Off the Beaten Path in Venice

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since our trip to Italy! It was an incredible trip, and we’ve been reflecting back on those happy memories lately. We feel exceptionally lucky that we had the chance to go last year, and our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Italy and around the world that are dealing with the current pandemic. To spread some happiness, we’re finally sharing some of our tips from our time in Venice.

On final stop on our trip through Italy concluded in Venice! By this point, we have traversed a good bit of the country, taking in sights from the coast to the countryside and now the islands of Venice. While Venice is regarded as one of the must-see places while you still can (it sinks a little bit further into the water each year!), that brings its own challenges of being subject to over-tourism. We made it our mission to enjoy the major claims to fame for Venice, but also to seek out places and activities that only locals know about. Here are some of our tips to help you experience the other side of Venice:

1. Visit cicchetti bars in the early evening for the best small plates and drinks. Our first night in Venice, we booked an Airbnb experience with a local Venetian for a food and drink tour. (New to Airbnb? Use our link for a discount off your first stay here.) He took our small group around to several tiny local bars and introduced us to the concept of cicchetti. Essentially, these are small bites and drinks that you enjoy before a later meal – think of it as a Venetian happy hour! It’s a great way to try some of the traditional Venetian foods like sardines, polpette (fried meatballs), or crostini. And you have to have something to wash down your food, so ask for an ombra di bianco o di rosso which is the Italian equivalent of a small glass of the house wine. It’s getting harder and harder to find truly authentic Venetian restaurants on the island, so the cicchetti bars are some of the best ways to have a real taste of Venice. My favorite cicchetti was anything with fresh pesto, while Grant preferred the smoked fish or proscuitto. TLB Tip: If you are feeling particularly adventurous, try the sarde en saor – a traditional Venetian sardine dish!

2. Take the traghetto across the lagoon to say you’ve ridden a gondola without the expensive price tag. A gondola ride is the epitome of the Venetian experience, but we had heard so many stories about bad experiences or overpriced tours. We were wary to book anything and decided to save our money and forgo the ride, until we learned about the traghetto option. Essentially, the traghetto is a gondola without all of the fancy bells and whistles and it’s used as a ferry to get passengers from one side of the lagoon to the other. It’s a quick 2 minute ride, but for the experience on the water and for only 2 Euros each, we had a blast!

3. Bring your own water bottle to save money on the waters sold by the overpriced street vendors. You’ll find fountains and safe tap drinking water throughout Italy, so it’s super easy to fill up throughout the day if you have your own water bottle. Bonus tip: bring your empty bottle to one of the island’s bulk wine stores and they will fill up a liter for less than 3 Euros of one of their house wine! We ended up randomly discovering a location during one of our walks. It was a great way to try some local wine for cheap, especially if you are planning to be there for a few days.

4. Enjoying walking around the city, even if you don’t have a destination in mind. I’ll admit that while I’m typically good with directions, Venice was a challenge for me. With so many winding alleyways and bridges traversing the city, it’s easy to get turned around or lost. The good news is that the city is relatively small and very walkable. Our favorite times in Venice were when we just started heading in the general direction of our final destination, with no time constraints. We stumbled upon an amazing little bookshop that kept books in gondolas and bathtubs to protect the books during the flooding season which was so cool to see. Another day, we bought a vaporetto (water taxi) pass, and we took an adventure over to the island of Lido to visit the beach and went to Murano to see the amazing blown glass. We didn’t have any specific activities in mind when visiting both of these places, but it is so calming to be next to the ocean and to see more of Venice outside of the main island.

Is Venice on your bucket list for a future trip to Italy? What would you be most excited about?

Be sure to check out our other Italy posts about Sorrento and Florence!

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