September 24-26, 2021
Although we went to most of the major cities in Italy during a two-week trip in 2019, we intentionally didn’t go to Venice because we’d heard so many people say that it was a crowded, dirty, and overpriced tourist trap. However, throughout the pandemic, I read several articles that mentioned how incredible Venice has been with such a reduced number of tourists and the dramatic improvement in the canals’ water quality, which is due in no small part to the local government (finally) issuing a permanent ban on cruise ships. I was eager to visit Venice without the crowds, and I am so glad we prioritized it as our first continental trip this autumn.
We got into town pretty late on Friday evening and, after checking in at our hotel near the Ponte dell’Accademia, enjoyed a fantastic dinner and bottle of prosecco overlooking the Grand Canal at Osteria Bancogiro. We spent the rest of the weekend strolling across the canals, drinking plenty of espresso and prosecco, and enjoying as much cicchetti (essentially the Venetian version of tapas that are served at traditional wine bars and taverns) as possible. The only true sightseeing we did was at the extravagant Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), which was well worth the visit to understand more about the Republic of Venice in its prime and all the important moments in history that took place in this relatively small city.
Andy and I had an absolutely fantastic 48 hours in Venice, especially since the late-September weather was just about as good as it gets. I obviously can’t compare the city to what it would have been like pre-pandemic, but Venice in its current state was simply charming — it was one of our very favorite trips yet.
If you’re planning a trip to Venice (or other cities I’ve been to in Italy), click here to access and download my Google Maps list of saved locations.
Food & Drink
- Osteria Bancogiro: Canal-facing restaurant and wine bar in a very trendy area at the foot of the Ponte di Rialto with modern (and delicious) Venetian dishes and a fantastic list of wine by the glass. We had an excellent dinner here (including squid ink pasta, fresh octopus, and tiramisu) on our first night, and the canal-front patio had a great vibe.
- Bacaro Vintidò 22: We had one of our best meals in Venice in the courtyard of this charming little tavern. Our waiter was so friendly and offered great wine recommendations, and the cuttlefish risotto and steak tartare were phenomenal.
- Malvasìa dell’Adriatico Mar: A tiny bacaro with excellent service and extremely reasonable prices that specializes in natural wines and locally sourced food. We stopped by for cicchetti on Saturday and sat outside on the tiny jetty overlooking the canal, which was a lovely experience.
- Rosa Salva: Classic café and bakery that has been open since 1879. There are a few locations throughout the city, and it’s a good option for coffee and pastries before a day of sightseeing.
- Harry’s Bar: Legendary 1930s bar on the Grand Canal that is perhaps most famous for inventing the Bellini and Carpaccio, as well as being the favored spot for old-school celebrities like Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles. We were able to snag a walk-in table (indoors, unfortunately) when we walked by one afternoon. Harry’s is known for being absurdly expensive (our Bellinis were €19…each), but the drinks are excellent and they served these little fried cheese and ham finger sandwiches that were both delicious and inexpensive. It was worth stopping in for the atmosphere and history, but I’m glad we only stayed for a few drinks.
- Osteria da Alberto: Traditional, tavern-style restaurant with a warm atmosphere near the Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli that has been open since 1924. We had a really nice dinner here with an excellent bottle of wine and great service.
- Caffè del Doge: Friendly café on a side street near the Ponte di Rialto with excellent coffee and pastries.
Activities & Attractions
- Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace): This beautiful Venetian Gothic palace overlooking the Grand Canal was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice, and home to all political institutions from the 14th century until the Republic’s downfall in 1797. The modern-day museum does a wonderful job of displaying the elaborate architecture, extravagant decorations, famous artwork, and rich history of the palace, and we thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon we spent exploring it. The only way to reserve tickets in advance is by purchasing a Venezia Unica tourist pass (I think the version I purchased was ~€15 per person) and the website is a little weird, but it actually worked very smoothly once we arrived — we had to wait in line for ~10 minutes, but that was mainly because they were checking everyone’s vaccination cards at the entry gate.
- Bridge of Sighs: The end of the tour route for the Doge’s Palace takes visitors over the Rio di Palazzo through the Bridge of Sighs, an enclosed bridge with stone-barred windows that connected the former interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to the Prigioni Nuove (New Prison). It’s a beautiful bridge, but it got its name from the suggestion that prisoners crossing through the bridge would sigh as they saw their last views of Venice before being taken to their dark cells at the prison. I probably could have personally gone without touring the bridge and prison, which were much less interesting (and also much creepier) than the palace itself.
- Piazza San Marco: The main public square of Venice is flanked by the Doge’s Palace and the ornate St. Mark’s Basilica, and is home to (copies of) the famous Horses of St. Mark bronze statues of four gigantic horses that were looted from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. The square is normally insanely busy and packed with lots of tacky souvenir stands, etc., but it was much less crowded while we were there because of the ongoing pandemic’s impact on travel, which gave us the opportunity to better appreciate its beauty and architecture.
- Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge): The oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal is a beautiful, intricately carved stone arch bridge lined with shops and constructed in the 16th century. It’s in the center of town and is located near a lot of the major shopping areas, so we ended up crossing it several times.
- Fondaco dei Tedeschi: Just around the corner from the Ponte di Rialto is a gigantic luxury department store located in a former merchant’s palace that has been renovated many times throughout its history and is now one of Venice’s most recognizable buildings. Aside from being a beautiful building, it’s also a really great place to shop for duty-free designer items or have a cup of coffee in the chic cafe.
- Piedàterre: Located on the opposite side of the Ponte di Rialto is a tiny shop that exclusively sells the original Friulane shoes, which are brightly colored Venetian slippers handmade from velvet with cotton stitching and rubber soles. I bought a beautiful dark green pair that I’ve gotten so many compliments on — they’re also very comfortable!
- Ca’ Macana: There are a few locations of this traditional store that sells nothing but handmade Venetian carnival masks and also offers mask-making workshops. The masks make for unique (and relatively inexpensive) souvenirs, and it was also interesting to just browse in the store.