Top Things to Do in Venice Italy City Breaks
Top Things to Do in Venice Italy : Why did I wait until my late forties to spend a long weekend in Venice? Happily, Olivier’s birthday provided the perfect excuse to explore this city. Short breaks to Venice are perfect as trips to Venice offer something for everyone. We opted for 3 nights in Venice because 4 days in Venice are perfect to explore what this beautiful city has to offer. It might sound silly, but weekend breaks to Venice start the moment you catch sight of the city from the air. Your heart can’t fail to skip a beat at the first glimpse of the iconic miniature buildings floating in front of you on the horizon.
Travel in Venice – Decisions, Decisions
Venice by Water Bus or Water Taxi?
Your Venice Italy vacation starts once you’ve landed at Marco Polo Airport. Everything is well signposted to help you start your weekend away in Venice without delay. We headed straight to the airport landing stage (dock). Here you have two choices to reach Venice. Take a public water bus (operated by Alilaguna) or a private or shared motorboat (water taxi).
There are pros and cons for both. First, the water taxi. This is a quick, direct and romantic way to arrive in Venice but it’s expensive. In contrast, the water bus is much cheaper and is a great way of starting your Venice mini-break. A return ticket costs approximately 27 Euros and it’s an excellent way of travelling side by side with the locals. As a result, we opted for this route to Venice.
However, take note! Journeys by public ferry from the airport can last between 40 minutes and 1 hour 45 minutes depending on your Venetian destination. The Alilaguna blue line stops at 12 places and people hop on and off. Therefore, make sure you buy a drink and snacks at the airport!
We had a 1 hour 45-minute journey to the island of Giudecca! However, we loved circumnavigating Venice. It is a romantic way of taking in the sights at a leisurely pace. Who can forget the first sight of blue stripy gondola mooring posts at Murano? Also, the Campanile in St Mark’s Square looming ever nearer as you approach Venice? What better way to start our weekend trip to Venice?
Check this website https://www.alilaguna.it/en/lines/lines-map for more information about Alilaguna.
St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), Venice
Fortunately, our hotel operated a complimentary shuttle boat over the lagoon to San Marco. You can’t escape travelling by boat during your Venice weekend and you quickly settle into life on the water. Taking the boat shuttle each day was a relaxing start. Furthermore, it provided a great opportunity to admire the Venetian skyline time and time again.On the first day of your long weekend in Venice, we recommend soaking in the sights and atmosphere. After landing at San Marco, weave your way along the canal between the colourful market stalls. Then, cross the Bridge of Sighs which connects the prison to the Doge’s Palace. Venice will overwhelm your senses with its familiar architectural riches. The whole experience feels like you are walking in one of Caneletto’s majestic paintings.Trips to Venice Italy invariably start with a visit to the city’s famous piazza. Turn right and you will quickly find yourself in Saint Mark’s square (Piazza San Marco). The Campanile (bell tower) looms high above you to the left. Notably, the spectacular Basilica San Marco dominates the square. This impressive domed building has lavish gold spires and beautiful frescos. The sheer magnitude and decadence of these landmarks make you feel quite small and insignificant.We headed under St Mark’s Clock Tower and strolled along the quaint streets, crossing the canals. You can’t escape getting hopelessly lost in this labyrinth of a city during your weekend to Venice. Enjoy it! One of the rewards is finding small simple restaurants (osteria) and bars (bacari) in tiny alleys. Here we enjoyed sampling typically Venetian dishes with the locals of Venice.This was a memorable highlight of our long weekend to Venice.
Owners of the osteria and bacari are happy to share their knowledge of Venetian specialities. This is how we found out about tapas-style Cichetti. Furthermore, we discovered that our delicious Tiramisu dessert was created in the area. Another local restaurant owner recommended Seppia al nero. A black cuttlefish pasta which turns your mouth black! He also introduced us to the vivid orange Aperol spritz enjoyed by many in Venice. We needed very little encouragement to try it and compare it with the more widely known Campari! Find out for yourself which you prefer during your Venice weekend away. All we can say is that we bought two bottles of Aperol in Duty Free!
After eating, enjoy zig-zagging backwards and forwards over the Grand Canal and the Rialto bridge. Simply, watch gondolas and boats go by. Take time to admire the flower bedecked restaurants perched high above the Grand Canal. Back on the tiny back streets of Venice, the shop windows are a sight to behold. On display are irresistible pastel-coloured gelato, enormous rolled sandwiches, mouth-watering pizza slices and intricate Venetian masks. These are still worn in the annual Carnival of Venice from February to March and must be a sight to behold in Venice long weekend visits at this time.
Top Tips for Venice – Venice Gondolas
No visit to Venice in a weekend is complete without a ride on a Gondola. However, here are our top tips. Firstly, gondolas are expensive and be aware that Venice operates official rates. Secondly, think about where you board your gondola. You can join the hoards and go under the Bridge of Sighs or down the Grand Canal. This was a Venetian traffic jam we wanted to avoid. Instead, we found a couple of gondoliers moored in a tranquil back street. From the cosy velvet seats, the sound of the gondoliers’ calls and serenades echo around less busy canals. From this new perspective, take time to appreciate the inaccessibility of Venice and hence its charm. The canals truly dictate which direction you take as a pedestrian in Venice. Whilst in Venice for the weekend, take time to wonder at the skill of those who built these structures rising from the canals.
Trips from Venice – Murano and Burano, Venetian Islands
The islands of Murano and Burano are very close to Venice and are worth a visit. First, board a vaporetto and enjoy the scenic boat ride to Murano, home to the famous Murano glass. Here, there are many opportunities for you to join working factory tours. However, we preferred a less organised option. At our own pace, we wandered along the main canal and admired the stunning glass creations in the shop windows. Along the way, you can catch frequent glimpses of artisans at work in their studios.
After a short stop here, we took another vaporetto to our second island destination. Burano is a small fishing village and is famous for its hand-crafted lace and brightly coloured houses lining the canals. The streets are adorned with shops selling artisanal products with lace floating in the breeze. Against a backdrop of brilliant blue sky, the multi-coloured houses form a dazzling patchwork. Buildings here are a complete contrast to the earthy colours of Venice.
There are also many places to eat in Burano. Choose a quiet restaurant away from the main square, then sit back, relax and eat. Whilst you do, watch the skill of those who navigate their boats in and out of the tiny canals. Or, see if you can spot the gravity-defying bell tower (Campanile) of the San Martino church. No short trip to Venice is complete without visting these beautiful islands.
Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) & St Mark’s Bell Tower (Campanile), Venice
The main aim of our 4 days in Venice was to explore the city and visit nearby islands. However, we couldn’t go home without visiting the grand Doge’s Palace. As its name suggests, this building was home to the Doge and the seat of the government. However, it also served as the city’s courtroom with its famous jail across the Bridge of Sighs.Of course, there was a long queue to enter the Palace, but it was worth the wait. The façade of the building is intricately carved with magnificent statues and sweeping staircases. Inside, the cavernous ceilings are truly breath-taking. High about your head, gilt framed frescos and wide stone arches leave you marvelling at their construction.
The sheer beauty and opulence of the palace is in stark contrast to the bare prison areas. It’s easy to sense the history of this place. Feel a shiver as you run your fingers over the etched carvings left by prisoners. Peer through the tiny lattice windows over the Bridge of Sighs. Imagine the last sighs of prisoners catching their last glimpses of Venice.To finish our visit to Venice, we ascended the 99-metre-high Campanile of St Mark’s. The Campanile is a square tower topped by a spire which was once a lighthouse. Today, there is a lift to the top. Only one of the five original bells remain, but the views from the belfry are spectacular. Venice is mapped out before you, like a miniature world beneath your feet.
When to Visit Venice ?
The best time to visit Venice is in the Spring and Summer. Venice can flood at any time of the year, but particularly between Autumn and Spring and in the winter months of November and December. This is because water levels are rising and Venice is sinking at an estimated rate of 2 mm per year thanks to subsidence. Venice flooding is known as ‘Acqua Alta’ which literally means ‘high water’. When the water levels rise in the Venetian lagoon, Venice is at risk of flooding. This usually happens in Winter owing to a combination of tides, wind and sea levels. Acqua Alta is not a new phenomenon but is happening more often because of climate change, local industrialisation and subsidence.Once every 4 years, more than half of Venice floods if the lagoon water rises over 140 cm above standard sea level. Whereas four times a year, approximately 14 % of Venice floods if water levels rise over 110 cm above standard sea level. This is more likely to occur between Autumn and Spring.
St Mark’s Square is one of the lowest lying tourist attractions and is the first place to flood. However, Venice is well-equipped for acqua alta. Elevated wooden walkways called ‘passarelle’ are quickly erected and life goes on as usual until the floods subside after a few hours. If your weekend in Venice happens to be struck by floods, you will have a memorable story to share with friends and family.
Long weekend in Venice – Our Final Thoughts
Venice is a city like no other and has something for everyone. During our 4 days in Venice, we only scratched the surface. Of course, you can’t spend a long weekend in Venice without exploring some of the main sights and you will need to queue. However, we also found time on our weekend in Venice to soak up the atmosphere by getting lost in this Venetian maze. As a result, we managed to discover some quiet less well-known corners which never failed to delight. For us, this was travelling Off the Tourist Treadmill in Venice. If you want to learn more about us click here