This remarkable water bound city is located in Italy’s north-east region and is about 4 hours by train from Rome. The city is filled with a wonder and mystique found nowhere else in the world. There is just something about this floating city where in place of roads and cars there are water highways and boats. With Venice being just one of many exciting cities in Italy we’ve broken it down so you can see all the good bits in just 24 hours.
Take a stroll through the streets to Piazza San Marco:
Your first stop should be the heart of Venice which is of course it’s main square, St Mark’s. Here you will find among the many restaurants bordering the square hundreds of pigeons chasing down tourists with food. Beware that the birds are overly friendly and will occupy any free space on your body. So if you’re not keen on becoming a pigeon nest make sure you don’t take any food into the square or you will become a pigeon target. Alternatively if you do want to pretend you’re birdman for a short while you can buy seeds from vendors selling them in the square.
Aside from the local pigeon population the square has many other features, the most prominent of which is the Basilica di San Marco (or St. Mark’s Basilica to us non Italians). This building gives the square a beautiful backdrop and if you choose you can sit for a coffee at one of the many restaurants and cafes placed around the square and admire the architecture and peacefully watch as tourists get assaulted by pigeons right in front of you.
While surveying the square you might also notice next to the Basilica sits a tall brick building, the Campanile, which is actually the bell tower for the Basilica. If you like you can climb to the top and enjoy 360 degree views of Venice below. Keep in mind that if you were keen on visiting the Basilica and bell tower the lines in peak season can be quite long and so will put a bit of a dint in your 24hrs in Venice, alternatively if you were super keen to go inside you can go with an organised tour which allows you to skip the lines and will take you to the most prominent features. Tours usually take around 2 hours which is more than enough time to look around.
Turning right at the Basilica and making your way towards the Grand Canal you will find Torre dell’Orologio (“Clock Tower”). This beautiful clock shows the hours, phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac. Above the clock’s face stands the Lion of St. Mark in front of a backdrop of gold stars set in a dark blue sky. Every hour right at the top two bronze Mori (Moors) strike the bell, so make sure that when you visit it’s on the hour or you’ll have to wait to see this iconic spectacle.
Jump on the next Line 12 water bus towards Vaporette:
This water bus will take you out of Venice to the neighbouring islands of Murano and Burano. These islands are famous for their glass and lace industries and are a short boat ride from the center of Venice.
The water buses leave from Fondamente Nove every 30-60 minutes depending on the time of year. Make sure you buy your ticket before getting on the boat from the machines situated in front of the water bus piers.
First hope off at Murano where it’s glass is world famous. On the island you will find numerous workshops with crafts people working and performing glass blowing demonstrations. We sat and watched a demonstration ourselves where a glass blower shaped red hot molten glass into a horse within minutes.
Head across the to the other side of Murano Island and jump on the next water bus to the island of Burano where it’s lace industry is perhaps less famous than the town itself. Sure the lace is very lovely but if you’re an avid amiture photographer the best thing about the Island is the unusually bright colours of the local buildings. If you believe the stories this was to help the local population of drunk fishermen find their way home after a night out and not accidentally enter a neighbour’s house which may have looked identical to their own.
Hop back on a water bus heading towards Venice.
Ride in a Traditional Gondola:
This is surely a bucket list item for many and these are readily available from anywhere that has water. It’s basically like catching a taxi, most boats are just waiting for someone to come along and climb on in. The Gondolas have official price rates which are set by the city and are non negotiable (just like metered taxis) so don’t even think about haggling. Rides start from 80EUR for 40mins and increase in 20min increments of about 40EUR thereafter, during evenings and night time the price is slightly higher. Each boat has a maximum occupancy of 6 guests so the closer to 6 you are the cheaper it will be. And remember Gondolas which are closer to largely populated areas such as central canal will cost you more than the 80EUR minimum so don’t be afraid to wander some slightly less worn paths in search of a cheaper ride.
Step off the main street and explore the areas back away from the central thoroughfares and you’ll be glad you did. Back in these alleyways and squares you’ll find plenty of small restaurants and bars with amazing food at a fraction of the cost of popular tourist hotspots. At dinner time do as the locals do and go find yourself an amazing aperitivo bar. You can find Aperol Spritz for as little as 3EUR and house wines for only 1EUR a glass. A lot of bars are standing room only and many patrons tend to spill out into the streets and squares that the bars attach onto. So if you come upon a random crowd of people nursing drinks in the street there must be a bar close by so keep your eyes peeled, the best places are always the ones stumbled upon.
If you want to enjoy the sights and sounds of the main canal head down to the area near the Ponte di Rialto bridge where you’ll find some awesome bars/restaurants. One place we found even had takeaway spritz! So we got our drinks and went and sat on the side of the canal, watching ferries, police boats and gondolas hustle and bustle their way up and down the waterways.
A few quick bits…
Accommodation…Now at some point you’ll have to rest! Or just keep exploring…you can sleep when you’re dead I say. But if you do want to find a place to rest your weary sightseeing body my advice on the place to be is the area of Cannaregio. Here you are close to the central canal and train station and can walk to St Mark’s square quite easily, having said that most places are pretty easy to get to so anywhere on the island is actually fine, it’s just sometimes difficult to find your way through the twisting and turning alley ways. The best way is booking through an online hotel site like booking.com which provides lots of different options for all budgets.
Getting around the city is actually pretty easy…as long as you know where you’re going and even if you don’t getting lost is half the fun. It’s pretty easy to walk from one end of the city to the other however getting lost can present a real problem if you’re in a hurry. Just remember, you are never too far away from anything and eventually you will come out onto a main canal that you recognize, you can never truly get lost as you are in a contained area…an island.
In terms of the city’s layout the main canal (Canal Grande) snakes its way through the island dividing it into two main halves. There are a few major bridges linking the two sides, with the main walkways following alongside Canal Grande
Take a step back from the main thoroughfare and your view of the city instantly changes. While the main walking areas are a bustle of tourists and shops, when you step back and explore the town from a local vantage it makes you fall in love with the town even more.
When to visit? Summer is the busiest time of year and the heat can sometimes cause the canals to heat up and give off an unpleasant smell depending on the tides and currents. However if you visit on any month that isn’t July the crowds will be less, the heat not oppressive and will be a much more enjoyable time. If you’re thinking winter it does get pretty cold with temperatures regularly dipping below freezing, so if you do plan on heading out during this time rug up! During the Spring and Autumn months or just before and just after the peak June/July season would be ideal, not too hot, not too cold…juuuust right.
Money…As Venice is in Italy the EURO is of course the currency and your need for physical cash is minimal as almost everywhere will have card facilities however taking some cash is always a good idea for those random occasions where it’s cash only.