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.
The Basics: A General Guide to Venice
How Long Should You Stay?
Well, ten days is too short. 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.
Basics: Venice for Free
Venice is expensive. But like all larger cities, there is a variety of things you can do that won't cost you a cent. Simply walk down the smaller streets and alleyways. When the tourist hordes cram into the larger street. Or, peel off into an alleyway and begin my explorations. So get lost, it's the best way to see Venice.
Art: The Renaissance in Venice and More
You'll find plenty of Renaissance art 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 Venice's top museums.
Eat: Venetian Tapas: Cicchetti
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.
Secrets: Travel Writers Favorite Haunts
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.
Drink: Local Wine
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.
Understand: Venice Naval History Museum
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.
Annoyances: Acqua Alta, High Water in Venice
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.
Something Fishy: Language Lessons at Rialto Market
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.
Attractions: The Churches of Venice
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!
Where to Stay: Top Rated Hotels in Venice
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 advance 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.
Venice Icons: Gondolas
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.
Understanding Venice Neighborhoods
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. Tourist attractions can be found in each of the neighborhoods.
Venice Mystery: Who's Behind Those Shutters?
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.
When to Go
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.
If you want to plan a trip by festivals and celebrations, check for the month-to-month goings-on in Venice.
If the weather is a major consideration, check historic climate charts and current weather for Venice.
Beyond: Venice Day Trips
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.