TooMuchItaly Travel off the beaten path

Venice in 10 (un)usual things to do

Venice Gondola

Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy: I would say it’s a ‘surreal’ city. Of course it’s one of the most visited cities in the world and is as much crowded as Florence and Rome. There is toomuch to see and time is never enough. Here 10 things to do in Venice I recommend you.

Take water bus number 1

This vaporetto sails through the Canal Grande, the major canal of Venice. By taking the water bus 1 you cross the city from Santa Lucia train station to the lagoon, making it the best way to see Venice (from the sea). If you have just one day it could be the best option. You should buy a regular water bus ticket: 75 minutes ticket costs 7.50€.

Get lost in Venice

Well, I should say that it’s impossible not to get lost: Venice is a real labyrinth on the sea. There are 435 bridges connecting 121 small islands and more than 3 thousand streets, that are called calli. The best part to get lost is that you see the real Venice, out of the crowds, where children still play football in the campo (square).

Postcard from Venice
Gondola service in Venice
Alternative Venice

Get oriented as Venetians do

After getting lost, I decided to ask to a Venetian friend of mine how he orients himself. Well the answer was quite as simple as shocking: “I follow the signs”. I tried and it worked. The street signs to the main landmarks like San Marco and the train station are at every single corner. When you know where you should go, just follow the signs to that direction and you won’t get lost.

Get oriented in Venice
Get oriented in Venice
Get oriented in Venice

Eat cicchetto and drink un ombra di vin

Venetian typical street food are small crostini sold at historic Bacardi and called cicchetto (quick note: cicchetto in Tuscany is a glass of wine). The cicchetto is always accompanied with a glass of wine that  is called ombra de vin: the name comes from the past when wine sellers in Piazza San Marco used to keep the wine cool by using the shadow of San Marco Bell’s Tower.

Visit Rialto Market

The Rialto market is the oldest market in the city. The most characteristic area is the Fish market of Rialto held from Tuesday to Saturday from 7.30 to 12: the colors and the selection of fish is impressive; you see the seagulls waiting for some fish, fishermen preparing sarde fish that are used for the typical dish sarde in saor. The best moment to visit the market is early morning (before 9am).

Hurrying to Rialto Market
Rialto Market
Preparing sarde in soar at Rialto market
Gondola service at Rialto market

Take the gondola crossing the Canal Grande

If you’re in Venice, a gondola tour is a must. Therefore if you’re on a budget, the gondola tour is not for you, because it costs 100€ per 1 hour. Said that, you can still take a gondola by taking the gondola service to cross the Canal Grande just for 2€ per person. In front of the Rialto market and in other few places, there gondolas that go from one side to the other of the Canal Grande; this is because there are only 4 bridges out of more than 400 crossing the Canal Grande!

Get up early before the crowds (to see Piazza San Marco)

Venice could be really crowded, even more than Florence or Rome -or at least it seems so, probably due to the narrow spaces. Because of this the city of Venice is studying to reduce visitors in major areas, like San Marco. I strongly recommend you wake up early and visit Piazza San Marco very early in the morning, right after sunrise. It’s the time when the large square is almost empty, the bars on the square are openings, Venetian people cross quickly to go to work, and only few tourists are there.

Sleepy Venice early in the morning
Piazza San Marco in Venice before the crowd
Sleepy Beauty in Piazza san Marco early in the morning before the crowd

Take a tour of Palazzo Ducale Secret Itineraries

Palazzo Ducale was the seat of the government of the Republic of Venice, as well as the residence of the Doge (the city’s elected ruler) until 1789. The palazzo is really impressive, both for its majestic architecture and the numerous artworks on display. Inside the building there were also prisons, as well as many secret passages for the doge and his functionaries. I recommend you take the tour of the secret passages to discover the legends and stories of Palazzo Ducale. During the one-hour tour you visit the prisons – even the one that hosted famous adventurer Casanova – and see the prisoners’ inscriptions on the walls, you learn more about tortures at the time of the Venetian Republic.

Visit the Jewish Ghetto

The Venetian Jewish Ghetto is a colorful area, a city inside the city. The international word “ghetto” comes from here, when the area was a foundry and the Italian word getto meant pouring metal. The old foundry area was transformed into a restricted residential area for Jewish people in 1516; the Ghetto Vecchio was extended in the Ghetto Nuovo and then in the Ghetto Nuovissimo as you see at the borders of each area. The ghetto is the only area in Venice with tall houses up to 8 floors, space was never enough.

Venice Jewish Ghetto
Venice Jewish Ghetto from the other side

Take a tour to visit the islands

Next to Venice there are several islands and they’re all worth visiting, but if you don’t have much time the most recommended are Burano, famous for its colorful houses, Murano, famous for the fine glass production, and Torcello, green island with the old Church of Santa Maria Assunta. You reach them by public vaporetto, but if you intend to visit at least 2 islands I recommend you take a tour of the islands: in a day you visit all three islands, have your reserved seat and save money (and time). As a matter of fact public vaporetto from islands to Venice are packed and the queue to take it could be about one-hour long!
Burano, the island of colors near Venice
Burano, the island of colors near Venice
Burano, the island of colors near Venice
What’s your favorite thing to do in Venice?


  • Reply
    Stephen Killick
    August 5, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    There are more unusual things to do than go to the fish market. Learn how to row the Ventian way, lessons on a sandolo are given and is great fun to be out on the lagoon rowing yourself. To continue the boating theme there is the trip to Arzanà to learn all about the craft of the lagoon with your contribution to the tour helping to preserve the art of boat making in Venice.

    Why not go up the clocktower in the Piazza? It’s a fascinating tour seeing the workings of the world’s first ever digital clock from the 15th century. And another fine climb is that up the bovolo, or snail, the beautiful tower of the Palazzo Contarini just a short walk from the piazza. And if you want to get to know about true Venetian cuisine arrange a cookery class.

    In short, don’t just hang about the piazza buying tourist tat from the vendors on the Riva. Do something that will help Venice and be fun as well as different.

    • Reply
      August 7, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      Ciao Stephen! Thanks for your precious suggestions. I added them to my list for the next trip to Venice. I totally agree with you that we should help Venice and all the other tourist cities. I’m from Florence and it’s not any better 😐

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