Venice

Travel Guide Europe Italy Venice

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Introduction

St. Mark's Square

St. Mark's Square

© JoyC

Venice is one of the most popular cities to visit in Italy. Built on over a hundred small islands situated within a lagoon, it contains one hundred and fifty canals, connected by hundreds of bridges. The islands of the Venetian lagoon were first settled during the barbarian invasions of the 5th and 6th centuries AD, when the people of the Veneto mainland sought refuge in the marshy region, and today the city remains largely the same as it was hundreds of years ago, part eastern and part western, and a pedestrians delight with the prohibition of cars.

The area it covers is roughly 450 square kilometres and although it might appear small at first sight, getting terribly lost in endless mazes of alleyways, back streets and squares leading off from the main parts of the city is quite easy. It's not only easy, it's also a great way to experience a side of Venice that most travellers miss out on. And once you have had your fill of walking, a glide down the canals on a gondola is really a must-do while in Venice.

Due to all the tourism, Venice has begun to decay somewhat since it's heyday although the charm of the city is possibly only enhanced by the obvious wear and tear. Venice is also one of the places in the world where the rising of seawater levels has been most noticed, with more occurrences of Acqua alta (high water) in recent years. Occurring several times a year, usually in the colder months, the lagoon water rises above the level of the squares and street, flooding parts of the city for a few hours. There are temporary raised walkways which are used when this flooding occurs and maps showing dry routes can be obtained at some tourist offices.

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Neighbourhoods

St Lucia

Venice proper, the place everybody comes to see.

Burano Island

  • Burano Island is a small island near Venice. A ferry ride is all it takes to go there. Once on the island one can see the world's latest cars, excellent roads, and very small but vibrantly colorful houses. Burano is famous for lace works. One can see ladies sitting in front of small shops and creating fabulous designs.

There are fairly good hotels to stay in and the beach is very clean.

Murano Island

Murano Island is also a small island near Venice. It can be reached by a Vaporetto ride (ferry) and it is famous for its glass making, called Murano glass.

Lido

Literally "beach", this is the row of sandbanks and islands that close off the laguna from the sea. It is where Venetians go sunbathing and for a swim. The Lido is ideal for families seeking affordable accommodation while staying in the laguna and not on the mainland.

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Sights and Activities

Churches

  • St Marks Basilica - St Marks Basilica (and St. Mark’s Square) is the centre of the Venetian world and the Basilica itself hold the remains of Saint Mark, which were stolen from Egypt. The famous Horses of Saint Mark, which were sacked from Constantinople in 1204, are on display inside St Marks Basilica while replicas are on the original location on the outside of the church. You cannot enter the basilica with luggage (or handbags). Luggage must be deposited in Calle San Basso, a narrow alley from the Piazzetta dei Leoncini – in front of the Gate of Flowers, north façade, free of charge.
  • St. Mark’s Campanille.
  • Santa della Maria Salute Church.
  • Chiesa Dei Frari is considered the second largest and important church in Venice after St. Mark's Basilica.

Palaces

  • Doges Palace - Doges Palace is an amazing palace with great art work and was the government center for the Venetian Republic.
  • Palazzo Grassi - Palazzo Grassi is a stunning palace built in 1772 in Classical Venetian architecture. Today the palace is an art museum.
  • The Ca' d'Oro - The Ca' d'Oro, also called the Plazzo Santa Sofia, is known as one of the most beautiful palazzos on the Grand Canal. This palace was built by the powerful Contarini family in 1430 in a Venetian Gothic style with a Byzantine touch. Today the palace is a public gallery.
  • Ca' Rezzonico - Ca' Rezzonico rests on the Grand Canal and was built in 1649 in a Venetian Baroque style. Today it is a history museum dedicated to 18th century life in Venice.
  • Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo - Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo This small palaces features one of the best spiral staircases in Venice.
  • Palazzo Labia - Palazzo Labia is a great 17th-18th century palace built in a baroque style.
  • Scuola Grande di San Marco - Scuola Grande di San Marco was built in 1485 and was home to the Confraternity of San Marco and was created into Austrian military hospital in 1819. The palace is designed in a Renaissance design with Byzantine influences.
  • Palazzo Malipiero - Palazzo Malipiero located on the Grand Canal this 1740s palace has stunning design.

Piazza San Marco

San Marco Square

San Marco Square

© krusnak

Piazza San Marco, or Saint Mark's Square as it is known in English is one of the famous sights in Venice. Located on one of the lowest points in Venice it is also the first to flood, when the water in the lagoon is rising. On the east side we find the church with the same name, of which construction was completed in 1117. In front of the church it the famous Campanile tower, from which you have a nice view over the entire square a Venice. Next to the church is the Doge's Palace, now a museum, drawing around 1.3 million visitors each year. The bit of the square in front of the Doge's Palace is called the Piazzetta, and is actually just an extension of the piazza toward the Grand Canal. The square is packed with monumental buildings, and statues, of which the winged lion of Venice Is the most important one.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Ponte di Rialto (or Rialto Bridge) is the oldest of three bridges spanning Venice's Grand Canal and one of the world's most famous bridges.
  • Harry’s Bar.
  • Palazzo Dandolo.
  • Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo.
  • La Fenice Theater.
  • The Accademia Gallery - The Accademia Gallery is a pretty building with a decent collection.
  • Venetian Arsenal - Venetian Arsenal was the original site were the Venetians built their navy. Construction of boats started in 800 AD and continued until World War II.
  • Peggy Guggenheim Museum - Peggy Guggenheim Museum is a great collection of modern art, some it in the original place where the artist intended it to be.
  • Campo Santa Margherita

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Events and Festivals

  • Venice Carnival - The Venice Carnival, witnessed by thousands of international tourists annually, is one of the most beautiful Carnival Festivals in the world. The origins of the Carnival date back to the year 1296, when the Senate made the carnival official and declaring the day a public holiday. Masks are a central feature of the Venetian Carnival and the streets of the city are full of people with different varieties of colourful masks. Masks were used in the past so that no distinction could be made between the nobility and the common people and all could participate in the fun.
  • Best Venitian Mask Store
  • Saint Mark's Day - A romantic tradition unique to Venice; on this day, every man of Venice gifts a single rose-bud, or "bòcolo", to his sweetheart.
  • Festa della Sensa (Ascension Day) - Festa della Sensa is an annual celebration where a ritual commemorating Venice's "marriage" to the sea is performed. Venice's livelihood as a city has always relied very heavily on the waters that run so beautifully through and around its streets, and because of this, the city has deep reverence for the ocean. On this day, Venetian government and religious officials leave Saint Mark's Square and journey to the Port of S. Nicolò, where a "wedding" ring ceremony takes place.
  • Redentore - The Redentore is an extravagant Venetian festival known for its remarkable fireworks display. This event is anticipated each year by Venetians and tourists alike; it's the crowing jewel of events celebrating Venice's liberation from the plague, celebrated every July.
  • Regatta Storica - An event held in Venice since 1315, this festival was created to honor the foreign dignitaries visiting Venice or to celebrate a military victory. For the event, Regatta races are held in the Grand Canal, preceded by the procession of famous water pageant. This event is held annually the first Sunday of September.
  • Fiesta della Madonna della Salute (21 Nov 2013) - This is one of the city's most loved festivals with historical roots reaching all the way back to the early 1600s. When the plague came to Venice, it took the lives of almost one-third of Venice's population, devastating the city. With no effective treatment available, the people prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. A week later, less Venetians were dying, and the plague eventually left the city. This festival, that includes parades, shopping, food and sweets, is in honor of Sant Mary, or Madonna, who healed them. A famous basilica, Madonna della Salute, was also designed and constructed in her memory, and on November 21, thousands cross the church's bridge, giving thanks, and asking Mary to bless them with good health.

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Weather

Venice has warm summers, with sometimes very uncomfortable humid weather. Average temperatures are around 28 °C from June to September with warm nights. Winters are well above zero though occasional winds from the north bring colder weather and frost down to -8 °C and possible snow. Precipitation is evenly distributed througout the year, with a bit drier conditions in spring and summer. Spring is probably the best time for a visit, with long warm and sunny days, but not too hot.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max5.8 °C8.2 °C12 °C16.3 °C21.2 °C24.8 °C27.5 °C27 °C23.6 °C18.1 °C11.5 °C6.7 °C
Avg Min-0.9 °C0.7 °C3.8 °C7.9 °C12.3 °C15.9 °C17.8 °C17.3 °C14.2 °C9.4 °C4.2 °C0 °C
Rainfall58.1 mm54.2 mm57.1 mm64.3 mm68.7 mm76.4 mm63.1 mm83.1 mm66 mm69 mm87.3 mm53.7 mm
Rain Days6.76.26.68.28.38.95.76.75.467.76.4

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Getting There

By Plane

  • Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE) is the city's international airport. It is located on the Venice lagoon, roughly 10 kilometres out of the city.

To/from Marco Polo Airport
The city can be reached either by road or by water. Waterbuses take about an hour to reach San Marco and cost €10 one way. Private Water Taxis or Motoscafi can also be booked, but are far more pricey starting from around €90 for 4 people. A regular taxi would cost about €30 and take 15 minutes to reach Piazzale Roma near the Santa Lucia train station. Water taxis can be caught from there to the centre. Public buses are the cheapest option at €3 (including luggage) and leave every 30 minutes. They take about 20 minutes to reach Piazzale Roma. Regular buses by ACTV and ATVO bring passengers to the two Venice railway stations: Venice-Santa Lucia (from where you can reach the Piazzale Roma square in 10 minutes on foot acrossing the "Ponte della Costituzione" bridge), and Venice-Mestre (on the mainland, convenient for connections to Milan, Verona, and the rest of Italy).

  • Venice Treviso Airport (TSF) is a small airport 30 kilometres from the city that is used by Ryanair. It is roughly a 30-minute journey by road to Venice.

To/from Treviso Airport
Public buses to Piazzale Roma cost €4.50 one-way and take about an hour to reach the destination. A public urban bus service, operated by ACTT connects the airport with the railway station in the centre of Treviso. Trains leave the Treviso train station every 30 minutes and take about 35 minutes, costing €2.05 one way. A regular bus service connects the airport to the train station. Taxis are the most expensive option, costing about €70 for the half hour journey.
Two bus services connecting with flights for Transavia and Ryanair, operated by ATVO, connect the airport to Mestre and Venice. A public coach service from Treviso to Padova and vice versa is operated by SITA and stops in front of the airport building every half an hour.

By Train

Trains from the mainland run through Mestre to the Venezia Santa Lucia train station on the west side of Venice. Direct trains to Venice are available from many destinations in Europe. Tthere are overnight trains from Munich, Paris and Vienna and also as far as Moscow via Kiev, Budapest and Zagreb. Venice is well connected with the domestic train network, Rome and Milan are only a few hours away. Also there are night trains from cities in southern Italy, including Bari.
Also, Venice is the terminus for the luxurious Venice Simplon Orient-Express, a historical train that still make the overnight journey from London and Paris in original 1920s coaches. There are departures at least once a week between March and November. As one of the most sumptuous journeys in the world, the trip is expectedly very expensive, starting at €2,900.

Trains from the mainland run through Mestre on the mainland to the terminus Venezia Santa Lucia railway station on the west side of Venice; make sure you don't get it confused with the two stations on the mainland before the bridge. Many through trains only stop in Mestre, in that case just hop on to one of the very frequent trains to Santa Lucia (ticket €1.25). Also, ACTV has a ticket office at Mestre station, and queues might be shorter here. From the Santa Lucia station district, water buses (vaporetti) or water taxis can take you to hotels or other locations on the islands, but walking is usually the best option.

By Car

Cars arrive need to be parked at the entrance to the city (Piazzale Roma or Tronchetto) as there are no roads past this point. Car parking is expensive here (21 €/day) but an alternative is to use the car parks on the mainland (terra firma) and catch a vaporetto, train or bus into Venice. Park near the Mestre railway station, and catch a train to Venezia St.Lucia; there are many trains, it is very near (8-10 minutes) and quite cheap.

By Bus

Flixbus has buses from all neighbouring countries and several Italian towns arriving in Venice Tronchetto, Mestre train station and Venice Marko Polo Airport.

From Tronchetto to Venice Piazza Roma there is a people mover running from 7:00am to 11:00pm weekdays and 8:00am to 10:00pm during holidays (8:30am to 9:00pm in winter holidays) for €1.50. Trains from Mestre station to Venice Santa Lucia station are running longer and more frequent for €1.30 and to most locations you have to walk a bit less. ÖBB has buses from Tronchetto via Mestre station to Villach and several Italian companies to many Italian towns.

By Boat

Croatia

  • Crossings from Venice to Croatia arrive in Mali Losinj, Porec, Pula, Rovinj and Rabac, check the Venezialines websites for details. Note that some crossings are only made during high season, meaning July and August.

Greece

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Getting Around

Cars and Bikes are not allowed in all the historic centre. From Piazzale Roma you can just walk or travel with the public boat or the water taxi. Even though a water taxi may look tempting they are very expensive.

Public Boat

Public Boats are one of the main transport method around the Island of Venice and are very easy to use. They are a great a cheap way to see Venice from the water, and kids love a boat ride. There are large public boats that connect to the surrounding islands, which can make for excellent day or half day trips. The boats are set up on a color scheme, similar to most major city subway systems. Ticket prices start from €6.50 for a single trip, but the 12 to 72-hour tourist tickets make better economic sense if you wish to travel around on the Vaporetto regularly.

There are also several smaller boats that look like the classic gondola. Unlike the tourist gondolas, these one will just cross the canal back and forth at certain points and only cost €2. This can be a good way to have the budget gondola experience.

By Foot

Your main form of transport will be by foot. Remember that some of the alleys can become very narrow and extremely crowded during busy times of the year. Luckily there are signs in English to point people down the right alley in order to find major sights. The best thing to do is remember where a major sight is near your hotel and go from the sight back to your hotel. One of the fun parts of Venice is just walking around and getting lost.

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Eat

  • Grom - Il Gelato come una volta - The best Gelato I ever ate! Grom only uses premium ingredients to make its ice cream and it really makes a huge difference! Address: Sestiere Cannaregio, 3844 Venezia & Campo San Barnaba, 2761 Venezia, Hours: 11:00am - 11:00pm

Venice has some wonderful restaurants, featuring the cuisine of the Veneto. However it is widely regarded that the restaurants in Venice serve food of a quality and in quantities much lower than anywhere else in Italy. The pizza in Venice is well known as being the worst in Italy (It is a more southern Italian speciality). For Americans, you can find a place called Quanto Basta pizza that serves an American-style pizza with pepperoni and french fries. Specialties include polenta, made of corn meal; risotto with cuttlefish ink sauce. Diners should however be aware that for every genuinely wonderful restaurant or trattoria, there's another serving rubbish food at inflated prices, especially in the most touristed streets around San Marco. Rule of thumb: if there's a waiter outside pimping for business, it's probably best avoided.

Near the Rialto bridge there's a row of restaurants with tables by the canal, where you can have the quintessential Venice experience of dining by the canal lights. Although they do have waiters outside bugging you, some have pretty acceptable quality for price, which is almost always expensive anyway.

One of Venice's trademark foods is cuttlefish and its ink. This intense black ink serves as a sauce and ingredient for polenta (corn meal), risotto (rice), and pasta. These dishes are normally indicated by the Italian words "nella seppia" (in cuttlefish), "alla seppia" (in the style of cuttlefish), or "nero di seppia," (black of the cuttlefish). For example, Polenta Nella Seppia is fried corn meal with the black ink of a cuttle fish. Despite the intensity in color, the ink has a surprisingly mild taste.

Be careful when the prices are on a weight basis (typically by the "etto", abbreviated "/hg". or 100 g). One dish can easily contain 400g of fish or meat (almost a pound) - coming to 4 times the indicated base price!

Restaurants might offer low prices for food on their menus that they advertise outside the entrance, but they will sometimes compensate this by charging high prices for drinks (which is naturally *not* advertised). €5 for 33 cl of beer is not uncommon. Le Bauta, an eatery on Fond del Gaffaro, is a good example. Also, please make sure that you get your change back after payment as sometimes it may be 'forgotten' by the waiters.

For fresh fruit (including chilled coconut) watch out for the street market stalls. There is always a boat parked in the canal on campo San Barnaba selling fruit and vegetables into the late hours.

To save money at lunch, eat standing up - that's what Venetians themselves do. Every cafe, trattoria, osteria, enoteca or whatever it chooses to call itself is stocked at lunchtime with cicchetti - Venetian tapas, including tramezzini (triangular sandwiches on white bread), bite-sized rolls with various cold cuts, polpette (fried balls of minced fish or meat) and assorted antipasti. Order by pointing at what you want on the glass shelves, and wash the whole thing down with a glass of wine (un' ombra) or a spritz (made with, in order of bitterness and alcohol content, Aperol, Campari or Select). Bear in mind that as soon as you allow yourself to sit at the table and be waited on, instead of ordering and consuming your food at the counter, the prices for the same items go up - you can end up paying double. If you look at the (government-mandated) chart of prices stapled to the wall near the bar, you'll see 2 columns of numbers, accommodating this arrangement. However, sitting is worth it if you plan on staying a while. Some places will also serve free bread and water for seated patrons, but then there is usually also a small charge (€1-3 per person) for "pane e coperto" (bread and cover charge).

If self-catering, the Rialto food markets are an absolute must for fruit, vegetables and cheese, but most of all for the huge range of seafood, much of it fresh out of the lagoon and still moving! There are a variety of small stores around the city that sell fruits and vegetables, but tourists will be hard-pressed to find them. Anything else you will find in the one of the few supermarkets in the city.

Head to the Dorsoduro area of Venice if you want to save a few euros. It is located on the south side of the city. It has the highest concentration of places where locals, especially students, go to eat. Generally staying away from the main squares will be the cheapest option. If you're willing and able to walk around the town, some back streets offer the best food for the lowest price. Seeing the city from this vantage point is a lot of fun too!

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Drink

Try a Spritz (with either Campari, Select or Aperol mixed with Prosecco wine and Seltzer), a typical drink loved by all Venetians that's usually drunk while eating cicheti. You can find it in almost every bar in the city. Price is about €5, more in a touristy place.

If you try the famous Veneto Grappa be careful as it is brandy with 30 to 60 per cent alcohol.

The Bellini was invented in Harry's Bar in Venice. It is a mix of white peach juice and Prosecco (the ubiquitous Venetian Champagne-like sparkling wine). Fermented at a low temperature Prosecco develops amylic aromas (fruit drops), though these perhaps mix better with fruit juices than does the more austere Champagne. Classic Bellinis should never be made with Champagne. Although by normal standards expensive, a Bellini in Harry's Bar (€17 for a 1.5 oz drink is obscene) is still much cheaper than on the terraces of similar '5-star' establishments in the city.

Beer in a small pub is about €5 for a pint (birra media).

Espresso, the real Italian, is about €1 at the bar, €2 at a table.

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Sleep

Budget

The cheapest accomodation is not directly in Venice, but in neighboring Mestre on the mainland. Around the airport there are several camping sites and small hotels.

A complete overview of budget accommodation in Venice, including travellers ratings:

Mid-Range

To rent an apartment can be (for at least three nights) a good solution, cheaper than a hotel and comfortable like a home. There are many possibilities. Townhouse Suites are bed and breakfast places with more privacy, where you get your own set of keys to the gate, house and room, to go in and come as you like and you can use the kitchen, upon request.

  • Views on Venice - Views on Venice is based in Venice and offers over 70 Venice Apartments for rent in central Venice.

    You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

    Booking.com
  • 3749 Ponte Chiodo - A nice place close to the Ca' D'Oro. Compact rooms having required conveniences but more useful is the easy access to several locations and being located on a less touristy street. Also, the owner is very helpful with great tips for walking routes around Venice.

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Learn

Venice is home to two major (and expanding) public universities, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia and Università Iuav di Venezia. There are possibly hundreds of smaller schools in the city. Neither university exploits its name for merchandising, and "Università degli Studi di Venezia" sweatshirts for sale at stalls are not only unlicensed, but there is no single university in the city with that name to begin with.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Almost all towns and cities in Italy have internet cafes. A growing number of budget hostels and nicer hotels have free Wifi. By law all public-access internet points must keep records of web sites viewed by customers, and even the customer's ID: expect to be refused access if you don't provide identification. Hotels providing Internet access are not required to record IDs if the connection is provided in the guest's room, although if the connection is offered in the main public hall then IDs are required. Publicly available wireless access without user identification is illegal, so open Wi-Fi hotspots (like the ones you might expect to find in a mall or cafée) all have some form of (generally one-time) registration.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The main networks are TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile, part of Telecom Italia, formerly state controlled), Vodafone, Wind, and 3 (only UMTS cellphones). Best advice is to buy a prepaid SIM card (from € 10 upwards) and a cheap mobile phone (€ 19 upwards) to put it in (if you don't have a cellphone already that you can use). It will be much more practical. All land line numbers start with 0. Mobile numbers start with 3. Numbers starting with 89 are high-fee services. In case of emergency call the appropriate number from the list below. Such calls are usually free and calls to 112, 113 (police), 115 (fire), 118 (health) can be made from payphones for free without the need of inserting coins. 112 (standard emergency number in GSM specification) can be dialed in any case for free from any mobile phone.

Post

Post Italiane is the national postal services of Italy and has quite an efficient network of postal offices and reliable postal services. Standard letters and postcards (up to 20 grams) cost €0.39 to send within Europe and the Mediterranean countries outside Europe and €0.41 to all other destinations throughout the country. Up to 50 grams, prices start at €0.52 for Europe, €0.62 for other areas. Packages start at €1.55 within Europe, and around €2.50 for other countries. Post office business hours in Italy are from 8:30am to 2:00pm from Monday to Friday, with closing times at Saturday and the last day of the month at 12 noon. In general, larger post offices in bigger cities and in tourist areas keep longer hours than those in local towns. Also note that business hours in the south might be different than the north, with longer hours at night, especially in summer! If you want to send packages you might try faster and more reliable/efficient private courier companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.

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Accommodation in Venice

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Venice searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

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Venice Travel Helpers

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