A lot of people visit Venice - but how many of those people leave feeling as if they've really, truly experienced it ?
Too often, I see people arriving in Venice wearing rose-coloured glasses, dreaming of themselves sipping Apérol Spritz on a gondola, serenaded by a tall, handsome Italian. And too often, these are the very people that become quickly overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of the tourist crowds, and leave the city feeling done in, tired and broke.
Seeing Venice is about a lot more than simply checking off a list of TripAdvisor "Sites and Monuments". And it's certainly about a lot more than visiting one of TripAdvisor's top restaurants, too.
In this blog post, I'll tell you about some of the main sights in Venice, and whether they're worth skipping, or staying for.
Piazza San Marco - SKIP THROUGH
Almost every itinerary for Venice is built around Piazza San Marco, and so I can understand your shock when I say that it's absolutely not worth the time at all.
A visit to Piazza San Marco will be the most overwhelming experience of your life - and not for the right reasons. The Doge's Palace is marvellous, as is St Marco's Basilica, but the true culprit here are the sheer crowds, street vendors and pickpockets.
Don't even think about buying a coffee here. Instead of the usual, easy 1-2€ that you've grown accustomed to spending on coffee anywhere else in Venice (or hell, even Italy), an espresso in Piazza San Marco could set you back 4€ - simply for the fact that it is a coffee in Piazza San Marco. And that's the tariff for standing up.
However, the beauty of these buildings cannot be understated, and while I don't necessarily recommend spending too much time in this area, it is definitely something you need to see, at least from the outside.
A tour of the Doge's Palace or St Marco's Basilica is not something that remained memorable from my trips to Venice, as one spends most of it waiting in a line to get into the next hall.
Simply put, the view from the exterior is awesome enough to justify cutting out the tour.
Note: If you're visiting Venice during the Carnevale, Festa del Redentore or New Years' Eve - you'll do well to skip on heading to Piazza San Marco like everyone else.
For the fireworks, it's better to head over to Giudecca, the Punta Dogana or Riva degli Schivavone if you're wanting to see anything and still be able to move.
For the party (in summer months only), grab one of the all-night service vaporettos to Lido and check out one of their beach clubs.
Rialto Bridge - SKIP
We all know when our friends have visited Venice - it's when they post that picture from Rialto Bridge overlooking the Grand Canal. A few years ago, this might have been a trendy photograph - even beautiful, perhaps. But nowadays, the art of trying to crop out other tourists from your "unique" and "authentic" Rialto Bridge photograph becomes an even heavier task than taking the photo itself.
When I visit Venice, I try my absolute best to avoid this bridge entirely. Not only is it no longer a great spot for photographs, it's also almost entirely impossible to cross! Booked a 20:30 table at a restaurant on the other side? Better get in line at 19:00.
What to do instead:
If you're looking for great canal photographs, the answer is in the suburbs. Steer clear of the tourist areas, and head in the direction of Fondamente Nuove (from Piazza San Marco direction) for some cute, quiet canals.
I often keep track of which bridges / canals to take photographs at by keeping a Note on them in my apps, or marking them on Google Maps. The above pictured canal was spotted on a walk home from dinner, and then snapped the next day.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection - STAY
By this point, you probably think I'm not a big lover of art. After all, the Basilica in Piazza San Marco houses some really impressive frescoes. But in fact, you couldn't be more wrong.
Instead, I direct you to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection of contemporary and modern art on Accademia island of Venice.
A little off the beaten track or perhaps unheard of, you won't find as many tourists here. However, the collection is incredibly impressive.
As for most modern art collections, there are always pieces that one doesn't like, and granted - Peggy has a few that don't quite tickle my fancy. But the pieces that can be viewed there - from Jackson Pollock to René Magritte - are astounding.
I was also impressed by the talks that are hosted in the art gallery during the day, which are included in the price of your ticket. Interns working at the gallery are tasked with presenting these small talks. To date, I've attended two on Peggy's life, one on Jackson Pollock and another on Peggy's selection process.
Burano - STAY FOR SOME SHOPPING
Burano is a great stop for many reasons.
Firstly - the colour. While Venice's main island may be gorgeous, its buildings very often take on the same colourings and style. In Burano, this idea goes completely out the window. Pictured above, you can see the magnificent houses and stores lining the main canal of the island.
Another reason to visit here is because of its gorgeous fabric stores. Burano is known for its lace and linen, and they're not shy to show it off. I've purchased many pieces here, including scarves and lace overlay shirts.
However, there aren't many options for lunch or even a coffee here. So if you're visiting, make sure you won't get hungry too soon. The vaporetto to/from Burano can take a full hour and a half.
Murano Glass Blowing - STAY
Murano island is only a short (20-40min) vaporetto ride from Venice Fondamente Nuove.
On this island, you'll not only see some more of Venice's gorgeous canals, but you'll see them without the crowds.
There are many glass factories on Murano, and most won't charge for you to watch their process - however a 2€ tip is appreciated. You'll be escorted to a seating area where you'll watch a master of the Murano glass-blowing technique create two or three magnificent pieces from a simple blob of heated glass (as pictured above).
This is definitely one of my must-sees in Venice, and something that never gets old as many times as you visit. It's not obligatory to buy something, but there are gorgeous pieces that can be given as gifts. For example, I bought my boyfriend's mother a wine stopper with a glass top.
Now that you've got some sightseeing under your belt, you must be hungry.
Check in again soon for Part II of Bella Venezia - Where to Eat and Why That Pasta is Black !