Italy has some of the most alluring cities in the world. After visiting Rome earlier this year, I decided I had to see more of what the country had to offer. I took off over the week of Thanksgiving in the U.S. to experience the ancient city of Venice.
I first landed in Milan and went straight to Milano Central Station for a two hour train ride to venice. I had a few passing hours prior to departure, so I went to take a gander at the Milan Cathedral and Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II. It was quite the journey, but the experience was worth the ride.
As you may know, Venice is sinking and it won’t be around forever. Just a few weeks before my trip the city had been flooded, putting three-quarters of the city underwater. I made it a mission to see it with my own eyes before it was too late.
I was blown away arriving in Venice for the first time- it is exactly as picturesque as you have seen from films and photographs. With its winding canals, narrow streets and the splashing of the water against bridges, it is hard to not be immediately overwhelmed by the immense beauty and romance of the city.
I made my way to my first Airbnb of the trip in the neighborhood of San Marco. This is a great location if you want to be central to most things in the city. The entirety of Venice is very walkable, so any neighborhood you choose could be suitable.
For transportation, you can either take a water taxi or a Vaporetto boat (water bus). I recommend taking the water bus, as a taxi will set you back an extra 60 euros or so. Again, the city is very walkable, so it won’t be to long of a distance to anywhere you might be staying. I would also recommend traveling light as you may not want to drag your luggage through the many bridges and brick streets.
On the first night, I stumbled around the streets in awe until I found myself wandering upon St Mark’s Square. It is mainly ruled by St. Mark’s Basilica on its eastern side. After you have finished taking in this 1000 year old square, I would recommend climbing up the bell tower – the Campanile. It is a great view of all of Venice and it’s surrounding islands. Be sure to check the visitor schedule, as it changes through the seasons.
Not far from St Mark’s Square, is Rialto Bridge. This ornate bridge is the oldest of the bridges reaching across the Grand Canal. You can check out the Rialto Market from here, Or have a bite to eat along the waterfront with the bridge in sight.
After your meal, I would advocate for doing nothing but getting lost in the winding, narrow streets of the city. Every home, shop and street corner is captivating in its timeworn architecture. Put away the map for a few hours, and let yourself relax and forget about the rest of the world as you experience the reality of the city. I believe this is the best way to get to know a new place- and nowhere better to do it than here.
If you are interested in viewing a museum- the Peggy Guggenheim collection is the one. It is not particularly crowded and contains a wonderful selection of 20th century modern art.
On my last 3 nights, I stayed at an apartment in Cannaregio, near the Jewish Ghetto. The english word “ghetto” is actually derived from this neighborhood. This neighborhood is often overlooked by tourists eager to see the main attractions. If you want to experience the authentic, alluring examples of everyday venetian life, this is where to do it. You may want to walk along the canals to witness the cargo boats bring in their hauls of fish, or watch the chatter of locals amongst a nearby cafe. At night, I went on a bar crawl in search of aperitivo and cicchetti- which are small bites, similar to tapas.
If you have the time, experience a concerto inside of a church. I went to see I Virtuosi Italiani inside of the Chiesa della Pieta, an ancient church in the center of Venice. The acoustics inside of the church are fantastic, and what a great way to end your trip than by letting music take over your mind and body.
The longer you stay in Venice, the more you will understand the magic of the city. The city may seem crowded if you only stay near the main attractions such as the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square- but you will be pleasantly surprised once you’ve wandered off the beaten path and along the empty alleys of the neighborhoods. Stay longer than a few days, and don’t be afraid to get lost for an experience you will remember for years.