Did you know I moved to Venice at age 22 and worked as an au pair? I have vivid memories from those 60 days, mostly of a lonely girl who finds comfort in gelato until she writes a poorly translated letter of resignation and packs her bags. One day I’ll get around to writing that entire story…
In the 9 years that followed, I found every reason in the world to avoid “La Serenissima,” Italy’s most serene vacation spot. I knew that on this month-long trip around Europe, I’d be hard pressed to sway my boyfriend’s desire to visit the famed island city on his first European tour. I also knew that there was so much more to experience in Venice, and I owed it to myself to give it another shot. We booked one-way flights to Venice and decided to start our trip there, when our minds are more open (and our budgets were more flexible!).
We visited Venice in a weekend, which was the perfect amount of time. We have no regrets and there wasn’t anything we wanted to do that we didn’t. Here’s how we did it.
First, I highly suggest reading my post titled “Things you should know before your trip to Italy” to read about what language, currency, public transportation and safety are like in Italy. I can’t promise you’ll find your Vespa-riding stallion, but I can help you order the correct coffee drink!
Where we stayed
Venice is made up of several different areas, each with its own vibe. The area of St. Marks is closer to the main attractions: the ferry port, St. Mark’s Square and Basilica (Piazza San Marco), and Rialto Bridge. We chose not to stay there because we wanted a quieter area (read: we’re pushing 30.) and an area that was less crowded. The area of Castello is the furthest from the mainland and Piazzale Roma, the train/bus station, so we ruled out staying there since we were getting in late.
Dorsoduro is the area of Venice where the main art galleries are: Galleria Academia and the Guggenheim collection. If you’re an artie (that’s like a foodie… but into art… right?) then Dorsoduro is perfect for you to do art things before the crowds arrive.
We ended up in Cannaregio and we were SO glad we did. For one, Cannaregio is the absolute best spot in the city to see the sunset from (fellow sunset chasers – raise your hands!). Cannaregio doesn’t have any big “attractions”, so it doesn’t draw big crowds during the day. At night, however, Cannaregio is the hotspot for locals to enjoy “apertivo” (pre-dinner drinks and tapas) while lounging canal-side or on a boat. We LOVED this vibe and very quickly adopted the Aperol Spritz culture.
I also was drawn to Cannaregio because it’s the area where the Jewish Ghetto once existed, and where a majority of the mere 450 Venetian Jews currently reside. I’m super passionate about supporting Jewish-owned businesses so this was a big draw for me.
Cannareggio Restaurant Suggestion: “Oficina Food & Wine Ormesini”.
We had the daily specials, on the “Menu Degustazione,” (tasting menu) and we were beyond happy with our choices. The restaurant has a hip bar in the front and nice, quiet, wine-cellar style seating in the back. We found the prices to be so reasonable (read: affordable!) for the quality of food we were getting, and the house wine was only $3/glass…fill ‘er up!
Our Itinerary for the Weekend
We prioritized the things were really wanted to do while in Venice: see Rialto, Piazza San Marco, get lost wandering alongside the canals and visit the islands of Burano and Murano. Riding in a gondola was not on our itinerary, due to the price and our aversion to super touristic activities, but the gondola rides are only 30 minutes so you could easily fit that in anywhere.
On our first full day, we walked from our AirBNB, all the way on the Northern corner of Venice, through the entire city, all the way to St. Mark’s square on the opposite end. We were a bit tired by the time we got to St. Mark’s so we relaxed for a bit and enjoyed a couple Moretti’s sitting on the dock by the bay. We loved stopping at several random eateries and trying small plates to get a feel for the different foods. On your walk around/explore/get lost day, be sure to visit the famous Rialto fish market before they close at noon and see all the super fresh sea-fare brought in by the local fishermen.
On your second day in Venice I highly suggest you visit one of the city’s outlying islands: Murano, Burano or Lido. Lido is a large strip of land off the east side of Venice along the Ariatic sea. I’ve never been to Lido but I’ve heard it has a 1970’s Miami beach vibe to it (with less partying). On this trip we decided to explore Burano and Murano on day 2. We took a quick and easy Ferry from the Fondamente Nove ferry terminal to Burano, and took the same ferry back, but stopped at Murano. A one-day ferry ticket in Venice gets you anywhere by ACTV public water taxi (called “Vapporetto”) and costs $20 for the day.
Burano was absolutely the most unique place I’ve ever been. Burano is the island where lace was first made. Lace artisans in Burano still, to this today, produce the most intricate and unique lace work. The municipality of Burano requires the houses be painted specific, varying, bright colors and repainted annually to maintain vibrancy. Burano is like a mini Venice in that many of the canals and streets look the same and you can easily get lost admiring the technicolor boats and the intricate lace artistry.
On the way back from Burano, we made a brief stop-off at Murano. Murano is the island where the famous “Murano blown glass” is made. It’s really interesting to see the skill and intricacy used to blow glass into bulbs, jewels, dinner-wear and anything you can possibly imagine. Seeing this is worth a visit to Murano. We did not feel like the rest of the island was anything special. It mostly resembled Venice with less food, drink and coffee offerings. We basically watched the glass-blowing demonstration and then headed back to Venice just in time for more canalside Spritzs.
That’s all I have to offer you on the topic of Venice, but if you have any questions that I did not answer, feel free to drop a comment below or message me on Instagram and I’m happy to help!
Buon viaggio a Venezia!