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How to Tour Venice

Ponte di Rialto bridge Venice Italy - grand canal at blue hour

Inspired by the recent list of do’s and don’ts for tourists, compiled by the city of Venice, we here at Tour Italy Now have come up with a few insider tips of our own for how to tour Venice.

“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go” Truman Capote

With almost 20 million visitors a year, the watery city of Venice is one Italy’s most popular destinations. Venice can be confusing and crowded and even a little overwhelming. With our advice, you can make the most out of your visit to Venice.

The city is known as La Serenissima, meaning The Most Serene Republic of Venice, recalling a time when Venice was a powerful, independent, city state.

Sestieri: Venice is divided into six neighborhood districts called sestieri. Each one has a different feel and flavor.

San Marco is where most of the famous tourist sites like Saint Mark’s Square and the Doges Palace, are located.

The commercial district of San Polo is where you can find the Rialto market which has been operating since the 11th century.

If it is art you are seeking, head to the elegant Dorsoduro. Overlooking the island of Giudecca, this is where the Accademia galleries and the Peggy Guggenheim collections are. Take an evening stroll on the nearby Zattere promenade.

Cannaregio is home to the Jewish ghetto. The word ghetto originates from this place, where in 1516, the Venetian Republic instituted restrictions on the Jewish community. Don’t miss the Tintoretto filled church, Madonna dell’Orto.

Escape the maddening crowds and head to residential areas of Santa Croce and Castello. Wander the quiet calle (streets) and campi (squares). The Biennale Pavillions and The Arsenale are in Castello.

Getting Around: There are over 400 bridges in Venice. Only four of these bridges cross over the Grand Canal. They are the Rialto Bridge, the Accademia Bridge and the Scalzi Bridge and the newest, the Calatrava Bridge. You may find yourself want to cross at different points or longer distances.  Since there are no cars anywhere in Venice, you will have to go by boat.

The most economical choice is a Vaporetto, the public water bus. Buy a ticket at the dock station or from a tabacchi or newsstand.

Venice Italy

One of the most iconic images of Venice is of a couple being piloted slowly along a picturesque canal in a Gondola. Built from nine different types of wood and little changed since the 12th century, a ride in a gondola, in Venice, is on most people’s must do list.  Rides are regulated and last for 40 minutes for up to 6 people for €80. Full details here.

In the Squero di San Trovaso, you can see the last remaining gondola workshops.

Andare alle Ombre: The story goes that wine seller used to place their barrels in the shade of the bell tower in Saint Marks Square to keep them out of the heat of the sun. This is how the phrase andare alle ombre – let’s meet in the shade – came to mean meeting for a drink and a snack in Venetian dialect.

Cocktail hour in Venice happens in Bacari, simple wine bars are where you go for a glass of wine, ombre  or a spritz, and a snack, cicchetti. A spritz is a refreshing mix of Campari or the less bitter Aperol, prosecco, sparkling water, orange peel and ice. Cicchetti are small plates of snack. As Venice is so close to the sea, you will find many seafood dishes like, fried calamari and baccalà mantecato, a creamy blend of codfish, olive oil and garlic. Tiny meatballs and small dishes of risotto are also popular. This a great option for an early dinner, as Bacari are open from about 6:00 – 9:00pm.

Now that you know which neighborhood is which, how to move around and where to eat like a Venetian, stay tuned for some of Tour Italy Now’s picks for our favorite summer events and museums.

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By Priscila Siano (266 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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