Can I just start by saying that if anyone has ever told you that Venice is dirty, crowded, smells and/or is a waste of time — they’re wrong.
Oh so very wrong.
Venice is special. A whole town surviving and thriving on water. Food delivery, taxis, the metro system, ambulances, hotel bellhops, police men & women… all operating via boat. There’s really nothing quite like it.
My husband and I had the privilege of spending 3 days in Venice in late September. Outside of 1 rainy morning and afternoon, we had wonderful weather and especially enjoyed being there after the hot, touristy summer months.
We flew into Venice’s International Airport, Treviso. From there we were easily able to take the (1-hour) ATVO bus directly from the airport to Venezia Piazzale Roma. The (roundtrip) tickets were 22€ each.
Once the bus dropped us off at Venezia Piazzale Roma (the entrance of the city) — we immediately bought metro passes.
Because we are under 29 years of age, we purchased the ROLLING VENICE Pass. This 3-day pass gave us unlimited use of public transportation for 22€ (discounted rate).
If you are older than 29, you can purchase a standard ACTV Pass for however many days needed.
Although this price seems steep (especially when you have heard Venice is also walkable), it ended up being well worth it for us. The passes essentially pay for themselves in 3 trips (especially if you go to the ‘islands’) and are super convenient when you are tired of walking or just want to get across the canal quickly.
We stayed at an AirBnb that was decent — but we do not feel the need to recommend it. Unfortunately, everything is very expensive in Venice. Places to stay are no exception. The good news is, no matter where you stay on the island, it is super easy to get around. So do not feel like you have to stay right next to the city hot spots.
In fact, I regret not choosing a ‘nicer’ place within our budget — further away from the city center.
For our first morning in Venice, we got up early to go check out all of the action at the Rialto Market. I feel like this is where we got a glimpse of the true Venice. The many delivery boats rushing around, the workers unloading all of the imported goods for the day, the hosing down of beautiful fresh fish getting prepared for its new owner.
We love to visit the local markets when traveling — but this one definitely stood out. It’s amazing to witness something so familiar come together in a way you’ve never seen.
After enjoying some fresh breakfast goodies — we slowly made our way to the Rialto Bridge.
The Rialto bridge is the oldest of the 4 bridges spanning the Venetian canals. It has a beautiful design with an even better view — an incredible sight for something constructed in the 1500s. It even has rows of small shops lining the inside steps.
By 10 AM we boarded a water taxi/vaporetto to the Islands of the Lagoon. Knowing we didn’t have time to see all of them, we chose 2 of the most popular stops: Murano and Burano.
Murano is known for glass. Almost every shop on the island makes and sells beautiful hand blown glass creations. We enjoyed window shopping down cobble stone streets and even watching live glass blowing demonstrations (we watched for free @ Fornace Artigiana “Ai Dogi”).
After grabbing a quick pizza at Al Soffiador — we boarded the next vaporetto to Burano!
Burano is traditionally known for lace — but more recently has become a popular travel spot thanks to all of its bright colored buildings!
I mean seriously, this place is a fashion blogger’s dream (we. saw. so. many.)!
We enjoyed wandering around, admiring all the happy storefronts, watching Italian women make lace, and sampling gelato… or two.
Honestly, Murano and Burano are very similar little towns — one specializing in glass, the other in lace. But we have no regrets in seeing both.
If you are in Venice, visiting the “islands” is definitely worth the 20 minute ride across the water. (Especially when it’s free with the metro passes we already had!)
We ended day 1 with a romantic gondola ride at sunset and a late dinner at Muro.
In my opinion, a gondola ride is a must! Yes, it is expensive. Yes, it is a tad bit cheesy. But YES, it is worth it!
The standard fee for a 30-40 minute ride is €80 (and it may be higher after 7PM). (Knowing this coming into our trip was helpful in order to budget for it.)
Trust me, as frugal travelers, dishing out €80 for something that lasts less than an hour didn’t come easy. But once you start to get lost in the almost silent, small canals (DO NOT take a gondola down the main canal), holding hands with the person you love, as the sun slowly sets on the beautiful day in Italy — I promise you will no longer be worried about that €80.
Gondolas were the original form of transportation in Venice. Step in one and allow it to take you back in time.
Side note: We took on a lot on day 1 because the weather was forecasted to be bad our other two days and we didn’t want to take any chances of experiencing the islands or a gondola ride in the rain. All that to say — I would break up this day in 2 parts if possible.
Unfortunately, it rained half of our 2nd day. Luckily, we had planned for this — doing much more than attended on Day 1.
But we still decided to make the most of it. We grabbed an umbrella and slowly strolled through the winding city streets in the pouring rain. There was honestly something so peaceful about this. There was hardly anyone to share the walking lanes with and many cafes welcomed us in for a warm drink or pastry.
The rain gave us a simple, real life view into Venice that was surprisingly refreshing.
We had our favorite lunch at OKE Pizzeria. William even asked if we could eat the rest of our meals there as well, ha!
Once the rain had cleared up, we wandered around getting lost (highly recommend), window shopping (& some buying), and taking pictures of each canal we crossed over.
Before dinner, we enjoyed “appertivo” at Bussola. Appertivo is an Italian tradition that begins early in the evening at many restaurants — similar to a cocktail hour. They will offer drink specials that come with a small snack (sometimes just bread or olives, or sometimes sandwiches with homemade chips). It is much better than a standard American “happy hour” where you might be served some mixed nuts with your beer at a bar.
I highly recommend ordering a “spritz” — an Italian favorite!
We followed appertivo with dinner at Trattoria Rivetta. This restaurant is near Piazza San Marco — and is the perfect opportunity to enjoy it at night!
Thankfully the sun came back out for our third and final day in Venice. In fact, we got up early enough to go watch it rise near the Bridge of Sighs! (Highly recommend).
After witnessing an amazing sunrise we waited with many others for the doors to open to the Rosa Salva bakery! This was a real treat.
We devoured some of the best croissants our taste buds have ever tasted (my favorite was the apricot). William couldn’t stop ordering another coffee and I savored every sip of my freshly juiced carrots and apples. There’s no wonder this place has a line before it’s even open!
After breakfast, we took in the magnificent Saint Mark’s Basilica standing tall on Piazza San Marco.
(Sometimes getting up early has it’s advantages — like beating the crowd!)
Unfortunately, we were unable to make time to go inside the Basilica this trip — but you certainly can. I would recommend getting in line early.
Instead of waiting to go into the cathedral, we opted to go to the top of the Campanile di San Marco (bell tower).
It also is a bit pricey (€8) for something that takes less than an hour — but the views were beautiful.
By Day 3 in Venice — you just start to be okay with the fact that everything seems to be more expensive there. Better to spend a little extra (if you can) than to go home with regrets.
The bell rings on the hour — so I recommend going up accordingly if you want to witness it doin’ its thing (keep in mind waiting time). We were able to get in line as it opened that day — and waited less than 5 minutes.
The 360 views out over the Piazza, the canals, the islands, and the city itself was the perfect way to seal our trip — being reminded of all the beautiful things we had seen, done, and eaten over the last couple of days.
Sure, Venice has some quirks. It’s pricey… the food is average compared to most Italian cities… it does sometimes have a stench from the water. But don’t let these things stop you from making Venice a priority.
The pros far outweigh the cons here.
It’s amazing how quickly and easily you’ll learn your way through the winding streets and fall in love with the Italian traditions and the charm of the water.
Don’t worry Venice — the Fines will always have your back 😉