This is was what our airbnb host, Roberto, told us when we dropped our luggage on the floor of our apartment. We had just traveled for over 36 hours, with a 9 hour layover in Philly then again in London, taken a bus in the rain, a water taxi shuttle, and then carried our luggage up four flights of stairs.
Our host had greeted us on time, chatted about NBA basketball and one of his favorite teams (a fellow Spurs fan!), gave us several tips of where to eat and what to do during our stay. But his last and most important tip? To simply get lost. After spending 5 full days there, it is still the best advice I would give for visiting Venice!
Many people might say Venice is overrated or overpriced. We absolutely loved every minute of our stay there! It is what you make it, and since we went in an off season, we did not battle as many crowds as I have heard other people have had to deal with.
The scenery is exactly like you see in the movies. It is so easy to take a photo every time you cross a bridge or stroll by a cafe. The streets are narrow, the buildings old, and all of it is interwoven with sidewalks of water.
I didn't realize that there would be zero cars once inside the island of Venice, but yes, there really aren't cars. Stores get new shipments and groceries receive their produce via delivery from strong people pulling a huge cart up and down stairs and navigating through tiny alleyways.
Our days were spent getting breakfast at a cafe with a cappuccino and pastry of some sort, walking around and exploring a museum, church, or other point of interest, eating a few mini sandwiches for lunch, walking, enjoying an afternoon spritz at another cafe, walking/exploring again, then eating dinner wherever looked good. We took things slow, never in a hurry to be somewhere and not really having a plan besides the small list of things we wanted to see while we were there.
While Venice has been on my list of places to visit one day, the main reason we went when we did was because we found cheap flights (around $400 round trip!!). If you like to have a jam packed trip with lots to do, five days may be a little too long to stay in Venice. Other people we talked to who were visiting also traveled to Florence for a few days after staying in Venice. I would love to do that next time!
If you ever get the opportunity to visit to Venice, here are my tips of everything to do!!
Where we stayed:
- Airbnb - Every time we travel abroad (especially Europe) we try to stay in a local apartment to get the best experience possible. We loved our airbnb in Venice!! It was on a fourth floor walk up, but this only meant the views were stunning. It was also surprisingly quiet! Way bigger, quieter, and nicer than our apartment back in NYC. : p
Our host was very friendly, easy to communicate with, and gave us tips on what to do while in Venice. I loved waking up every morning to the rooftop views of Venice and it felt like we actually were locals while we stayed there. Another benefit to renting an airbnb is that it will usually be so much cheaper (and bigger) than a hotel. You can also cook in the kitchen which allows you to save money and experience Venetian produce!
Where we dined:
- Osteria Giorgione - This place was a little pricey but the food was definitely delicious! We had gnocchi and ravioli and both were so flavorful and fresh tasting. Before the main course, we devoured a bag of breadsticks with our spritz. It was not too crowded when we arrived but by the time we left it was full!
- Osteria ai Promessi Sposi - We ate here twice! This was very close to our airbnb and everything we had here was incredible. The menu is in Italian but the waitstaff was very helpful in translating whatever we had questions on. I looked at their menu ahead of time online so kind of knew what I wanted going into it, but if you don’t know just ask! The first night we went there they were full, so we just made a reservation for the next night. We tried the spaghetti with clams, pumpkin lasagna, bucatini with guanciale, and the grilled branzino. All of it was SO good.
- Dal Moro’s Fresh Pasta to Go - While not the best pasta I have ever had, it is affordable and convenient. Everything in Italy and Europe is sit down, so finding something to go is rare. It was a fun experience and worth visiting. I had the carbonara and Kyle had a tomato based sauce with pork.
- Al Merca- They may not look that impressive, but these sandwiches were one of my favorite things we ate our entire time in Venice! The meats and cheeses were so fresh. It’s super affordable too!
- Serra Dei Giardini - There are so many cute cafes all throughout Venice were you can get a cappuccino for under two Euros and a Spritz for practically the same. Any of them should be good, but one cafe we found stood out because it was tucked away in a greenhouse inside of a park! We loved the tiramisu here and the large windows and nature views.
Things to see:
- Doge's Palace - This place is absolutely gorgeous and massive. Each room is a work of art. The coolest (and creepiest) part was getting to tour the prisons too!
- Canal Grande - This will give you an open view of Venice, and is what you probably picture from all the movies. Day or night, it is beautiful!
- Basilica di San Marco - I'm not sure what is more impressive; the exterior of this church or the interior. A bunch of reviews mentioned a very long line, but I think we got lucky because we only waited about 20 minutes to get inside. There is a long line once you get inside to see a back section of the church that you have to pay to see - we didn't really think this part was worth it but it may be for you. Make sure to revisit again at night. The piazza is flooded and the lights reflect along the water (don't worry, there is a raised sidewalk to walk around it).
- Ponte di Rialto - Another classic view of Venice and a stunning bridge to boot. There are even shops on the bridge! This area was pretty crowded when we went but it was worth looking over the bridge, taking a few pictures, then walking to the other side.
- Mercati di Rialto - My favorite thing to do when visiting other countries/cities is to go to their local market and grocery stores! I could have spent half a day here. There are so many fruits and vegetables, unique spices, fish (an actual swordfish head with the spear attached!?), and just overall excitement. We bought some produce and salmon here and cooked dinner at our apartment one night.
- Libreria Acqua Alta - If you love books, this unique and quirky bookstore is a must see. It can get crowded (as with everything in Venice!) but it is an easy place to get lost looking at all the books, trinkets, and just overall setup.
- Museo Leonardo da Vinci - We weren't expecting much when walking into this museum, but were surprised with how much is packed inside. The second floor contains dozens of da Vinci's inventions built from his sketches. It was fascinating to see how advanced he was for the time period. Nobody was there either, so it was a nice escape from the other busy attractions!
- Opera!! I'm not sure of the exact opera that we saw, but it was our favorite night of the trip!
- I've talked to a few people since our trip as well as beforehand who visited during the summer and they did not have a very good experience. In summer it is super crowded, hot, and well...crowded. I highly recommend going in the off season like we did so you can actually enjoy walking around. You may experience some rain (we definitely did!) but I think it was so worth it to avoid long lines and crowds! The streets are too narrow to deal with lots of people.
- Make sure to step inside any church that you walk by. They are (usually) free and contain extremely historic art pieces you would be paying money to see in other museums. Plus the architecture is always jaw dropping!
- This is a no brainer, but always try to initially speak at least a few phrases in Italian when you are ordering or asking a question. Not only is it polite, but it will almost always guarantee a smile and better service!
- If it rains a lot, expect some flooding! For real, our first night there, we left a restaurant and the streets were flooded. The walk back to our airbnb apartment was ankle deep. It proved to us firsthand that Venice is in fact, flooding. :(
- We didn't ride a gondola. It did not seem worth the money to us. If you just have to ride one and it is half the reason why you visited Venice, make sure to go first thing in the morning to avoid gondola traffic!
- Eat gelato everyday, drink a bellini and/or a spritz, and just get lost!