all the buses depart. However, it is more challenging to buy them in Mestre itself. They are not sold on the buses or at the stops, so you need to find tobacco shops and pay in cash.

In general, selling bus tickets in tobacco shops and cafes, rather than at stops, is a purely Italian tradition, reflecting the Italian attitude towards haste. Don't you always have time for a cup of espresso before buying a ticket? No? That's a shame, Italians won't understand you. So, if you're not ready to wander around Mestre in the morning looking for a tobacco shop, it's better to buy a ticket the day before at Piazzale Roma when you're leaving Venice. Don't forget to validate your ticket as soon as you board the bus, as inspectors check not only for the presence of a ticket but also whether it has been validated.

Bicycles: Riding a bicycle in Venice is prohibited, and the fine for riding on the main streets of the city is 100 euros. Moreover, it is simply inconvenient. Narrow alleys, sharp turns, constant forks, and bridges over canals make getting around by bicycle less convenient than walking.

Money

As in other cities in Italy, it is quite problematic to exchange dollars in Venice — the exchange rate is outrageous, and exchange offices also charge a commission for the exchange. Therefore, it is better to arrive with euros. Even if you have a working card, cash will be useful — in addition to paying the tourist tax, for example, rides on the famous gondolas are only paid in cash. Bills of 100 and 200 euros are often not accepted, so it is better to bring smaller bills.

How to Get There

Low-cost carriers (Ryanair, WizzAir, Vueling) operate numerous flights to Venice from various cities in Europe daily, and prices for morning flights start at just 13 euros.

From the airport to the city: Venice has two main airports — "Marco Polo" (VCE) near the city and "Antonio Canova" (TSF) in the nearby town of Treviso.

Usually, the cheapest flights arrive at Treviso airport, but it takes longer to get from there. The bus to Venice takes 40 minutes. If you buy a ticket online, it costs ten euros, and 12 euros at the airport ticket office, but you can pay in cash. Round-trip tickets might be slightly cheaper, check when purchasing. You can, of course, use a transfer service or take a taxi directly from the airport, but the prices are astronomical — starting from 100 euros.

It is more convenient to fly into Marco Polo airport, as it is closer to Venice and buses to the city run more frequently. Here, it's more convenient to buy bus tickets directly at the exit ticket office.

But the main feature is the airport's location by the water and the ability to get to the city by water transport. A ticket for the Alilaguna ferry costs 15 euros one way and 25 euros round trip. The ticket can be purchased only at the airport ticket office, in tobacco kiosks, and at the ferry stations in Venice. The ferry takes much longer than the bus, from 30 to 75 minutes, depending on the desired stop. But it's a wonderful way to start your acquaintance with Venice right from the plane.

A more expensive way to get to Venice by water is by water taxi. Boats meet passengers at the airport and take them directly to their hotel. This method is relevant for those who have chosen a hotel with its own pier or at least located by the shore. A water taxi ride from the airport to the city costs from 160 euros. But like Angelina Jolie in the movie "The Tourist" (last mention, I promise), you will arrive directly at your hotel's pier. Many expensive hotels offer such a transfer, check when booking. However, you can also save money by sharing the taxi fare with other tourists. If you are horrified at the thought of running around the airport looking for fellow travelers and persuading them, don't worry. There are special services that have already done everything for you. You just need to book a place in advance at a specific time. You still ride in a beautiful private boat directly to the hotel, but you pay 30-40 euros instead of 200.

How to Get There

Low-cost carriers (Ryanair, WizzAir, Vueling) operate numerous flights to Venice from various cities in Europe daily, and prices for morning flights start at just 13 euros.

From the airport to the city: Venice has two main airports — "Marco Polo" (VCE) near the city and "Antonio Canova" (TSF) in the nearby town of Treviso.

Usually, the cheapest flights arrive at Treviso airport, but it takes longer to get from there. The bus to Venice takes 40 minutes. If you buy a ticket online, it costs ten euros, and 12 euros at the airport ticket office, but you can pay in cash. Round-trip tickets might be slightly cheaper, check when purchasing. You can, of course, take a taxi directly from the airport, but the prices are astronomical — starting from 100 euros.

It is more convenient to fly into Marco Polo airport, as it is closer to Venice and buses to the city run more frequently. Here, it's more convenient to buy bus tickets directly at the exit ticket office.

But the main feature is the airport's location by the water and the ability to get to the city by water transport. A ticket for the Alilaguna ferry costs 15 euros one way and 25 euros round trip. The ticket can be purchased only at the airport ticket office, in tobacco kiosks, and at the ferry stations in Venice. The ferry takes much longer than the bus, from 30 to 75 minutes, depending on the desired stop. But it's a wonderful way to start your acquaintance with Venice right from the plane.

A more expensive way to get to Venice by water is by water taxi. Boats meet passengers at the airport and take them directly to their hotel. This method is relevant for those who have chosen a hotel with its own pier or at least located by the shore. A water taxi ride from the airport to the city costs from 160 euros. But like Angelina Jolie in the movie "The Tourist" (last mention, I promise), you will arrive directly at your hotel's pier. Many expensive hotels offer such a transfer, check when booking. However, you can also save money by sharing the taxi fare with other tourists. If you are horrified at the thought of running around the airport looking for fellow travelers and persuading them, don't worry. There are special services that have already done everything for you. You just need to book a place in advance at a specific time. You still ride in a beautiful private boat directly to the hotel, but you pay 30-40 euros instead of 200.

A trip by water taxi from the airport to the city costs from 160 euros. But just like Angelina Jolie in the movie "The Tourist," you will arrive directly at your hotel's dock
A trip by water taxi from the airport to the city costs from 160 euros. But just like Angelina Jolie in the movie "The Tourist," you will arrive directly at your hotel's dock

Bus: From some cities (especially those without an airport), it is more convenient to get to Venice by bus, for example, with the Itabus company. Itabus buses are comfortable, always clean, warm, and usually double-decker, and the trips are much more comfortable than with the popular FlixBus. If you don't mind overnight trips, you can get to Venice from Naples or Rome for just ten euros, saving money on accommodation and a full day of travel. The company often holds sales on its website. However, it's best to buy cheap tickets two to three months in advance, as only the least favorable rates are usually left a few days before the trip.

Train: A more expensive and comfortable option is the train. Italy has an excellent railway network, and stations are often located right in the city center. If you are traveling from neighboring cities on regional trains like Regionale and will spend up to two hours on the way, you can buy tickets just before departure at your station, directly at the Trenitalia ticket offices or machines. The price of local trains for short distances is stable and does not change depending on the time of purchase. However, tickets for high-speed trains (Intercity and Freccia) and the same Regionale trains that take longer than two hours are best bought in advance; the earlier you buy, the lower the price will be. Sometimes the price difference for the same ticket, bought at different times, reaches 50–70 euros. It is convenient to buy tickets on the Trenitalia website.

Italian logistics defy any logic: flying can be much cheaper than taking a bus, and sometimes the most expensive express trains are more economical than low-cost early flights. It is not easy to figure all this out, so aggregators like Omio can help. In this app, you just need to enter the names of the desired points, and you will immediately get information about trains, buses, and planes. The app works throughout Europe, but it tracks almost all carriers in Italy and will be most useful.

Themed Train Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. The most luxurious and expensive way to get to the city is the so-called "Venice Simplon-Orient-Express" from Paris to Venice. This is the younger brother of the famous "Orient Express," on which Hercule Poirot traveled in Agatha Christie's novel. The carriages are styled in early 20th century decor with precious wood finishes, designer furniture and tableware, wines from the best wineries in Italy and France, and a sumptuous lunch, dinner, and breakfast prepared by a chef in the dining car. Each cabin has its own personal steward. The design of each carriage is unique and looks like an early 20th-century interior museum. Dinner even requires formal dress code—dresses and tuxedos—while lunch and breakfast are a bit more relaxed, but you won't be allowed into the dining car in jeans at any time. In general, if you want to feel like high society and immerse yourself in a world of aesthetics and luxury for a day, this train is definitely for you. Tickets start at 3,500 and go up to 10,000 euros, depending on the period of travel and class of the cabin. However, even at such astronomical prices, tickets are quite difficult to buy, and you need to plan this at least six months before the trip. The train operates irregularly, and the schedule varies depending on the month, so all details need to be clarified on the website.

The most luxurious and expensive way to get to the city is the so-called "Venice Simplon-Orient-Express" from Paris to Venice. Photo: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
The most luxurious and expensive way to get to the city is the so-called "Venice Simplon-Orient-Express" from Paris to Venice. Photo: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

When to Go

Venice reveals itself differently in every season—sometimes cloudy and rainy, sometimes sunny and hot, and on rare days, even with flooded streets. However, it's better to understand what weather to expect before the trip to avoid buying rubber boots in a hurry.

Summer: From June to mid-September, the city is hot, with average daytime temperatures of 26–28 degrees Celsius. With such dense construction and a minimum of green areas, it feels even hotter. This is perhaps the worst time to visit Venice, as this city is designed for long walks, which are hard to enjoy in such heat. Add to this the summer vacation period in Europe, the need to book accommodation at a reasonable price six months in advance, and crowds of tourists on the streets and squares. However, if the goal of your trip is to relax on the resort islands of the lagoon, such as Lido, then June is the best time. You can stroll through the city center in the evening and swim on the beaches during the hot days, with the water warming up to 23–24 degrees. Note that swimming in the Venice canals is prohibited and is punishable by a fine of 500 euros.

Starting from June until mid-September, the city experiences heat, with average daytime temperatures of 26–28 degrees Celsius. Photo: allPhoto Bangkok / Unsplash.com
Starting from June until mid-September, the city experiences heat, with average daytime temperatures of 26–28 degrees Celsius. Photo: allPhoto Bangkok / Unsplash.com

Spring: From mid-March, the average daytime temperature is around 17 degrees. There is little rain, so there is no risk of flooding the streets. The most tourists are in May and during the Easter holidays, but still far fewer than in the summer.

Autumn: The second half of September and October is also a great time to visit Venice. The weather is still warm, tourists are fewer, but the daylight hours are shorter. Trees in the city gardens turn bright red, and blankets and heaters appear on the terraces of cafes for cool evenings. Autumn Venice is cozy and sunny. Even in October, there are an average of 15 sunny days. However, November is a windier and rainier period, and by the end of the month, there is even a chance of flooding.

The high water period (acqua alta) happens literally for a few days a year, most often in November or December. Rain and winds during these days raise the water level in the city and flood the lowlands, such as the main Piazza San Marco. Raised walkways are set up on flooded streets, and rubber boots become a hot commodity in souvenir shops. When the water level rises particularly high, city authorities announce it through loudspeakers on the streets. Water transport continues to operate despite the water level. The high water period gives the city a special charm, and you can literally see the phrase "Venice is sinking" come to life. Of course, not everyone may like this, and perhaps you shouldn't plan your first visit to Venice for November-December, especially if you want to walk a lot and take photos on sunlit promenades. You can track the water level conveniently with the Hi Tide Venice app.

Rain and winds during the high water period cause water levels in the city to rise, flooding low-lying areas such as St. Mark's Square. Photo: Egor Gordeev / Unsplash.com
Rain and winds during the high water period cause water levels in the city to rise, flooding low-lying areas such as St. Mark's Square. Photo: Egor Gordeev / Unsplash.com

Winter: In addition to the mentioned risk of high water, it's important to consider two events—Christmas (December 24-25) and the Venice Carnival, which takes place in February. During this time, accommodation prices rise sharply, and many tourists come from all over the world. Christmas markets in Venice are not as magnificent as, for example, in Vienna, Austria, and it usually rains instead of snowing, so choosing Venice as a place for Christmas festivities is not the best idea.

Christmas markets in Venice are not very grand, and it usually rains instead of snowing, so it's not the best choice for Christmas festivities. Photo: Marian Oleksyn / Unsplash.com
Christmas markets in Venice are not very grand, and it usually rains instead of snowing, so it's not the best choice for Christmas festivities. Photo: Marian Oleksyn / Unsplash.com

Carnival: On the other hand, the carnival period is the most colorful and vibrant of the year; the city literally turns into a fairy tale that every tourist can participate in. To see the incredible costumes, just visit the city during the carnival dates and stroll through the streets. Many events are held during this time. Some are free and open to the public, such as the opening ceremony on the Cannaregio promenade, the Gondola Parade, and the main event—the best costume contest.

The carnival period is the most colorful and vibrant time of the year, turning the city into a fairytale that every tourist can participate in. Photo: Sdalu, Frank Kovalchek / Flickr.com
The carnival period is the most colorful and vibrant time of the year, turning the city into a fairytale that every tourist can participate in. Photo: Sdalu, Frank Kovalchek / Flickr.com

For those who want to fully immerse themselves in the beauty, there are many different balls in luxurious palazzos. Tickets are paid, with an average price of 700 euros per event. The balls usually include dinner and require participants to follow a dress code. It is for these dancing evenings that all the incredible costumes and masks are created. More information about the dates and events of the next carnival can be found on the official website. In general, the carnival period is an unforgettable time to visit Venice, but be prepared for extra costs for everything and crowds of people in restaurants and on the streets. It's better to look for accommodation in advance for this period.

As for the so-called "official seasonality," which is the period when tourist taxes in Venice are the lowest, it's very simple. The low season is all of January from the 1st to the 31st. The rest of the year (from February 1st to December 31st) is considered the high season.

How Many Days to Spend

For a first trip, you should plan to spend at least three to four days exploring the city and possibly another day visiting a couple of the islands. Going to Venice for half a day, especially as part of a guided tour, is a big mistake. You'll only be able to see a few of the most popular spots, which will be crowded with tourists. Such short visits often leave the impression that Venice is a boring city with crowds, high prices, and cheap plastic masks from China at every corner.

It's advisable to prepare for your trip to Venice in advance and define your areas of interest. Which galleries do you want to visit? Are you interested in basilicas and palazzos? Or maybe you just want to stroll through the streets or arrange a gastronomic tour of the wine bars. It’s impossible to see everything on your first visit. Although it might seem small on the map, Venice has such a crazy concentration of art, history, and architecture that you could spend years studying it.

For the first trip, it is recommended to allocate at least three to four days to explore the city and possibly another day to visit a couple of islands. Photo: Michal Kmeť / Unsplash.com
For the first trip, it is recommended to allocate at least three to four days to explore the city and possibly another day to visit a couple of islands. Photo: Michal Kmeť / Unsplash.com

Text and photos by: Alexandra Borisovskaya

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