What to do in Venice? We're sure you'll know all the famous activities, but let us guide you through the things you can do like a local!
What gives Venice a timeless charm is its inexhaustible source of treasures and surprises. It often happens that even Venetians themselves marvel at the things to do, the legends they have never heard, and the places they have seen a thousand times but that always hide new secrets.
Beyond the crowds that enliven St. Mark's every day, or the seductive enchantment of a gondola ride through Venice's slow-moving canals, we'll take you on a trip to discover the things to do in Venice that only a true local knows. You won't find them anywhere else, because they are experiences and knowledge that you find protected only in the soul of Venetians. A soul deeply in love with its city.
And, therefore, if you are in Venice for one or two days, for a weekend, or for longer and you are looking for things to do to fall in love with this city like a Venetian, here are our suggestions.
Discover Venice with Venice Pass❯
7. A walk in Venice at Fondamenta delle Zattere eating Gelato al Gianduiotto
When you arrive in Venice, it is very easy to be led by the swarm of tourists to discover the most famous places. In a flash you are in Rialto and just as quickly you are in St. Mark's Square.
But you want to do something in Venice like a local, explore Dorsoduro or Castello, places that hide wonderful sights. The calli (streets) get wider, the tourists much more rarefied, and it is possible to enjoy true moments of peace.
First of all, try going to the Fondamenta delle Zattere in Dorsoduro. The name comes from the tree trunks, which then served the craftsmen of Venice, and which arrived here in the lagoon carried along the rivers by rafts. This is a place beloved by Venetians.
The route is quite long and goes from the San Basilio Maritime Station to Punta della Dogana. The view is magnificent, especially at sunset, when your gaze can sweep from Giudecca to the mainland.
Stop at one of the ice cream parlors, bars or restaurants in the area, or take advantage of a break by sitting by the water's edge. The atmosphere here is truly magnificent. Local tip? Try the gelato al gianduiotto! It is a delicious chocolate and gianduja ice cream dipped in whipped cream and decorated with hazelnut crumbs. Not to be missed!
7. A break at the city market: where to buy fruits, vegetables and fish in Venice like a local
When people talk about the market, the famous Rialto market cannot fail to come to mind. And it is precisely here that Venetians have been coming for hundreds of years to buy fruit, vegetables, and especially fish.
This area of Venice, on the bend of the Rivus Altus (literally 'Deep Canal'), was among the first to rise. When the first nucleus of the market was formed, it soon became the city's commercial center as well.
To see the market at its busiest, set your alarm very early and take the 'vaporetto' (waterbus) to Rialto. The arrival from the water as the sailor shouts 'Rialto Mercato! Rialto Mercato!' will immediately immerse you in the atmosphere of this area. Early in the morning Venetians come here to choose the best fish, to be told the best recipes to enhance the flavor of the fish they buy. Let yourself be involved by this great vivacity!
If you look around you will also discover the names of the ancient market configuration. Of course there is the Pescaria, for fish, but also the Naranzeria, where oranges and citrus fruits were sold, the Erbaria, the area of fruit and vegetable sales, and a favorite for a cheerful aperitif. The Casaria was the place for the sale of dairy products, while the Ruga dei Oresi was the place for goldsmiths.
Then if so much wandering has worn you out, the area is full of places for a good aperitif. With fresh fish 'cicchetti' (tapas, we could say), of course!
5. Another tasty break: the 'mozzarella in carrozza'
Of course in Venice you can't miss an ombreta (a glass of wine). You can't even miss the aperitivo with cicchetti (tapas)... But if you want to experience Venice as a local, and do the things that only a Venetian would do, you can't miss tasting the legendary 'mozzarella in carrozza' (literally 'mozzarella cheese on a carriage').
If you've ever been to Naples or live there, you surely know that 'mozzarella in carrozza' is a typical dish from Campania, and in fact this recipe comes from there, although the Venetians have revisited it a bit.
You prepare a batter that you leave to rise and then you turn to the filling. The mozzarellas are in fact cut and arranged on slices of bread. On half of the slices, and this is the particularity of Venezia, anchovies or cooked ham are arranged. Once finished, everything is sealed and fried in plenty of oil.
'Mozzarelle in carrozza' should be eaten as soon as they are made and can be found in practically all Venetian bacari.
4. A quiet walk past St. Mark's Square, towards the Riva dei Sette Martiri and Castello
If after the crowds and merry hustle and bustle of tourists in the San Marco area, you're looking for far quieter things to do in Venice, heed this local tip.
Leave San Marco behind and walk along the monumental banks overlooking the Grand Canal. Once you pass the San Zaccaria stop, you'll feel like you're witnessing an entirely different Venice. There are very few tourists here and, after a few hundred steps, the atmosphere becomes quiet.
Pass Riva degli Schiavoni and Riva Cà di Dio. At that point begins the promenade of Riva dei Sette Martiri, once called Riva dell'Impero, as it was wanted during the IIWW. This place where calm hovers, the silence punctuated only by the waves and the wind, was the scene of one of the events that Venetians who lived here during IIWW well remember. In 1944, in fact, a German soldier disappeared. The German army then decided to shoot 7 political prisoners and leave their bodies exposed on that Riva. It was later discovered that the soldier had drowned because he had fallen into the lagoon drunk. When the war ended, the name of the Riva was also changed.
There are no great monuments along this promenade, but here you can find the beautiful Giardini della Marinaressa and, if you go a little further, the Giardini della Biennale. If you then decide to venture into the streets of the Sestiere di Castello, you can immerse yourself in the wonderful tranquility of the Venetian calli.
3. Shopping like a local: the advice you did not expect
Beyond fruits and vegetables, you may feel like immersing yourself in a day of shopping in the lagoon.
Of course, you might decide to turn to the luxury streets that branch out from St. Mark's Square, or devote yourself to exploring the 'marzarie' (haberdasheries): that of the Orologio (which starts from the Torre dell'Orologio to Campo San Zulian) or that of San Zulian (from the Campo of the same name to the Ponte dei Bareteri) are certainly the most famous.
However, if you want a local's advice, quality shopping can also be found in one of the most unsuspected places. You can find it right in Rialto.
A few lines back, in fact, we saw how the Rialto area was distinguished according to the goods sold. The Ruga dei Oresi was where goldsmiths worked and sold gold. In 1331, in fact, it was established that the goldsmiths of Venice had to work exclusively here in Rialto. Today this is no longer the case, but shopping for quality jewelry is mostly done here.
Beyond the gold, the Ruga degli Oresi is a place to do quality and above all sustainable shopping. You'll find jewelry and glassware, but also pearls, fabrics, clothes and the famous 'furlane' (Italian for 'friulane' slippers), the soft Venetian footwear prized, first and foremost, by Venetian gondoliers.
Also, right here you will find some of the few frescoes created outdoors by the hands of artists such as Tintoretto, Giorgione, Titian and Veronese. They were part of a much larger cycle that, at that time, made Venice known as 'the painted city'.
2. Venetians' most beloved feasts: which ones to attend
If we asked you what is the most important Feast Day of the year? You would probably answer that it is the Redentore, and you are certainly right in part.
The 'festa granda' ('great feast'), however, is that of Madonna della Salute (Our Lady of Health), which is celebrated on November 21. It is a day that is particularly heartfelt in Venice and throughout the surrounding area, wherever there is a church dedicated to the Madonna della Salute (there are many, the construction of which was favored precisely during the years of the Serenissima because of the importance of the feast day).
The custom is to go in prayer to the Basilica of Madonna della Salute (near Punta della Dogana), which is connected to Santa Maria del Giglio via a temporary bridge over the Grand Canal. In addition, tradition calls for the consumption on the eve of November 21 of 'castradina,' a soup with onions, cabbage and wine, and especially salted and smoked mutton.
In addition to the Madonna della Salute, Venetians are also particularly fond of the feast of the patron saint (April 25, St. Mark's Day), with the tradition of the 'bocolo', the red rosebud to give to one's lady, and the feast of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29). If you want to experience a particularly vivid version of this, we suggest you go to San Pietro di Castello, an atmospheric place to say the least, just a short walk from the Arsenal.
1. A day at the beach but not at Lido: go at Sant'Erasmo island
Lido is one of the best known islands for its beaches, and certainly many Venetians go there to spend a few pleasant hours.
However, if you are looking for something different, and definitely less well known, you might consider taking a vaporetto (or a boat) to the island of Sant'Erasmo and enjoy a few hours, or an entire day, at the Spiaggia Al Bacàn, one of the most beautiful beaches in Venice. Here the waters are calm, protected by the last tongues of sand surrounding the lagoon. Few boats, few people and a restaurant. All around is the island of Sant'Erasmo, a rural jewel that once supplied the city of Venice with its gardens and fields.
So many other things we would like to tell you about Venice and its inhabitants.
The most important truth of all is that when you get here all you have to do is let go. Walk, smell the air, listen. Lose yourself. The Venice of the Venetians is indeed everywhere there is a heart ready to welcome the city.