Is 2 days in Venice enough? The short answer; for us it was. When you factor in the crowds and high prices, it is not the easiest place to travel. However, if this is a trip of a lifetime for you, 2 days certainly won’t be enough. As you will see we did manage to see quite a few things, while still not feeling rushed. However, there was so much we didn’t see.
After our short, but amazing day in Verona we boarded an early morning train to Venice, Italy. I made a mistake when booking our tickets to and from Venice. There are 2 train stations in Venice; one on the main land (Venice Mestre) and the other on the island (Santa Lucia). I booked our tickets to Venice Mestre. However, as we were about to get off the train we noticed that our train continued on to Santa Lucia, the station we actually wanted to go to.
Without thinking of possible consequences, we did what any ‘reasonable’ person might do. We stayed on. I spent the next 10 minutes in fear, thinking that a conductor may come through at any moment to check our tickets and see that we were a couple hobos, riding the rails illegally. Thankfully nothing happened and we arrived to our destination without incident. I didn’t even realize until later that even if we had tickets to the final destination we still would have been fined because we didn’t know we needed to ‘validated’ the tickets before boarding the train. [Side note: I will be writing a post about how to ride the rails in Italy legally since it was rather confusing to us!]
Once you arrive to Santa Lucia you are on the Grand Canal as soon as you walk out of the train station. There are a few ticket counters where you can purchase your tickets for the Vaparettos (water taxis). Tickets were quite expensive, so we only took a vaparetto when we arrived and when we left. We paid £7.50 per person for a 1-way ticket to our stop at Rialto Bridge. There are various multi-ride passes you can purchase, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are staying on the outskirts of Venice. This site has some good information, including how to validate your ticket before you board the vaparetto.
We used Google Maps constantly on this trip. I have a new respect for people who have traveled before cell phones; I don’t know if I could do it! The only time this trip that Google maps had difficulty was when we were navigating the small winding streets in Venice. Even still, it can give you a general idea of where you are going, and if you get lost just head towards an open place where you can get cell phone service.
Where to Stay
We spent two nights at Residenza Ca’ San Marco. I chose this place for 1 reason; it was the cheapest option I could find in the heart of Venice. If you are staying on the island in Venice, expect to pay big. Especially if you are visiting on the weekend, as we did. We paid £164.00 per night.
The hotel was small, but comfortable. It was located down a small alley that was so small it felt like we weren’t suppose to be there. It was kind of nice being off the busier streets though.
You can use the search engine below to find the current best deals in Venice.
Any article you read about Venice will say the same thing; don’t be afraid to get lost. So that’s what we did. We got a scoop of gelato and just started walking, turning down whatever alley we fancied. Some were dead ends that stopped when it reached a small canal. Some lead to small courtyards. It was nice for a few hours to just explore. Some of the main streets were absolutely crowded mid-day, with tour groups being marched through the crowds. Roaming around in the middle of the day wasn’t our favorite time to explore, for that reason alone. But you can still find some solitude if you look for it.
Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark’s Basilica)
We booked our tickets for Saint Mark’s Basilica ahead of time. You can visit for free, but the line was already quite long when we arrived at at 0945 in the morning when the doors opened. For £2 per person I felt like it was worth it to book online and skip the line. You will need to make sure you are dressed appropriately; with covered knees and shoulders. If you don’t then you will be given a hideous wrap to cover yourself before you enter.
Pictures are not allowed in Saint Mark’s Basilica. Inside the Basilica was dark, but beautiful. We only spent a few minutes wandering around. There were multiple places that were restricted to visitors unless you paid more fees, which we opted not to. It is definitely worth spending a few minutes enjoying though.
Piazza San Marco
Just outside the doors of St Marks Basilica you will find yourself in the main square in Venice; Piazza San Marco. During midday I found the area to be unbearably crowded. Definitely not worth visiting this time of day, in my opinion. However, at nighttime this place was magical. The day-tripping tourists and cruise ship crowds had dissipated. Outdoor seating was set up for many restaurants in the square, and most had a live band. The bands would take turns playing, so as not to overpower one another. It was pretty magical listening to a little classical music or some of my favorite songs from Phantom of the Opera being played while we roamed around.
Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs)
The Bridge of Sighs is an enclosed bridge that is said to bring eternal love if a couple passes under it in a gondola. The origin of the bridge is actually a lot less romantic. It connects the interrogation rooms at Doge’s Palace to the New Prison. It was called the Bridge of Sighs because it is where men would take their last breathes as a free man before entering the prison.
You can only get this view from standing on another bridge, which gets packed to the brim if you visit mid-day. It was much less crowded when we were there late at night.
Visiting the Islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello
Even though we only had 2 days in Venice, by late morning on our second day we were trying to think of something to do to get away from the mid-day crowds. A quick search on Viator lead us to 3 islands in the lagoon we had not heard of before. We did the Murano, Burano and Torcello Half-Day Sightseeing Tour for $22.44 per person. The boat ride to the islands was relaxing, the views gorgeous and the islands much less croweded. I will write more about the tour later, because the islands were so gorgeous they definitely deserve their own post.
Where to Eat
An issue that we ran into constantly throughout Italy is that they didn’t really ‘do breakfast’ as we were use to. Unless you can get breakfast at your hotel, your breakfast will likely consist of a pastry and cappucino…or pizza. Most sit down restaurants are closed during breakfast, but there are smaller restaurants/bars that will have a display case of various pastries, pizzas and cold sandwiches that are available at all times. If you need a good breakfast to start your day, consider booking a hotel that includes breakfast.
We didn’t eat at a sit down restaurant in Venice because of the high prices, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some fresh Italian pasta. We ate at Dal Moro’s- Fresh Pasta to Go both nights in Venice. Prices start at £5 and the food was fantastic!
What We Missed
There is obviously a lot missing from the list. I didn’t take any pictures of Rialto Bridge. It was honestly too crowded whenever we were there, and half of it was under renovations so I didn’t find it very pretty to photography anyways. Venice is famous for it’s museums, it even has a museum pass. We weren’t terrible interested in being indoors or in seeing museums, so we opted out.
And the big thing missing: we decided to not take a gondola ride. We were planning on it, but after roaming Venice for 2 days and seeing hundreds of different groups on the gondola’s the whole idea seemed a lot less romantic than I originally thought. The canal water smelled when we got too close, the price for gondola rides are $85-$100+ and sometimes the gondola’s were like a train because there were so many of them in a row. I can’t say that I would never go it, but for this trip it just felt like something we were suppose to do, versus something we wanted to do.
Tip: if you’re wanting to take a gondola ride, but not wanting to pay out you can take a traghetto. A traghetto is a gondola that you can take across the Grand Canal where there aren’t bridges, and it only costs £2!
Of course we missed a lot of other interesting things in Venice. I wish we would have had time to go Lido beach; the gorgeous beach in Venice. Or take in the history of Doge’s Palace and the New Prisons. There is always ‘more to see’ wherever we go, so I know I will be back one day. But for now, it was a great way to continue our time in Italy. Venice actually was one of my favorite destinations on the trip, despite the short amount of time we spent there and the crowds. It is a place unlike anywhere else in the world!
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Have you been to Venice before? If so, did it live up to your expectation?