Moon Venice & Beyond

Day Trips, Local Spots, Strategies to Avoid Crowds


By Alexei J. Cohen

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From Venetian Renaissance art to corner trattorias, dig into the city known as La Serrenissima (“Her Most Serene”) with Moon Venice & Beyond.
  • Explore In and Around the City: Get to know Venice’s most interesting neighborhoods, like San Marco, Cannaregio, and Castello, and nearby areas, including Padua, Vicenza, Verona, the Dolomites, and more
  • Go at Your Own Pace: Choose from tons of itinerary options designed for foodies, history buffs, art lovers, and more
  • See the Sights: Gaze at the golden mosaics lining the ceiling of St. Mark’s Basilica, step inside the grand Doge’s Palace, walk across the Rialto Bridge, and take a gondola ride through the city’s winding canals
  • Get Outside the City: Linger in the colorful fishing village of Burano or the romantic city of Verona, and marvel at the Giotto frescoes in Padua
  • Savor the Flavors: Sample traditional seafood dishes, unbeatable sweet treats, and classic cicchetti (a delicious assortment of finger foods)
  • Experience the Nightlife: Relax at a canal-side bar, chat with locals as the wine decants at a rustic enoteca, and sip locally-produced Prosecco
  • Get to Know the Real Venice: Follow local suggestions from Italian transplant Alexei Cohen
  • Full-Color Photos and Detailed Maps
  • Handy Tools: Background information on Venetian history and culture, plus tips on ethical travel, what to pack, where to stay, and how to get around
Day trip itineraries, favorite local spots, and strategies to skip the crowds: Take your time with Moon Venice & Beyond.

Exploring more of Italy? Check out Moon Florence & Beyond or Moon Milan & the Italian Lakes.



















It’s hard not to feel the romance of Venice. Founded after the fall of the Roman Empire, this island city’s glorious past is still evident within the mosaic-encrusted Basilica di San Marco and inside Palazzo Ducale, where doges ruled over much of the Mediterranean. Geography forced the city to look outward and prosper by trading with the world. The result of all that commercial and cultural exchange is still evident in Venice’s art, architecture, and cuisine.

Today, the gondolas that glide up and down the Grand Canal infuse the city with otherworldly charm. Flavors and smells borrowed from the Orient enrich local kitchens. Venetians toast with prosecco and snack on delectable finger foods known as cicchetti, and there’s seafood on nearly every menu. Artisans keep the traditions of glassblowing and lace making alive, and the city’s vaporetti (ferries) put the lagoon islands of Murano and Burano enticingly within reach.

Beyond Venice are a string of magnificent cities founded by the Romans, each with its own unique flavor. The old university town of Padua offers dramatic frescoes and a lively happy-hour crowd. Vicenza is the adoptive city of one of Italy’s greatest architects, Andrea Palladio, whose distinctive style elevates this market town. Ancient Roman ruins fill Verona, as do Shakespeare fans who come to pay homage to the world’s most famous lovers.

Farther afield, Lake Garda provides an entirely different atmosphere with alpine views that grow increasingly dramatic the farther north you travel. Italy’s largest lake is surrounded by picturesque towns that are suited to outdoor pursuits and the enjoyment of nature. South of Venice, along the Adriatic coast, lies the mosaic capital of Ravenna, flanked by a cluster of golden-sand beaches.

Whichever direction you choose, your trip to Venice is sure to be filled with delicious food, inspiring artwork, and unforgettable experiences.


1 Cruising Venice’s Canals by gondola, vaporetto, or traghetto.

2 Taking in the thousands of golden mosaics that decorate St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice’s holiest site, where the city’s patron saint is buried.

3 Sampling cicchetti at historic bacari (bars) surrounded by local Venetians.

4 Wandering the vast complex of the Doge’s Palace to discover a darker side of Venice.

5 Learning the techniques of Venetian glassblowing at the furnaces of Murano.

6 Filling up on local wine to go at one of Venice’s vinerie.

7 Marveling at Giotto’s transformation of Western art inside Padua’s Scrovegni Chapel.

8 Listening to opera al fresco in Verona’s ancient Arena.

9 Taking a panoramic cable car ride to the top of Monte Baldo, then paragliding off the summit.

10 Appreciating Ravenna’s stunning mosaics, best viewed on a guided nighttime tour.

11 Taking a slow cruise down the Brenta Canal from Venice to Padua, with frequent stops at Palladian villas.

12 Discovering the archi-tectural genius of Andrea Palladio at Teatro Olimpico, the world’s first covered theater.


To be fair, an entire lifetime isn’t enough to explore Venice, but three days is a good start, after which there’s plenty more to explore on dry land. From Venice, Padua, Vicenza, and Verona can all be easily reached in rapid succession (or individually) by train. Follow an overnight stay in any of these towns with an excursion around the southern part of Lake Garda, which is also accessible by rail or road. Ravenna is also well worth visiting but a separate mission. The journey to this ancient mosaic town south of Venice is longer but brings its own artistic rewards that more than compensate for the added distance.

St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice


The best time to experience Venice is early morning, so resist the urge to stay in bed. Morning is when locals still outnumber tourists, cruise ships have yet to dock, high-speed trains haven’t arrived, and thousands of visitors inside and outside the city are still sleeping. If you’re up and about by 7 or 8am, you’ll notice a whilrlwind of activity that only happens early in the day: university students on their way to classes, parents accompanying children to school, bakers carting loaves to clients, fruit vendors laying out their stands, retirees walking dogs, musicians on their way to the conservatory, ladies dragging trolleys to the butcher, laborers hammering at streets, and swallows flying in the sky above. Mornings are best for visiting major monuments, too, and the lines to the bell tower and Basilica di San Marco are still reasonably short at 9am, before they open to the public.

You can catch the show at any large campo (square) like Santa Margherita or San Polo. When you’ve had your fill, head to a bacaro (bar) or café for a late breakfast.


Many visitors spend as little as one day in Venice, but it really shouldn’t be rushed. Each sestiere (neighborhood) has its own character, and exploring these is the most enjoyable activity of all. Three or four days will allow you to join the masses flocking to San Marco and the campanile, discover the secrets of the Doge’s Palace, and stroll through remote parts of the city where tour groups rarely tread. It will also provide sufficient time to explore the lagoon islands of Burano and Murano or the Lido and follow any path you choose without having to worry about time.


 From the train station, sail down the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco. Walk around the famous square, and visit Basilica di San Marco for a look at its glittering mosaics and the Doge’s Palace, where you’ll discover a darker side of Venice.

 Ride the number 2 vaporetto to Isola di San Giorgio, where you can climb the bell tower for stunning views.

 Explore Venetian Renaissance masterpieces in Galleria dell’Accademia.

 End your first day in Venice eating and drinking on the animated Campo Santo Stefano.

fisherman mending his net on a backstreet of Burano

storefront, Burano


 Wake up early so you can see the city come to life before crowds start to gather. Pasticceria Rizzardini is a good option for coffee and pastries.

 After breakfast, head to the lively fish market, then cross the Rialto Bridge before it gets too crowded. Join the locals for lunch at a trattoria. Cantina do Mori is a good option.

 Take in Tintoretto canvases at Scuola Grande di San Rocco, then stroll Strada Nuova with a gelato in hand.

 Order cicchetti (Venetian finger food) along with a spritz or prosecco from one of the bars on Fondamenta della Misericordia.


 Stay in Venice to explore the city like a local or purchase a vaporetto day pass (€20) and take a day trip out to Venice’s lagoon and islands.

 Hop on the number 4.1 vaporetto from Fondamente Nove and ride one stop to Isola di San Michele. There you can explore the haunting cemetery Cimitero di San Michele, where thousands of Venetians are buried.

 Continue to Murano to view a glassmaking demonstration.

 Take the next vaporetto to Burano, where you can stroll the picturesque streets and enjoy a canal-side lunch.

 Your last island stop before heading back to Venice is Torcello, home to an ancient church with panoramic views and Locanda Cipriani trattoria, an old Hemingway haunt.


If You Want… Destination Why Go? Distance/Travel Time from Venice How Long to Stay
Unique souvenirs Murano Visit a glassmaking workshop for a demonstration and pick up a few unique creations. 15 minutes by vaporetto 2 hours
Burano Shop for locally made lace and admire the island’s colorful homes. 40-50 minutes by vaporetto 1-2 hours
Art and architecture Padua View Giotto’s groundbreaking frescoes and peruse lively markets. 25 mi/40 km 1 hour by train 35 minutes by car 1 day
Vicenza Discover Palladian architecture at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. 47 mi/75 km 45-75 minutes by train 1 hour by car 1 day
Beaches Lido Steal away from Venice to lie on the beach or take a scenic seaside stroll. 10 minutes-1 hour by vaporetto half day
Ravenna Combine relaxing on wide sandy beaches of the Adriatic with a night tour of early Christian and Byzantine mosaics. 90 mi/144 km 3 hours by train 1 hour by car overnight
Roman history Verona See some of the finest ancient ruins outside Rome, and explore the city Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers made famous. 70 mi/112 km 70-90 minutes by train 70 minutes by car overnight
Tranquility Torcello Stroll along a canal and through rural scenery away from the crowds. 1 hour by vaporetto half day
Lake Garda Roman ruins, lakeside beaches, and plenty of recreational activities make for a peaceful break from the city. 87 mi/140 km 1.5-2 hours by train 1.5 hours by car 2 days

The Veneto region beyond Venice was a vital frontier for the Romans, who founded the cities of Padua, Vicenza, and Verona, along with an extensive road network. Today, it’s easy to hop on the train for day trips from Venice, and you can link towns together for a fun multiday excursion. (Store your luggage in Venice’s train station if you want to pack light for your outing.) Venice influenced each of these towns, and seeing and tasting the unique ways that cultural inheritance took root in each one makes this journey particularly interesting.

Make reservations for Padua’s most famous sight, the Scrovegni Chapel, in advance. Also note that many of Padua’s and Vicenza’s museums are closed on Monday, though the Scrovegni Chapel is open daily.


 If your time is limited, skip this day by simply hopping a train in Venice to arrive in Padua in just an hour. But if you can, it’s worth cruising the Brenta Canal from Venice to Padua with Il Burchiello ( Cruises depart near Piazza San Marco on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 8am, arriving in Padua at 7pm. Along the way, you’ll enjoy wonderful countryside views, plus guided tours of some of the Palladian villas lining the canal. You can stow luggage onboard for €20 per bag. When you arrive in Padua, check into your hotel room (you’ll stay here for a total of two nights).

Brenta Canal, Padua


 If you’re arriving by train from Venice, plan to be in Padua by around 10am.

 Make a beeline for the Scrovegni Chapel (reservations required). You’ll get 15 minutes inside the chapel, where you can see how Giotto redefined Western art.

 Visit the market on Piazza delle Erbe, have lunch, and head over to Basilica Sant’Antonio, Padua’s most exotic church.

 Order a spritz and kick back on Piazza dei Signori, Padua’s liveliest square, before turning in for the night.


Venice attracts millions of visitors every year and is at serious risk of becoming a victim of its own success. For that reason it’s essential to treat Venice with special care and ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the city. Following the rules is a good way to start. Some of these are guidelines to follow as a courtesy, and others are laws that can result in a fine if broken. It’s a privilege to visit Venice and preserving it should be a priority for everyone.

Walk on the right and avoid causing jams. This is especially pertinent when you’re stopping to windowshop, snap photos on bridges, or examine restaurant menus on crowded streets leading to the main tourist attractions.

Make way for two-wheeled trolleys. These are used to transport food, merchandise, waste, and luggage around the city. It’s especially important on mornings when deliveries are made and zigzagging heavy loads through tourists makes work even harder.

Do not sit on bridge steps. Doing so creates unnecessary and annoying obstructions. At night or in quiet areas where few people pass, this rule can be overlooked.

Respect places of worship. Tourists may outnumber parishioners but that doesn’t mean anything goes inside churches. Dress respectfully in clothing that covers your shoulders and knees, keep voices low, leave food and drink outside, and do not use a flash or tripod when taking pictures.

Avoid sunbathing. It may be tempting to remove clothing and sit or lie on the stones of Venice but it’s considered disrespectful. (Bare-chested men may even be fined!) You’re better off hopping a ferry and enjoying sand and sea on the beaches of the Lido.

Do not drag luggage over bridges. Lift suitcases and trolleys to avoid damaging steps. If you’re traveling with a heavy load, hire one of the porters waiting outside the train station (prices start at €10 per bag).

Remove backpacks on vaporetti. Carry bags in your hands. This is less to deter pickpockets (which are rare in Venice) than to maximize space and avoid disturbing fellow passengers.

Never discard waste in streets or canals. This includes cigarette butts, unwanted food, and everything else. There aren’t many trash cans in Venice but you can always walk into a bar and use their bin.

Do not feed the pigeons. It’s forbidden and isn’t a joking matter. Not only can pigeon droppings come back to haunt you, but also their corrosiveness damages buildings over time.

Do not swim in canals. Local newspapers regularly report tourists diving into canals. It may be funny to some, but it’s illegal and there are better ways to explore the city’s waterways. Also, canals aren’t that clean and leave an odor you don’t want to bring home.


 Timing is important in Vicenza: You’ll want to be at the Basilica Palladiana just before noon, when the bells in the adjacent tower chime, and at Teatro Olimpico at 3pm for the sound and light show. Fortunately, Vicenza is a short (15-30 minutes) train ride from Padua, and trains depart every 20 minutes.

 When you arrive at the train station in Vicenza, stow your luggage for the day (it’s free!) at the tourist office in Piazza Matteotti.

 The Palladio Museum should be your first stop, as it’s a great place to learn about the architect who had such a strong influence on the town and region.

 Head south to Basilica Palladiana for views from the terrace. The bells in the adjacent tower chime at noon.

 Explore Teatro Olimpico, the first covered theater in the world, where a light and sound show takes place at 3pm.

 Discover two impressive villas, Villa Valmarana and Villa La Rotonda, south of town, before collecting your luggage at the tourist office and hopping a train to Verona. There are three or four departures per hour that can take 25-60 minutes, depending on the service. You’ll be there by dinnertime.

trompe l’oeil fresco inside Villa Valmarana


Romance, Roman ruins, and Renaissance palaces fill this vibrant city, where eating well is a point of pride and artisans can be found at work on every street.

 Circle the Arena di Verona, the third largest amphitheater from antiquity.

 Head to Casa di Giulietta, where it’s said a real-life Juliet waited for her Romeo.

 Ride a funicular up to the San Pietro Panoramic Point for impressive views.

 Enjoy an aperitivo before boarding a train back to Venice or continuing on to Lake Garda. Trains leave several times an hour, and the last one departs at 10:20pm. The journey takes an hour and 10 minutes on the Frecciarossa service.


Lake Garda offers visitors an opportunity to experience an entirely different part of Italy, with cultural and gastronomic traditions influenced by the Alps. Desenzano, on the southern shore of the lake, is on the rail line that runs between Venice and Milan, making it easy to reach from Venice, Verona, Vicenza, or Padua. From there, many charming lakeside towns can be reached by ferry, bus, or car.

view of Sirmione and Lake Garda from Scaligero Castle


 After breakfast at your hotel in Desenzano, hop a ferry to Sirmione to explore a castle and Roman ruins.

 Back in Desenzano, have lunch and take a stroll along the waterfront.

 Enjoy a top-notch dinner before dancing and drinks at Coco Beach.


 Hop a fast ferry from Desenzano to this scenic town on the northern part of Lake Garda.

 Head to the center of town, where you can take a cable car to the peak of Monte Baldo. Spend the morning hiking or paragliding from the summit.

 Spend the afternoon at Lido Paina beach.

 Enjoy a dinner of local flavors at Ristorante Vecchia Malcesine.

hiking above Lake Garda, Monte Baldo

Lido beach



Venice is among the most visited cities in the world. Deciding when to go will have a significant impact on your experience.


Summer sees a dramatic increase in arrivals, with July and August at the apex of the tourist season. Airlines and hotels take advantage of demand to raise their rates, and temperatures rise to sweltering. Avoid visiting in July and August if you can. If you can’t, book ahead and purchase


On Sale
Aug 6, 2019
Page Count
312 pages
Moon Travel

Alexei J. Cohen

About the Author

Alexei J. Cohen was born in New York City and learned the joy of travel at an early age. He got his first passport at 6 months old and spent childhood holidays exploring rural France. He fell in love with Italy by chance, and married an Italian after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University. Today he lives on the outskirts of Rome with his wife and two children, where he writes about Italy and shares his passion with travelers.

You can follow him on Twitter (@alexeicohen), or meet him in person at monthly gatherings in Rome to talk about all things Italy and swap experiences with fellow Italophiles.

Learn more about this author