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Should I Go To Venice, Italy?

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Should I Go To Venice, Italy?

The short answer: No.

Venice never needs an introduction. As travel aficionados, we’ve all been or will be drawn to this city at some point in our lives. The canals, history, architecture, culinary fame, and just its charming existence are enough to make our mouths drool and book a flight ticket. But having been there twice in my life, I can’t help but get this bad taste in my mouth from the crowds. It is the first and only place in my life where I experienced a traffic jam of people. Each time I go, I leave with an ever-so-slightly tainted memory of the sheer amount of tourists. The explorer in me is disappointed at not having discovered something unique for myself.

Additionally, the city recently introduced a city tax of €5 on some days to curb overtourism. That is the first city of its kind to do such a thing.

Of course, you should still go; it is a must, with plenty of memories to be made, but to experience the true magic of the city and the region, head back across the lagoon to the expansive and illustrious Veneto region.

An aerial view of a crowded square in Venice, showcasing numerous tourists gathered around the central historical buildings and narrow adjacent streets, captured under a clear blue sky.

The Venice crowds give the city a love-hate relationship to me

Here is a list of things you can do outside of Venice to fulfill the explorer inside of you. A lot of them can be done as day trips from Venice, but we recommend exploring the region as slowly as possible.


Stroll through some of the small towns near Venice, Italy

From the lagoon many canals were built between towns and cities. Historically, these waterways served as vital transportation routes, facilitating trade and communication between different settlements. They also were a means of getting the Venice elite during the Renaissance to their massive villas. Some of these towns take charming to a whole new level, each complete with a similarly architected bell tower, waterways, and old city streets. The best part is that you will rarely stumble across tourists, food and drinks like Italy’s famous aperitivo is cheap and the explorer in you will feel immediately fulfilled.

You can easily rent a car and just hop around from town to town, with each place giving off a slightly different vibe. Alternatively, many trains head from Venice to the various towns, but just beware that it might not be as easy to get around once you’re on foot.

Here are some of our favorites:

Mira

This is Fabio’s hometown, so we are a bit biased. But, I love it in particular because I think it gives a glimpse of true Italian living in Veneto region. It has immense history too with evidence that it was settled during the Roman era.

The other thing that is special about it is its Renaissance-era villas. During the Renaissance, Mira became known for its elegant villas and palaces, built by wealthy Venetian merchants and nobles as summer residences. These villas were often designed by renowned architects such as Andrea Palladio, contributing to Mira's cultural and architectural significance. The fabulous thing is that you can stay in these villas or at least do a tour and aperitivo in them!

The main church in Mira, Veneto

All the cuteness of Venice without the crowds

If you want to actually stay in one of these luxurious villas, check out some of these:

  • Villa Goetzen: Discover historic charm and scenic surroundings in Mira, perfectly situated for exploring Venice and Padova.
  • Hotel Isola di Caprera: Relax in a peaceful setting in Mira while being within easy reach of both Venice and Padova.
Villa Widmann, one of the renaissance era villas

Villa Widmann in Mira

Bassano del Grappa

As the name kind of alludes, this (larger) town is allegedly one of the birthplaces of grappa (try the grappa here!). But if you are a hater of the strong booze, there is so much more to this place. It is famed throughout many eras in history, especially for its location at the base of the Dolomites. You may or may not have a spiritual awakening gazing over at the renowned wooden covered bridge, Ponte Vecchio, crossing the Brenta River - I know that I did.

It also has the charming foothills essence of a town like Bergamo near Milan, but with so much fewer people. Make sure to have an aperitivo at Leon Bar. They will treat you right there with unbelievably reasonable and delicious spritzes alongside some good tunes.

The Ponte Vecchio in Bassano del GrappaContemporary art in Bassano del Grappa, a metal rhinoAperitivo at trendy Leon Bar in Bassano del Grappa

Aperitivo at trendy Leon Bar


Check out some of the other cities near Venice, Italy - Verona, Padua, Treviso

If you are looking for the city feels, then head on over to Veneto cities like Padua, Treviso, and Verona — all relatively short places close to Venice by train.

I’ll list some of the unique selling points of each city, so if you are limited for time, you can pick and choose which places you’d like to visit:

Verona

  • Known for its romantic charm and association with Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."
  • Famous for its well-preserved Roman amphitheater, the Arena di Verona, which hosts opera performances during the summer.
  • Home to stunning medieval and Renaissance architecture, including the Verona Cathedral and the Scaliger Tombs.
  • Offers picturesque riverfront views along the Adige River and delightful piazzas such as Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza dei Signori.
  • Renowned for its excellent cuisine, featuring dishes like risotto all'Amarone and pastissada de caval.

Padua

  • Known for its prestigious university, the University of Padua, which was founded in 1222 and counts Galileo Galilei among its former professors.
  • Famous for the Scrovegni Chapel, adorned with breathtaking frescoes by Giotto, depicting scenes from the life of Christ.
  • Home to the Basilica of Saint Anthony, a major pilgrimage site housing the tomb of Saint Anthony of Padua.
  • Offers charming canals and bridges reminiscent of Venice, as well as delightful squares like Piazza dei Signori and Prato della Valle.
  • Renowned for its vibrant nightlife scene, with numerous bars, cafes, and restaurants catering to locals and visitors alike.

If you truly want to be a badass, you can take a river cruise from Venice to Padua

Treviso

  • Known for its tranquil atmosphere and scenic waterways, earning it the nickname "Little Venice."
  • Famous for its medieval city walls and gates, as well as the impressive Palazzo dei Trecento in the historic city center.
  • Home to the picturesque Piazza dei Signori, lined with elegant buildings and cafes, and the nearby Piazza Duomo with its stunning cathedral.
  • Offers delightful walks along the Buran

elli Canal and the River Sile, as well as charming streets lined with boutiques and artisan shops.

  • Renowned for its delicious cuisine, including regional specialties like radicchio rosso di Treviso and tiramisu.

In particular, Fabio and I have an affinity towards Padua the most - perhaps because Fabio studied there and I was majorly impressed by it having one of Europe’s largest squares.


Get buzzed in the expansive Veneto prosecco and wine region

I read in Italian Neighbors that alcohol consumption in the Veneto region is on par with that in Russia and while I cannot find the evidence to back that up, I can believe it after roaming through the famous wine and prosecco region in Veneto. These people know how to make quality wine and prosecco and for cheap — and then drink it as a reward!

Once again, the foothills of the Dolomites are where the magic occurs and provide the ideal climate for the wine and prosecco making process.

Some of our favorite places included:

  • Ca' Salina: The focus at Ca' Salina is prosecco and rightfully so! We may not be prosecco experts but they were pretty hard to stop drinking. We recommend buying a bottle of the DOCG Brutissimo - a rosé prosecco that is deceptively dry!
  • Osteria Senz'Oste: Okay, so this isn't a wine tasting place, but it is freaking cool! Right next to the aforementioned Ca' Salina, you arrive at this expansive vineyard and you buy your wine or prosecco, cheese, crackers, and whatever else all from vending machines. The name literally means "without service". Once you get your stash, you can head up on top of the hill and get picturesque views of both the foothills and the flat Veneto region. It is bliss.

For more, here is a more detailed guide to navigate the wine and Prosecco region.

Wineries in the the foothills of the Dolomites, Veneto RegionTwo men at the Veneto wineriesRainbow arching over the Veneto region wineries

If you want something off the normal wine and prosecco route, check out the burgeoning wine region in Colli Euganei - The Euganean Hills, just west of Padua. We used Holidoit to book a wine tasting, and this was hands down the best one we did. It was just €25 for a tasting with five wines and a massive charcuterie board filled with local meats and cheese.

Meat and cheese charcuterie at a Veneto winery

Maybe the best charcuterie board of my life!


Go to a thermae in the Euganean Hills

If you stop by the last place in the recommended wineries above in Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills), make sure to follow up with a wine detox at one of the nearby Thermaes. This area is known for natural hot springs (thermae or terme) due to volcanic origins of these hills (don’t worry, they are no longer active 😏). Nonetheless, the Italians have erected plenty of health and wellness centers so that travelers like you can benefit from the medicinal effects of the natural sulfuric hot springs.

We went to the public Columbus Thermal pool for €15 a person and left completely satisfied. While there were quite a few people, we had plenty of room to swim laps and bask in the massage pools.

There are plenty of other great ones recommended to us such as Thermae Abano Montegrotto.

The towns where these hot springs are were clearly built up quickly to accommodate tourists, so they almost look a little Eastern European to us without your standard Italian charm 🤣 — but well, that is part of the experience.


For the adventurer, the Dolomites await!

Alright, you’ve seen these mountains in the distance as you have been traversing around Veneto, and now you can’t stand to ignore them any longer. It is time for you to get a car (preferably 4x4) and head into the Dolomites.

Soon after climbing the mountains, you’ll be in a majestic new world with jagged peaks and if you time it right, snow.

We actually betrayed Veneto a little bit and stayed two nights in San Martino di Castrozza, over in the Trentino region, but were crossing back and forth between the regions often.

You have unlimited things to do there including experiencing the charm of remote mountain villages, eating Asiago cheese from the actual place where Asiago is produced, checking out mountain lakes like the Alleghe Lake, skiing and snowboarding, hiking, etc.

The infrastructure is fantastic, but the roads can sometimes get small and windy, so just practice caution while driving.

Alleghe Village in the Dolomites, Trentino Region, ItalyThe beautiful Dolomite Mountains

On your way back out, make sure to check out Sacrario Militare del Monte Grappa, a bizarre war monument perched on the very top of Monte Grappa.

Sacrario Militare del Monte Grappa - Brutalist War Monument on the top of Mount Grappa in ItalyAn old building nearby the Sacrario Militare del Monte Grappa

In conclusion, while Venice's charm is undeniable, its crowds can sometimes detract from the experience. To truly appreciate the Veneto region, venture beyond Venice.

Explore charming small towns like Mira and Bassano del Grappa for authentic Italian living without the crowds. Nearby cities like Verona, Padua, and Treviso offer rich history and vibrant culture.

Indulge in the region's renowned wine and prosecco offerings, unwind in the Euganean Hills' thermal pools, and explore the majestic Dolomites for breathtaking vistas and outdoor adventures.

In essence, while Venice is a must-visit, the true magic of the Veneto region lies beyond its bustling streets. Explore, indulge, and immerse yourself in the wonders waiting to be discovered.