Soak up the beauty, romance and history of Venice, Italy, before it’s too late. The city, made up of a hundred islands connected by bridges and alleys, is slowly sinking. But the water that threatens Venice’s existence is also what draws hundreds of thousands of tourists here each year. What’s an Italy vacation without a gondola ride and a stroll through St. Mark’s Square? Wandering about Venice can get you lost; but it’s the sights down every alley and waterway that make Venice worth the trip.
Few places on earth can be traveled only by foot or by boat. This car-free city can be enjoyed with a good pair of walking shoes, a camera and a map of Venice. Picturesque palaces line the Grand Canal, which winds through the middle of Venice to St. Mark’s Square.
When to Go
April, May, June, September and October are the most popular times of year to visit. Hotel rooms are hard to find for Carnevale (Carnival), Venice’s most famous festival in spring. Carnevale masks are sold year-round in shops around the city. Venice floods about 60 times a year, normally in March and November. The city is well equipped to handle the flooding, which tends to start in St. Mark’s Square.
How to Get There
By plane, Marco Polo Airport is only six miles away from the city. Cruise to St. Mark’s Square by speedboat or water taxi, or take a bus from the airport to the Piazzale Roma vaporetto stop. Arriving by car from Rome, Milan or Tuscany? Park the rental car in Mestre, then take the train into Venice. Mestre is the industrial center on the mainland side. Hotels are cheaper and there are plenty of parking lots, but there’s little to see. Trains regularly connect Mestre with Venice’s Santa Lucia station along the Grand Canal. Upon arrival, take a vaporetto ride or a long walk to St. Mark’s Square.
Where to Stay
From 4-star hotels to cheap hotels and hostels, Venice offers them all. For an air conditioned room with a private bath, however, expect to pay $150 or more. Save enough spare change to enjoy a gelato, pizza, bar snacks or a Bellini (peace juice with Prosecco wine).
St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) tops any Venice tourism list. It’s nearly the size of two football fields and popular with musicians, lovers, tourists – and hundreds of pigeons. While there, visit St. Mark’s Basilica (dress modestly, with shoulders and knees covered). Take in Venetian paintings at Accademia Gallery and Peggy Guggenheim Museum. See Doge’s Palace. Kiss a loved one atop the Rialto Bridge. Ride an elevator 300 feet to the top of Campanile bell tower for the best view in Venice. And at the end of the day, or somewhere along the way, step aboard a gondola for a truly Venetian experience. Bring plenty of cash to pay your gondolier.