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Trip to Venice: Perfect Plan for Enjoying Venice Stress-free

Trip to Venice: Perfect Plan for Enjoying Venice Stress-free

When you live in the United States and you think about taking a trip to Europe, your mind darts so quickly from place to place and you start to create an enormous to-do list of sights and experiences you MUST cross off. Venice, Italy is at the top for everybody, I swear, and rightly so. But today you hear stories from everybody who visits of being over-run by tourists and walking through narrow streets in single file lines. Not cool. But we know how to enjoy a stress-free trip to Venice and now you can too.

Known as “la Serenissima”, the most serene, Venice is chalked full of history and beauty. It’s calm and peaceful in the wee hours, and yet it’s crazy and crowded with tourists in the daytime and around famous landmarks. Our method of exploring and tips are sure to help you have a relaxing and unforgettable trip to Venice.

11 Tips to planning a perfect vacation to Venice, Italy. Hotels, photography spots, best things to do in Venice. #Venice #Italy #Europe #vacation

Tips for a Stress-free Trip to Venice

Growing up on the west coast of the USA, the oldest structures we have anywhere are barely 150 years old, so immediately any fascinating architecture must go on the travel list.  And then there is art.  In the Seattle area we are inundated with local art (subjects of orca whales, boats, produce, modernism…), so the chance to visit every single museum filled with historic pieces in every city cannot be missed. But here’s some real talk: if you want to enjoy Venice stress free, let yourself be okay with not visiting every single museum, because there are SO MANY things to do.

Oh, and food.  I can’t even begin to talk about that, so our friend Kavita will tackle that for us over on her blog. The best food in Venice should be left to the experts. My only thing to say about the food in Venice is that their preparation of seafood is unique in comparison with other places in Italy and at least one meal in Venice needs to be local seafood dishes.

You could say that Venice is a foot traffic nightmare, and you wouldn’t be lying, but that doesn’t mean it has to cause anxiety. Stress free Venice is all about letting the city lead you to the best experiences for YOU.

Alleyway with Laundry in Venice Italy 2

The most intense and stressful trip ever: Paris to Florence

See everything, don’t miss any major tourist sites, eat each famous food. This was the approach we took to Paris.   It wasn’t practical and left us tired.  As we headed south we were getting foiled at every turn.  In Nice, there was a beach that just had to be swum at and nothing else mattered because we were still tired from Paris. 

In Florence, we arrived during a week where everything but the Uffizi was closed.  In Pisa, nothing was accessible due to renovations.  By the time we got to Venice, we had no choice but to drop all expectations and just see what happened.  That was the key to enjoying the magic of Venice.

Stress free Venice is all about magic.

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore Giudecca Venice Italy 1

First Impressions on a trip to Venice

It’s cliched to say that Venice is magical, but it’s true.  We arrived in Venice via the train after enjoying Tuscany.  First thing we noticed was that the station was less than thrilling and needed an update.  As we wandered out, we were already tired and in the mood of “just get us to our hotel.”  And then we exited Santa Lucia Station, looked up and stopped in our tracks.  Until you have arrived in Venice yourself, it’s difficult to understand how quickly you’re transported into a completely different world.

Boats were zooming by, some just floating by.  Tourists were silent, but Venetians were yelling and just going about their lives like we weren’t there.  Besides the motors on the boats, it was like nothing had been updated in the floating city for hundreds of years.  Truly, it was the best first impression of a city that I’ve ever had.

Colorful building off Grand Canal Venice Italy 1

Getting around Venice: Stress-free Transportation

First of all, I think 3 days in Venice is ideal. That gives you time to explore on foot, time to try the many types of water transportation and you’ll have plenty of time to relax. After day one, you’ll be much more at ease in the city and able to enjoy it even more.

Once we snapped out of it and realized that we had places to be, we figured out the vaporettos (water buses) and made our way down the Grand Canal and across the lagoon to the Lido, one of the outlying islands of Venice.  We were able to buy tickets at one of the vaporetto docks, loading them up for multiple rides. This saved us time later because we already had vaporetto fare purchased and could quickly get on the boat.

Tip:  the vaporetto system is genius for quick transportation and helps a novice easily navigate the city.  Load your vaporetto pass for at least four trips worth of fare to save time and make your trip to Venice stress free.

Chris Taylor at Vaporetto Station Venice Italy 1

“But what about the gondolas? A trip to Venice isn’t complete without a gondola ride.” Yeah, go for it. There are hundreds of them and you can do a canal tour on one, sure, but it’s going to cost you 80 Euros, and in certain areas, there are so many gondolas that it’s a traffic jam.

If you really would like to do a gondola ride, do it very first thing in the morning and begin the ride on the east side of Venice where there are fewer tourist hanging out. Enjoying a quiet gondola ride is possible and would definitely make a trip to Venice complete.

Vaporetto Station at southern bank Venice Italy 1

How to navigate the town of Venice

Once we were sufficiently lost in the back alleys of the city, we started noticing old, faded signs pointing us towards “RIALTO”.  Great!  We could just follow the signs!  Yeah, no.  If there’s one thing we learned about finding your way in Venice it’s that you should just follow the people, not the signs or any map.  Following the people takes you either to a tourist space or local gathering place.  If you’re following people with backpacks or matching shirts, you’re going to find a landmark such as the Naval Academy.  It’s a beautiful sight to see and photograph, but you can’t go in.

Pizza cafe in neighborhood in Venice Italy 1

We followed a couple of local folks and landed in a market space full of Venetian treats and some of the best people watching in all of Europe.  I have no clue what it was called; it wasn’t on any map that I could see, but it was genuinely Venice and was clearly not a tourist spot. Finds like this make a trip to Venice unforgettable.

Tourist tip:  the Rialto area, all around near the bridge, does have amazing markets to purchase snacks and more from, but if you’re lost or on the other side of the city, ask for directions to a market place.  You’ll find what you need and probably a perfect café to sit in too. Basically, if you have a destination in the city you’re looking for, if you get lost, that’s fine, just enjoy where you are.

Rialto Bridge at night Venice Italy 1

Where to Stay in Venice: Stress-free Lido Accommodations

We chose to stay here because the price was right and it seemed like a good way to experience the non-tourist side of Venice. We were right. Lido is the stress free Venice we needed. Once on the Lido, we saw that it had canals too and residents had boats too, but that the homes and buildings were no older than the 1920s it seemed.  There were a few actual streets and there were a few cars here and there, but still not a crazy place.  The Lido was a pleasant contrast to the actual city of Venice and we welcomed it.

View of Venice from Lido Island Venice Italy 1

Note:  staying on the Lido is not as convenient as being in a pensione in the city, but it afforded us extra spending money and provided easy access to a fantastic swimming beach on the Adriatic Sea.

Beach on the Lido Venice Italy 1

Responsible Places to Stay IN Venice

If you do choose to stay within the main part of the city of Venice, make a responsible lodging decision. What do I mean? With the rise of AirBNB and other rooming apps and programs, it’s becoming more and more difficult for Venetians to actually still live in their city. This is the problem across the board in many Italian cities and towns, and even here in our hometown of St Augustine, Florida. What can you do to make life sustainable in places like Venice, Florence, Amalfi and beyond?

Side canal off Grand Canal Venice Italy 3
  • as charming as a cute studio in the middle of Venice is, book a hotel or pensione, not an AirBNB
  • stay just outside of the city of Venice where you can still have the feel, but not the impact
  • if you must book at AirBNB (or other such lodging) evaluate the saturation of the market and don’t contribute to the problem if it’s bad or looks like it’s developing into an issue.
  • reach out to AirBNB or other platforms sharing your concerns to prompt corporate social responsibility re: preserving historic town life

For  a more detailed take on the best options for where to stay IN Venice, check out this great article.

Venetian woman walking along docks in pajamas Venice Italy 1

What to see on a trip to Venice

The tourist attractions of Venezia aren’t as many as you’d think.  There are the big ones of St. Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace, but the real attractions are the city “streets” themselves.  While touring St Mark’s and the Palace are required sites to visit, the rest of the city is best just being discovered on your trip to Venice.  We learned this immediately upon exiting the Doge’s Palace…

Doges Palace and Campanille of St Marks Square Venice Italy 1

One wrong turn and we were in a maze of old women with laundry and steps that lead into green water.  There is no shame in wandering the streets until you find snacks or a spot for wine.  There’s no shame in using poor Italian to connect with a local and get a recommendation. Wandering is encouraged, just don’t invade somebody’s front steps or courtyard. Getting off the beaten path in Venice is as easy as making a wrong turn and discovering something new. Maps only help so much…and it’s not a lot. 

Photo tip:  save St Mark’s Square and Cathedral for the late afternoon or evening.  The light at that time is so very golden as it reflects off the gold leafing and windows of the square. Super early in the morning is also amazing, as it’s just a few people setting up cafes for the day and pigeons. Perfect photos to capture on your trip to Venice.

Chris Taylor at Naval Academy Venice Italy 1
Chris Taylor at Naval Academy Venice Italy 1

Top Sites in Venice rated

Everybody has an opinion, but I think the ratings below are very helpful as you plan your trip to Venice and the sites you really need to visit. We recommend equal parts planned stops and surprise discoveries, so let your trip to Venice have a little mystery to it.

  1. the Grand Canal
  2. Doge’s Palace
  3. St Mark’s Square and Basilica
  4. Rialto Bridge and Market
  5. Academia Bridge
  6. Murano and the Glass Blowers – Check out this great day trip around Murano, Burano and more
  7. Lido Beach and the Adriatic
  8. Giudecca and Sta Maria della Salute
  9. The Guggenheim Museum (Giudecca)
  10. Fenice Opera House

Depending on your tastes, you might not be into any of these awesome activities for your trip to Venice, but if you do need ideas, pick a few and enjoy!

Tourists on footbridge in Venice Italy 1

How to experience Venetian Glass  

So much glass.  It is impossible to visit Venice and not notice the amazing blown, twisted glass everywhere.  Of course there are shops to purchase glass and trinkets, but why not venture to where it’s made.  Besides the main city area, there are several production islands close by.  Murano is the home of the glass blowers.  It too is all canals and colorful homes, but there aren’t grand palazzos around every bend.  It’s the home of the workers and the feel is much different than the main city.

Blown Glass flowers on island of Murano Venice Italy 1

While here, you can watch glass blowers hard at work, you can try your hand at glass blowing (in a very controlled environment) and you can shop for anything glass you could imagine. The glass shops of Murano are very diverse, creating both artsy and practical pieces for all budgets. Is a trip to Venice complete without bringing home some sort of Venetian glass? FYI, most shops can help you ship your purchases too.

Canal and Glass shops on island of Murano Venice Italy 1

Other islands to add to your trip to Venice

As you know, the entire city of Venice is just a ton of islands, and then there are the outlying islands that are also just more clusters of islands. Checking out the other island communities is a must during your trip to Venice. The vaporetto system will take you to any of the Venetian isles you want to visit, so getting around is super easy.

As we said, Murano is the island of glass blowing. It’s full of shops and workshops, it’s got low key dining and lots of photo ops. It’s a living, working island though, so just like Venice, be wise and courteous about visiting and exploring Murano.

Quiet courtyard on island of Murano Venice Italy 1

Burano is the island for lace and interesting handiwork. This is also the island community that you see all over Instagram. It’s the most colorful of the Venetian islands and is much more our pace than Murano. If you have the chance to spend a half day on one of the outlying islands, make it Burano!

Docks on backsided of Murano Venice Italy 1

Torcello is the original island with the oldest architecture. There’s not a ton going on there, but it has a beautiful old Byzantine cathedral and the fewest number of tourists. Again, it’s a living, working island so be a respectful tourist. The last recommendation of the outlying islands to visit is Cimitero. It’s amazing… and it a big cemetery. The cemetery island and provides fascinating sights and creepiness and truly the most unique photo ops for your trip to Venice.

To keep it on the cheap, remember that vaporettos are available to all of these islands and are much less expensive than booking private tour boats.

Lion of Venice at Naval Academy Venice Italy 1

How to get to Venice

he final big thing we learned about planning and having a great stress free trip to Venice is that… it’s the most inconveniently located place.  True, it’s a short train ride from a few northern Italian cities, but if you want to head Venice from anywhere else, the train isn’t the way to go.

A train trip to Venice

Despite having Eurail passes, we purchased inexpensive flights back to Paris out of Marco Polo airport (VCE).  It was worth it to see Venice from the sky and not have to spend 24 hours on a slow train to nowhere. If you’re set on making it a train trip to Venice, the three best cities to travel from, meaning that they’re the most direct, are Milan or Florence, Italy, or Ljubljana, Slovenia. All other routes have at least a stopover or a train change… Or a really long day’s journey over the Alps.

We took a direct train with no stops from Florence (Santa Maria Novella Station). We saved money by having a second class Eurail pass and taking the regular train for all travel up to our Florence to Venice leg. We booked specific seats with our Eurail passes when we were at the station and that secured out spot on the fast train to Venice.

Booking tip:  as soon as you know your departure date and relative itinerary and desired travel times, confirm your seats for your next train trip. There may be additional fees for faster trains or more direct routes, but your general Eurail pass will get you wherever you need to go, just maybe not as fast as you’d like. To maximize your time, pay the extra for the faster trains.

Speed train in Santa Lucia Station Venice Italy 2

Flying to/from Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE)

If you’re really into having everything figured out in advance, book your flight into and out of VCE as soon as you know you will be taking a trip to Venice. If you know that you’ll be visiting Venice but don’t want to commit to set dates for everything on your Europe itinerary, you can actually wait until really close to your travel dates and spend the same, or even less sometimes, to book a flight.

Booking tip:  EasyJet or Ryan Air provide affordable flights that are bookable same-day or in advance.  Take advantage of these if you’re pressed for time or budget. You can often get better deals booking regional air over advanced purchase partner airlines of your preferred domestic carriers.

Flying to Venice from the USA is doable if that’s where you want to start your trip to Italy or anywhere else. Delta, United and American all have direct flights from the States, but other airlines can get you there too, just with a connection somewhere. And here is where our best travel tips for a booking trip to Venice or anywhere happen:

Using mileage: if you earn and have the most miles on a domestic American airline, such as Alaska Airlines, you can book international tickets through their mileage partners. Flying into London or Frankfurt from nearly any major US city is a really easy mileage ticket to book. From there, you can book a short flight to your primary destination on the cheap, via EasyJet or something local. Huge savings on international travel! Check out our trip to Croatia to see the great stopovers that saved us hundreds of dollars.

Getting excited for a trip to Venice?

Before you venture down the Grand Canal, take some time to watch a movie or two that’s set in Venice.  Read some books that lead you to or through literary Venice.  I’ll keep my recommendations short:

Films to watch to inspire your trip to Venice

Summertime – perfect to inspire you to just wander and relax in Venice. She visits Venice on her own (the original female solo traveler) and explores the city, falling in love with it and its people… and there’s more to the story, but it’s great. One of my favorite classic movies.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – true, only about 1/4 of the movie takes place in Venice, but it’s great for getting you in the mood and scoping out the sites you’ll want to visit. And you should let it serve to inspire you to dress all vintage for your trip to Venice.

The Tourist – watch it for the sights and mood, not the story line. The movie is fine and interesting enough, but really, seeing Venice portrayed with its moody weather and crumbling buildings is the reason to love the film.

Movie Poster Summertime

Books to read all about Venice

Venice has long been at the center or art and literature, so there is a ton of literature that mentions it or focuses on Venice. Below are our favorite books to get you excited for a trip to Venice. And check out this great list for even more reading all about Italy.

Venice: Lion City, Garry Wills – a non-fiction about the history of Venice in the 15th and 16th centuries. It’s ideal for understanding the history of Venice and its place in world history.

Sta Maria della Salute from Grand Canal with gondola Vanice Italy 1

City of Falling Angels, John Berendt – a non-fiction written in a fictional style.  It’s captivating and makes you feel like you know the city like a good friend. The characters and way you read your way around the city is perfect for inspiring a trip to Venice! – This is actually my favorite book and I’ve read it several times. John Berendt also wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, set in Savannah, Georgia.

Fun anecdote:  the book centers around the Fenice Opera House, its demise and reconstruction.  One night while walking through Venice, just wandering, we heard La Traviata echoing off every wall and alleyway.  We followed the music until it led us to the Fenice.  It was just as I imagined and completely sated my literary needs.

For more ideas to read before heading to Venice, check out Rick Steves’ list of Venice books. He’s a smart guy and the list is pretty comprehensive.

Fenice Opera House at Twilight Venice Italy 1

Do you have any more tips to making Venice more enjoyable and relaxing?  Feel free to add them in comments or email to share!

A trip to Venice, Italy should be relaxing and unforgettable. Easy plan for seeing the best sites, having the best experiences, and still saving money.
A trip to Venice, Italy should be relaxing and unforgettable. Easy plan for seeing the best sites, having the best experiences, and still saving money.
A trip to Venice, Italy should be relaxing and unforgettable. Easy plan for seeing the best sites, having the best experiences, and still saving money.
A trip to Venice, Italy should be relaxing and unforgettable. Easy plan for seeing the best sites, having the best experiences, and still saving money.


Sunday 18th of December 2022

Wow, wonderful article! Thanks for sharing such a great post with us, can't wait to visit!

K Store

Monday 10th of October 2022

Great article you shared, Thanks for sharing such type of precious article.

Alisson Addler

Wednesday 9th of October 2019

Venice it's one of the most beautiful citys not only in Europe but in the whole world, my dream it's to travel and stay there for months with my fionce and have the best time of our lifes, it seems to be a very magical place and it will be amazing to stay there just the two of us!

S. Holmgren

Sunday 6th of October 2019

Thanx a million for your considerations about where to stay. We do suffer from the tourist invasion. Venice is crowded, there's no way around that. 27 million tourist nights and soon less than 50.000 Venetians still hanging around. But the problems, our problems, aren't really ours. Nowadays every tourist-city in Europe has the same problems, more or less. Fortunately the tourists, you, are predictable. You move in certain areas and at certain times of the day. Just as you mention, in summer get up early and sleep after lunch, then go out again in the evening. That way you avoid the hottest time of day and the cruise- ships passengers. Just as you mention, the GETTING LOST is a fabulous thing in Venice. Leave the crowds and the yellow traffic-signs. Let your nose and chance guide you and you will be rewarded with a different Venice, a genuine Venice. Btw, The address.system in Venice is so complicated and incomprehensible that not even the postmen use it. About the Gondola. The tour is 30 minutes and costs 80 euro. 6 persons can ride. Grab one at a Gondola-station away from the city center, go on the small canals, not on Canal Grande and check the 30 minutes. The price is fixed, but time is a bit flexible. I allow myself to drop a link to a guide on the subject Great post.


Sunday 6th of October 2019

Thank you so much for reading and the feedback. I'll update the post with that pricing information. And I'll link to your article too. Love getting up-close perspective.


Saturday 20th of October 2018

Great post with lots of info! Venice is really beautiful. I love the recommendations on how to get excited for the trip :)