There’s no place in the world quite like Venice, Italy which is probably one of the reasons it’s one of the top tourist destinations in Europe. It’s a fascinating, pedestrian city that draws about 20 million tourists per year. The city is located in northeastern Italy and is the capital of the Veneto region. Built on an archipelago of 117 islands that sit in a lagoon connected by 409 bridges, Venice is best visited on foot or by using the vaporetti (basically Venice’s water bus system).
Why to go: It’s such a unique experience being in a city that has no cars! Beyond that, though, there’s also so much history, many sites and shops to explore. And if you’re a fan of huge crowds, you might want to be there, along with the 3 million other tourists, for Carnival – one of the city’s biggest events. This is where you’ll see all of those beautiful Venetian masks put into action. Venice is also home to the world’s oldest film festival, held during August/September.
When to go: As with many European destinations, Spring and Fall are probably the most pleasant times to be in Venice. Summer can be hot and very crowded on those narrow walkways and alleys and Winter can be a bit dreary. If you want to avoid big crowds, avoid going during Carnival. Also keep in mind that Venice can get very messy when it rains, so plan ahead if possible. One other unique situation to be aware of in this city is the “Acqua Alta” (high tides). Occasionally a high tide will raise the water level above the street level resulting in a need to find higher dry routes. Conveniently, the tourist offices can provide maps indicating those alternate routes.
How to go: No matter what form of transportation you use to arrive you’re going to end up either in a boat of some type or on foot. You can take a water taxi or vaporetto to the stop closest to your hotel but you’ll have to walk from there. If you’ll be travelling with lots of suitcases or are concerned about transporting them across the cobblestone, make sure you keep that in mind when choosing your hotel location. Of course, gondola is another option for getting around this city but it’s more of an expensive tourist trap than a convenient mode of transportation.
Where to go: Once situated at your hotel, get out and wander. Getting lost is part of the charm of Venice and you’ll see signs posted indicating the direction of certain landmarks that will help you navigate your way. When prioritizing your list of “must-sees” for your visit, don’t overlook the islands just a short boat ride away. Two of the most well-known are Burano (with its colorful buildings and handmade lace) and Murano (famous around the world for “Venetian glass” and where you can witness a demonstration of the glass-blowing). Both are easily accessible by regularly scheduled boats to/from Venice.
What to eat and/or drink: As you would expect for a city on the water, Venetian cuisine includes seafood. One trademark is cuttlefish and its black ink which you’ll see used across the menu in a variety of ways – look for “nella seppia” or “alla seppia”. To accompany your meals, enjoy a Spritz (a typical local drink), Prosecco (Venetian style sparkling wine) or a Bellini (a sweet aperitif invented in Venice made from Prosecco and white peach juice).