48 hours in Venice - where to go and what to do
Venice – how to do it in 48 packed hours! Venice is the jewel in the crown of Italy – or one of them at least. Italy is one of my favourite countries in the world. I haven’t been to Venice for about 25 years – and over that time, my head was full of romantic moments and rose tinted glasses. I don’t think I have changed much. . .
I am going to say though, that 48 hours only allows you to scratch the surface. You need more time in Venice in my opinion – or you need to plan two 48 hour trips – maybe one on your way in to Italy in the motorhome – and again on the way out! That way you will get to explore in more detail. 48 hours will not allow enough time to do all the Essentials – but you can pick and choose depending on your travel tastes.
This was my third trip to Venice – it was my ‘anniversary present cum birthday’ present to Damo. Yes – we had actually made a year together from our first meeting. And almost a year of living in the motorhome! You can read about how we met and bought our motorhome in three weeks here (if you really want to!).
My article on Venice will give you the essential things to do (according to Ange), the foodie places to try – we tried some cracking places – and the places to park up if you are visiting in your motorhome.
We actually flew to Venice, as we were still motorhoming in the UK, but I have researched all the places to make this a motorhome friendly visit as well – so you will have all the information that you need to get you into Venice from your motorhome and 48 hours to totally make the most of everything this beautiful city has to offer.
Venice came into being in the late 500’s after the retreat of the Roman empire. It is the capital of the Veneto region in Northern Italy. If you look at how many islands Venice is made up of, you will find the answer of 118 islands. Some of these are only rocks that are visible at low tide. Of the 118 ‘islands’ then only about 11 of them are inhabited by residence and a few more can be visited – but have no living inhabitants – such as San Michele – a cemetery island. Two of the islands are now luxury hotel resorts, with a free taxi to Venice which is 20 minutes away.
Venice itself has 400+ bridges – of which only 4 cross the central ‘S’ shaped Grand Canal.
There are around 400 gondoliers – they are licenced for a particular area and work that area only. Only 4 licences are granted per year. It takes around 45 days to build a gondola at a cost of 20,000 euros and by law, they must be painted black!
There are around 450 Palaces spread over the islands as well. No wonder 48 hours doesn’t feel like enough time to ‘do Venice’.
There are 6 sestiere (districts) in Venice:
- San Marco – the main touristy area of Venice, the big top 5 places to visit are concentrated here.
- Santa Croce – where you will come into if you arrive on the bus.
- San Polo – this is where the Rialto market is – a great spot to visit.
- Castello – a quieter area of Venice, from St Marco all the way to the east of the islands.
- Dorsoduro – a lovely, relaxed area of Venice, some great little arty shops and good food.
- Canneregio – where the Jewish quarters are, near the bus station – so easy for getting off the bus and checking in with your luggage, but a longer walk into the ‘Tourist Hotspot’ – which may not be your thing anyway!
Lets start with a motorhome site with easy access to Venice . . .
There are several motorhome sites that are based around Venice. We would not go into Venice and leave the van in a wild camping space (We live fulltime in our van and are often off grid – but with that comes a sense of when it is wise to be on site somewhere. This is one of those times).
There are 2 main areas to base yourself – Venice Lido – which is the eastern side of Venice where the beach is. Access to Venice is only by boat. Or you can stay in the the main town, lots of places to stay around that area, with access to Venice by the train, bus or boat.
When we flew in to Treviso airport, we got a bus, which travels through the town and then over the bridge to take us to the main bus station at Venice Island. That is where the traffic stops – it becomes by foot, boat, river taxi or gondola only!
Lets also look at hotel options – you may want to stay over night rather than going back to your motorhome, which will be parked up safely on a site somewhere. To get from the bus station to the Rialto bridge is approx 30 mins walk – so you would need to factor this in to timings if you chose to go back every night.
I have a number of apps that I use to look for places to stay when I travel;
- Hostel World
Now, Venice is expensive. Lets be clear on that one. If you stay overnight then you really can expect to pay top prices. For this trip to Venice we stayed at Hotel Alla Fava – it was about £130.00 for each night and was in a great location. For this trip – it was booked through Hostel World. Some of the hotels were soooooo expensive – we were just too skint – and wanted to spend our money on the food rather than where we would be sleeping!
It was really very central – 1 minutes from the Rialto Bridge, 5 mins from St Marks Square – and that is exactly what we wanted. It was clean, functional, a little dated – but with an element of Italian charm. There was no bar, room service etc but that also suited us fine.
Venice Itinerary in 48 hours
Be sure to start your day early. I have based the itinerary on where we stayed – the Hotel Flava – in central Venice in the St Marco sestieri. If you want an easy way to see key attractions – here is our cheat link – Venice In A Day Tour
Waking up bright and early – take a quick stroll for 2 minutes to the Rialto Bridge and have a nice coffee and morning pastry or breakfast. It is one of the oldest bridges over the Grand Canal and is the bridge that is crowded with visitors trying to get that classic shot – either over the canal from the bridge or from one of the restaurants on the canal front looking up to the Rialto Bridge. The feature picture at the top of this article was taken by me 🙂
After breakfast, make your way to St Marcos to tick off the top items until mid afternoon.
In San Marcos you can take a stroll around the square, get your tickets to the absolutely beautiful Basilica San Marco and take a trip up the Campanile de San Marco (the tower). You can visit Palazza Ducale (Doges Palace) and the Bridge of Sighs. It really is the most beautiful place with stunning rooms to roam around – and the contrast of the Bridge of Sighs and where the prisoners were held. Follow that up with a trip to the Museo Correr, tucked away back in the main square.
You can save time and do the the Doges Palace, Bridge of Signs and Cathedral on one Skip the Line ticket tour. This one gives you free access to the Museo Carrer on the same ticket (but not guided) so you can take that in at your leisure, depending on your schedule. You can only use the Skip the Line tickets if you are part of a tour – and as you can imagine, some of the queues for these places are absolutely huge, especially in peak seasons/peak times.
If you only want to go to one of these places, then buy single tickets – mostly you have to say the time that you are going to be visiting. We got ourselves a museum pass, because we knew that we would be taking advantage of many of the places that are included in this one pass.
I would suggest going all out for your first lunch and taking your time to people watch in the fabulous San Marco Square. You can go to the world famous Florians, but you will pay for the experience. If you really wanted to save some money you can just grab a coffee if you like and a piece of cake – then get a sandwich round the corner. It will still cost you £30 for the coffee and cake (each). I would rather have a glass of wine for the same price.
To spare yourself musuem overload, or architectural overload, or just ‘house bling’ overload all in one day, spend the afternoon exploring some of the areas around St Marcos. So you can walk through to the main canal front where all the gondolas park up and walk towards the East which will take you through some much quieter streets. It is where the military are based –
You are likely going to need to sit down and have a break and a coffee or glass of wine at this point. I know I am! Stop off for a Venetian Spritz somewhere that you can either take in canal traffic – or take a seat at a table in one of the many squares so that you can people watch – totally one of my favourite hobbies. The Venetian Spritz is probably known to you as an Aperol Spritz. It was ‘invented’ in 1912 and everywhere you go after about 11am, you can see people drinking glasses of the bright orange cocktail in the sun.
For the first evening of any place that I visit – from China to Istanbul, I take a food tour. The reason behind that is that I get to taste the local cuisine and find out the best places to eat in the area. You often have guides that give you tips and pointers for other places to try that are not on your tour – you just need to ask them.
An evening Venetian food tour is a perfect way to find out where to eat the following day.
If you don’t fancy a food tour – we went to a gorgeous restaurant one night (booking essential) called Impronta Cafe. The food was absolutely fabulous – as you can see from my photos!
Finish the evening off with a nice glass of wine or prosecco sitting by the Rialto Bridge, They have blankets – so even in November, sitting outside is a possibility. We went whilst there were still pandemic restrictions on, and it was still possible to sit outside at midnight.
An another early morning start here and again – you are going over the Rialto Bridge and towards the fresh food and fish markets on the Grand Canal. You want to be at the market at 8am really. Before it gets packed. Have breakfast now – some amazing little places for coffee and pastries again. I am not really a coffee gal, but in Italy – I adore the coffee! Espresso always for me. With water of course.
If you are a foodie – then this place is going to take you to heaven! I saved the market until day 2 of the itinerary because it makes sense to buy things that you can take back to your motorhome that evening. We only have 48 hours remember. The market closes at 13:00. Both markets are closed on a Sunday and the fish market it also closed on a Monday. You can get some fantastic photos of the produce here – and you can also buy bags of risotto rice made up already with Venetian seasoning. It is a very touristy thing to buy – but we got 6 bags! Each bag will make a meal for 2 and they cost about 4 euros each. I must confess though – it would be wise to not buy the fresh fish, unless you are heading to the market on the way to the motorhome. Or you have a cool bag. They will put ice in it for you to keep everything fresh.
Don’t be surprised to find that after you have had a people watching kind of breakfast, wandered around the market and taken photos it is close to 11:00am!
At this point – there is a choice to be made: You can either head towards the water taxi and take a trip to the Burano/Murano Islands – or you can continue to explore Venice. 48 hours is really not enough to do everything in – so we are staying in Venice for the rest of the day. Either way you go back over the Rialto Bridge.
But if you do want to go and visit these places, you need to head to the water bus station Number 12. That is the only line that take you to Murano/Burano. It is in the old town part of San Marco district on the eastern side of Venice. Don’t make the mistake of getting off at the wrong island like we did – it was another hour till the next water bus came along!
Going with the continuation of exploring Venice – next stop is a restaurant called Da Foire, local venetian food and drink We had a fabulous lunchtime meal here which was very good value and packed with locals. Which is always a good sign and something to look out for.
It just happens that when we were in Venice on the 21st November, it is a festival to commemorate the ending of the plague in 1631. Only on that day do they serve castradina. It is a traditional soup dish of castrated rams and cabbage! It is a dish from the Dalmatians – the only people that would dare send food to the island, which had isolated itself, with a loss of 50,000 people. I have to say that it was really delicious. We had venetian wine to match – that being wine of the local region.
For the afternoon, we are heading towards the Opera House – Teatro La Fenice. It is absolutely stunning inside. We took a tour (audio) of the building but it would be amazing to go and watch an actual opera taking place. Tickets for an actual event start at around 130 euros – so its not a cheap night out – its more a blow the budget night out.
Afterward, cross the bridge to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, a fabulous collection of modern art. You will need to book tickets for this and it is closed on a Tuesday. You can see Picasso and Pollock side by side and can also pick up skip the queue tickets.
Meander your way through the Dorsoduro district to see ‘The Migrant Child’ by Banksy and which could be a good time to sit down and have your afternoon aperitif. There are some cute little bars around that area and you can sit out by the canals.
This could be the ideal time for you to have a gondola ride! OK – it is expensive and decadent but it really is a bucket list item. Remember that all gondoliers charge the same price for the same amount of time all over Venice everything is controlled & regulated to ensure that you have an ‘authentic’ experience, the difference might be that you get to experience part of the Grand Canal as well as some of the quieter ‘back street’ canals – a totally different feel from the Grand Canals hustle and bustle. Be sure to ask which route your gondolier will take. If you pick up shortly before you get to the Grand Canal, you are likely to get a good mix of both. Chat to them before hand – someone who is cheerful and chatty is probably going to give a better atmosphere than one who got out of bed the wrong side (for whatever reason).
Things to note – less tourists take gondola trips in the morning. Your gondolier will also be fresher in the morning as he hasn’t worked all day, so you might want to do this in the morning before the markets. There is a Gondola stop right at the market, but check the route. Prices increase after 7pm, so a sunset ride is more expensive (30 minutes – euros for the day and 100 during the evening). Unless it is pre-booked – a gondola ride is cash only. The prices are regulated so don’t negotiate.
You can pre-book a shared ride from the Hotel Danieli, (a luxury hotel, in multiple flims, The Tourist (Angelina Jolie and Jonny Depp), 3 Bond films and many famous guests like Stephen Spielburg and Charles Dickens). Sharing the gondola will cost less money – but you may get lucky and have the boat to yourself.
For your last evening, try some more casual dining, If you are heading back to the motorhome at this point – so towards the bus terminal at Cannaregio, you can find lots of little bars on the way back (either in Cannaregio or Dorsoduro) that sell a tapas style food. When you ask for your food – rely on their expertise and ask them for what they recommend. We did this and paired it with wines and it was just a lovely, local meal, with wines for just 50 euros for us both.
48 hours in Venice - DONE
And so ends a beautifully frantic 48 hours in Venice. You will have seen all the key attractions (and no doubt squeezed your own bits in too) as you wandered around the 3000 streets, crossed some of the 400 canals and visited just a few of the 450 palaces!
If you do have another day in Venice, I really would recommend doing as the Venetians do – getting the boat to some of the other Islands. You can catch the water bus to Torcello, Burano, Murano and maybe even stopping at San Michele, it really is quite a fascinating place. Seafood on Burano and Murano is half the price of Venice, and they are famous for their coloured houses, It is a photographers dream. I would definately recommend some Island hopping.
In the meantime – I hope you found this helpful for getting the most out of your motorhome trip to Venice. I would be really interested in any tips or tricks – what did you think the biggest issue was in visiting Venice as part of your Italy motorhome trip?