Venice, Italy. Bellissimo! Bellissimo is the absolute superlative of the adjective “bello” (meaning that there’s nothing better at all). So, when I say “questo città è bellissimo” it translates to “this city is very, very, very beautiful”. Bellissimo Venice!
I add the exclamation point because Venice holds a special place in my heart, although the spot wasn’t easily won. On our first visit to Venice I was less than impressed. I even suggested (I cringe to even think of this now!) that we leave early and go back across the lagoon to our lodging and scrap all of this Venetian hype. What on earth was I thinking?
In my defense, it was in July (brutally hot and humid) and at the tail end of a two year (very exhausting) travel odyssey. My travel spirit was as limp as my hair in the muggy heat and even the lovely and mysterious Venetian masks shyly peeking from inside busy workshops couldn’t lure me in. Imaginative Murano glass pieces, delightfully cool to the touch, weren’t enough to entice me to stay.
We only spent one afternoon with pistachio gelato melting in our cups as we posed with hordes of others on the bridges; but…somehow a tiny speck of that Venetian magic wove it’s way into our souls. Maybe it was simply sipping icy cold white wine at busy cafe while watching an iconic wooden launch deliver pizzas back and forth on a side canal. Or the smiling family with their dog boating out to catch a glowing sunset in the lagoon who wished us a “buona sera” as they cruised by on the inky canal.
I’m not exactly sure what it was that brought us back, but I’m so very happy it did.
We’ve now returned to Venice several times and with each visit I get that “Christmas-morning” feeling of excitement whether we come in by train or plane. The light is perfect. She welcomes you with peeling plaster, musty aromas and window boxes overflowing with pink petunias. Labyrinth streets beg for you to ditch the map and wander. What will you find around the next corner? An open square with children happily chasing pigeons? Or a quiet mapmaker’s shop with dusty windows and a bespectacled proprietor busy at his craft?
In Venice, getting lost is the key to finding yourself. Give yourself the time to wander.
In this fascinating city there are many sights you’ll not want to miss, like an early visit to St. Marks Cathedral before the crowds arrive or the Rialto Fish Market, but also take the time to listen to Venice as she breathes the tides and times.
Here are 30 photos to convince you to add Venice, Italy to your travel list. Whether you go for romance, history or just to see the city before it’s underwater – hopefully these travel pictures will help you decide! Be sure to check out our Tips for Venice Visitors after the photos.
Tips for Venice Visitors
Opt out of the hotel and stay in a Venetian apartment. It’s possible to have your own flat for even less than the price of a hotel room. We use AirBnB (save $40 on your first stay) and have found this to be the perfect way to “live Venice” while we’re visiting. Having your own kitchen allows forays to find hidden bakeries with delicate sugary delicacies and cheese shops with so many choices it makes your mouth water.
Explore “off-the-beaten-canal” neighborhoods. Cannaregio is our favorite of the six districts making up Venice proper. The historic Jewish Ghetto is less frequented by tourists during the busy summer months and is perfect for finding excellent spots to enjoy true Venetian ambiance. (Sitting on a canal barge at El Timon for wine and cicchetti is a treat. You’ll be surrounded by locals with their dogs – and petting is encouraged!)
Eating in Venice does not have to be expensive. As I mentioned above, by staying in a Venetian apartment having your own kitchen makes it possible to occasionally enjoy a fresh meal you make yourself. The sheer choice of freshly made pastas in the local grocery amazes me every visit.
And because eating out in Venice is such a treat, you must try the cicchetti! These may be small sandwiches of paper-thin prosciutto, layers of colorful vegetables atop a slice of crostini, a tender fried meatball (polpette) or a seafood spread so salty you’ll need 2 glasses of wine to wash it down. These tapas-like offerings are inexpensive and you’ll find them all over the city at the traditional bàcari or osteries.
Frequent a shop (vinae) that makes their own wine and be fascinated when the owner explains how he’ll fill the plastic water bottle you’re carrying with pure deliciousness for pennies. Beware – this vino sfuso (young wine) is terribly addicting. In fact, the first thing we do once we’re settled in is to go to our favorite vinae and stock up.
Shop the Rialto Market in the early morning hours like Ernest Hemingway did and rub shoulders with trusted kitchen staff from Venice’s finest restaurants as they choose the freshest produce directly as it’s unloaded from the boats. Try a spice you’ve never tasted before or simply sit back and watch the theater of Venetians as they shop.
Visit Venice, Italy during Carnivale (in the cold!) and see what all the fuss is about. (We’re going for the first time in 2017, so stay tuned!)
Get up before the sun rises and hop on a vaporetto, your magic carpet to the canals. Pick up a multi-day pass when you arrive and you’ll have no excuse to see Venice as she was meant to be seen – from the waterside.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little photo tour of one of our favorite cities and like the cicchetti, I hope it whets your appetite to visit Venice, Italy yourself very soon!