Losing Myself in Venice

Rialto Bridge in Venice

118 islands. More than 175 canals. Over 400 bridges. And enough strong opinions about it to overwhelm a person.

This is Venice.

Known as the “Floating City” (and also sometimes referred to as “A Disney World for Adults”), Venice tends to be a dream destination for a lot of people. Say “Venice,” and you immediately conjure up romantic images of gondolas and cathedrals and sunsets over canals.

But I've heard bad things about Venice, too. By now, you'll have probably heard that the “Floating City” is actually sinking. Someone has probably told you how stinky its canals can get in the summer. And you might be aware that the UNESCO World Heritage site is frequently overrun with cruise ship passengers — so much so that there are usually more tourists on the island than people who actually live there.

I'm not gonna lie — I didn't really expect to like Venice.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I arrived in Venice one hot August morning to find a vibrant maze of a city that I immediately loved.

Yes, Venice is crowded. Yes, the city shows its age. And yes, getting lost here is inevitable.

But you know what? Those facts only gave the city more character for me. The crumbling plaster; the winding alleyways leading to nowhere; the gondola traffic jams — all of these things ARE Venice. The city gets its identity from the good AND bad aspects combined.

Venice definitely is not for everybody. But, if you can wander away from the main canals and touristy spots, you'll discover a fascinating city unlike any other in the world.

I loved losing myself in Venice in more ways than one.

Venice of Foot

The best way to explore Venice is definitely on foot. The island (or collection of tiny islands, depending on how you look at Venice) is not very big, and you can't get a vehicle down the narrow streets anyway. Yes, you'll probably get lost at every turn, but, honestly, that's all part of the experience.

Here's a look at what you'll see in Venice on foot:

Venice Grand Canal

The Grand Canal from the famous Rialto Bridge

Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute church, built in hopes that it would end the Plague

Venice canal

Restaurant-lined canals

Bridge of Sighs in Venice

The Bridge of Sighs that connects the Doge's Palace with the old prison

Venice

Smaller canals like this one that you will probably never be able to find a second time

St. Mark's Square in Venice

St. Mark's Square

St. Mark's in Venice

The impressive St. Mark's Basilica

Venice

Random cute details like these love locks

Venice church

LOTS of churches

Venetian masks

And of course plenty of Venetian masks for sale

Venice by Boat

The second-best way to see Venice is from the water. And, while gondola rides are usually the ultimate bucket list item in Venice, there are other options, too (especially considering the flat-rate price of 80 Euro for a daytime gondola ride, whether you have 2 or 6 people in the boat).

While I was in Venice, I got to enjoy a VIP boat ride with Walks of Italy. This consisted of a local guide, a water taxi, and only two other people on the 2-hour tour with me. Seeing Venice from the water gave me a whole different perspective on the city.

Here's what you can expect to see in Venice from a boat:

Venice Grand Canal

Floating past gondolas on the Grand Canal

Venice

Buildings propped up in the water built in the “Venetian Gothic” style

Venice cemetery

A purpose-built cemetery (also an island, of course)

Venice Grand Canal

More gondolas than you can shake a stick at

Venice

Pretty buildings from a different angle

Venice

The Doge's Palace from afar

Rialto Bridge in Venice

The Rialto Bridge as you pass under it

San Giorgio Maggiore

The island of San Giorgio Maggiore, with its pretty church and monastery

Venice

And lots of water

As far as Italian cities go, Venice is definitely one of the most well-known — and one of the most desirable to visit. There's a reason for this, though. Venice really IS a special place.

And, whether you explore it on foot or by boat, the bottom line is that you SHOULD explore it.

Just do it before it sinks.

Is Venice on YOUR must-visit list? If you've been, what do you think of it?

Falling in love with Venice, Italy

 

*Note: I visited Venice as part of my Busabout trip around Europe. They provided me with transport on all 3 of their Europe loops, but all opinions of the destinations I visit are entirely my own! I also received a complimentary boat tour in Venice thanks to Walks of Italy.

43 Comments

  • SnarkyNomad says:

    I nearly missed out on Venice too, but Venice’s beauty outweighs its touristy atmosphere. There are just too many good qualities to get shrouded by commercial nonsense. Is it a surprise to anyone that all you need to do to make a city 500 times better is simply remove the cars? Add to that the maze-like streets, old buildings, and canals, and you’ve got a tiny paradise. And it’s easy enough to get away from the crowds by getting lost in the middle of nowhere, as I sure did. Pretty sure I found a prison or something.
    SnarkyNomad recently posted..5 ways to waste a perfectly good travel experience

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I totally agree that the good outweighs the bad. And, like you said, to get away from the crowds, simply walk down an empty street and get lost. I did it tons of times!

  • Hey Amanda!
    Loved your post! I really enjoyed reading about your experience. Having followed you on FB and Instagram, I knew you did not expect to like Venice… It’s great to see you liked it so much, we can totally see it through your gorgeous photos! You are a great inspiration 🙂
    Catherine @TheGoFever recently posted..Travel Fail: Running out of gas in the desert, Jordan

  • Rebecca says:

    Venice is one of my favorite cities in the world because it’s unlike anywhere else. I think it was one of the first places where I learned to let go of planning as well, because it’s nearly impossible to plan when you are getting lost every 5 minutes. But not really, because as long as you can find your hotel from San Marco, you’ll be right as rain. I love it! I am really glad you enjoyed it too and it surprised you in that way! Yay!
    Rebecca recently posted..Alaska – The Last Day-ish

  • Renuka says:

    Well, I hope it never sinks. Venice is beautifully captured by you! Excellent post!
    Renuka recently posted..Why I Like Travelling ‘Solo’

  • kami says:

    I heard only bad things about Venice before visiting it and so I was sure I’d hate it too. But it was quite the opposite, I loved it big time and it was a pleasure to return there few more times. I think it’s the city that everyone should visit, just to see what the whole discussion is about. No matter what people say it is pretty amazing!
    kami recently posted..All you need to know about: Lviv, Ukraine

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I couldn’t agree more! No matter what your preconceived notions are about Venice, you absolutely should visit at least once to see it for yourself.

  • Kiara Gallop says:

    Beautiful photos 🙂 I loved Venice too, despite how smelly everyone telling me it was! (it wasn’t). Like you, I love the fact that you can walk a little off the tourist trail and you can find yourself completely alone, getting lost down its little side streets, and at night some of the most atmospheric photos can be taken here 🙂

  • The small canals that you say “you won’t be able to find again” is actually one that I pass every day to go to the university, LOL!
    Stefania – the Italian Backpacker recently posted..Stonehenge vs. Ring of Brodgar

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Haha, really? Well, I suppose if you were there every day for an extended amount of time you would eventually be able to find your way around just fine!

  • Joanna Kwong says:

    After travelling Europe and meeting people from Venice, it has definitely been added to my bucket list! Now I can’t wait to plan another trip to Europe and include it.

  • Sarah says:

    Venice is not on my top ‘to visit’ list, strangely enough… Not because of the occasional bad review, but I guess the crowds put me off. I visited Rome during summer and there were so many tourists, I felt like I was in Disneyland… But who knows, maybe I should visit Venice during the autum or winter, when there are less visitors? Your pictures definitely inspire me to do so! 🙂
    Sarah recently posted..Part II. The best of Palawan

  • Shaz Lake says:

    Wow, Venice has always been on my bucket list it looks amazing through your photos! I can’t wait to get lost there too someday soon 🙂
    Shaz Lake recently posted..7 Absolute Must-Stop Spots on the Road to Hana, Maui

  • I have definitely visited places on our trip that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like because they were “too touristy” and had been ruined only to find that I actually really enjoyed them despite their flaws. When I visited Italy several years ago, I didn’t bother to visit Venice because I thought it would just be an overpriced tourist trap. Your post is a good reminder that we shouldn’t judge a place until we’ve experienced it for ourselves and that popular places are usually popular for a reason. I am hoping that the next time I make it to Italy that I’ll be able to fit Venice in… one of these days it really will be underwater so I’d better check it out while I’ve got the chance! 😀
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..The Secret to Happiness: Savor the Small Stuff

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I’m always of the belief that people experience places differently. So while it’s true that I didn’t have high hopes for Venice, I’m REALLY glad I visited to make my own judgment. Because it totally surprised me!

  • Nicole says:

    We were there for a portion of our honeymoon. And yes, it’s crowded. But the most adorable thing happened in San Marco Square: a pigeon landed on my husband’s shoulder and stayed there. I know they’re friendly to people in that square. But, it was like the pigeon thought they were best buds.
    Nicole recently posted..Wednesday’s Wonder: Love

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Haha, I think I would have freaked out if a pigeon landed on me! Hopefully it was a good honeymoon destination for you.

  • Rebecca says:

    Great article and some awesome images – I must say the best way I have heard to get around teh city is by kayaking – that I ncan’t wait to try
    Rebecca recently posted..Chapter 63: Dreams can come true in Ibiza

  • Elisa says:

    My parents and I went to Venice as a port of call on our cruise in summer 2004.

    If you’re interested, “Death in the Floating City” by Tasha Alexander is set in Renaissance and 19th century Venice. (It’s #7 in her Lady Emily mystery series)

  • Judy Brancazio says:

    I have been fortunate to visit Venice twice. First in 1988 with my late husband on a tour of Italy. We spent 3 days in Venice. I loved it !! the canals did not smell, The weather was grand. The food delicious and sights……incredible. I was able to see Venice again in 1996 while on a Church tour of the country. Again, enthralled with everything about the city. I hope I can go back again.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      It’s great to hear that you got to enjoy Venice – and that you enjoyed it just as much the second time around!

  • “And enough strong opinions about it to overwhelm a person.” So true! I’m glad you loved it and am so eager to visit. You captured Venice beautifully. Thanks for sharing!
    Lauren Meshkin recently posted..Big Bear Lake: A perfect weekend getaway from Los Angeles

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Venice seems to be one of those places to you either love or hate; I’m happy that I loved it! Hopefully you won’t be disappointed, either.

  • Heather says:

    I love Venice! I’ve been twice and can’t wait to go back! Even with all the tourists and pigeons, I was swept away by its history and romantic atmosphere.
    Heather recently posted..Visiting the NYC 9/11 Memorial

  • ALAIN says:

    I’ll be there latter in may ! can’t wait anymore…
    J’y serai en mai ! Je n’en peu plus d’attendre…
    Yo voy a Venice, mas tarde en mayo…

  • Chuck & Lori says:

    Beautiful pictures – some look a lot like ones we’ve taken, and Venice is an EASY place to take great pictures. We love, love, love Venice! But to really appreciate it you have to get off the beaten path, you have to stay away from Piazzo San Marco, you have to get lost in the little streets and alleys and over the bridges, and you have to eat at places that don’t have menus and they don’t speak English. That’s how we feel in love with Venice!
    Chuck & Lori recently posted..Bug Family

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