We want to help you get your Venice facts in order. Is it magnificent and marvellous or hot and crowded? There’s facts you need to know about Venice before you go, which may make or break your visit. I was totally converted on my second trip. It’s why I want to highlight important travel Venice facts that will help you make the most of your experience.
Venice was our last stop on a self-guided train trip across Italy for one week, beginning in Milan. Our highlights included a day trip to Lake Como; rail to Verona and then to Venice. Click the links to read more about those destinations, and read on for more facts about Venice.
Travel Venice facts
5 facts for starters, about the city…
Venice is built on over 1 million wooden stakes.
There are 118 islands that make up Venice, linked by over 400 bridges (about 70 being private) over more than 170 canals.
In 1608, the Council of Ten approved wearing masks only during the Carnevale in February. Breaking this law meant enduring punishments that ranged from two years in prison to public beating and binding to the ‘pillar of shame’.
Sadly, Venice is sinking at the rate of 1 to 2mm per year.
The population of Venice has decreased from 120,000 to 60,000 in the last 50 years. Apparently Venice could be a ghost town by 2030 with only tourists visiting by day. A sad thought for Venetians, who perceive this level of tourism to be totally unsustainable. So, for us as the travellers, be grateful for the time in the city – seems a lot of sacrifice has taken place for us to enjoy it all.
The weather can be wet or hot, timing is important
If you can be flexible in your travel planning, the top travel Venice fact to work with is that the best times to go are April, May, June, September, and October.
Summer in Venice can be scorching. The first time we visited back in August 2011, we were tired from being on a non-stop tour and drained by the heat. April was near close to perfect though. Venice can also be very wet and flood. The flooding gets to the point where visitors need to buy Wellies (rubber boots). Even waiters in fancy restaurants need to, to get by serving customers seated outdoors.
It doesn’t really matter what time of year you go, Venice is a magnet for people. Main attractions like the Rialto Bridge, St. Mark’s Square and along the Grand Canal are swarming with people – travellers, tour groups, cruise ship stop-over passengers – throughout the day.
During the famous Carnevale in February, the streets get so crowded that distances which would usually take ten minutes to walk might take up to an hour to reach. Our Airbnb experience walking tour guide, Roberto, told us that the city actually constructs lanes, so it’s one way walking to a certain destination, and one way back.
Find a good deal on Airbnb and stay centrally. We were just a couple of minutes walk from the Rialto Bridge. This meant we could get up and go exploring first thing in the morning. Not only was the light lovely, but we weren’t battling crowds to get from A to B.
Additionally, if you want to visit the museums, go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to beat the queues.
Fab Venice fact – some great experiences are FREE
One of the best travel Venice facts that our Airbnb hosts shared with us was to do with the unmissable free view available from the top of Fondaco dei Tedeschi.
This historical building is situated on the Grand Canal, very close to the Rialto Bridge. It’s seen many uses including being used as a trading post for German merchants, a post office during Mussolini’s time, and a customs house under Napoleon.
Today it’s a luxury shopping mall, but at the top you can experience breathtaking rooftop views. It’s absolutely worthwhile, and it’s free, but you need to book your spot.
Venice facts: Gondola rides need-to-know
A gondola ride ranks highly on most travel bucket-lists, but it can turn out to be very expensive. Know before you go:
– A gondola ride costs around $90
– Typically lasts about 40 minutes
– Your Gondolier knows what they’re doing; they all have to pass extensive training to represent the industry in Venice
– Gondolas hold six people so you can share the ride and split the cost
– Sunset or night rides are spectacular, but you’ll pay more for that experience
– Avoid booking through an agency or hotel, you’re likely to pay extra fees
– Talk to the Gondolier about any requests you have for places to see, and consider skipping the crowded Grand Canal
– Wear sunscreen and a hat during the day.
Local water bus options offer cost-effective travel adventures
If a gondola ride is not within budget, try taking the #1 vaporetto down the Grand Canal instead. It’s like the local ferry and for just over €7!
To and from Santa Lucia train station, or the airport:
If you’re coming into Venice from Santa Lucia train station or the Marco Polo airport, be careful of people coming up to you offering to take you to the water taxi that goes into town. These are quite often private services that cost much more than the public ferries.
Look for route number 2 that does the journey between Santa Lucia railway station and St Mark’s Square, making only five stops including Rialto Bridge, where we got off to meet our Airbnb host.
The Alilaguna ferry will take you to and from Marco Polo airport. We got on near the Rialto Bridge and it cost about €15 one way, and the ride was just over an hour.
You will get lost
The streets of Venice are a maze, and you will get lost. But that’s absolutely fine. Don’t worry, just give yourself time to get places if you happen to have an appointment or need to meet a walking tour.
Google Maps led us into quite a few walls, so don’t rely on it. It’s helpful for finding general direction though, and recommendations on where to find a beer or food.
If the prospect of wandering the streets like a pro (and out of tourists’ way) is appealing, we’d highly recommend you engage a guide for a couple of hours. Roberto from Airbnb Experiences was excellent! His Walk, Eat and Drink in Venice tour took us through charming back streets we’d never have found, and showed us there’s much life away from St Mark’s Square. Contact him directly for details or to arrange a bespoke trip if you like.
Authentic dining options may be hard to spot
When in Venice you want to find yourself a local Bacari. This is a bar that serves wine and typical Venetian snacks. These snacks are referred to as cichetti, which generally means savoury snacks or small side dishes. We learnt more about this on our walking tour, referenced above.
A trip to Italy means eating gelato, especially if the weather is warm. But there’s plenty of inauthentic expensive tourist options you should avoid. It’s always good to support the genuine producers.
Basic rules of authentic gelato are:
Look for the gelato being stored in metal tubs, preferably with lids; plastic tubs are a no-no.
Quality gelato will not have vibrant colours because the aim is to make it with a high proportion of natural ingredients and very little (if any) added colouring.
If the ‘gelato’ is piled up high for display and doesn’t melt it means it’s high in vegetable fats and emulsifiers – it’s not the real deal.
Seasonal fruit flavours are a good sign, anything wild resembling Baskin & Robbins is probably not gelato, but something else, like ice-cream.
Not always, but for the most part, the real gelato is sold away from tourist hot-spots. We found a lovely authentic one in Verona that fits all the criteria here, and it was cheap, unlike rip-off options we’ve seen in Florence and Venice.
There’s much more to see
We’ve not had the chance to day-trip from Venice yet, but we plan to, which is why I’m linking ideas in here.
Let me know in the comments what else you’d recommend.
– The islands, including Murano and Burano, are apparently incredible. Have a read here for a summary on each, and why you should visit.
Travel in Venice: safety, packing and payment advice
Our final tips
Cash or card?
There’s a lot of markets and smaller vendors who require cash payments so do have some on you. Most places take cards though.
We felt safe, but always use common sense in crowded places. Thieves operate in these areas in all big cities. Pay attention to your surroundings, don’t carry things in your pockets, and don’t lose focus because you’re distracted by your phone! We’d suggest ignoring people who try to sell you things on the street too.
Pack light. The streets are old, you’ll walk a lot and the ferries are crowded. The last thing you’ll want is to be hauling a huge suitcase along! Shed your stuff, you won’t need half of it anyway.
Got questions or tips? Please do let us know in the comments below…
It’s a special year for me, so I requested a week long trip to celebrate, which is how Milan to Venice train travel became a ‘thing’ this April.
Why the train?
A friend inspired me to explore Italy by train. She highlighted that it’s relatively inexpensive (see thetrainline.com) and stress-free compared with driving. Many of Italy’s major cities are connected by rail. The reason we were talking about this in the first place, is that when we visited Tuscany, we drove, and it was stressful.
My friend was simultaneously travelling with her family by train, between Rome, Florence and Venice. It was easy.
Our Italian affair this April began at Milano Centrale Station, so we might explore this fashion capital that’s been dazzling visitors for years with its design-led initiatives and stunning structures.
When planning our week in Italy, I had a destination in mind. It was actually somewhere that inspired Shakespeare, Verona. So, I took a look at what was accessible from London, and came up with Milan to Venice.
I studied a map and researched flights. We could fly into Milan from London City Airport (✔) and come back from Venice to Stansted Airport (✔). What to do in between then?
Milan to Venice train travel, touching over in Varenna (Lake Como) and Verona, the wish-list destination. Perfecto 👌 About two nights in each location would do the trick. Never enough time, but a start.
How to travel Milan to Venice on the train
If you’re based in the UK, several searches come up on Google when you’re searching for Milan to Venice train options. Italia Rail is one such option. But, Trainline pulls everything together just fine, as far as I’m concerned.
I booked our trips individually on Trainline:
Milan to Varenna for a day trip to Lake Como, about £25 for a day return for two people.
Milan to Verona, to stay for two nights, around £25 for two of us to travel one way. The trip was about two hours.
Verona to Venice, about one hour train journey, costing approx £20 for two of us to travel.
Using the Trainline phone app, I stored our tickets and they were easy to retrieve and show on the train upon request.
Important to note:
I booked our train fares in advance. Closer to the time of travel, it turned out some of the train times were altered slightly. If we’d not arrived at the station early and double-checked the schedule, we may have missed one of our trains which left ten minutes prior to what we had on our ticket. Give yourself time and check schedules on the ground.
Milan to Venice: the highlights
The Milan to Venice train trip and week away in Italy was pure magic.
Verona and Venice are particularly wonderful. Click the links to read our travel guides.
We utilised Airbnb for accommodation – Italy is notoriously expensive in this area. Airbnb together with travelling on the train kept our costs down, and our experience was indeed stress-free.
Train travel in Europe is a treat because of the scenery. We lavished in everything from the snow-capped Alps to little farming villages, vineyards, horses, chickens, ancient churches and glimpses of northern Italy’s great Lakes.
Milan to Venice on the train is an excellent option. If you have time, there’s many spots to stop off at. Next time around I’d love to see more of Lake Garda and the town of Padua, another inspiration to Shakespeare.
Got tips or questions? Let us know in the comments below
It’s my birthday this month. A special one. I’m still getting my head around the number of years I’ve been on this earth, but am making the most of it with an Italian adventure which I’ll link here on the blog.
Milan is famous as being one of the top four fashion destinations in the world, alongside Paris, London and New York. We hit the town during Design Week so the place was buzzing with creative energy and business goings-on.
If you’re keen to include Milan on your travels, be aware that accommodation – like many places in Italy – is expensive. We chose to stay in an AirBnb in a family’s home to save money. Our accommodation was within walking distance to Central Station and about half an hour’s walk from the Duomo (or ten minutes metro ride). This proved to be quite a good distance from the main attractions for us.
The city is much bigger than we expected, with some of the main areas being quite far apart. Milan’s metro is easy to use but the signage is lacking compared with London.
We relied on the kindness of strangers for a guide on where to get off and which direction to go in. Average cost of a metro ride one way is €1.50 and the ticket machines have an English option so not too hard to figure out.
Duomo (Milan Cathedral/ Duomo di Milano)
First stop on your Milan travels will inevitably be the incredible Duomo. This gorgeous Gothic cathedral took six centuries to build. It’s decorated with more statues than any other building in the world – 3400 all up, including 135 gargoyles. It’s made of marble and strikes an imposing figure in the centre of Milan.
You can pay to go inside, as well as climb up stairs or take an elevator to the top for a view over the city. Be prepared to queue and have patience with all the selfie-takers.
Even if you hang about outside, you can appreciate the view in the square and people watch for free.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Helpfully this is positioned right next to the Duomo. It’s Italy’s oldest active shopping mall and renowned as being one of the most beautiful in the world. Many European shopping malls were modelled around this striking place. The gallery is named after Italy’s first king, and it boasts high-end luxury shopping set a four-story double arcade – not for the faint-hearted.
All shops in this mall must have gold signs on a black background – fully branded style.
The place is expensive so be careful where you sit for food or a coffee! It’s free to explore though, and really is very beautiful – probably the most beautiful mall we’re likely to ever see.
Another attraction just a couple of minutes walk outside the Galleria is Lunini’s. It’s famous for deep fried pizza dough. Panzerotti comes from the word pancia, Italian for stomach, which is why the dough comes in a belly-like shape, and offers a variety of fillings.
It’s not expensive but it is popular and you’re likely to have to wait in a long line to be able to try it. The place is sometimes closed in the summer months.
Aperitivo – happy hour with a twist
This is the Italian version of happy hour. Normally when you go to a restaurant you buy a drink and study the menu. In Milan after about 6pm if you find the right place, you pay anywhere from €8 to €10 for a drink (like wine or a cocktail) and you can enjoy a buffet feast for no extra! This blog explains the tradition.
Aperitivo is supposed to be a way to encourage an appetite before dinner, but we simply found it to be a cost-effective way to enjoy a drink and a meal. Well, that was until we found Mono Bar just up the road from where we were staying. The place was recommended on Google for its range of food on offer at the bar (agree, it was great). Their Long Island Iced Teas are addictive and 80s pop/dance soundtrack very enjoyable.
A top spot for Aperitivo is Navigli along the canal that features inspired links to Leonardo Da Vinci, find out more here.
We really wanted to get over this part of the city on our Milan travels, but it was a good half an hour train ride away from us, and as it was cold and wet during our time in Milan we chose to leave it for next time.
Day trip to Lake Como
Milan is a cool city with lots to do, but it’s busy with tourists and can be quite overwhelming. Lake Como is a tranquil escape, with fresh air and stunning scenery. You can take an organised tour here, but we designed a self-guided itinerary that was inexpensive and thoroughly enjoyable, even in rainy weather. Find out more here
As with all big cities, Milan has plenty on offer. Do your research before you go so you don’t miss museums and attractions that are to your own taste and budget.
After our two night stay, we took a train to romantic Verona, setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Verona is about two hours train ride from Milan, and Venice on the other side of that which was our last stop on this week in Italy.
Do you have questions, or tips to add for a trip to Milan? Let us know in the comments below
Italy is a country which is packed with inescapable beauty, whether you’re flying in for Milan in a day, off on a Tuscan road trip or taking a train around the country.
From the stunning architecture of the Milan Cathedral in the north all the way to quaint beach side towns or Naples and Palermo in the south of the country, Italy is always a good idea.
The sights are beautiful, the traditional cuisine is scrumptious and the weather, especially in the summer months, is warm and lovely.
People come from all over the world to soak in the rich history of Italy’s iconic cities like Rome, Venice or Siena.
Milan is a major European fashion capital, and the beach side cities draw a large crowd of tourists every year.
Every city in Italy, whether it’s in the north or south, has something special to offer visitors and Northern Italy is packed full of unique sights and tourist attractions.
If you’re planning a vacation to Northern Italy, you may be overwhelmed at how much there is to do and see! Hopefully this guide will help.
Following are tips on how to enjoy Milan in a day, as well as five of our top picks for the best of northern Italy.
Milan in a day – visit the Cathedral
Among the many things to do in Milan in a day, visiting the Duomo is certainly the most important and memorable one.
The Duomo di Milano, which translates to the Milan Cathedral is a key monument that attract millions of tourists every year.The original building was constructed in the late 14th century and it took a full six centuries to complete, with construction finally ending in 1965.
However, there have been several renovations since then, with the most recent taking place in 2009.
The Duomo of Milano is the largest church in Italy and the third largest in the world, under only St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City and Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil.
The architectural style of the church features broad naves, flying buttresses, openwork pinnacles and spires, as well as the highest Gothic archways of any fully completed church.
When visiting the Milan Cathedral make sure to take a trip to the roof, the most amazing sculptures are located there and you will get to admire the entire city from above.
Certosa di Pavia
Another fantastic place located in the Northern Italian region of Lombardy is the Certosa di Pavia – a beautiful monastery with a rich history.
Its construction took 100 years and was finished just before the turn of the 16h century.
“Certosa” is named after a group of Carthusians, who were typically known for their plain architectural style. However, the Certosa di Pavia, ironically, is one of the most exuberant and intricate buildings in Italy.
It has features of both renaissance and gothic architectural styles, evident in the Latin cross path and gothic arches.
The massive building has several paintings done by famous artists, as well as decorative stained glass windows.
If you love architecture and history this is a perfect place for an interesting afternoon.
After visiting the Certosa it is highly recommended to head south and explore the lovely town of Pavia located just 15 minutes away.
Autodromo di Monza
If you aren’t as intrigued by the rich history of old buildings and architecture, there are still plenty of places to visit in Northern Italy- one of which is the Autodromo di Monza.
This historic race track is located to the north of Milan and third purpose-built motor racing circuit to exist in the entire world.
The Autodromo has three tracks and several races take place there annually. For all car and race-track fans, visiting the Autodromo di Monza could be an absolute dream come true.
If you ever see any pictures of Italy featuring a crystal blue lake in a valley, surrounded by lush green hills and white-capped mountains, that’s Lake Como.
Set at the base of the Alps, Lake Como is a posh resort area. Located in the Lombardy region, Lake Como is one of the largest and deepest lakes in the country, measuring 146 square kilometers in area and 400 meters in depth.
The lake stretches to meet the cities of Bellagio, Como and Brunate, amongst many others. For those interested in visiting, you can see Lake Como during a day trip or opt to stay in accommodation like lakeside villas.
The Brunate Lighthouse, also referred to as the Faro Voltiano di Bronate or the Volta Lighthouse, is located in Brunate near Lake Como.
The lighthouse was named after Alessandro Volta, a famous Italian physicist and chemist who made significant contributions to power and electricity.
It was constructed in 1927 on the 100th anniversary of Volta’s death. Brunate Lighthouse stands a whopping 29 meters tall and features a light that flashes red, green and white that can be seen as far as 50 km away. The colors symbolize the invention of the battery, which is said to have been invented by Volta. Though a steep climb, the trip to this large octagonal structure is well worth it.
Sacro Monte di Varallo
A sacro monte is a mountainside building used by Christians to worship Christ. Directly translated as the Sacred Mountain of Varallo, the Sacro Monte di Varallo overlooks the quaint town of Varallo Sesia.
Varallo Sesia has a population of just over 7,000 people and is located in the Northern Italy region of Piedmont.
The Sacro Monte di Varallo grounds are fascinating, as they are surrounded by a garden, several chapels that narrate the life of Christ and many statues and sculptures that do the same. If you are interested in history, religion and culture, you won’t want to miss this place.
Barbara Mazz is the founder of crabintheair.com, a travel blog where she shares her passion for exploring the world. She loves writing about all the hotels visited, the wonderful cities discovered and the unique people met along the way.
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