As the train pulled into the station, I couldn’t believe that I was actually in Venice! Our 3 days in Venice was the first stop on our summer vacation that included Munich, Bacharach, Nuremberg, and London. I wanted to experience all that Venice had to offer but still take the time to enjoy “la dolce vita”, and Marty was determined to give me the Venetian experience I had always dreamed of. Suddenly, I started to question our plans. Was three days in Venice enough time?
Our goal was to soak in the romance while discovering the true, authentic Venice, and I will tell you, my friends, that is exactly what we were able to do. Even if you’re trying to do Venice in a day, you can still see several of the great attractions that we have listed for you. Our 3 days in Venice included exploring the beautiful canals by foot and boat, eating some incredible food, stopping at every intriguing alleyway for photographs, sipping wine, meeting locals, and even doing some day trips from Venice.
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Train from Milan to Venice
We arrived in Venice by train from Milan. If you are arriving by train, make sure you travel to the Venezia Santa Lucia station, as this is the train station actually on the island. We hopped off the train at the Santa Lucia station giddy with excitement. The minute we exited the train station, I just stopped and stared in amazement. Venice was even better than I expected.
When you exit the train station, take a minute to soak in all the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Welcome to Venice! Seeing the canals for the first time brought tears to my eyes. I think I instantly fell in love with Venice.
After standing in awe and watching Marty snap like 100 photos, we decided we better go and find our bed and breakfast. We purchased a 3-day pass for the water taxi, and after validating it in the yellow validation box, we boarded the water taxi (vaporetto) and began our journey on the Venice canals.
Where to Stay in Venice
Venice is full of great places to stay. For this trip, we opted for a bed and breakfast that we found on Airbnb, Ca Bella. We love ‘living like the locals’ when we are traveling and Ca Bella sounded perfect for us. If you’ve never tried Airbnb, then please use our link to get $40 off of your first booking!
Following the directions provided by our wonderful host, we found our way to our home for the next few days, Ca Bella, a little 3 room bed and breakfast on the north side of the island. We felt like we were living like the locals staying in this area. We walked down this cute alleyway and then were invited into the small garden of Ca Bella.
If you prefer a hotel, here are some of our recommendations:
Hotel Palazzo Stern– This boutique hotel which was converted from a palazzo is a great place that is centrally located, but far enough away to avoid some of the crowds. Close to the vaporetto and attractions, this makes a great home base for exploring Venice.
Hotel Mercurio Venezia– A more budget-friendly option is the Hotel Mercurio Venezia. Within walking distance to all the attractions, a great breakfast, and rooms overlooking the canals, you’re bound to enjoy your stay here.
After checking into Ca Bella, we walked down to the water by the Fondamente Nove vaporetto stop and found a great place to have pizza and wine. After dinner, the sun was starting to set so we decided to just wander along the water’s edge. We were content to take photos and just enjoy watching the sunset in Venice. The perfect start to our Venetian vacation.
Day 1: Grand Canal Tour, Piazza San Marco, Doge’s Palace
We woke up feeling refreshed and excited to start our first full day in Venice Our B&B included breakfast, so we sat in the cute little garden drinking coffee and munching croissants (with Nutella of course) to fuel up for the day.
Grand Canal Tour
Marty and I decided to get a feel for the island today. Our first order of business, a Grand Canal tour. Since we had already purchased and validated our vaporetto ticket yesterday, we were ready to go.
Cruising the Grand Canal is a great orientation to the city. Start your cruise at the Ferrovia (Santa Lucia train station) stop and board vaporetto #1 or #2. the #1 is the slow boat which takes about 45 minutes to make it’s way to San Marcos, while the #2 boat is the express boat, and can make the journey to San Marcos in about 25 minutes.
Being on the Grand Canal is indescribable. Everywhere you look there are grand palaces and awesome canal-side cafes. Some of my favorite sights included: Mercato Rialto, Ca’Rezzonico, and Salute. Marty was in shutterbug heaven. I don’t remember him coming out from behind his lens at all during the trip. As you’re cruising look closely and you will see that many of the old palaces look empty. Look even closer, and you may notice that several of the ground floors are underwater! The cost of upkeep, coupled with the fact that owners are not allowed to make changes to the buildings make them less appealing to some buyers.
The vaporetto is the cheapest way to cruise the Grand Canal. If you would prefer a more personal experience, with the joy of missing all the stops, then I would recommend you book a private tour of the canals.
Piazza San Marco
We got off of the vaporetto at Saint Mark’s Square. When you arrive, take a deep breath and hang onto your partner in this area. You are sure to be instantly engulfed by a wave of people, specifically tour groups if you are here in the summer like we were.
Making our way through the crowds, and of course, stopping for a few shots in front of The Bridge of Sighs, we made it to Saint Mark’s Square.
Music filled the square from the overpriced cafes, people were sitting all around on the marble stairs, while selfie sticks and pigeons abound. I found myself just standing in awe, looking at the splendor and history of the only square in Venice to earn the title of “Piazza”. (Well, I was standing in awe until I fell like a ton of bricks on those slick marble stairs that surround the square! Be warned, my friends. I think I fractured my tailbone and wrist.)
Doge’s Palace and Correr Museum
After scraping myself (and my pride) up off of the ground, Marty and I decided to tour Doge’s Palace. We really wanted to do the Secret Itineraries Tour of Doge’s, but it was sold out. Don’t let this happen to you. Be sure and book your tours ahead of time. Everyone we talked to who took the Secret Itineraries Tour absolutely loved it.
Since we missed the tour, we purchased a combo ticket for Doges and the Correr Museum. To avoid the long lines, buy your ticket at the Correr Museum which is located in the corner of the square opposite the basilica.
Doge’s Palace was built to show off the power and wealth of Venice, and boy did they succeed. Of course, the highlight of the tour was the famous Bridge of Sighs, where the prisoners would cross on their way to prison. The story states that the prisoners would take one last look at their beloved Venice, and sigh as they crossed the bridge. I love this shot taken from the inside of the bridge showcasing what the prisoners saw looking out onto glorious Venice. I would probably do more than sigh if I were being hauled off to prison.
After leaving Doge’s Palace, we made our way to the Correr Museum. This museum houses a nice collection of Venetian history and art and is home to great views of Saint Mark’s Square. I felt the Correr was well worth our time and was a nice escape from the summer heat.
Having worked up an appetite, we made our way to Calle de la Rasse (a couple of blocks from Doge’s Palace). This street is lined with quick, cheap eats. For lunch, we chose Birreria Forst for a sandwich and some much-needed water. We spent the rest of the evening just wandering the streets of Venice. We had an amazing first day and were already in love with this great city.
Of course on the way back to Ca Bella, we had to grab some gelato!
If you have some extra time, why not check out The Leonardo da Vinci Museum.
Day 2: Rialto Bridge and Market, Burano/Murano, and Cicchetti
Today we got up early to see The Rialto Market in full swing. The Erberia (vegetable market) and the Pescheria (fish market) are open Tuesday through Saturday starting at 8 am and usually closes up around noon.
We chose to walk to the market because Marty is my navigational wizard. Seriously ya’ll, we only got lost once in Venice and that was because we chose to do so. Not many people can claim that. If you are like me and are a little more directionally challenged, you can take the easy route and hop on a vaporetto. Vaporetto lines on the Grand Canal stop at the Rialto, on the left side of the Grand Canal. From the vaporetto platform, head toward the Rialto Bridge, cross over the bridge and then veer to the right.
The Rialto Market amazed me. Since 1097, Venetians have depended on the Rialto Market for fresh fruits, veggies, fish, and other fresh food items. Arriving early lets you have a glimpse of all the action. At the crack of dawn, you will see vendors unloading crates of fruits and vegetables from boats on the waterways, all while delivery men push carts through the crowds of people. Trust me, buy yourself some of the fresh fruit. It is delicious!
Day Trips from Venice: Burano and Murano
After a lovely morning at the market, we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the islands around Venice, specifically Burano and Murano. We chose to use our vaporetto passes to get to the islands, but trust me, the vaporetto to Burano is a SLOW ride. Next time I go, I will definitely book a tour of Burano and Murano.
Arriving in Burano, we were instantly drawn to the colorful houses. The houses were originally painted these bright colors so sailors arriving home could easily see their house through the fog as they approached the island. Today, these colors are “protected” and residents must keep their houses a certain color.
We found Burano to be incredibly charming. There are beautiful lace shops, some with demonstrations, lining the main street. A lace museum is also on the island, but it was closed the day we visited. Take some time to just wander and enjoy Burano. Eat at the cafes and try the delicious desserts available. Burano is a feast for all of your senses.
After leaving Burano, we hopped back on the boat and headed for Murano. Murano is famous for its beautiful glass work. While exploring the island, we met a nice shop owner who explained the process to us and showed us some of his personal pieces. He and his family have lived on the island for generations, all creating beautiful works of glass art.
We had such a fun time visiting these islands. Next time we will definitely check out all of the day trips from Venice.
Cicchetti and Spritz
Having exhausted ourselves, we made our way back to Venice to enjoy a relaxing evening. We decided to try some Cicchetti and spritz tonight. What the heck is Cicchetti you ask? Well, they are small bites that you can find all over Venice at the local bars. Think of them like tapas in Spain. Take note, the Cicchetti selection is best early. Think of it as an appetizer and drink before dinner (or just a cheap, early dinner). I preferred the crostini topped with prosciutto and melon, while Marty liked the deep-fried cheese.
One thing we both liked was the spritz! For me, the spritz was the highlight of the evening. A spritz is made with prosecco and Aperol, a bitter alcohol. It’s this gorgeous orange color and is truly like a party in your mouth. I found the spritz to be so refreshing on a hot summer day in Venice. If you don’t think the spritz is right for you, order a glass of house wine or a beer. House wine (which I found to be really good) and beer can be found all over the island for 1-2 Euros per glass (4 Euros for a liter). I loved watching the locals interact during this “happy hour” ritual. I only wish I spoke more Italian.
To make the Cicchetti experience even better, consider taking a food tour!
Day 3: Shopping, Lido visit, Photo safari
Day 3 was a little more chill for us. At this point, Marty and I had a good feel for the island and were feeling very comfortable.
What is more Venetian than a true Venetian mask? Just note, buyer, beware! Many of the souvenir shops (and some shops that look like genuine mask shops) are selling you imposters made anywhere BUT Venice. A true Venetian mask is a work of art that is still handmade today with skill and artistry.
We found a great mask shop, L’artista della Barbaria very close to Ca’Bella. At L’artista della Barbaria, they still make masks by hand. The owner taught Marty and I the mask making process and walked us through identifying the differences between a true Venetian mask and an imposter. We learned so much, and of course, we walked away with a beautiful souvenir mask that the owner painstakingly wrapped for us so that it wouldn’t get damaged in our backpacks as we continued our travels.
After mask shopping, Marty and I decided to grab our swimsuits and head for the beach, the Lido. The beach is easily accessible by vaporetto lines 51 or 52. Upon arrival at Lido island, exit the vaporetto station and walk straight down the Gran Viale. Along the way, you will pass cozy sidewalk cafes serving up yummy, reasonably priced food. We enjoyed La Pizzeria, which was right by the vaporetto station. La Pizzeria had great pizza at a good price. Continuing down Gran Viale, you will eventually just wind up at the beach.
I have to be honest, we really did not enjoy this excursion all that much. Since cars are allowed on the island, the area loses the charm that you find on Venice. When we arrived at the beach, I was surprised by how dirty it was. I knew that the sand was gritty and the beach would be crowded in the summer, but I was not expecting the amount of trash everywhere. It was truly like people just didn’t bother to throw anything away. We looked around and walked back to town not really spending any time on the beach. It was disappointing.
I would have to recommend taking a tour or visiting a museum instead of visiting the beach.
After visiting the beach (and not taking any pictures), we allowed ourselves to just get lost on the streets of Venice and have a photo safari. While visiting Venice, don’t be embarrassed to stop and take pictures any and everywhere. I see it as a compliment to the beautiful island. I mean, who can resist the charm of Venice.
We had a great time in Venice, and will definitely visit again. We would love to hear from you. Please comment below and let us know what you think of Venice and our suggestions!
Recommended Tours in Venice