If there is one city that should be on every avid cruiser’s list of must-see destinations, Venice is it. For starters, Venice is one world’s most unique cities — architecturally, historically and environmentally. Situated on a patchwork of more than 100 low-lying islands, Venice is sliced by canals. Thus, visitors see Venice in one of two ways: from the perspective of the water or on foot.
Be prepared to wear down the soles of your shoes as you stroll Venice’s labyrinth of sidewalks and seaside esplanades. If you see all of Venice, you will have crossed more than 450 bridges (called ponti). Most are only a few steps up and down to cross the more than 150 canals that run through Venice.
Walking is one of the best ways to explore this city where even getting lost can be fun. Finding your way around Venice often ends up in a serendipitous sojourn.
Narrow alleys can lead to wide piazzas (city squares) or dead-ends. You never know where a path might take you, even if you have a good map in your hand.
On nearly every corner, you will find a gelato, th oh-so-delicious Italian frozen dessert or a bar serving the typical Venetian Spritz, made with white wine, Aperol or Campari, and a splash of soda.
One recommendation for a great Spritz: Academia Foscarini, at the foot of the Accademia Bridge, where the Spritz can be ordered with Prosecco instead of white wine.
It takes some time to get oriented, but it helps to know that Venice is comprised of six districts (sestieri) and divided by the Grand Canal, an S-shaped waterway that is the heart of the city. Only three bridges cross the Grand Canal, the most famous of which is the Rialto Bridge (Accademia and Scalzi are the two other bridges).
A good way to get an overview of Venice is to board a vaporetto (water bus). For the Grand Canal, board vaporetto number 1. It travels the complete 1.5-mile length of the Grand Canal at a pace that is slow enough for you to admire the 100 Gothic-Venetian palazzi (palaces) on either side.
You’ll be seeing the best face of Venice from the water, as the palace facades that face the canal were often given lavish architectural treatment. Vaporetto number 1 takes about 40 minutes to travel the length of the canal. If you’re enjoying the ride, stay on board for the return trip.
Don’t even think about leaving Venice without a gondola ride. Yes, it can be pricey, more than 100 euros for evening rides, but the time you spend in the gondola will go down as one of your most memorable travel experiences.
After you’ve cozied up under a blanket in the back of the gondola and listened to the quiet paddling and melodic voices of gondoliers, you’ll certainly leave thinking that Venice is one of the world’s most romantic cities. And you won’t be alone in thinking so.
Annually, more than 12 million people visit Venice. No wonder they come in such numbers. The city is recognized as an artistic and architectural patriarch. There is so much for the visitor to see and do that even a week hardly suffices.
Of course, you will likely arrive with some sense of familiarity, although Venice has been portrayed in so many ways that visitors often find it difficult to distinguish the real city from its romantic interpretations in poem, prose, photographs and film. Indeed, avid cruisers arriving in Venice find themselves immersed in a place that seems otherworldly. But then Venice is like no place else on earth.
Arriving or departing from Venice by air? Check out Getting Between The Venice Airport & City Center.