Sockii's Venice: My Guide to the City of Water

by sockii

Venice, Italy is one of the most recognizable and unique places in the entire world. Let me share some of my tips for how to enjoy your visit.

Venice, Italy - the magnificent city built upon water.

Once one of the world's most powerful and richest Republics, today it is one of our greatest tourist destinations and attractions. An estimated 50,000 visitors flood Venice every single day, not surprising given there are so many different reasons to visit Venice:

...to marvel at its unique architecture and engineering marvels

...to visit its many important museums and collections of artwork

...to sample unique Venetian cuisine and explore the different islands of the Venetian lagoon

...to experience history by riding a gondola or visiting the Doge's Palace

...to shop for exquisite goods such as Murano glass and Burano lace

...to simply enjoy a romantic getaway in one of the most beautiful places on Earth!

To share all of Venice's lengthy history and reasons to visit would take many volumes of written text (and indeed, countless books have been written on the subject.) My goal here is to simply share some of my own experiences in Venice, along with my recommendations and tips for visitors. What began as a simple overview of Venice for tourists is now being expanded into a series of linked articles, exploring the best sights and attractions of Venezia, tips on experiencing Venice on a budget, and also what day trips are worth the journey to other islands in the lagoon or in the Veneto. Please check back regularly as I continue to expand and improve upon this resource for visitors to Venezia!

All images on this page are by the author, sockii, unless provided by Amazon.

Gondolas in Venice, Italy

Have you been to Venice, Italy before?

Recommended Tour Guidebooks and Maps for Venice

Don't plan your trip to Venice without the best tourist guides in hand!

Naturally, with so many people visiting Venice regularly, today's book and ebook market is flooded with travel guides to the city and region.

In two lengthy vacation trips to Venice, I have found certain guides much more useful than others. My top picks are listed in the article below all about the best travel guides to the city:

Gondolas near the Academia in Venice
If you're planning a trip to Venice, Italy, you should definitely do your research first to get the most from your vacation. These 5 books will certainly help!

You might also find a good map useful as well:

Streetwise Venice Map - Laminated City Center Street Map of Venice, Italy

The narrow calles and canals of Venice can make it easy to get lost getting to and from one end of the city to the other. This great pocket map is durable and detailed and is the only tourist map you'll need.

Only $7.95

View on Amazon

Gondolas, motor boats and vaporetto water buses crowding the Grand Canal
Gondolas, motor boats and vaporetto water buses crowding the Grand Canal

Getting Around Venice

Transportation Around Venice and the Venetian Lagoon

There are numerous ways to explore Venice by foot or by water. It is actually quite a walkable city, with numerous bridges crossing the canals, narrow walkways along the canals and streets or "calles" in between the waterways. In fact, you'd better get used to walking because there are no cars to be found on the lagoon islands of Venice, except on Lido island!

Although signage can sometimes be confusing and it is easy to lose your sense of direction, there is only so far you can go in Venice before hitting a major waterway or attraction, so it is simple to get back on track quickly enough.

Venice street signs

To explore the other islands of the Venetian lagoon such as Murano and Lido, one can use the Vaporetto ferry system. Various lines serve different destinations, and the vaporetto can also make for an inexpensive way to tour the Grand Canal and sight-see from the water. You can learn more about riding the vaporetti around Venice on my page all about the water bus system:

The vaporetto water bus system is the main way to get around Venice, Italy - besides walking! Learn how to use the system as a great way to explore the entire Venetian lagoon.

A gondola ride is of course incredibly romantic and a traditional way to get around Venice. However, today it is an extremely expensive option - think 80 Euros or more - and primarily meant only for tourists. For a similar yet inexpensive alternative, take a traghetto across the Grand Canal as the Venetians do. These gondola ferries cost only 2 Euros (for tourists, 50 cents for residents) and operate 7 different routes along the Canal. By tradition men stand and women sit on the traghettos, but tourists rarely follow these rules (it takes practice!)

Gondoliers in Venice
People riding on a traghetto
People riding on a traghetto

From the airport, the Alilaguna ferry boat is an easy and inexpensive way to get to the major locations around the lagoon (book online before your trip and save some cash as well.)

Lastly there are the Venetian water taxis for those in a rush - and willing to spend some serious cash. The water taxis are strictly regulated in Venice and you can secure a booking either by telephone or via the water taxi website. It certainly is an elegant way to travel but be prepared to pay a hefty price for the luxury. However, if you have a very early morning flight or other difficult connection to make, the water taxi can come very much in handy.

Venice on a Budget

Make no mistake - Venice is not a cheap city to visit! However, there are ways you can save money on your trip to this wonderful place, from considering alternatives to expensive hotels to purchasing various discount travel and tourist cards in advance. For my top 5 tips on how to Enjoy Venice on a Budget, check out the following article:

Grand Canal in Venice
Venice is a popular tourist destination, but it can also be an extremely expensive one. Learn some tips on how to enjoy the best of Venice without spending a fortune.

Acqua Alta

Dealing with high waters in Venice

Once phenomenon many visitors to Venice may experience is the "Acqua Alta" or high waters. The Acqua Alta is not so much proof that Venice is sinking but rather of atmospheric changes and rising sea levels due to global warming. Acqua Alta can occur at any time but is typically most prevalent from late September to April, and particularly in the months of November, December, and October, in that order.

Aqua Alta
Aqua Alta

To be prepared for Acqua Alta, visitors should make sure to pack a pair of knee-high rubberized boots or other waterproof shoes with them for their visit. While gangplanks are generally utilized to keep foot traffic above water, it is inevitable you will end up "foot-deep" at least in the waters during Acqua Alta. And sloshing around Venice with wet shoes and pants is no fun at all.

No one wants wet feet while walking around Venice!
No one wants wet feet while walking around Venice!

Experiencing Venice

Art, culture and dining in Venice

Many artists have come to Venice through the centuries, enchanted by her art and beauty. Three artists who in many ways defined art in Renaissance Venice were Jacopo Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese and perhaps most notably Titian. Their work is varied yet some called them great "Rivals" at the time, competing for the best commissions in Venice and inspiring/being inspired by the others.

One notable aspect of much of Venetian artwork of the Renaissance is its immense size. While other Italian cities used fresco painting to decorate ceilings and walls in great palaces and churches, the moisture of the air in Venice made that approach less desirable. Instead, Venice's great shipping industry provided a better alternative: canvas, as used for sailing ships.

Magnificent, huge canvas paintings can still be found all around Venice such as in The Scuola Grande di San Rocco, perhaps the greatest showcase of Tintoretto's work in the world and an absolute must-visit while in Venice.

Incredible mosiac artwork on the facade of St. Mark's Basilica
Incredible mosiac artwork on the facade of St. Mark's Basilica

Top Museums in Venice, Italy

Destinations in Venice to Learn about Art, History and Culture
  • Gallerie dell'Accademia

    Without question the finest art museum in Venice. Home to masterworks by Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Canaletto, Tiepolo and many more Venetian Renaissance artists.

  • The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

    Lovers of modern art should be sure to visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, located in her former home, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal. The museum contains one of the most important collections of early 20th Century Modern Art from the

  • Palazzo Ducale | Home

    Visit the great halls that housed Venice's great government, as well as the house of The Doge, Venice's leader. Be sure to get tickets to the "Secret Itineraries" Tour, to get a full behind-the-scenes look at the palace and rooms not visited by most

  • Venice Correr Museum official website

    After visiting the Doge's Palace, spend some time at the Museo Correr checking out the historical artifacts, armor, sculpture by Canova, and artwork by the Bellini family and more.

  • Venice Glass Museum Official Website

    This museum traces the history of glass-making, the art for which the island of Murano (where the museum is located) is famous.

A visit to St. Mark's Basilica is also a must!
A visit to St. Mark's Basilica is also a must!

The churches in Venice are magnificent, and many are worth visiting for their art, artifacts, mosaics and history. However please take note of the etiquette you should observe while touring these beautiful churches:

The churches of Italy are some of the most beautiful artistic and architectural treasures in the country. But be mindful of proper etiquette and decorum!

Dining Out in Venice

Specialties of Venetian Cuisine

It's somewhat disappointing - and misleading in my opinion - that Venice does not have a great reputation when it comes to food as compared to other destinations in Italy. Many seem to believe or assume it is an overpriced "tourist trap" of a city, full of inferior restaurants serving sub-standard food.

A raw seafood antipasti plate in Venice
A raw seafood antipasti plate in Venice

My experience has been far from that, provided you are willing to venture beyond the heavily tourist-laden areas and streets and try foods that are authentically Venetian. True Venice cuisine relies on fresh ingredients and simple preparations that do, on occasion, draw upon spices and seasonings from the East in unusual ways. There is much to enjoy in authentic Venetian cuisine, particularly seafood dishes which I've spotlighted on the following page:

Venice, Italy is heaven for seafood lovers. Here you'll find some of the specialties of Venice described as well as restaurants where you can sample them for yourself.

If you're planning a trip, you might also wish to check out my Venice restaurant reviews at my food blog, South Jersey Foodie. You'll find lots of detailed information on what I enjoyed ordering - and eating - throughout the city as well as some of the other islands around the lagoon including Burano, Murano and Torcello.

Venice: Beautiful city, beautiful food!
Venice: Beautiful city, beautiful food!

Another special aspect of Venetian cuisine you should experience is cicchetti. Cicchetti is the Venetian equivalent of Spanish tapas, or small plates, enjoyed by locals in small bars and osterias typically in the late afternoon and early evening. You can even make an entire, fun evening meal out of traveling around to different Cicchetti bars, sampling rice balls, marinated vegetables, seafood bites and tiny sandwiches of house-cured meats - all washed down with delicious wine or Venetian "Spritz" cocktails.

Nothing beats enjoying a classic Spritz cocktail while sitting along the water in Venice...
Nothing beats enjoying a classic Spritz cocktail while sitting along the water in Venice
Cicchetti is a type of "small plates" food served in the bars and osterias of Venice, Italy. Learn more about this traditional regional cuisine.
Colorful Burano: One of the prettiest islands in the Venetian lagoon
Colorful Burano: One of the prettiest islands in the Venetian lagoon

Beyond Venice

Day trips and attractions around the lagoon and the Veneto

Although there is plenty to see right in the heart of Venice, the adventurous tourist may wish to travel a bit off the beaten track for a change of pace. There are many other islands in the lagoon worth visiting, from the glass-making mecca of Murano to Torcello, the island where settlement of the lagoon first began.

You might even want to take a day trip to Padua, Vicenza or Verona by train to see magnificent palazzos, wonderful architecture and other historic attractions of the region. Learn more about some of these different destinations in the following articles I've written from my adventures:

Torcello
Torcello
Isola del Lazzaretto Nuovo: Quarantine Island of the Venetian Lagoon

View from atop the perimeter wall on Lazzaretto Nuovo.Are you a traveler who likes to explore unusual and offtrack places while on vacation? Planning a trip to Venice in the future? Then one place I recommend visiting while staying in Venice is the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo…

Torcello – The First Venice

TorcelloOne of my absolute favorite places to visit while in Venice, Italy is the quiet, rural island of Torcello. Many tourists bypass Torcello or perhaps only spend an hour or so there, instead focusing on nearby Murano and Burano in the northern Venetian lagoon…

Useful Venice Links

Where to go to learn more about Venice, Italy and for planning a vacation trip there.
  • City of Venice

    Official website of the city of Venice, with tourism information and much more.

  • Venice ticket booking and reservations

    Buy museum passes, tickets for the Secret Itineraries Tour, and much more through this website.

  • Venice for Visitors

    A wonderful resource for practical information on traveling to Venice. Learn how to get around, get discounts, free sights and attractions, and transportation details.

Enjoy Venice - but watch out for the pigeons!

I hope you enjoyed this travel guide. Feel free to leave any comments below!
Pigeons in St. Marks Square
Updated: 07/13/2015, sockii
 
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