Italy: If you’ve only got one day in Venice

Obviously I am not actually recommending that you only spend one day in Venice but what if your travel itinerary allows you only one day to see La Serenissima? It is still worth doing!

“So now, thank God, Venice is no longer a mere word to me, an empty name, a state of mind which has so often alarmed me who am the mortal enemy of mere words.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This is what happened to my brother recently and we did a mad tour around the city, seeing all the main sights. Despite the sometimes overwhelming summer tourist crowds we managed to give him a whistle stop tour of Venice, including many beautiful churches, bridges and canals. It helped that I’d visited Venice several times before.

An emergency Venice walking tour

If you have arrived in Venice by train or bus your entry point to the City of Bridges will be Piazzale Roma and this is where you should start your walking tour of Venice. It may be worthwhile buying a transport ticket from the office here, for example a one day travel card for 20 Euros may be worthwhile depending on how much public transport you are going to use (tip: Venice is very walkable). A single adult one-way fare on the water taxi costs 7.50 Euros but your journey can last up to 75 minutes and you can use more than one line during that time.

Head across the bridge into Giardino Papadopoli, walk through the gardens and cross another bridge before turning left onto Fondamenta dei Tolentini. This becomes Calle dei Amai and then continue straight ahead onto Fondamenta Sacchere, which becomes Calle Chiovere. At the end of this street turn right briefly and then left onto Calle Larga O Campiello de le Chiovere. Have a look at the beautiful Chiesa San Rocco with its Tintoretto paintings and the Leonardo da Vinci Museum if you have time.

“It is charming to wander through the light and shade of intricate canals, with perpetual architecture above you and perpetual fluidity beneath.” – Henry James

Next turn left along the side of the Frari, one of the greatest churches in Venice. It’s full name is the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and it was completed in 1338. It is full of great art, particularly the huge Assumption altarpiece by Titian.

Venetian Palazzo Italy

From the facade of the Frari cross the little bridge and turn right onto the Fondamenta Frari. Then turn left onto Rio Terra Cazza, right onto Calle Seconda dei Saoneri, then left onto Calle Saoneri. Continue straight(ish) until you get to Campo San Polo, one of the biggest public squares in Venice and home to Chiesa Rettoriale di San Polo.

Cross the Campo and duck down Calle Cavalli then follow Calle Luganegher and then Calle Perdon until you get to Chiesa Sant’Aponal. Turn right into Calle Sbianchesini, follow this until you get to Campo di Silvestro and cross this until you get to the Riva del Vin waterfront. Stroll along here until you get to the Rialto Bridge, the oldest fixed way to cross the Grand Canal. With two levels and lots of shops it has become one of the architectural icons of Venice since it was completed in 1591.

Venice Rialto Bridge Italy

On the other side of the Rialto turn left and follow Pescaria San Bortolomio until you turn left into Calle Bembo – just after the European Cultural Centre in the magnificent Palazzo Bembo. Then carry on straight ahead until you get to Piazza San Marco, perhaps Europe’s most famous set piece with the exotic San Marco Basilica surrounded by so many architectural gems. The Correr Museum is here, as well as the National Archaeological Museum.

“It is very old, and very grand, and bent-backed. Its towers survey the lagoon in crotchety splendour, some leaning one way, some another.” – Jan Morris, Venice

More than likely by the time you get to St Marks the queues for both the Basilica and the campanile (bell tower) will be long and with only one day in Venice you don’t want to waste it standing in line! Never fear, there is a much easier and just as satisfying way to get an aerial view of beautiful Venice.

Venice Piazza San Marco Italy

Walk down to the lagoon between the Doge’s Palace and Sansovino’s exquisite Library. Turn left and walk along to see the famous Bridge of Sighs, the brilliant white limestone construction whereby prisoners crossed from the prison to the interrogation rooms in the palace.

Venice Bridge of Sighs Italy

Then, carry on along the Riva degli Schiavoni to the San Zaccaria vaporetto stop and catch a No 2 water taxi across to the tiny island of San Giorgio Maggiore.  Here there are no queues and an elevator up the campanile for spectacular views across the whole of Venice. Enjoy the peace and the sea breezes. You also get a great view of the beautiful (private) monastery gardens.

San Giorgio Maggiore Venice Italy

When you’ve finished on San Giorgio Maggiore, catch the No. 2 back to San Zaccaria and then board a water taxi that will take you all the way up the Grand Canal to Piazzale Roma for bus, train and flight transport connections.

“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.” – Italy Calvino, Invisible Cities

Venice at Night

If your day in Venice extends into the evening, after the overwhelming business of the day you’ll love the more peaceful atmosphere and the soft air that makes Italian nights so divine. I recommend booking a meal on the terrace at Restaurant Terrazza Danieli near the Doge’s Palace followed by a drink at the Skyline Rooftop Bar over on Giudecca.

Venice lagoon and gondolas Italy

Those are my tips for spending a day in Venice. You’ll inevitably wander off track here and there. Don’t worry, that’s part of the joy of being in Venice. Of course you’ll return one day and spend more time in this wonderful city, visiting the incredible museums and just sitting on ancient steps listening to the slap, slap of water against stone.

“The trip will be short,” he thought, and wished it might last forever. – Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

By Natasha von Geldern

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What to do if you only have one day in Venice!

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