This Venice Itinerary is a guest post by Antonio.
Venice is on the bucket list of many (probably all) travelers when they first think of visiting Italy. Although many people think the city is confined to its own little island, not many know that Venice is actually connected to the mainland and that it offers several opportunities for day trips!
From Venice, in fact, you can reach other beautiful Italian towns such as Treviso, Padua, Vicenza, and Bassano in less than an hour. And, I almost forgot to say, for a ridiculously low price: 5 to 10 Euro.
So let me share with you a 2-day itinerary for Venice, plus the best day trips you can include when visiting this little gem. It’ll work perfectly for a weekend in the area; just decide which city/cities around Venice you want to visit and make it a 3, 4, or even 5-day itinerary!
I promise it won’t be the usual trip you hear about from foreign guides. Be ready for outdoor activities and…I hope you like aperitivo and taking trains around Italy!
2-Day Venice Itinerary
Once you arrive in Venice, you’ll want to make sure you dedicate at least 2 days for touring the city. As a first-time visitor, I can assure you it won’t be easy for you to leave the island – Venice is just stunning!
For this reason, we’ll talk about Venice first, then we can get into the day trips from the city. Ready to go?
Venice Itinerary Day 1: Walking Around the Island
You’re fresh off the airplane and you’re ready to start your tour of Venice. What do you need to do? Make sure you have two things:
- a map;
- a comfortable pair of shoes.
If you are an old-school traveler, you can find a free paper map — I love it! — at the train station (or you can always use your phone). With all of the narrow and winding streets, the island will look like a maze to you, so don’t worry if you get lost. It is very easy to!
Why comfortable shoes? Well, you will likely end up walking all day (unless you take a gondola, of course). In general, forget about nice shoes for touring on this trip. You don’t want to show a grumpy face in your pictures in beautiful San Marco square because your feet hurt!
You’ll likely start your visit from the main train station or from the area where your hotel is located. Either way, one thing is for sure: you’ll stop several times to admire all of the stunning bridges you’ll come across.
For art lovers, on the Southern side of the island you’ll find a few famous art museums. One is the Gallerie dell’Accademia museum (literally, The Galleries of Academia), which is located on the south bank of the Grand Canal — the main Venice canal — right across Ponte dell’Accademia.
This museum is mainly focused on Venetian art before the 19th century. If you like modern art, make sure to stop at the Peggy Guggenheim museum, a 5-minute walk from the Gallerie dell’Accademia.
Once you’ve fed your artistic soul with these two museums, cross the Ponte dell’Accademia to get to the north side of the Grand Canal. You might want to stop and take pictures of the view from this bridge; the view from there is one of the most photographed!
After your photoshoot, head to Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square), which is less than 10 minutes away. Here’s the best time to visit Venice and Saint Mark’s Square.
Insider tip: If you want to eat a tramezzino or taste an espresso, do it before getting to the main square. Prices are really high there!
Insider tip part II: For a “cultural” food stop, visit a Bacaro. A Bacaro is a traditional Venetian wine and food shop, with little sandwiches and little finger foods. Visiting one is an experience itself. They’re small, friendly, cheap. Products are around 1 Euro each!
After your food stop, spend some time wandering around San Marco Square. You can walk inside the Basilica and on top of its roof, you can get to the top of the St Mark’s Campanile and admire the Venetian panorama, and visit Palazzo Ducale and its museum, which is right next to the square.
Next to it, you will find Il Ponte dei Sospiri (the Bridge of Sighs). Its canal has a peculiar position in the laguna. Close your eyes and hear the sound of the wind!
From there, you can either get a Vaporetto, a waterbus, and explore San Giorgio Maggiore (a little, picturesque island whose tower has another amazing panorama of the city) or you can make your way to a particular stop: Libreria Acqua Alta.
This is definitely the most offbeat bookstore you’ll ever see in your life. It features vintage books and has many cats inside wandering the store!
You can, and you should, hop on a Gondola almost anywhere on the Grand Canal. Make sure to ask for a real Venetian Gondoliere who can sing while he is rowing you around! During your gondola trip (or once you get off of it), make sure you stop by the stunning Rialto Bridge.
And that’s a wrap for day 1! After a long day of touring, the perfect ending would be at a local restaurant and a last walk around the Calli (a name for a typical street of Venice). At that time, it’ll be around sunset or after — you’ll notice Venice becomes really silent at night.
Enjoy a good shower and a nice sleep. You (and your feet) will need it!
Venice Itinerary Day 2: Boat Trip Across the Lagoon
If you thought Venice was the only island worth a visit in the Venetian lagoon…I have good news: there’s so much more!
On the second day of your itinerary, you should take a Vaporetto (a waterbus) and explore two of the many islands around the lagoon: Murano and Burano.
But where can you get a Vaporetto? The most popular docks are Piazzale Roma or Fondamente Nove (often spelled Ft.e Nove). They’re in two different areas of Venice so feel free to board the one that’s closest to your hotel. The cost is less than 10 Euro and they are available every 30 minutes.
Once in Murano, you’ll notice the colorful glass. Truth is, if you have seen some nice and colorful pieces of glasses around the world, it was probably from this island! Murano artisans are world-renowned for their skills.
The good news for you is that you can take a peek at this ancient craft skill by touring the Glass Factory. You’ll see pieces of glass turning into animals or in any other shape you can imagine!
The island of Burano, instead, is a small, calm, yet extremely colorful island. Make sure your camera is charged because here you will shoot most of the photos of your trip.
The colorful houses, the tiny canals with boats, and the silence all around will win your heart. You will feel like you are in another, unreal dimension!
Touring these two islands will fill almost all of your day. If you want to go back to Venice for dinner, make sure to relax and enjoy the sunset while in the Vaporetto on your way back. When the sun goes down, the water of the lagoon and the buildings turn orange. Carpe diem!
Speaking of orange, let’s talk about Aperitivo and the most traditional Venetian drink: the Aperol Spritz. Venetians never start their dinner without first savoring an Aperol. The Rialto area is a good location where you can find both great bars and restaurants serving up these delicious drinks served with an orange!
4 Stunning Day Trips From Venice
Once you’ve explored Venice, you can start visiting a few nearby cities. Here are the four towns I think you should consider if you want to dive into this adventure!
1. Day Trip from Venice—Treviso
The first day-trip we recommend is Treviso, a town 25-miles away (40km) that you can reach by a 30-minute train trip.
For those looking for a relaxing visit, wandering around the historical center will already make your day. But, there are a few specific spots that you can’t miss!
If you get in town in the morning, stop in Piazza Dei Signori and enjoy a nice breakfast or just an espresso. Take your time! When you’re done, you could head to the Treviso Cathedral and the Museo Diocesano (both located in different sections of the same building). It will take you five minutes to walk there from Piazza Dei Signori.
Finally, you should visit the Isola Della Pescheria (literally the Fish Market Island). An Italian poet once defined it as “the most charming fish market in the world, floating on the water”.
This little island is in a very active area full of shops of any kind. It is located 10 minutes away from the Cathedral so please, find the time to visit this charming Italian fish market!
For active visitors, I recommend exploring the Sile River Natural Park. The Sile river is the longest river in Europe to come from a natural spring and it gives plenty of opportunities for kayaking or biking.
You can rent a bike in four different locations across the 15-mile trail (25km). Play with this interactive map to plan your outdoor activities.
2. Day Trip from Venice—Vicenza
If you still have an additional day to explore a city nearby Venice, Vicenza should be on your bucket list. You’ll be surprised once you step in this little Northern Italian pearl.
From Venice’s main train station it takes 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes (depending on the train you take) to get to Vicenza. Once you arrive, you’ll have to walk through the beautiful Campo Marzo (the biggest park in the city) before arriving in the historic center of the city — a little warm-up because today’s goal is to climb a hill!
The city is renowned for Andrea Palladio’s architecture — an Italian Renaissance architect very active in the ancient Venetian Republic. Vicenza was his playground; there are 23 of his buildings around the city. The Palladian Basilica is probably the most beautiful. From its terrace, you can enjoy the view of the city.
Like every other Italian town, Vicenza has its main square: Piazza Dei Signori. It is the real center of the city and, depending on when you visit, you could find a little market with food stands or local artisans. Dedicate some time to walking around the square, sipping espresso coffee here and there, and enjoying the surrounding buildings!
By now, you should be warmed up and ready for the active part of the itinerary. The destination is the Monte Berico, where you will find the Sanctuary of Saint Mary.
If you are a believer, you can count this as a real pilgrimage, which makes the path a very emotional journey for some. Getting there is very simple; you can see the hill from the historical center.
The path starts from Arco delle Scalette, a 1596 arch designed by Andrea Palladio. It’s located 15 minutes south of Piazza dei Signori.
PLEASE NOTE: “Scalette” means steps. The arch is called this because it’s the starting point of 192 steps!
Now that you’re at the Sanctuary, walk toward Piazzale Della Vittoria (the big square in front of the Sanctuary) and…enjoy the amazing view of the city!
3. Day Trip from Venice—Bassano del Grappa
Remember when I said I hope you like trains? I really meant it! To get to Bassano del Grappa from Venice, in fact, you’ll need to take a 1 hour and 15-minute train.
I know you’re thinking “I’ll rent a car and skip the pain”, but more than 60 miles (100km) separates the two cities so it’ll take exactly the same amount of time by car! Plus, I have three good reasons why I recommend getting to Bassano by train:
- If you really want to see a place when you travel, a train ride gives you the option to explore your surroundings.
- You can read a book on the way back. In Bassano, there is one of the top 10 bookstores in Italy, Libreria Palazzo Roberti. Pick a book and enjoy the ride!
- One-way ride is only €7!
If you followed my advice, once you arrive at Bassano’s train station you can start exploring the two main squares, Piazza Garibaldi (known as the square with the fountain) and Piazza Libertà. They’re both minutes away from the station.
Keep walking west, towards the Brenta River, to get to the best spot: the Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge), also known as Ponte degli Alpini (the Alpines’ Bridge). The bridge was originally designed in 1569 and, unfortunately, was destroyed several times — the last time in World War II.
Right before crossing the bridge, though, some of you might want to stop at two of the most important distilleries in Italy: Grapperia Nardini and Poli Grappa Museum.
Wondering what “grappa” is? Well, a grappa is an Italian brandy, made from the remnants of wine-grape pressings. In Poli Museum, you can even learn more about the ins and outs of the making of this popular drink.
For the most active visitors, walk to the only other bridge in Bassano, Ponte Nuovo (New Bridge) before stopping for a well-deserved snack.
The best pizzetta in town awaits you at Beltrame (as locals in Bassano call Bottega del Pane Beltrame, literally Beltrame’s Bread Shop). This unique historical bakery is famous, among others, for its round small pizza (when in Italy, call it pizzetta!).
Lastly, for art lovers, a stop at the Museo Civico will delight you with paintings of Jacopo Bassano and sculptures of Antonio Canova.
As always, end the day with a good aperitivo in one of the squares and, on your way back to the train station, don’t forget to stop at Libreria Palazzo Roberti to pick your book; you’ll need it on your ride back to Venice!
4. Day Trip from Venice—Padua
Among the cities you can reach on a day trip from Venice, Padua (Padova, in Italian) is the biggest one. It is a very renowned city in the Northeast of Italy, especially for its university, the University of Padua.
It is considered a top university in the medical field in Italy. As a fun fact, it holds the desk where Galileo Galilei (an Italian astronomer and physicist dubbed as “the father of observational astronomy”) taught Math and Physics from 1592 to 1610.
Like for the other “day-trip” cities, get there by a quick train. The fastest one takes only 15 minutes (and costs only €7!).
Once you arrive at the train station, head south, cross the river, and in 10 minutes you’re at the Scrovegni Chapel. In this little church, you will see what is considered to be the most complete series of frescoes executed by Giotto (arguably the most important Italian painter of the 14th century, who completed the chapel in 1305).
You’ll be witnessing a place so unique that you can visit for only 15 minutes (10 people max at a time). Make sure you book the ticket in advance!
Keep heading south, enter the historical center and you will soon be at the two most popular squares in Padua: Piazza Delle Erbe and Piazza Della Frutta. They are actually connected and between them, you’ll find many local shops worth a stop (remember that the best shops are always around the top squares!).
You also won’t miss the great piece of architecture separating the two squares, Palazzo Della Ragione (or Ragione Palace). It’s a medieval building — finished in 1219! — used as a market hall, town hall, and palace of justice. Admire its architecture and the paintings inside!
If you still have some time, walk 10 minutes south to get to the Basilica of St. Anthony (if you like religious art) or to the nearby University of Padua Botanical Garden (if you have a green thumb).
The first one is the Basilica of the patron of the city and it hosts many artworks by Donatello (one of the most famous Italian sculptors during the Renaissance).
The university’s botanical garden is a must-see if you happen to be in Padua during spring. You’ll be visiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s oldest academic botanical garden that is still in its original location.
It has a wide variety of plants, flowers, and trees — over 6,000 species! There’s much to explore in this garden if you’re willing to walk it all. The good thing is, it’ll stimulate your appetite for a great aperitivo!
Last Thoughts on Your Venice Itinerary
With this article, I hope I could help you outline a thorough itinerary of your next trip to Venice and its nearby cities. I’ve included four different cities for day trips and hope you will visit the ones you like the most based on your time availability and travel style.
By the end of this itinerary, you should have realized a few things about this area in Northeast Italy:
- Trains can take you anywhere — and they’re fast and cheap.
- Buildings are stunning as they were made around the Renaissance period.
- Veneti (the inhabitants of that region, Veneto) love aperitivo and Aperol Spritz. Hope you do too!
Antonio Santarsiero is a native Italian SEO Specialist, currently based in Chicago. He’s passionate about helping companies scale their growth through digital marketing, SEO, SEM, and analytics (but his true passion is traveling to Italy!). He currently shares tips on how to plan a dream trip to Italy in his blog, BackinItaly.com.
Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad and epically failing at the American Dream since 2011. Her sassy yet informative blog, Where in the World is Nina? is all about how to work abroad to live a more adventurous life. If you want to travel longer you have to work to wander.