Pro tips for your next trip to Italy
When I ask people where in Europe they would want to go, the top answer is always Italy. And Venice is one of the most-requested cities out there! Maybe it’s the romantic gondola rides, or the architecture, the masks, the music, or the incredible food. Whatever it is, I want to give you a heads-up of what to expect when you travel to Venice.
Venice: city of canals
Venice is a city best explored by water. With 150 canals running through the city, there is just as much to see by boat as there is on foot. The city itself was built on several small, marsh-like islands, which helped to create the intricate canal system and floating city effect. In Venice, the canals are treated like streets and still serve a functional purpose for resident Venetians.
Gondolas in Venice
When you picture Venice, you undoubtedly picture a gondola floating along the canals. These carefully designed boats date back to the 11th century and were once used as the primary form of transportation between the islands. Gondoliers represent one of the oldest trades in Venice, and they must complete rigorous training before they can take tourists around the canals.
Getting around Venice is surprisingly easy. Once you arrive, you will find no shortage of boats to take you around canals. Hop on the Vaporetto for quick and easy transport along the Grand Canal and neighboring islands. If you want something a little more efficient than a gondola but more relaxed than the Vaporetto, look for the classic Venetian water taxis. Some even offer private tours.
Must-see sites in Venice
Some of the must-see sights in Venice are not as old as the city itself. In 2017, a sculpture of two giant hands supporting the Ca'Sagredo Hotel along the Grand Canal was unveiled. See this incredible work of art for yourself when you visit Venice.
As you walk around, you'll notice motifs of a winged lion on the walls, pedestals, in churches, and museums. Representing the evangelist and patron saint, St. Mark, the winged lion holding a bible has been the symbol of Venice for centuries.
The Piazza San Marco in Venice is one of the most historically significant locations in the city. If you stand in the middle and look around, you will find yourself surrounded by significant landmarks of Venetian history. The San Marco Basilica is unmistakable, but take notice of the three flagpoles in front. They are former ship's masts that once represented the kingdoms Venice conquered. The Florian, on the perimeter of the piazza, is also considered to be the oldest café in Europe.
After spending time getting wonderfully lost on the streets of Venice, head to higher ground for a more scenic view. Atop the Campanile di San Marco, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city below, along with the lagoon, Piazza San Marco, and neighboring islands. Originally built as a lighthouse, this 323-foot bell tower is a great place to start or finish your day.
Also known as the City of Masks, Venice has an alluring and romantic reputation associated with masks that is centuries-old. What has now become a fun souvenir was once part of Venetian daily life. Masks were widely used to conceal the wearer's identity and social status. Today ornate masks are worn mostly during Carnival celebrations, and you'll even see people dressed in traditional Venetian costumes.
Choosing a mask in Venice is as personal as it is aspirational. With about seven different styles of Venetian masks, it is vital to understand the meaning as well as the style. The Bauta mask is traditionally white and covers the entire face, while the famous Colombian mask covers only half the face and is highly decorated. And the medico della peste with its long beak was traditionally worn by doctors to prevent the spread of disease!
Part of the charm of Italy comes from the music that can be heard on every street corner. Fall into the rhythm of the day as you venture through the city. With live music all over the city, don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting to dance in the piazza. The music serenades you as you explore the magical city of Venice.
Desserts in Venice
Italy is known for delicious pasta and decadent desserts, and Venice is no exception. Cited as the home for many fan favorites, including the Bellini, Venice is a food lover's dream. After indulging in a plate of risotto al nero di seppia, be sure to save room for a delectable fruit tart, gelato, or fritole, which is a fried doughnut that is popular in the region.
Imagine sitting down at a café after a long day of walking around Venice and having your first taste of authentic Italian tiramisu. This light yet rich dessert is an Italian classic. Made with espresso-soaked ladyfingers and layered with airy mascarpone creme, tiramisu is the perfect treat to reward yourself with at the end of your day. Can't wait until dinner? Go ahead and have it with lunch. You won't be the only one!
Venice is well known for having some festive and unique holidays. The Venice Carnival, which takes place in February, is perhaps the most well-known with its masked balls and parades. The Festa della Sensa is a traditional holiday in Venice, celebrating the relationship between the city and the sea. The Dodge would parade out and toss a ring into the sea to seal the marriage, but today the procession is led by the mayor, and a symbolic wreath is placed in the lagoon.
Venice is a magical destination. Let me know if you’d like to experience this incredible city on the water, and I’ll help you get there—and not miss a thing!