24 Hours in Venice: Take the Romance, Hold the Hassle

If you’ve only got a short stay in Venice, one of Europe’s most romantic cities, don’t despair. The best sights and the atmosphere of Venice can be yours in as little as 24 hours— as long as you plan it right. Read on for tips on getting the most from a quick trip to Venice.

Before You Go

Some of the most important parts of having a great short trip occur before you even head to the airport or train station. First, you’ve got to know where you’ll be sleeping so you don’t waste any time booking a room. Venice is a busy city most of the year, so it’s worth it to book ahead. Hotels are plentiful, but insiders recommend searching for a bed and breakfast in Venice — the more intimate feel of a B&B matches the difference in intimacy between a big showstopper city like Rome and the more modest Venice. It’s also a good idea to get a city map before you enter it and mark all of the places you want to visit. This way, your orientation in the city will be easier and faster.

Morning

Whether you stay the night before in Venice or arrive via train or plane in the morning, the hours before noon are a special time. Wander the lanes with your camera, catching the morning sun on the water and cobblestones. Venture to the Rialto Market for a gander at a shopping experience many centuries in the making. Boatloads of items for sale come in to the market, to be sold in tiny and sprawling stalls. If you haven’t succumbed to a coffee shop along the way for your breakfast — tiny cups of espresso and flaky Italian pastries are great anywhere in the city — you could pick up cheese and salami to pair with bread for a snack after the market.

Mid-Morning

A visit to Venice is not complete without stopping by the Piazza San Marco and its breathtaking Byzantine basilica. The basilica’s interior is covered in gold and stone mosaics — an unforgettable sight. The piazza, basilica and nearby Doge’s Palace make up the Venice of movies and legend. Spend an hour or two wandering here and marveling at the architecture and history.

Afternoon

It’s time to get out on the water. For budget travelers, this can mean a quick hop on the vaporetti (water buses) as they ply the Grand Canal and lagoon. For those with bigger budgets, especially if you’ve never been to Venice before, try a gondola. Relax into the sound of the water around you, and contemplate how water and boats played a key part in making Venice a merchant city so important in Mediterranean history. Most people wait until afternoon to take to the canals, so beat the rush and do it before lunch.

Mid-Afternoon

Once you’ve seen the land from the sea, stop at the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari Church, dating from the 14th century and famous for its painting by Titian of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the event the church is dedicated for. From there, it’s not a far walk to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a museum that houses some of the best in modern art and provides a nice counterpoint to the centuries-old architecture you’ve seen elsewhere.

Evening

Dine late, like the Italians do and stop at a bacari, or Venetian wine bar for your evening repast. Instead of ordering one meal at one sitting, bacari are made for a tapas-like experience where you eat here and there, and people-watch all the while. There are some quality eateries offering these cicchetti snacks near the Rialto market. Be forewarned some of these places are standing-room only, so make sure you’ve got comfortable footwear.

About the Author: Bettina Burton is a chef who trained in Italy 20 years ago. Since then, she’s made it her life’s goal to visit every major city in the country.

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