As we checked into our AirBNB in the area of Mestre, the centre of mainland Venice, I was enlivened with excitement about what was to come. I had dreamt about visiting Venice for years. About riding in a gondola through the canals, drinking wine in the Piazza San Marco and oohing and aweing at the magnificent architecture of the Basilica San Marco. Up to this point, my familiarity of Venice had been limited the scenes from popular films such as The Tourist, Indiana Jones and Casino Royale but none of those prepared me for the beauty and wonder of the city on stilts situated in the Adriatic Sea.
As part of our honeymoon trip through Italy, we knew Venice had to be on our list. What’s more romantic than cruising through the canals drinking champagne out of screw top, single-serve bottles! Initially, I was a little apprehensive about visiting Venice. I had been told it was primarily a congested cruise ship city, and that was incredibly dirty and smelly. I’m happy to say we were not disappointed and none of those misconceptions posed true. Whether it’s romance your after, a getaway with friends or just to marvel at the astonishing floating city, you’ll be wowed by the charm and passion of this Italian gem.
Here are my top 5 reasons to visit Venice.
1. Gondola rides
Where else in the world can you go to float in a gondola drinking wine or champagne, while the gondolier tells you about the history of the floating city with the sun setting in the background, creating the perfect ambience for lovers. Not traveling with a loved one? Don’t worry – gondola’s can fit up to 6 people, and make for a great way to explore the canals that wind through the city. For many years, gondolas were used as the primary mode of transportation, and are still used in public transportation today. TIP: prices for gondola rides start at around 80 Euros for 40 minutes. After 7pm that increases to 100 Euros for 40 minutes and 50 Euros for each additional 20 minutes. Go before 7 for the best deal or find a gondola off the main strip for a better deal. It may seem pricey, but trust me you don’t want to miss this.
2. The authentic beauty of Italian architecture
The buildings in Venice are a cross between Gothic Renaissance and Byzantine style, making them unique from other buildings throughout Italy. St. Mark’s Basilica, The Campanile Tower and Doge’s Palace are just some of the beautiful churches and landmarks you will find. In addition, there are many iconic bridges that are best seen from below as you ride through the canals. The Rialto Bridge and The Bridge of Sighs are two of the most prominent Venetian bridges that are must-sees when visiting Venice. FACT: The Bridge of Sighs, or the Ponte de Sospiri is an enclosed bridge over the Rio di Palazzo connecting the new prison and Doge’s Palace. It gets its name from the fact that the prisoners would sigh at their last view of Venice through the window before being taken to their cells.
3. The slow-paced, stress-free Venetian lifestyle
As Europe’s largest urban car-free area, the pace of life is somewhat more relaxed in Venice. Give yourself plenty of time to explore the sights of Venice, as your likely to get lost at least once. Wander down the Strada Nuova and take in all the sweet shops and bakeries or sit down in the Piazza San Marco and enjoy a glass (or a litre) of wine. The locals are some of the friendliest people I encountered in all of Italy, and are always willing to entertain a conversation or give you directions. TIP: If you’re a gelato fan, head to the Alaska Gelateria for some of the most exotic flavours of gelato in Venice including ginger, asparagus and basil.
4. The countless islands surrounding Venice lagoon
If you have some time, rent a boat and take a tour of the surrounding islands. With over 177 islands scattering the lagoon of Venice, you could spend days touring them and seeing all they have to offer. Take a day to go island hoping and head to Murano Island for a glass sculpture demonstration, take in the colourful architecture of Burano Island, or take a boat to Torcello Island for a taste of rural life, only 30 minutes away from the bustling city of Venice. TIP: If you’re feeling adventurous, organize your own self-guided tour of the islands.
5. To get lost
Toss away the map and uses your senses to guide you through the wandering streets and alleyways of Venice. Don’t be afraid to wander to far off the beaten track as you will almost always find someone who will guide you in the right direction. TIP: Some of the best restaurants and shops will be off the beaten track where there are less tourists. If you see a place buzzing with locals, it’s usually a good indication of its authenticity. A few of the best neighbourhoods to visit include Cannaregio, Santa Croce, and Dorsoduro.
Ultimately you’ll want to spend at least 2-3 days exploring the sights and sounds of this popular floating city. I know that I will be back someday, as Venice truly captured my heart in Northern Italy.
Have you been to Venice? What are some of your favorite things about this charming city? Are you planning a trip to Venice? What are you looking forward to most? Comment below!