The Grand Canal remains to be Venice, Italy’s most iconic landmark or, shall we say, “watermark.” It only means you can’t visit the “City of Love” without zipping through its “main thoroughfare” boarding a vaporetto, a water taxi, or a gondola. So, what’s your pick?
Vaporetti zip up and down the canal and like a “bus,” it will take you to where you want to go. Its Line 1 lets you languorously enjoy the ride while Line 2 is fast and practical for busy people.
Feel like splurging? If you’re a traveler with more dough to burn, hit the Grand Canal in style; water taxis are the “limousines” of Venice –open-air seating in the stern, luxurious cabins, and a private captain to chauffeur you down the canal between your hotel and destination.
If you are holidaying with your beloved, forget vaporetti or water taxi (despite the luxury); take the gondola. It is a traditional single-oar boat expertly maneuvered by an expert gondolier. But be warned! A gondola ride is most tourists’ trap being highly overpriced; it is best to do a bit of research before agreeing on the rate.
Venice has more beyond the canal ride. Just wandering aimlessly around Venice day or night can bring lots of surprises. Strolling around on foot can let you discover much of its “hidden” gems and charms.
- Drop by St. Mark’s Basilica; it’s free and its floor-to-ceiling mosaics, colorful marble pillars and giant onion dome are memorable. Check out the three museums inside, get out on the roof and watch the square from there. The best experience is to yet to see the square when it’s deserted.
- Take a walk in the Bridge of Sigh: You can view the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale), which is just a stone throw away from the Basilica, from the outside for free. That may be enough, but you’ll miss the chance to walk on the famous bridge.
- A view of the onion Dome from Campanile: If you want an up-close-and-personal view of the Basilica’s majestic dome and St. Mark’s Square, rake a lift to the top of Campanile (bell tower) located across the church.
- Visit Murano Island: It is home to one of the world’s famous glass blowing and sculpture. If you want to avoid the crowd, go to Murano on a vaporetto or water taxi and find some makers willing to open their doors to a genuinely interested tourist like you.
- From Murano to Burano and Torcello: From Murano, you can arrange to head to Burano, a cartoon-like island that is colorful, cheerful and amazingly less touristy. Another lagoon island, Torcello is a surprisingly (almost) deserted nature reserve with a mosaic 7th-century church.
- Bask in Venetian art: You can’t leave Venice, a repository of precious art forms from the late Middle Ages to the mid-18th century by Venice’s grand masters – Titian, Tintoretto, Canaletto and Tiepolo. It is also home to contemporary art scene. Bring home Venice; you can buy artistic souvenirs from Gallerie dell’Accademia.
- Shop and dine at the Rialto and Chioggia Markets: Everybody loves great foods and the food market in Venice isn’t only culturally interesting, it is a treat for the senses and offers a great bounty from the sea – soft shelled crabs, spider crab squirming eels, mantis shrimps enormous swordfish and fresh tuna. Here you can test your adventurous side when you eat seafood like never before.
- Grab a serenissima souvenir: For guaranteed quality, buy from credible shops. There’s Vittorio Costantini known for its beautiful glass and genuine lamps, Attombri for opulent jewellery, Gaggio for lovely fabrics, and Martinuzzi for authentic local lace. If your idea of shopping is about Italian elegance, you can head to some of Venice swanky shops selling designer apparels and accessories.
- Grab a bite of the authentic Venetian cuisine: Taste Venice by trying its traditional dishes such as oca in onto (that’s goose cooked in its own fat), polpette (or meatballs), Venetian antipasti and raw sea food, or freshwater fish cooked in saor. For a cool dessert, you can’t resist their gelato; get the best is from Boutique del Gelato at salizzada San Lio. More cool desserts await at Alaska Gelateria-Sorbetteria Carlo Pistacchi.
- The Venetian spirit: Aperitivo is all part of Italian and Venetian lifestyle. Here, you have so many options; decide based on where you want to be; there are bars offering views of the Rialto Bridge, the Grand Canal and more. Down your delicious Venetian dinner with fine vino; you need to try their whites (Tocai), reds (Valpolicella and Cabernet Franc), and their surprising good house wines – Vino e San Daniele, La Favorita, Alla Maddalena, Alle Testiere, and Naranzaria. Alcoholic beverages during the day? You’re in Venice, so enjoy its specialities – the spritz (Campari and seltzer/sparkling water), ombra (bianco or rosso), prosecco (bubbly white from Veneto region), and spento (bubble-free wine).
- Have fun in Venice: Venice can keep you on your feet from morn until dusk and deep into the night with its entertainment. Experience Vivaldi music and performing arts – Venice Baroque Orchestra, the orchestra of La Fenice, La Fenice, Teatro Malibran, and the Società Veneziana dei Concerti. Don a mask and get the join the merrymakers in the traditional Carnevale celebrated since the Middle Ages at the Piazza San Marco. Alternatively, you can just take a break in a refreshing, watery scene: a waterside-bar break at Al Chioschetto, Vincent Bar or Taverna del Campiello Remer.
- Romancing with your Juliet or Romeo: Head to Casa di Giulietta (yes, the home of Shakespeare’s Juliet) and leave your entwined signatures right there on the wall that’s brimming with graffiti and love messages. Tying the knots soon? Live your fantasy; you can have it right under the balcony.
Venice is so much more, but these authentic experiences unique to this city are more than enough to remember your days in this City of Love.