The ultimate one day guide to Venice
Venice is one of those cities which has to be visited because of its history, location, beautiful buildings, the canals, the gondolas and festivals. I have been fortunate to visit the city twice and I bring to you my personal experience and a few pointers to help you plan a trip.
Now before anyone asks, I did day-trips here. I didn’t spend any nights here because accommodation can be very expensive. I stayed in nearby Verona which has a direct rail line to the island where Venice is located on and on my second trip I stayed about a two hour drive south on the coastline, so I drove (more on this later on).
The first time I came here (which was Springtime), I walked around the whole island and getting lost in the alleyways. I also noticed a funny smell first thing in the morning but this was because the tide was out. When the tide came in, the smell went away. Strange that.
Fortunately there weren’t many people this time of year so I got to see the magic what Venice has to offer. I was finding lots of mini squares, museums, shops (a lot of them selling the Venetian masks) and trying quite a few gelatos.
One of the main sights I came across is the Ponte di Rialto, which is one of the bridges that crosses over the Grand Canal. To be frank, this is the bridge to check out and is very busy with pedestrians as its located on the main walking routes between the San Marco and San Polo districts of the island. The bridge has stood here for many centuries, starting out as a wooden bridge but it collapsed in 1524. It was then rebuilt with stone and still stands today.
The Grand Canal is one of the most spectacular I have come across on my travels. It’s not just a body of water, it is everything overlooking it which makes it spectacular. There are a heck of a lot of buildings dating back to the 13th century. Also there is only four bridges which cross the canal as the main way to get around Venice wasn’t walking but by boat. The best way to check out the amazing architecture of the buildings is also from the boat.
Away from the canals, the main place where a lot of people hit up (and I mean a lot of people!) is St. Mark’s Basilica. This famous building has fantastic architecture which has remained untouched since being built in 1092. The ornate detail, artwork and sculptures of the facade is just truly awesome however inside the cathedral, the frescos and works of art is worth checking out.
The Basilica is located in Piazza San Marco and can be reached by foot from the railway station (about thirty-forty minute walk with the crowds in the way) or the Waterbus, where the main stops are located on the water in front of the square. The Piazza has a lot of other ornate buildings with arched walkways around it and is worth taking a wander around and checking out the details.
One building which can be seen for miles around is St Mark’s Campanile, a tower which is 98 meters high. The original building was built in the 9th century but collapsed in the early 1900s. The Campanile was used as a watch tower but now it is used as a tourist attraction. That’s right, to get the best views overlooking Venice is from the top of the tower.
The Doge’s Palace is just simply amazing and its facade features an arched design made of white stone with a diamond pattern on the wall. Tours of the palace can be done but arrive early. Inside the palace, the rooms are beautifully decorated and have all the original details, art and furniture.
Located behind the Doge’s Palace is the Ponte dei Sospiri, otherwise known as the Bridge of Sighs and is one structure that shouldn’t be missed! The bridge connects the Doge’s Palace and the Prigioni Nuove which is otherwise known as the Palace Prison. There is a short story to go with the bridge. Criminals who were taken from the palace to the prison caught their last view of Venice and ‘sighed’ whilst walking over the bridge. The ‘sigh’ noise the prisoners made meant that they were considering their punishment and imprisonment.
Not too far from Piazza San Marco but on the other side of the canal is the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is the second most important church in the city. Completed in 1687, the church is known for its Baroque design, the four statues of the apostles on the outside and the main dome. As well as checking out the city of Venice, there is also a small trip to Burano island which is worth checking out. The island is known for its lace and colourful houses. Check out my blog post here.
Now for some of my top tips
NEVER eat at the main touristy spots. Food, drink and service fees can be very expensive. Just go a few streets down and the food is a lot cheaper (and less busier!). If trying to really keep the costs down, buy food at the many markets around Venice and eat there, your bank account will really love you for it.
Forget GPS or taking a map. The touristy part of Venice is on an island. Walk and get lost in the many streets. At some point you will come across signs for the Piazza San Marco or the main train station.
If planning to do all the sights, consider purchasing the Venezia Unica pass, this will also save a lot of money.
I noticed one thing in restaurants here that if I asked for water, I don’t get tap water, I get bottled water and it’s charged within the bill. Ask for tap water. When walking around and need water, refill a bottle at one of the city’s many water fountains.
To get around Venice, there are three methods of getting around. (Well, four if gondolas are included but that’s a really expensive option). There is the waterbus (Vaporetto) and then there is the water taxi. The waterbus is only worth using if going to the other islands. Venice (the city itself) is all walking and there is no point getting the water bus unless the feet are hurting badly.
There are some crazy things visitors should be aware of and do NOT do! Let’s start with picnics! Yes, do not have picnics in the major tourist sites like St Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge. That means no eating or drinking whilst sitting on the ground at these sort of places. Other rules to note is NO SITTING down at all at St Mark’s Square, the only place you can sit is at the coffee shops which will charge visitors a bomb for a cup of coffee! Whilst at the square, do not feed the pigeons or a hefty fine will come your way.
Venice has also got laws that visitors are not allowed to jump into the canals or put padlocks on the bridges which is common in other cities in Europe. Do not walk around in swimsuits ladies or men, make sure your chest is covered. Both of these are against the law here also. Despite the very limited public transport, it is against the law to ride a bicycle in Venice.
On my second trip I drove here, for car parking (make sure to book in advance), park at the Autorimessa Comunale AVM S.p.A which is located at Santa Croce, 496, 30135 (after crossing the bridge from the mainland just keep going straight and the car park is on the right hand side before the road heads into the bus station. The car park is a few minutes walk from the water bus stops and the Santa Lucia train station.
Personal feelings after the visits
I don’t want to put people off from visiting Venice. It is such a beautiful city and is worth checking out the cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and take in all the history. I didn’t take a gondola ride as I was quoted prices for over 100 euros for a short journey and I wasn’t prepared to pay that. It is an expensive place to come to but if prepared right, then Venice can be done on a budget. The other thing I didn’t like is the cruise ships which come in and bring thousands of passengers into the city. I get people wanting to see the city but to come by cruise ship, the amount of pollution coming out of the vessels and dirting up Venice’s canals, I think it’s just bang out of order. That’s my personal view. Would I come back here, probably not as I have been here twice. The memories I take from here I treasure forever and I did enjoy myself but for me, it is a tourist-trap city and I like the quieter side of Italy.
Please note that while I was not working with any tourism company in Burano or Venice, my review and experiences written about in this post are 100% genuine. I value my readers too much to lie to you. My blog would be nothing without you and your continued support!