Venice Travel Guide

The Most Serene Republic of Venice Becons the Curious Tourist

Venice is a watery wonderland--especially, for some reason, enjoyed by women. It is perhaps Europe's most romantic city, mainly because you can't imagine it as the commercial powerhouse it once was--unless you dig a bit. This guide should help you do that.

Click any of the thumbnail pictures to see a larger version, click the links at the top to get detailed information on the topic.

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    venice italy picture
    David Henderson/OJO Images/Getty Images

    Click the link to find the basic information to start the planning process for your tour of Venice.

    How Long Should You Stay? 

    Well, ten days is too short; I've tried it. You could even pick a comfortable hotel for two weeks and make some very interesting local day trips to great Italian cities like Padova and Verona (covered at the end of this article)--but you can see the basics in three days. It will make you want to come back.

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    Italy, Veneto, Venice, Gondola under bridge
    ThierryHennet/Getty Images

    Venice is expensive. But like all larger cities, there is a variety of things you can do that won't cost you a cent. I like to simply walk down the smaller streets and alleyways. When the tourist hordes cram into the larger streets, I peel off into an alleyway and begin my explorations. So get lost, it's the best way to see Venice. Then follow the rest of the suggestions in the linked article.

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    Art: The Renaissance in Venice and More

    Bronze horses and mosaic above entrance to Basilica San Marco (Saint Marks Cathedral), Venice, Veneto, Italy
    Danita Delimont/Getty Images

     "The important part is, Venice (again, like Florence) had the economy to support art and artists and did so in a big way."

    Here's a little background for all that art you'll find in Venice's Fine Art Museums, especially the Galleria dell'Accademia.

    There are many other museums, and you'll want to see at least a few of them. So get a Museum Pass and head over to the museums on this list: Venice's Top Museums.

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    venice cicchetti picture
    James Martin, Europe Travel

    If you like inexpensive, local food in a lively social environment, then you won't want to miss the Venetian version of a tapas bar, the Cicchetti Bars that have become more and more popular as the price of a big seafood extravaganza increases. Prices range from inexpensive to moderate. The food is simple, local, and tasty. Click the link for our favorites.

    If like us, you like jazz, you might want to stop in at Bacaro Jazz.

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  • 05 of 16

    Secrets: Travel Writers Favorite Haunts

    venice picture
    James Martin, Europe Travel

    People complain that you can't get a good meal in Venice. Well, it's a lie. Of course, there's good food in Venice, but there are a quite a few restaurants that serve some pretty sorry stuff to indiscriminate tourists who just need cheap fuel, too.

    Some folks have traveled enough to know the great places to eat and to discover; we share some of them in the article linked above.

    There is also a guidebook which gets high marks for showing you the things that tourists miss: Secret Venice compare prices

    And, if you really want good food, take note of the sign on the left: Trust the Chef! It means let them feed you what they like to cook, a strategy that works best in Italy's better locally owned restaurants.

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    Drink: Local Wine

    A glass of wine.
    Hero Images/Getty Images

    The red wine you'll see most often is Valpolicella, which is usually a light and refreshing wine. If you like something a little more chewy, Valpolicella ricasso, a form of Valpolicella Superiore wine made with partially dried grape skins, should fit the bill. Try a glass at a Bàcaro (wine bar). The picture shows one of our recent favorites, a Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso DOC by David Sterza.

    For white wine, try a Soave or Verduzzo.

    The Veneto is the biggest DOC wine producer in Italy.

  • 07 of 16
    The Museo Storico Navale, a naval history museum in the Castello district of Venice, near the Venetian Arsenal.
    Richard Baker/Getty Images

    You can't understand the power of Venice unless you know the technology that got Venetians to the top of the power heap. The Arsenale was where ships were built in record time, on an assembly line that predated Henry Ford's by quite a margin, all at a time when prodigious amounts of wine spewing from a fountain fueled workers. Most guides pay little attention to this interesting museum, but a visit is highly recommended.

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    Legs of pair of people splashing through flooded St.Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) at high tide ('acqua alta') in purple plastic boots.
    Max Paoli/Getty Images

    If you go to Venice in the off season you may come across the famed high water, or, in Italian, acqua alta. It's not really much of a danger, but you may need to borrow some boots from your hotel. Venetians handle the high water quite well, as it shows in the video linked on this page.

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  • 09 of 16

    Something Fishy: Language Lessions @ Rialto Market

    The traditional Rialto Fish Market
    Awakening/Getty Images

    The two fish at the entrance to the Rialto fish market is trying to talk to you and teach you a little about the fish in the market. "They call me Sarnia," one says, a Dusky Grouper often served with potatoes.

    This is a little indication that the market isn't hostile to a few tourists gawking at the denizens of the deep. Adjacent is the vegetable market, so if you've had the good sense to rent an apartment and like to cook with fresh ingredients, this is the nexus of good ingredients with the fine Rialto bridge thrown in for good measure.

     
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    venice church picture
    James Martin, Europe Travel

    You can't help but admire the work that went into this amazing site, which tells you everything you might need to know about every church in Venice, even the ones that have disappeared through the ages. Lots of art finds its way into churches, so art lovers, pay attention!

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    venice hotel picture
    James Martin, Europe Travel

     It used to be easy, you hopped off the train and started to look for a hotel. But with the plethora of information available on the web, the best hotels are booked far in advanced, so the efficiency of the internet can be a pain sometimes. So, book as far ahead as you can, especially if you have certain things you value in a place to stay.

    For a longer visit than a few days (recommended), you might want to live like one of the few remaining Venetians and rent an apartment in Venice.

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    A couple riding in a Gondolas.
    Sam Edwards/Getty Images

    If you're like many travelers, you've come to Venice to ride a gondola. You know it's expensive--and you're not sure what to do about haggling with the gondolier. So, if you want to avoid problems, you can just look at these pictures of folks on their gondola rides and dream of a romantic glide through the canals, or you can find out what you need to know about gondola rides to understand the process and avoid getting ripped off.

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    Basics: Sestiere Map and Guide

    vatican, venice map, san marco
    James Martin

    The basic Venice neighborhood division is called a sestiere. It derives from the word for "six". 

    If you look up a hotel or attraction, you're likely to be told in which sestiere it is to be found. The map will show you all the neighborhoods of Venice, with a description of what tourists like to see in each sestiere. Click the link to go to the map.

    The picture to the left is a detail from a 16th-century map of Venice as seen in the Vatican Hall of Maps.

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    Venice Mystery: Who's Behind Those Shutters?

    venice shutters picture
    James Martin, Europe Travel

    One of the intriguing things about Venice is the question of what is hidden from tourist's eyes. Who lives behind these weathered shutters with the lace curtains? While the population of Venice dwindles, the question becomes more important: Who's left? The easy answer is Tourists, mainly day trippers. So please, don't litter. That waste is extremely hard to get rid of in Venice.

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    venice weather picture
    James Martin, Europe Travel

    With many destinations, you have to decide upon which season you're interested based on spring flowers or fall truffles. With Venice it's a different story; you might want to avoid the late fall when the high water is more likely, or you might want to go for Carnevale or some other of Venice's festivals, even if the weather is foggy and damp at that time of year. Click the link for more discussion of this issue.

    If you want to plan a trip by festivals and celebrations, see below for the month-to-month goings on in Venice:

    If the weather is a major consideration, see historic climate charts and current weather for Venice.

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    verona picture
    Picture of Verona © Wanderer's Eye Travel Photography

    There are lots of places within a boat ride or short train ride out of Venice, and the Veneto region is one of our favorites. You could make your whole two or three-week vacation in a hotel not far from the train station and see a great many compelling cities like Padua and Verona. by boat, you can see Chioggia and the rest of the Venetian islands. Click the link for more information on all the places you can visit close to Venice.

Venice, for all its faults and high water, is one of the most amazing places on earth. I hope you'll enjoy and treasure the moments you spend in La Serenissima. Write me if you find something odd, or something that floats your boat.