How to do Venice in a Day

Whirlwind travel is sort of my thing. When asked how long this trip to Venice and Austria was going to be, some were shocked to hear, “one week.” While I’d love to have weeks and months and years to visit a place and immerse in the culture, a weekend in Venice and few days in Austria is the best I can do at the moment.

While it may be exhausting, seeing a new city in one day is possible. Of course there’s a lot more ground to cover, but if you go in with a plan to:

1. See your favorite sites
2. Try your favorite activities
3. Eat your favorite foods
4. Wander
5. Experience
6. Enjoy

This whirlwind trip can be successful.

The Plan

Try not to plan it out minute by minute or hurt yourself in the process, but going in with an idea of what you want to see and do is important. After arriving in Venice the first goal was to STAY AWAKE. Jetlag may rear its sleepy head, but don’t give in. Soak the brain in caffeine and rally. Bags were dropped at the hotel and the next available shuttle to the train was hopped.

The Day

Gliding into Santa Lucia train station, with its hustle and bustle of tourists and travelers, we were greeted with a shot of adrenaline and ready to take this new city on! Where we going? Who knows, let’s let the streets inspire our feet. Sometimes it’s easier to follow the flow of tourists, other times it’s more appealing to veer off onto the quieter streets. A direction was picked and the wandering began, only with an idea of the sites we’d like to stumble upon:

* Rialto bridge
* St. Marks Square and bell tower
* Somewhere to drink wine, eat pizza, and devour some gelato

We followed the winding streets tight with travelers browsing shops packed with leather, masks, and pasta. Every now and then we’d walk over a tiny bridge, the green canal water flowing underneath. We let our sense of direction lead the way. Who needs maps?


The first stop was the first gelateria that didn’t call the sweet stuff ice cream or yogurt. I almost didn’t want to disturb the presentation of the smooth, creamy texture whipped up into tiny peaks–almost. Coconut and mango were scooped up into a cone and my taste buds were treated to an mmmmm-inspiring experience. Gelato–check!

The abandoned map sitting on the counter of the gelateria was begging to be picked up. It was either wander aimlessly or rescue this poor, tourist-less map and take it on an adventure! We’re good people, so we picked it up. One look at its depiction of winding streets with no particular order, I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be much help, but it was ours.

The Catch

What’s a trip to Venice without giving in to at least one tourist trap. It was the long, beautiful wooden boats floating on the canal, decorated with plush cushions in regal red and gold, captained by attractive men in stripped shirts and wide-brimmed hats–we were caught. It was totally worth it. Taking in Venice from the back of a gondola, skimming along the canal to the soft crooning of an Italian tenor, is one of the best ways to travel. All we needed to do was sit to see the ancient architecture rise up from the water and take notice of the arching windows, some decorated with flora and fauna. Every so often, our captain would point out important sites as we floated by–like the Rialto bridge, check! He also pointed us in the right direction to St. Marks square, and he did a better job than the map.

The Square

Entering the square was a major AHA moment. Not only because it took a lot of maneuvering dead-end streets and a sea of umbrellas. Once you take your breath back from the view, the massive open space was a welcomed retreat from the cramped alleyways it took to get there.

Standing high above the piazza is the bell tower with some of the best views of the city. Don’t be fooled by the many other towers of Venice. This is the one–and only–to climb. You can tell its popularity by the rain-soaked tourists waiting to get in. The soggy wait was worth the peek out over the city. Plus, we took the opportunity to gain some insight as to what direction we needed to walk to get back to the train station.

After a long day that seemed like an entire weekend, a much deserved glass of local grapes was in order. Then it was back to navigating the streets. It was during this invigorating journey that we took the time to soak it all in–especially in the empty squares and quiet streets–a reminder of where we were put a lot into perspective.

The Map

With map in hand, we played the game of where in Venice are we–a hysterical romp of search and find (or not find) our current placement on the map. We gave up trying to stay on the right road, and only reveled in the knowledge that we were getting closer to the station each time we checked. It’s still a mystery as to how we stumbled across the same bridge leading to Santa Lucia station, but it was a cause for celebration! Planting ourselves at a street-side bar, we celebrated with the house special–pizza and beer–before boarding the train and heading back to the hotel. Then we succumbed to the exhaustion of this whirlwind day and passed out at a reasonable time–resetting our clocks and recharging our batteries for the next journey.

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