Venice, the floating city captures the hearts and imagination of tourists. A series of islands separated by canals, linked by bridges it 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 of exploration.
Here are the most vivid memories from our trip 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.
Is Venice Really Sinking?
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. I say, don’t wait for Venice to become Atlantis. 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.
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 our 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.
Best Way to Get Around Venice
Arriving in Venice by train means stepping out of the station, to the poetically iconic Canal Grande.
People bustle by and scurry into lines to board the expedient and cost-effective vaporetti. Venice’s public transit ferries. The travel brave can jump right into the cue and land at Rialto Bridge in under 20 minutes.
One of the most remarkable things about Venice, is with no cars, bikes or wheels of any kind permitted on the tiny streets, it’s quiet. Small waves in the canals, distant chatter and footsteps are all that can be heard for those who brave the streets beyond Rialto.
My Husband, Artist Paolo Ferraris created art based on memories walking through Venice at night.
Venice Is Safe to Explore at Night
From our hotel window, I watch the foot traffic below. Tourists and locals passed by unaware of my presence. From my seat I witnessed a Gypsy admiring a small necklace before sliding it into her large sweater pocket. Pickpockets are really the worst worry for tourist while in Venice.
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.
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. Second rule, 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 Chicchetti. 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.
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 it’s 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.
Baccalà is thankfully everywhere in Venice and at it’s 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 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.
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.
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.
- Two People Die as Venice Floods at Highest Level in 50 Years – The Guardian
- Is Venice Sinking? – by Rick Stevens