Venice really is like nowhere else, with canals threading through it, preserved architecture from Byzantine through to Baroque, grand palazzos, and works of hometown artists Tintoretto, Titian, and Veronese. The principal cruise ship terminal is just at the edge of the city center, so you can easily get into the heart of it.
What We Love
Vaporetti and Traghetti: Otherwise known as steamers (water buses) and ferries, these boats are the best way to navigate the city, which has no terra firma transit. Get a one-day or multiple-day pass to avoid fishing into your pockets each time you ride.
Zattere: A quick vaporetti ride from the cruise terminal, this long promenade parallels the wide Giudecca Canal. Sunset is an ideal time to stop for a meal at one of several restaurants facing the water.
Best Known For
Piazza San Marco: It’s the heart of the city, enclosed by long arcaded buildings and the fabulous five-domed Byzantine and Romanesque basilica. Climb the adjacent Campanile, a 325-foot bell tower, to view the entire city, over to the Lido and back inland to the snow-covered Dolomites.
The Lido: If you're here for a few days, escape the crowded city and take a boat over to this 7-mile barrier island. You'll find opulent turn-of-the-last-century mansions and hotels, many facing a broad beach that's free for public access.
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Who It's Best For
Fantasy Lovers: Venice is almost not real, a city built on pilings and surrounded by a lagoon that no cars can penetrate. Although it seems everyone is a tourist, people actually do live here — though it’s not a life of ease performing normal tasks that we might take for granted.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
There Will Be Crowds: Escape them by seeking out less trodden neighborhoods and enjoy a café where the waiters are not harried. Winter may be more peaceful, but parts of Venice may flood then — you don’t want to be restricted by no-go districts.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.