An Extensive Guide to Venice


Travel Guide to Venice, Italy, Grand Canal, Gondola

With its glittering canals, opulent Venetian architecture, and rich history, Venice is a world-class destination. This romantic city is the perfect place to get wonderfully lost, exploring hidden gems and smaller canals along the way.
"The Floating City" is more dreamlike than you could imagine. This ancient and historically important region was originally built on 100 small islands in the Adriatic Sea. With canals where streets should be, water shimmers everywhere. The magnificent churches and palaces, squares and museums, amazing restaurants and beautiful shops reflect centuries of great artistic and cultural importance.

TOP ATTRACTIONS IN VENICE


St. Mark's Square

Piazza San Marco is considered one of the finest squares in the world and certainly Venice's prime attraction. Saint Mark’s Basilica is a treasure of history, art, and faith globally. The square and basilica combined form one of the most iconic and recognizable scenes in the Western world – be sure to take a moment and soak in the beauty.

Being the widest flat, open land in the water-bound city, it has long been a popular meeting place for Venetians and visitors alike. The Piazza's rectangle design was once a showcase for the city's aristocracy and is most impressive from its sea approach – a reminder of Venice's centuries-old legacy as a powerful maritime republic.


Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)

One of Europe's most beautiful and easily recognizable buildings, the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) was not only the center of government during the Venetian Republic but also the residence of the Doge. The Doge's first palace was a wretched, gloomy wooden fortress with massive defensive towers, and after several fires, the castle was converted into a Byzantine-style palace. The one you see today was built mainly in the 14th century, and the façade overlooking the Piazzetta dates from the first half of the 15th century.

Although the palace is now a museum, unlike most museums, these paintings were created especially to decorate the Doge's Palace, not added later. The art, iconic beauty, and interesting history of the Doge's Palace make it one of Venice's must-see attractions.


Bridge of Sighs

If you haven't already seen it, before you enter Doge's Palace for a tour, walk to the end of the façade on the Grand Canal side for a look at one of the most famed of all Venetian icons, Ponte dei Sospiri - the Bridge of Sighs. The graceful curve and delicate stone tracery of the enclosed Baroque arch bridge connecting the Doge's Palace with the first floor of the prison disguise its grim story. It was through the stone grillwork of this bridge that prisoners caught their last glimpse of Venice as they were taken before the judges for sentencing, thence to prison or worse. The sentences given by Venetian judges were known to be as unmerciful as the laws of the Republic.

TIP: If you want to view the Bridge of Sighs, the best vantage point is from the Ponte della Paglia bridge.


St. Mark’s Basilica | After-Hours Tour w/ Venice Highlights

St. Mark’s Basilica houses more than 85,000 square feet of mosaic…enough mosaic to cover over 1.5 football fields! The mosaics were created over 8 centuries, mostly in gold, and the result is astonishing. The best time to visit St. Mark's Basilica is on a night tour, to see the stunning golden domes glow, leaving you breathless. Click HERE to book the "Exclusive Evening Access to St. Mark’s Basilica Tour."


The Grand Canal

Venice’s most treasured boulevard, the Grand Canal is a 2.4-mile strip of glistening water dotted with gondolas, vaporettos, and tragettis. Considered Venice’s "busiest street," The Grand Canal divides the city of Venice into 2 halves. Sail down the Grand Canal through centuries of Venetian history, as historic palaces rise out of the water along the route.


Rialto Bridge

The arched Rialto Bridge, or Ponte di Rialto, is central to the history of Venice and is now one of the most famous bridges in Venice, if not the world. The bridge gets its name from the Rialto, the first district of Venice to be developed when people began to settle here in the ninth century. It didn't take long for the area to become the commercial and financial hub of a burgeoning city. The bridge is also a gateway to the Rialto Market, selling produce, spices, fish and more since the 11th century.


Rialto Fish Market

This authentic fish market features more varieties of fish and shellfish than you can even imagine. Fresh catches are delivered each day by fishing boats that ply the lagoon and the adjacent Adriatic Sea. The ancient market also has stalls that sell a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables. The market is open every morning except Sunday.


Ponte de Chiodo

There are 400 bridges in Venice, but this one may give you an adrenaline rush as you cross, as there is no banister. As you make your way to the bridge, enjoy the charming back streets lined with vintage goods and restaurants favored by locals.


Get Lost in the Endless Canals

Venice has more than 150 canals ranging from the Grand Canal, the city's main thoroughfare, to tiny canals that are barely accessible to small boats. The canals are lined with old houses and often decked with flowers. Get lost wandering along the streets by the canals and you'll discover the true charm of Venice. Find a bridge on a quiet canal and watch the gondolas glide under it or head to the Grand Canal and watch the many boats that ply the waters of Venice.


Galleria dell'Accademia di Venezia

Founded in 1750, the Galleria dell'Accademia di Venezia was the nesting place for an academy of painters and sculptors. Today, it's the best museum for viewing preserved Venetian art from the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. See works from Renaissance artists like Bellini, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintoretto, Tiziano, and Giambattista. The museum's collection of art encompasses upward of 800 paintings. Purchase tickets online HERE or you can book a private guide for an in-depth experience.


Basilica Santa Maria della Salute

The Basilica Santa Maria della Salute was built in the seventeenth-century and dedicated to Saint Mary for delivering residents from the plague. (The church's nickname is simply Salute, or "health.") The place of worship is deemed a remarkable example of Baroque-style architecture and the interior features several works from a Venetian artist named Titian.


San Giorgio dei Greci

The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George, San Giorgio dei Greci, is the oldest and historically the most important church of the Orthodox Diaspora. The church, considered to be one of the best Orthodox temples in the world, was constructed by the Greek community in the 16th century. It's located in Venice's Castello district, once the home to a large Greek population. The iconography inside is accented with gold, post-Byzantine mosaics, wood stalls, and a frescoed cupola painted under Tintoretto's supervision. The church also has a leaning bell tower.


Scala Contarini del Bovolo

Hidden in the center of Venice, unknown to most tourists, is a spiraling “snail” staircase that winds up the tower-like facade of a historic palazzo. The scala with its attached arcades spirals 90 feet high, combining elements of Gothic, Renaissance, and Byzantine styles. Visitors can climb to the top of its 80 steps, from which there is a beautiful view over the rooftops of the city. Purchase online tickets HERE.


Santa Maria Dei Miracoli

Tucked away at a charming canal, the 15th-century church is an early Renaissance gem covered in polychrome marble. The elegant interior is decorated with pink, white, and grey marble and early Renaissance marble reliefs. The miraculous image of the Virgin Mary is proudly displayed on the high altar


San Zaccaria Church

This gothic church took nearly 70 years to complete. Its ornate upper façade and interior, with columns and arched windows, were designed in the early Renaissance style. For a truly remarkable visit, pay a small fee of €1.50 to enter the chapels that remain from an earlier, 12th-century church that occupied the site, and then head down into the church’s permanently flooded crypt. Visitors are permitted to wade around down there (if they’re happy to get their feet wet!) and examine some of the majestic tombs up close.


The Orsoni Furnace

Orsoni is the historical Venetian furnace that uses the same techniques since 1888 to produce 24K gold leaf mosaics, colored gold and Venetian smalti in more than 3,500 colors. It's the last furnace permitted to operate with fire in the city of Venice.

You will be carried away by the magic of a world where time seems to have stood still. The fire, the furnace, the marbled crucibles – every corner reveals a part of the legendary tradition of creating glass for mosaic


Book in advance on the first and last Wednesday of each month, excluding public holidays, to have a free guided tour. Discover how mosaic tiles are made and the various phases of the process. They also offer private mosaic lessons for 3, 5, 7 or 10 days where you can learn all the mosaic techniques and create your own work of art! 

Special admission and private visits: write to visit@orsoni.com.

For business visits, please contactinfo@orsoni.com


Teatro La Fenice

Teatro La Fenice in Venice is one of the most beautiful opera houses in Europe. You can either attend an opera, ballet, concert or visit the theater with a self-guided tour. The tour allows you to access the foyer, the Apollo rooms, and the parterre. From the Royal Box, you have a great view of the stage and the entire theater.




TIP: If you would like to spend an evening in style and attend a performance in the grandeur of Teatro La Fenice, you can easily book your tickets via their website. As they are often sold out long in advance, it’s best to purchase as soon as you book your trip.


Take a Gondola Ride

For many Venice visitors, taking a gondola ride is an expensive splurge. But it can be quite romantic and memorable to experience quintessential Venice in this way.


8 Things to Know Before Taking a Gondola Ride
  1. A gondola ride costs around $90 for 40 minutes.

  2. Don't expect your Gondolier to sing. You're more likely to see this in the movies.

  3. Sunset or night rides are stunning, but they do cost more.

  4. Avoid booking through your hotel or agency, they may tack on extra fees.

  5. Gondolas hold 6 people, so you can share the ride for a more cost-efficient tour.

  6. Have a place in mind you want to see? Ask your gondolier before the ride.

  7. Skip the crowded Grand Canal and opt for more peaceful areas like San Polo or Campo San Barnaba.

  8. Wear sunscreen and a hat. Gondoliers don't have umbrellas.


Scuola Grande di San Rocco

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco was established in 1478 as a confraternity. A confraternity is a religious (usually Christian) organization composed of volunteers. Rather than being lead by priests, the Scuole Grandi was established by wealthy Venetian citizens to further Christian works. The building is especially famous because it is where Tintoretto worked for more than 20 years. The interior is filled with artistic masterpieces. Scuola Grande di San Rocco is composed of the ground floor, a grand staircase and the two upper rooms open to visitors. You can easily visit in 30 minutes

Tickets- Open every day, except December 25 and January 1, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm (with the last admission at 5 pm)

Cost: €10 for adults. Children under 18 are free with paying adult. €8 for youth 18-26 years old, and seniors over the age of 65. Cash and credit cards accepted and tickets can be purchased on the spot. The Venezia Pass is not valid here. The Scuola Grande is still a confraternity today and continues its charitable work. The cost of the tickets helps to maintain the extraordinary building.


Chiesa dei Gesuiti

Chiesa dei Gesuiti is located in somewhat of a quieter part of Venice, just behind the Fondamenta Nuove. The interior of the baroque church is decorated with breathtaking marble, which gives the church a special ambiance. You'll find a hidden treasure inside, one of the last paintings by Titian before his death, "The Martyrdom of St. Laurentius", dating back to 1558. The beauty of this church is that it's rarely visited due to its secluded location. Enjoy the elegant atmosphere while listening to baroque music, playing in the background.


Palazzo Rezzonico

The majestic Ca'Rezzonico Palace took over 100 years to construct and is now a museum showcasing Venetian wealth. Purchase tickets online HERE.


Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

The Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (St. Mary of the Friars) is one of the greatest churches in Venice. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and is notable for its many masterpieces of Venetian Renaissance art and monuments to Renaissance sculptors and artists.


Ca d’Oro Palace

One of the most beautiful palaces on the Grand Canal, this structure is considered the symbol of Venetian Gothic architecture. Ca' d'Oro is open to the public as a gallery and houses the Baron's extensive art collection, which features works by Venetian artists Titian, Tintoretto, Carpaccio, Tiepolo, Giorgione, as well as several Flemish and other non-Venetian artists such as van Eyck and van Dyck.



Biasin Boat Tours | Private Venice Boat Tour

Visit Venice canals and it's 3 main islands: Murano, Burano, Torcello on this budget-friendly private boat tour. Read below for details on each island.


Murano- In a thirteenth-century effort to reduce the risk of fires in the city, Venice's glassmakers were ordered to move to the island of Murano. Today, this Venetian outpost is a world-famous destination for colorful hand-blown glass, from simple trinkets to enormous chandeliers.


If you opt for a day trip on your own, take the 4.2 Vaporetto water bus from St. Mark's Square to Murano to attend a glass-blowing demo and watch the art form in action. And don't pass up the Museum of Glass where you'll learn about the history of glass-making.


Burano- The number 12 Vaporetto from stop Nove A in Cannaregio will connect you to Burano, a Venetian lagoon island known for its handmade lace and brightly colored houses. Historians say the houses are painted technicolor so fishermen returning home in the fog-filled lagoon can see them through the mist. Also located on the island is the historic Lace Museum (Museo del Merletto di Buranohoused in the Burano Lace School, which was operable from 1872 to 1970. Here you can view rare and precious works of lace, from its origins to the present day.


Torcello- Now largely abandoned, the island of Torcello once rivaled Venice in population and importance. Today, it's one of the most visited islands of Venice where you can see Byzantine mosaics in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell'AssuntaIt. You can also stroll walking paths on the island, most of which are included in a nature preserve.


The Arsenal and the Museum of Naval History

Since 1600, the Venice Naval Historical Museum is the place dedicated to the splendor of the Venetian naval tradition. The museum is hosted in an eleventh-century palace in Campo San Biagio Its collection is located in five levels, for a total of 42 exhibition rooms.


Libreria Acqua Alta

Keeping a collection of books in a city where the roads are made of water is a dangerous idea, to begin with, but Venice’s Libreria Acqua Alta has nothing to fear since they just keep all their titles in waterproof basins- bathtubs, canoes, and in a full-size gondola. This chaotic yet charming book shop is a dream come true for bargain hunters. Even though you could spend all day sifting through and collecting literary treasures, be sure to take a break and play with the friendly cat who roams the shop.

After you’ve found priceless souvenirs and gifts, head to the garden and marvel at the staircase made from old, vibrant books.


Carnevale

Venice's best-known festival, Carnevale, happens in February and includes several weeks of celebration. Venetians dress in period costumes, elaborate masks, and attend elegant masquerade balls.

Highlights of Carnevale

  • Water Parade- The first Sunday of Carnevale, a parade of brightly decorated boats plies the Rio di Cannaregio starting at 11 AM. After the parade, food stalls open on the canal side promenade. 

  • Festa delle Marie- On the second Saturday of Carnevale, this costumed, afternoon procession recalls the tradition of 12 of Venice's fairest young women being presented to the Doge. This parade, one of the few to take place on dry land, begins at via Garibaldi and culminates at Piazza San Marco. 

  • Flight of the Angel- This dramatic reenactment, held the second Sunday of Carnevale, sees a costumed angel "fly", suspended on a rope, through Piazza San Marco to greet the Doge.


Tips for Visiting Venice During Carnevale Season

  • Plan ahead and book your hotel well in advance for Carnevale season. Hotels typically charge high season prices during Carnevale season, so the farther in advance you book, the less you're likely to pay.

  • Carnevale is an elegant affair in Venice. There's always lots of public entertainment starting in the early evening.

  • People wear elaborate costumes and masks all over town, so you can admire the festive beauty by walking around. For the best Carnevale experience, wear a costume or at least a mask yourself. You can easily find an inexpensive mask once you're in Venice, or splurge on an ornate, hand painted version. Your hotel will likely be able to arrange a costume rental or at least refer you to a vendor – again, the earlier you request this service, the better – with rental prices ranging from modest to sky's-the-limit.

  • Although the main events are centered around Piazza San Marco, Carnevale events are held in every neighborhood of Venice, so be sure to wander around. A firework show held in Piazza San Marco culminates Carnevale and can be seen from almost anywhere in Venice.

  • Most high-end hotels hold masked balls, which are smaller and more private than public events. They can help you find someone to make or rent you a costume. Attending a ball, including renting a costume, can run about €500 per person, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most formal Carnevale events, private parties, and masquerade balls require reservations ahead of time.

  • If you're planning to visit Venice during Carnevale, the last week of festivities, from about Wednesday through to the Saturday before Shrove Tuesday, is considered the best time to go. Carnevale dates change every year, corresponding with Shrove Tuesday forty days before Easter. Check upcoming Carnevale dates HERE at Venice's official Carnival website.

  • Carnevale is a winter event, so the weather may be cold or rainy.


Shop for Souvenirs

When it comes to souvenir shopping, Venice is most famous for hand blown Murano glass, Carnivale masks, and lace. If you want a Murano glass keepsake, note that much of what is sold on the streets is a cheap imitation product made in China. Don't trust labels that read "Made in Venice" or "Made in Italy." Instead, ask for a certificate of authenticity and remember that if a price seems too good to be true, then it probably is.



BEST PLACES TO EAT IN VENICE

*In the popular tourist areas, your bill can increase if seated at a table. Bars are required to have prices posted, both for standing and for sitting. Check the prices to make sure it's only a few extra euros.


Cantine Aziende Agricole 

#1 restaurant in Venice! The wine bar has been in business for 35 years and offers a wide selection of high-quality wines, a variety of delicious cichetti as well as a selection of meatballs and cheeses.


Osteria Al Squero

Local bar serving good Cicchetti (appetizers) and wine, with fair prices. What makes this place lovely is the view overlooking the oldest gondola workhouse. Watch as masters construct these historic boats.

TIP: Try a drink called spritz, it is very popular in Venice.


La Bottiglia

Sit outside, overlooking the beautiful canal while tasting the highly-rated Italian panino. Their ingredients are made with wine, ham, cheeses from local farmers


Bacaro Quebrado

Charming authentic Venetian restaurant with affordable prices. Friendly service, homemade Italian food made with high-quality ingredients. Call for reservation: +393456197737


Dal Moro's Fresh Pasta to Go

The #1 Fresh Pasta takeaway restaurant in Venice, providing high-quality fresh pasta meals made with passion. Portions are large and are made with 100% Italian products. *Use Google maps to locate this Takeaway Restaurant.




BEST GELATO & PASTRIES IN VENICE


Suso Gelatoteca

Indulge in gelato as rich as a doge, in original seasonal flavors. All Suso’s gelati are locally made and free of artificial colors; gluten-free cones are available.


Gelato Fantasy

Artisanal ice-cream shop inspired by the Master Gelato maker Lucio Carolo. Taste their Venetian specialty “gianduiotto” chocolate cup, the “Doge’s cream” and many other unique flavors- dark chocolate, hot ice-cream, and fruit sorbets with seasonal flavors.


Venchi

A wide choice of chocolate and traditional Italian ice cream flavors in a charming boutique. Their ice-cream masters create unique gelato every day, selecting natural, simple ingredients. Exquisite, selected raw materials such as their single-origin chocolate (from Ecuador, Venezuela, and Peru), Piedmont Hazelnuts and Green Pistachio from Bronte give their gelato its distinctive flavor profile. With more than 90 recipes, Venchi gelato is your daily sweet treat. Their recipes are a celebration of renowned Italian tradition and classic Venchi flavors.


Rosa Salva

Sweet tooth connoisseurs choose Rosa Salva desserts for the top quality of creams and pastries, made with fresh ingredients in true Venetian pastry tradition, that are winners time and time again of prestigious awards. Pyramids of bignè (cream puffs), zuppe inglesi (liqueur-dipped ladyfingers), babà (rum cake), sfogliate (thin-layered pastries) and tarts, finely decorated traditional cakes, classic baked goods, and new flavors are freshly prepared.


Pasticceria Tonolo

The most famous pastry shop in Venice with high-quality fresh and delicious products. It's one of the oldest patisseries in the city and is famous for their specialty cakes and delicious cappuccino!

During Carnivale, this is THE place to try frittelle. You'll find them filled with cream, chocolate, or rolled in sugar.


Classic Venetian dishes

  • Sarde in saor- An antipasto featuring sweet-and-sour sardines with onions, pine nuts and raisins. It’s briny, salty, delicately sweet, and intensely savory – one of the more uniquely-flavored dishes in mainland Italy. The recipe apparently originated among fishermen who used vinegar (much like the Japanese when making sushi) to preserve fish that they took out onto the boats with them to eat. It can be too “fishy” for some, but even those who don’t love seafood should give this one a try because it is one of Venice’s most traditional and beloved dishes.

  • Scampi alla veneziana- Very simple: Venetian shrimp are boiled and are served with a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. The key to getting a good plate of scampi, as opposed to simply an okay plate of scampi is buying them in the right season. Fall and winter are not shrimp season in the Mediterranean and if you order a plate of them you might be getting frozen imports which won’t be anywhere near as tasty. The shrimp season starts properly in March and peaks in the late spring/early summer. After June, quality often begins to decline.

  • Caparossoi a scota deo- A dish of large, plump clams, cooked with lemon and pepper. They’re so good, people can’t resist reaching for them as soon as they’re on the table, even when they’re hot… hence “a scota deo” – hot fingers! Once again, this is a dish best ordered during clam season, which begins in May and ends in August.

  • Risi e bisi- This specifically Venetian dish of rice and peas sits comfortably between a risotto and a soup. It’s so beloved that it used to be offered to the Doge, the ruler of Venice – every St. Mark’s Feast Day. Veneto is one of the largest rice-producing areas of Europe and so risottos are a popular menu items. Other popular risotto dishes include risotto with shrimp (risotto con scampi), tripe with rice (riso e trippa) and rice with black calamari sauce (risotto al neri di seppi)

  • Bigoli in salsa- Here’s one that’s deceptively simple, but absolute heaven when made correctly. It’s a pasta of just three ingredients: bigoli (similar to spaghetti), onions, and anchovies. Unlike some of the other sea-food entries on this list, bigoli in salsa is not particularly fishy-tasting. When you cook anchovies they break down into a salty, savory sauce that packs an intense depth of flavor into each bite. Mix in onions that have been sauteed until they are unctuously soft and you have the holy trinity of seafood pasta.

  • Scampetti con polenta- The farther north you go in Veneto, the more prevalent polenta becomes as a starchy staple appearing in place of pasta. However, it’s so popular that you will also find it in a lot of restaurants in Venice, as well as cicchetti bars. It’s either eaten as a mush – similar to American grits – or as fritters, which usually carry something on top. If you want it as a main course or starter, try scampetti con polenta, or little shrimps with polenta, or veal liver with onions and roasted polenta (fegato alla veneziana), both are beloved specialities of the entire region.

  • Bacalà mantecato- The most common topping on a polenta fritter in Venice is bacalá mantecato, which is a sort of creamed salt cod. Another seafarer’s dish, bacalá developed as a way for fishermen and sailors to preserve fish and take it with them during long voyages. However, it isn’t traditionally eaten in many parts of Italy because cod is not native to the mediterranean. So why is it a beloved staple of the Venetians? As the story goes, a Venetian trader who was stranded in Norway with some Norwegian cod fishermen first found out about the bacalá in 1432 and soon began to import it from other Atlantic seafarers, who had been eating salt cod for much longer. Since then it has become one of the most popular ingredients in Venetian cooking. Look for it served in a variety of preparations and sauces. It’s another un-fishy fish and is also delicious in deep-fried croquettes, aka polpette.

  • Carpaccio- Although the term “carpaccio” is often used to refer to any thinly sliced raw meat or fish, the original dish refers to thinly sliced beef with a sauce made from mayo, mustard, cream and tomato.

  • Fritole venessiane- These traditional Carnevale treats are must-tries if you happen to be in Venice during the Easter season. They are fried balls of dough dusted with sugar and either studded with candied fruits or filled will all manner of creams and custards. Rich and yeasty with a browned, crackly outside and a soft pillowy inside, these little delights are a special treat that fill up bakery windows all around the lagoon when in season. They’re often tough to find throughout the rest of the year, but if you happen to be in Venice during Carnevale we highly recommend eating them at least once a day. For a special treat try one filled with zabaione, an alcoholic custard!