Venice is over 500 kilometres from Rome. If you were to drive it would take you 5.5 to 6.5 hours to get there. So you might think I’m bonkers to say that you can explore Venice from Rome in a day – But if you’re on a tight Italian itinerary and you’ve always dreamed of seeing the sinking city, then a day trip from Rome to Venice is just the solution you need.
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When I first sat down to plan my trip to Italy, there were “must-sees” on my list. The list included quite a few destinations and due to time constraints, several had to be cut. But not Venice.
The city of Venice, or Venezia in Italian, is a marvel – something you’ll only find in Italy.
Explore Venice from Rome in a day
If you only have a few days in Italy, you may consider excluding Venice from your itinerary. It’s far away from Rome if Rome is your base. And because of its popularity, it is an expensive city to stay and dine. That’s why the perfect solution is to explore Venice from Rome in a day. You save money, see the sights, and if you fall in love with the City of Water, you can always extend your stay.
A brief history of Venice
Within the Venetian lagoon, 118 islands make up the city separated by canals. Many of the islands are linked by the over 400 bridges, giving Venice one of its many nicknames, the City of Bridges.
The city dates back to the 5th century AD, where I’m sure the landscape would have looked a whole lot different from what it does now. It slowly became a marine powerhouse by the 10th century and became an epicentre for trade and commerce
Venice’s heydays were during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The four horses that sit atop St.Mark’s Basilica were plundered from the Hippodrome of Constantinople (now Istanbul) during the fourth crusade.
Venice was a dominant trading and commerce force on the Mediterranean in the 1300s. One of the coolest facts I learned while there was that Venice became the printing capital of the world after the spread of the German printing
Then the Black Death hit Venice hard, wiping out tens of thousands of people in just a few short years.
The famed beaked plague doctor mask comes from this time. During the Venice Carnival, an annual pre-Lent celebration, people don Venetian masks, including the beaked plague doctor mask. The celebration is a cultural one with costume contests and mask displays.
Venice was ruled by a Doge, or a duke, who was elected by an assembly of nobles, much like the Republic of Rome.
Venice is sinking
It’s no secret that Venice is sinking. That coupled with rising seawater is making for a pretty interesting situation for the city.
Let me explain.
Venice was built on a sandy lagoon. And if you’ve ever tried to create a sandcastle, you’ll know that it isn’t a great place to build something on. Coupled with the extraction of groundwater and ground compaction, Venice is slowly sinking and tilting as some parts of the city are dropping faster than others.
The city sinks about 1 to 2 millimetres per year, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but as Venice sinks, the waters around it are rising.
Acqua Alta – what to know before you go
Venice floods about 100 times a year. Shocking I know. Some flooding might be as simple as water pooling in the low lying areas of the city. Other higher floods will make you feel like your swimming in the city instead of walking.
High tides, wind and waves cause the entire city to flood. At 90cm over sea level, Venice is relatively unharmed. At 160cm, nearly 70% of the city is underwater.
In the last five decades, Venice has experienced 18 devastating acqua alta floods. A few days after I left, Venice suffered the fourth worst acqua alta in history, reaching a height of 156cm – that’s nearly waist-high waters!
The worst of which was Nov. 4, 1966, where the water reached 194cm above sea level. It caused massive damage and three-quarters of the city’s shops were severely damaged or destroyed.
Acqua alta often occurs from mid-October to last winter. Before you leave, make sure to check out weather and flooding forecasts. You don’t want your day trip to Venice from Rome to be ruined by flooding, do you?
What is the winged lion?
One of the small details of Venice you might notice is the winged lion. Tucked away in carvings, appearing atop pillars, above doors
It’s called the Lion of St. Mark, you know, the same one that the Basilica, square and everything else
One of the most famous lions is atop one of the two columns outside of the Doge’s palace. Napoleon stole this 15-foot bronze statue during his conquest, returned, smashed, put back together, hidden away during the Second World War and restored. The statue’s origins date back to 300BC.
The winged lion also appears on Venetian flags and coat of arms.
Why not play a little game of I-Spy and see how many winged lions you can spot while you explore Venice from Rome in a day.
How to get to Venice
As I mentioned previously, driving to Venice can take 5.5 to 6.5 hours, so skip the car and travel by high-speed train instead.
The trip from Rome to Venice only takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes. If you take the first one that leaves Rome at 5:35 am or the second one at 6:50 am, you’ll get there while it is still morning. If you take one of the last trains out, either leaving Venice at 6:25 pm or 7:25 pm, you will have roughly eight to 10 hours in the city.
Buying tickets is a pretty easy task. You can buy them directly inside the Termini in Rome either at their customer service desk or a kiosk. You can also purchase tickets directly online through Trenitalia, the Italian national train site.
Tickets range in price from $40 CAD to $100CAD one-way depending on the time of year you travel.
How to get around Venice
If I haven’t been explicitly clear, Venice is surrounded by water, and many of its “roads” are actually waterways. So surprise, surprise, the best way to get around is by boat.
That’s not to say, you could get everywhere on foot, but it will take longer. And if you’re exploring Venice in a day from Rome, then time is precious.
There are water taxis, much like any city has car taxis. Like any transportation, there are pros and cons.
While water taxis are quicker than public transport and can take you to the nearest water taxi landing near your hotel or location, they are generally much more expensive than the
The vaporetto is the preferred option for a day trip to Venice.
The water bus system is a great way to get around the city and to the islands surrounding the centre. It’s also perfect for visitors because you can get a 12-, 24-, 48-, or 72- hour pass, as well as single tickets and week-long passes. You can also purchase the more expensive Venezia Unica pass to gain you access to museums and public washrooms, but for a day trip to Venice, it’s not necessary.
Once you buy your pass, you have to validate the ticket, after which your “hours’ begin. The stops are easily recognizable by their yellow and white floating platforms.
Line 1 is the line that services
What to see in Venice
The Grand Canal is the main channel that weaves through the centre of Venice. The 3.8km waterway forms a backward-S from the Santa Lucia train station to the Piazza San Marco.
Over 170 buildings, some dating back to the 13th century, line either side of the Grand Canal. There are only four bridges that cross the canal with the most famous, and oldest, being the Rialto Bridge.
Constructed in the late 1500s, the Rialto Bridge has a dual purpose. Not only does it allow people to cross over the Grand Canal, but it also houses many shops on the covered portions on the bridge.
By getting off at the Accademia
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Make your way to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, where you’ll find art from the 20th century, including, most famously, Picasso. Be warned, if you came to Italy to see the classic and renaissance art – you won’t find it here.
This museum is dedicated to modern art. It also has a neat sculpture garden.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
Next, take in the Basilica di Santa Maria
It’s definitely worth checking out the detail carved into the walls both on the exterior and interior. Hop back on the
The gardens date back to the Napoleon era but were opened to the public in the 1920s. Over 2017 and 2018, the gardens are being restored by the Venice Garden Foundation.
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana
Who can resist a lavish library in the middle of a gorgeous Renaissance City?
Built in the 1500s, the library holds over a million books, thousands of illuminated manuscripts that date back to the 1600s. Inside you’ll find a gorgeous room full of globes, the library hall and stunning staircase.
Palazzo San Marco
St. Mark’s Square is the heart of Venice. Surrounding this massive gathering place is the St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s clock tower, along with a variety of shops and cafes.
Pause here to take in the spectacle of Venice. Marvel at the architectural beauty that lives here.
St. Mark’s Basilica
The Basilica di SanMarco is the iconic church dedicated to Venice’s patron saint, St. Mark. The original building was built in 832 AD –and no, I’m not missing a one in front of that year. Parts of the cathedral were destroyed and rebuilt numerous times over its centuries, but the structure and shape
On the exterior, there are numerous scenes and persons from the Bible depicted in golden mosaics. The middle gable shows a golden winged lion, the symbol of St. Mark and Venice, as well as four enormous horses.
These massive sculptures were stolen from Constantinople, now Istanbul, in the early 1200s during the fourth crusade. They were retaken by Napoleon in the late 1700s but returned less than 20 years later. The original horses are housed inside the St. Mark’s Museum, and the replicas now stand outside the cathedral.
Inside the cathedral feels dark and old. The ceilings are coating with beautiful gold mosaics.
If you want to explore the insides of the church, then purchase a skip the line pass or go with a tour. During the summer months, lines to get in can be excruciating.
The whitewashed Palazzo Ducale is one of the main attractions of Venice.
The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, who was the head of state
Connecting the Doge’s Palace to the “new prison” is the Bridge of Sighs.
The bridge, which is enclosed except for two windows, was built in the 1600s. As the tale goes, prisoners who were coming from the interrogation room in the Doge’s Palace would sigh after seeing their last views of Venice before being sent to jail.
Reality is the poet Lord Byron gave the bridge the name.
St. Mark’s Clock Tower
The St. Mark’sClocktower is the entrance to the piazza from the rest of the city. And it’s not just a pretty (clock) face –see what I did there. It’s so filled with symbols that Robert Langdon would have a field day. (da Vinci Code anyone?)
Atop the clock tower is a bell with two “moors” that strike the bell every hour. Below that is theLion of St. Mark (how many is that now?). Below the Lion is a depiction of theVirgin and Child with the hour shown in Roman numerals on her left and the minutes on the right.
Twice a year, an Angel and three wise men emerge from the numbers. Can anyone guess when? Well, disappointingly, it’s not my birthday, but it’s Jan 6 (Epiphany) and Ascension Day (40 days after Easter).
Below Mary is the mystical blue clock face. It’s a 24-hour clock with a golden hour hand. The signs of the Zodiac are depicted and – get this – rotate to show the position of the sun in the Zodiac.
If it wasn’t built in the 15th century, I’d say this clock tower is straight out of the future.
St. Mark’s Campanile
The last thing to see in the Piazza San Marco is the Campanile di San Marco, the bell tower located across from the basilica.
It’s nearly 100 metres tall, but it’s one of the youngest structures in the square. That’s because the original tower, built in the 9th century, collapsed in 1902. Twelve years later, the campanile was rebuilt exactly1,000 years after the foundations of the original building had been laid.
Not only can you climb to the top of the bell tower, but you have to look out for the plaque commemorating when Galileo demonstrated his telescope to the Doge of Venice in1609.
Acqua Alta Book Shop
Next, you’ll want to make your way to the Libreria Acqua Alta. This is one of the most unique bookstores I’ve ever seen.
Getting there can be quite tricky. If you have access to a very detailed map or Google maps, then it won’t be too bad. But the streets in Venice don’t make a whole lot of sense. Some have dead ends, some look like they have dead ends, but you just have to squeeze through a small doorway, then you’re back on the road.
The bookstore itself is like a maze, with many adjoining rooms filled to the brim with books and art. But don’t worry, many of the books are kept“high water” proof by keeping them in a giant gondola in the middle of the store and even bathtubs.
In their small
Their “fire escape” is a door that leads directly out onto a canal.
Wander through the “aisles” and pick up a few postcards. You’ll find the most unique souvenirs here at Libreria Acqua Alta.
Marco Polo’s Home
You’ll also want to take a very brief stop at Casa di Marco Polo.
Marco Polo was a Venice-born (allegedly) merchant and explorer. He’s famous for writing about his travels in China and other Asian countries, the first to do so in such detail.
Whether he was born in Venice or not, there is a plaque depicting his home in Venice. It’s a brief stop in Venice, so why not!?
The best views of Venice
As you head toward the Rialto Bridge, be sure to take your time to window shop. This area of Venice has very high-end fashion shops here that are definitely out of my budget but fun to look at. In this area, you can also picture how Venice became known for its commerce and trade.
There are very few places where you can get a bird’s eye view of Venice. One of them is located at the DFS, a department store only a minute from the Rialto Bridge.
This department store has a secret – a rooftop terrace that gives you access to those beautiful views from above.
Just be sure to book your time ahead. While there was no one in line when I went, I still needed to book a time to go up, and it would have been too late, and I would have missed my train back to Rome. So, don’t do what I did and please book ahead.
Take a Gondola ride
Finally, you’ll want to cap off your stunning day in Venice with a gondola ride. Yes, it is expensive, but it was worth every penny to enjoy the quiet back canals of Venice and take in that waterline view.
For hundreds of years, the gondola was the primary transportation around the city. Obviously, with the addition of motorized boats, it became easier to zip around the city that way. So the gondola became a luxury.
The profession as a gondolier is highly regarded. They belong to a guild that issues a limited number of licenses, but only after
There’s a gondola service just west of the Piazza San Marco called Gondola Bauer. From here it costs about 80 Euro for 1 to 5 people for a 35-minute tour through Venice.
If you want to save some money on a ride, you can book with other travellers. It obviously is not as private, but you’ll save significantly on the price.
Explore Venice from Rome in a day
Venice is quite the experience, and despite the expense, it was a wonderful day exploring this incredible and unique city.
Whether you’ve come for the