During our recent trip to France & Italy we spent four nights in Venice. I’ve already reviewed the St. Regis Venice and the Gritti Palace Venice, which are the two hotels we stayed at. In this post I wanted to share my impressions of visiting Venice as such.
I realize I’m hardly a trailblazer by traveling to Venice, but the last time I visited was 20+ years ago, when I was a kid, and I remember very little. With this trip I felt like I was seeing Venice as a first-timer.
Venice is unbelievably magical
Venice is probably one of the most recognizable places in the world, and it’s for good reason. Venice is such a special place to the point that it almost doesn’t feel real. In that sense I’d equate it almost to Disney World — it’s fairly compact, but there’s so much to see, and it’s so perfect that it almost seems fake (okay, I’m not actually sure I feel that way about Disney… never mind).
The nice thing is that it’s kind of easy to get around Venice, at least for those with good mobility. While there are endless canals (and the Grand Canal snaking through the city), they’re virtually all connected by bridges and paths.
Venice Grand CanalVenice Grand Canal
The only time we ever took a boat was when we arrived, when we left, and then we took one evening cruise through the city.
Cruising in Venice, Italy
But otherwise the city is extremely walkable, and there are just endless things to see. At every corner there’s something new and beautiful, and at some point I just had to put down my phone and stop taking pictures.
Canals of Venice, ItalyCanals of Venice, ItalyCanals of Venice, ItalyCanals of Venice, ItalyVenice is surprisingly walkablePiazza San Marco in Venice, ItalyA pretty fun way to get around a city!
We lucked out with when we visited
Traveling to Venice in late March can be a gamble. It can be cold and it can rain, but in our case we had nearly perfect weather for three of the four days we were there. It was in the low 60s during the day, and it was consistently sunny.
I’m so grateful we visited when we did, because Venice felt pretty empty. In summer you see images of Venice being way overcrowded, so to be able to visit when it was empty was a real treat.
Venice was quiet while we visitedI can’t imagine Venice gets much quieter than this
Venice can also get really hot in the summer, so as much as I’m someone who usually seeks our warm weather, I’ll take the city in the low 60s over the low 80s… especially without the crowds.
On our first night we were jetlagged and decided to go on a late night walk, and that was probably my favorite memory of being in Venice. It was eerily quiet, and the city has a completely different feel at night.
Nighttime in Venice, ItalyNighttime in Venice, Italy
Venice has great Italian food, but…
One thing that many people like about traveling is great dining experiences. If you like great food, don’t expect Venice to be like Milan (which shouldn’t come as a surprise):
Venice has phenomenal Italian restaurants; of course Italian food is tasty, but sometimes it’s nice to get a bit of variety, especially if you’re staying for a longer periodVenice doesn’t exactly have a great international dining scene, so if you’re expecting world class international cuisine, you might feel a bit restricted in Venice; I’m sure there are some good non-Italian hole-in-the-wall options, but based on Googling and asking concierges, I couldn’t come up with many great options
So this is just something to be aware of if you’re planning a longer stay in Venice, and having varied dining experiences is important. Or maybe I just missed all the great non-Italian restaurants, in which case I’m sure OMAAT readers will correct me shortly.
We had some great Italian meals in Venice
We want to return to Venice (surprisingly?)
When it comes to travel, I tend to think there are some places you’re excited to visit once, but don’t feel the need to return to, while there are other places you want to go back to over and over. There’s nothing wrong with a destination being in the former category, since there are lots of places in the world to explore.
Going in, I was expecting that I’d be happy about having visited Venice again, but wouldn’t want to return. Yet surprisingly, both Ford and I are already saying we’d like to go back at some point, maybe even in winter. For whatever reason we’ve decided this could be a fun place to go over Christmas (we like the idea of traveling over Christmas, but not to places that are way overcrowded).
There was something we loved so much about the experience, even though we can’t quite put our finger on it. I suspect in many ways that’s a function of our expectations having been exceeded — we lucked out with amazing weather, Venice was quiet, and we didn’t necessarily think it would be our favorite place.
We’re already looking forward to returning to Venice
I just visited Venice for the first time since my childhood, and was pleasantly surprised. Venice is so popular for good reason, because it’s unlike anywhere else out there. The combination of the beautiful scenery with endless walking opportunities was something we enjoyed.
However, I’m really grateful that we visited when we did, as I imagine I would have had a very different experience if visiting in summer. And of course going in March comes with some risk of rain and cold weather, though we lucked out in that regard.
If you’ve visited Venice, what did you make of it?
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