First Trip Tips for Three Days in Venice

What to expect from your first trip to Venice, Italy. From navigating and nighttime safety tips to knowing where to eat!
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Venice, the floating city captures the hearts and imagination of tourists. A series of islands separated by canals linked by bridges Venice makes for the ultimate romantic getaway. Just steps away from the main squares, crowds thin, streets shrink and the entire city becomes a maze lined with art, food, and wine, ripe for exploration.

Here are the most vivid memories from our trips to Venice and the recommendations we’ve been making to family and friends ever since. Plus, a look at Paolo Ferraris Colors art inspired by none other than Venice. I count myself extremely fortunate to have found a partner who shares my passion for travel, food, and wine. One of our many trips was to Venice, the incredible floating city. Or sinking, depending on who you ask.

First Trip Tips for Three Days in Venice

Encroaching tides and sunken streets render maps somewhat useless in Venice. In other words, if you have always wanted to see Venice, don’t wait. Seize life. Grab hold with one hand and with the other grab a glass of wine to toast your wisdom in not counting on tomorrow.

Is Venice Really Sinking?

Yes, Venice is really sinking. More accurately Venice continues to battle rising sea levels today, just as it has since the fifth century. Family friends of ours have a home in Venice and it floods several times a year. Come October they know to watch for acqua alta (high waters). In November of 2019, acqua alta caused a state of emergency making national news as the worst floods to hit Venice in 50 years. Irreparable damage was done and lives were lost as more than 85% of Venice was flooded. You can still visit Italy during the winter months but do be prepared to walk across elevated sidewalks created by a series of wooden benches placed in popular tourist areas like St. Mark’s Square. The photo below shows a typical level of flooding seen in Venice when the tide comes in high without a major storm.

Image of Flooding in Venice, Italy
Venice Struggling to be the Floating City

Best Way to Get Around Venice

One of the most remarkable things about Venice is that there are no cars, bikes, or wheels of any kind permitted on the tiny streets. Consequently, Venice can actually be pretty peaceful outside of the major tourist areas. Small waves lapping canal walls, distant chatter, and footsteps are all that can be heard when exploring streets beyond the Rialto bridge. The true treasures of Venice lie in these quiet corners. Finding them is as easy as public transit. In Venice, public transit is on the water. Enter the Vaporetti Venice’s public transit ferries. The most efficient, cost-effective method of transportation in Venice. While tourists head toward gold-gilded gondolas the poetically iconic Canal Grande, those serious about exploring all Venice have to offer, opt for Vaporetti.

The Gold Of Canal Grande
The Gold Of Canal Grande by Paolo Ferraris Colors

Is Venice Safe to Explore at Night?

Another remarkable thing about Venice, is that it’s a very safe city to explore, even at night. Paolo created an entire series based on memories of walking through Venice at night. Venice is a safe city, even during Carnival. Although minding steps near canal edges is always recommended. As waters rise and recede, walkways become slick and curious tourists peering into the water have been known to take a dive in the canal.

Casanova by Paolo Ferraris Colors
Casanova by Paolo Ferraris Colors
Desdemona & Emilia by Paolo Ferraris Colors
Desdemona & Emilia by Paolo Ferraris Colors

How to Navigate Venice

There are two great ways to find your way around Venice. The first is to get lost. It’s a small city that’s safe to explore on foot. With hotels dotting every few blocks, directions with emphatic gestures can always be found, when truly lost.

The second, believe it or not, is Google Maps which is detailed enough to follow, weaving in and out of narrow passages. Pro traveler tip. Download Google Maps to your phone ahead of time! Here are simple instructions: How to Download Google Maps for Offline GPS.

Where to Eat in Venice On a Budget

The first rule, when in Italy, rely on the Slow Food App. It’s never guided us wrong. The second rule, is never eat in the main square in a tourist destination. This holds especially true in Venice. Those who remain canal side in Rialto are doomed to eat overpriced pizza, pasta, and pastry that in no way, represent the best Venice has to offer.

In Venice, you want seafood fresh from the lagoon, baccalà, polenta, and Cicheti or Cicchetti. A local traditional appetizer lining the counters of bars all over Venice.

Osteria Alla Staffa, nestled in the back half of San Marco, is an eleven-minute walk from Rialto. A mix of tourists seated at tables and locals standing at the bar, happily lift small glasses of white wine while trying the evening’s Cicheti.

Cicchetti Osteria Alla Staffa
Cicchetti Osteria Alla Staffa

A bottle of house wine is fairly priced at 12€. On our visit, my Husband went straight for the Octopus, I straight for the Anchovy. Each bite was balanced perfectly but simply, fresh white bread soaked up fatty, salty, bright, briny bites.

Next up a Cuttlefish Stew that our friendly host joked he would jump in the lagoon if we did not like. For it had simmered six hours before we arrived. The rich, unctuous, tender squid akin fish that had cooked in its own ink did not disappoint and in fact fostered a frenzied eating pace as my Husband and I launched into a battled for each bite.

At Trattoria Antiche Carampane, try baked white polenta, caramelized and delicious. Half the fun of finding this restaurant is its proximity to Ponte Delle Tette a bridge that would send any man back to high school humor since it basically means Bridge of the Tits.

White Polenta Two Ways and Bacallà
White Polenta Two Ways and Baccalà

Baccalà is thankfully everywhere in Venice and at its best in All’Arco. It was as if the Cod, instead of being caught, air-dried and cured in salt, fell asleep on a perfectly crisp crostini and dreamed itself in a whipped, creamy spread.

If the weather calls for dining al fresco, try Al Prosecco where the locals stroll by in Campo San Giacomo da l’Orio. Prosecco with a cheese and charcuterie platter is not to be missed.


Least Crowded Areas in Venice

Venice is made up of six sestiere (neighborhoods.) San Marco with its historic piazza and Saint Marks Basilica is where most tourist cluster. More introverted travelers will enjoy getting lost in the Giudecca. This section of Venice is full of churches and beautiful sweeping views of the canal.

Compared to the rest of Venice, the Giudecca is residential. Streets are empty on the weekends and shops stay closed during the day. It might sound boring but it’s a great way to get a feel for where the locals live.

Slow Stroll on Giudecca by Paolo Ferraris Colors
Slow Stroll on Giudecca by Paolo Ferraris Colors

It’s also home to the old Molino Stucky mill which has been converted into a Hilton Hotel. It was here on the top of the hotel, in the Skyline bar where I truly fell in love with Venice.

This is the best sunset view in Venice. As evening lights reflect on the water, Venice comes alive. Gondolas, vaporetti, and countless small boats pass each other into the night in beautiful, orchestrated chaos.

Molino Stucky by Paolo Ferraris Colors
Molino Stucky by Paolo Ferraris Colors

Whatever you do in Venice, you almost can’t go wrong. Yes follow the tourist guides and see San Marco Square. Visit the famed and stunning Saint Marks Basilica. But make sure you leave plenty of time to get to Molino Stucky to catch the best sunset in Venice.

Boy with the red backpack by Paolo Ferraris Colors
Boy with the red backpack


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