Rome: 3 places off the beaten track
Venice, Italy. The City of Canals is being threatened by both its own success as well as water. This vulnerable place not only has to deal with millions of tourists every year (60,000 a day – many of whom are day trippers) but also with a changing climate that results in higher sea-water levels and increasing chances of flooding. Venice’s buildings deteriorate because of recurring flooding. Many of its beautiful views are blocked by huge flocks of tourists and gigantic cruise ships.
What to do? You definitely want to visit this incredible city. And you should. On the other hand you understand the problems and want to make sensible choices. I think it’s important to understand the effect of tourism, whether it is about elephant riding in Thailand or visiting over-crowded places like Amsterdam, Barcelona or Venice.
When you travel to Venice, please know that still recently residents protested trying to prevent mammoth cruise ships from passing through the lagoon. I prefer visiting Venice for a period of 3 or even 4 days, exploring the city at your own leisure. Get to know the lesser known places and understand how the Venetians live their lives in this City of Water.
I wanted to share 5 of our most favorite spots in Venice. These spots will make sure you stay away from the crowds at the Rialto bridge or the San Marco square. These are places with great views or atmosphere where we could have stayed for hours or come back day after day (and sometimes we actually did). Here it goes!
1. Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
This church is situated on a small island with the same name. The island can be reached by one of the water taxi (Vaporetto) line 2. We loved this place for the great (skyline) views of the city and the sea breeze blowing through our hair. Great place for sunset lovers too. When the wind is too strong you can hide inside or behind the church itself. Just walk around the island a bit to get a feeling of Venice and its immense lagoon. The island is also a good place for watching all sorts of Venetian traffic passing by (including those gigantic cruise ships).
2. The colorful island of Burano
Burano is a 45minute trip away from Venice but is not to be missed. Houses on this island are extremely colorful and a feast to the eye. It is for the sure the cheeriest island I have ever been to! Take the Vaporetto boat line 12 from Venice to Burano. Again, don’t follow the crowds into the main street with all the shops and restaurants. Just don’t. When you leave the boat turn left and you enter in a small area full of colors and without tourists. Want to see more of Burano? Just go here.
3. Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
This place is actually opposite the San Giorgio Maggiore church, but on the other side of the canal. Again you have to take the Vaporetto to get there. Move to the tip of the island where you can sit down, relax and enjoy the view. At the tip of the island you will not be hindered by people wanting to pass, there is only water! This is a place to visit when you are not in a hurry and have some time to spare. Enjoy it. When you leave, take the south side of the island for some refreshing views.
4. Bridge at the end of Calle Pinelli
I don’t know the name of this particular bridge, but you can for sure find it via Google when I tell you this bridge is close to the famous bookshop Aqua Alta. This bridge is not really on one of the main routes through the city, so you can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. At the bridge one of the canals split, providing lovely views. Don’t forget to enter the Aqua Alta bookshop. They have created a stair made out of books offering another interesting view point.
5. Square in front of Basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo
Why this square? We actually found this square to be quite relaxing, a mixture of local residents and visitors. The church looks great and you can sit down next to the canal to enjoy Venetian life. You will probably see some kids playing soccer on the square and sometimes a group of tourists pass by on their way to the Rialto bridge or something. The square is not far from the Aqua Alta bookshop. This area of Venice is not the most popular one but a great place to stay, which actually brings me to a bonus tip: no.6.
6. Serendipity (bonus…)
Serendipity is a place you will not find on the map. But it is my all-time favorite place, everywhere I go. Also in Venice it’s important that sometimes you just store away your map, guidebook or mobile phone. Just walk, make turns and let your gut feeling tell you where to go. You will always bump into beautiful places: lovely canals, an old church or monastery, an empty gondola silently passing by, etc. I always take great pictures on these kinds of accidental trips.
Care to see more pictures of our trip to Venice? Just click here for my selection of Venice pictures by clicking through to this Photography section.
Thank you so much for this post, Emiel! I’m planning to visit Venice sometime next year and I will definitely spend a few days there. I must say I’m a little bit intimidated by everything that I read about how mass tourism has overrun the city. But thanks to this post I’m convinced that if we let our feet wander and our mind free, we will end up in less busy places like what you mentioned in this post.