Why You Should stay in Venice for More Than 2 days
Don’t visit Venice in 2 days!
In the last few months I have been asked by various internet sites and web magazines to write articles on what to do in Venice in 48 hours.
I happily did it because, even though I strongly believe people should spend much more than 2 days in Venice, it meant for me to give readers the opportunity to come and visit the city of water in a targeted way, avoiding the typical tourist mistakes and making the most out of their visit to this wonderful city.
But at the same time I was left with a strong urge to explain people that Venice deserves and is well worth to be seen in much more than 2 days and here I am going to explain you why.
Venice is not so small as you might think
Why, when people come to Italy, they always dedicate 5-6 days to Rome, 4-5 days to Florence and only 2 or even just 1 day to Venice?
Because the majority of people only know about Rialto Bridge, the canals and Saint Marks’ Square and they think that those things are the only important things to see. And that is why the crowds are overwhelming when going to those spots and that is why people are put off coming to Venice for longer periods. Well, they are so wrong!
Venice has so much more to offer and you can visit it for many days and stay away easily from the crowds, by simply keeping off from the main streets and wandering around the maze of little street called calle.
Venice has more than 1200 years history: during its most flourishing period it was one of the most powerful countries in the world with a fleet bigger than the British one; it was the hub of the commercial trade in Europe; it was the site of the first Ghetto; it was the birthplace of the first woman who got a university degree in the world; it was the only real independent Republic in Europe, never under the direct or indirect control of the Vatican.
So how come people think Venice is only worth seeing for its gondolas and bridges?
Venice is made out by the historic center but also by a large number of little islands which can only be reached by boat.
The historic center is a tightly integrated set of 117 small islands that are linked by more than 410 bridges. The historic center is divided into Sestieri, 6 districts:
- San Marco, where the heart of the city is located, Saint Mark’s Square, with the stunning Doge’s Palace, the richly decorated Basilica di San Marco and the tall Church Tower.
- Castello, one of the oldest areas of the city and the location of the beautiful church of San Pietro di Castello and the astounding complex of the Arsenal, the place where Venetians built their ships.
- Cannaregio, one of the most residential areas of Venice and the site of many typical Osteria and Bacari, where you can sample the typical Cicchetti with a small glass of wine called Ombra.
- San Polo, the smallest of the districts, with the particular feature of very closed neat houses and shops, which where used both for residential and business use – what in Venetian we call “casa e bottega”, meaning you work where you live.
Campo San Polo
- Santa Croce, located north-east of the city connecting Venice to the mainland thanks to Piazzale Roma bus terminal. This whole area has undergone many demolitions and transformations, starting in 1810 with the demolition of the church and the monastery of Santa Croce, which gave their name to the district.
- Dorsoduro, which covers the southern part of the city, starting with Punta della Dogana, the costums area built in the seventeenth century and consisting of many warehouses that are hidden behind the facade. If you walk around it, you arrive at Zattere, a long pier that leads to Santa Marta. Zattere was built in 1516 to unload the timber from the Cadore Mountains, through the waterways and came to Venice carried on rafts. From the Zattere you can see the large island of Giudecca, with the magnificient Redentore Church and the Molino Stucky Hotel.
In Venice every time you cross a bridge, you are entering another island, even though to the untrained eye you are just walking from one point to the next.
The entire center of the city only covers about 725 hectares, which is a bit more than twice the size of Central Park in New York or London’s Hampstead Heath.
You can easily walk from Piazzale Roma (the bus terminal) to the opposite side of the city to the beautiful park Giardini in about an hour! And that is why people think that Venice is small.
But the city is so packed with churches, museums, palaces, shops and restaurants, that it is definitively not small.
And then you have the most famous islands like Lido, Murano, Burano, Torcello, Giudecca, as well as all the little “under the radar” ones, like Sant’Erasmo, San Giorgio, Lazzareto Nuovo, Vignole, San Michele and many more.
All of these are well worth a visit, with so many interesting things to do and see!
In Murano you can visit one of the many little glass artists, and I do not mean the big glass furnaces, but the small workshops which create amazing works of art with glass, from beads, to statues to mosaics. You can organise a visit to the workshop of Muriel Balensi, an amazing bead maker which will open a new universe to you; or a demo at Cristina Sfriso and see her wonderful craft at work. Or you can even take a glass blowing lesson at Abate Zanetti the Institute of Glass Making in Venice.
If you take a trip to Burano you can visit the wonderful Lace Museum and see the old ladies sitting outside their front door still using their skills to crafts amazing lace works.
For more ideas on what to do on the islands of Venice, click here.
The History of Venice in Numbers
Everyone knows the Basilica di San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, but Venice has so much more to offer.
Just a few examples.
There also so many exhibitions, art galleries and small artisan shops spread all over the city which deserve a visit. Venice is not just junk souvenir shops and fake masks.
Fun activities to do in Venice
Not so much into visiting churches or museums? Well Venice offers much more to do than just walking around, even though this is probably one of the most interesting things to do here!
- Water activities. If you are into water and boats, you can learn to row like a true gondolier by taking a Voga lesson – discover the tricks and the history of this typical Venetian style of rowing. If you are worried about standing on a gondola, you could also take a Kayak lesson. You can then complete a day dedicated to the sea, by visiting an oarlock maker or a gondola maker and end up you day with a visit to the Museo Storico Navale di Venezia.
- Cooking activities. Are you a foodie? Then you cannot miss a cooking lesson in Venice. And now you can even experience it dressing up in a Carnival costume, combining food with fun! Set in a 15th century Venetian Palace, you will learn to prepare typical Venetian food with local cooks and then you will enjoy your lunch dressed up in a Renaissance costume. And to finish your day take a Cicchetti tour, sampling the best food from Venice together with a small glass of local Venetian wine like Amarone or Raboso.
- Art activities. Do you love crafts and arts? Well, Venice is surely the city for you. You can take part in mask making workshops, in etching activities (in the same place where Tintoretto used to work!), in glass bead jewelry making – the list of arts and crafts in Venice is endless. You can visit a site like Vivo Venetia for more interesting ideas and you can book online too!
- Music activities. Love music? The city of Vivaldi offers a wide range of musical entertainment, like a classical concert at the stunning La Fenice Theatre. But you can also try something completely different, like experiencing Opera in a Venetian palace with the performers singing amongst the audience, booking a spot with Musica a Palazzo enjoying opera’s like La Traviata or Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Or you can discover classical French music from the 1800s with Palazzetto Bru Zane.
So you still think that 2 days in Venice will be enough to really enjoy and understand this amazing city? Feel free to leave your comments, I really would love to hear your opinion!
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