Venice Italy is full of secret places; this page is focused on those most Venice Tourism guides seems to miss. Join me, Maria, in exploring La Bella Venezia. A city I love!
Many of Venice’s secrets are discovered by simply walking around without a destination in mind. By venturing down the little lanes and alleyways you'll be amazed at the incredible canals, squares and ancient sights you'll stumble upon.
Let's start our journey through Venice by exploring the Dorsoduro district:
If you aren't sure where a place is just visit our Venice Map page.
A breath of fresh air after the crowds of tourists in the San Marco district, this is the real Venice, a place where Venetians still live and go about life oblivious to the theme park world of St Marks Square.
The Dorsoduro is home to one of the most magnificent buildings in the whole city - the Church of Santa Maria della Salute. This church was built to thank God for helping Venice to overcome a pandemic centuries ago.
Truly a church for our times!
Read more about this church in our article about the 12 most beautiful churches in Italy.
Just a short boat ride away from Venice lies another smaller version of the city. One where the welcome is always warm and the bright and happy nature of the inhabitants is matched only by their colorful houses. It's the perfect place to sample local seafood dishes too at a fraction of the price they charge in Venice. Here's all you need to know about Burano.
Tucked away in a side street near Piazza San Marco is this rather unusual tower. Despite being so near to the main tourist sites of Venice there are never many tourists here. It seems to have escaped the attention of the masses so far and that makes it even lovelier to visit.
Last time we visited was September and we had the wonderful viewing deck and the glorious views all to ourselves. It really is a spectacular view too, we could hear Andrea Bocelli 's Vivo Per Lei drifting up on the breeze from a house far below: it made for an unforgettable moment.
A bit of history: the tower itself was added to the palazzo in the 15th century to add a little bit of glamour to a palazzo located in a not so glamorous part of Venice. The name of the tower refers to the spirals on a snail's shell which the winding staircase resembles.
The highlight here is the walk up and the view from the top. It is around 60 steps in total and the view is ever changing as you wind your way around the staircase. I love the moment you suddenly spot St Mark's Campanile around one corner (you'll see it in the video).
You can get here easily by foot from the Rialto Bridge or from Piazza San Marco although it can be a bit difficult to find. Rather than me explain (you will never find it based on my directions) I recommend you use Google or Apple maps.
It costs 7 Euros to get in (it's free for children under 12 and Venice residents) and that entitles you to walk up the staircase, enjoy the view and also to visit the art gallery hosted in the building, which, although very small, sometimes hosts some rather good and often historically important works of art.
A nice peaceful escape and a great place to take the kids camping for a few days, more of a naturally beautiful place rather than one offering much in the way of man-made wonders.
The area is a bird watchers paradise with a range of rare species including the black-winged stilt and grey heron. I don’t know much about bird watching but friends who do tell me this is a superb place.
The southern lagoon area has only recently been opened to Venice
tourism with the onset of the ATN boat company tours – conducted in
English, German and French. The bits I like best on these tours are the
ancient old fishermen’s huts perched on stilts and an old hunting lodge
which is starting to fall apart. Read more here.
Venice is not only historic buildings, the city has some idyllic parks, quite corners that allow you a little time-out to reflect before heading back into the hustle and bustle.
The Giardinetti Reali (Royal Gardens) is the best of the parks – this park owes its existence to Napoleon, who perhaps wanted some greenery to remind him of Paris while he was in Venice and, at least to me, the gardens seem very French in style.
There are also some absolutely wonderful cloister gardens; these I love most. I sit quietly, often all alone, a sense of peace comes over me and the hustle and bustle of Venice seems a million miles away.
Like Dorsoduro, Cannaregio is one of the few places where you'll find the bars and restaurants full of genuine Venetians and you'll even see shops selling useful things and not just tacky souvenirs.
Prices too are fairly reasonable, at least compared
to St Marks, and it does have some interesting sights of its
own. Read more about Cannaregio here.
An important part of Venice’s history and the first Jewish ghetto in Europe, in fact this is where the word ghetto originates.
The area has until recently been a largely forgotten part of Venice; however, tourism here is starting to grow so enjoy it while you can before the area becomes like the other more touristy parts of Venice.
Walking around the cramped alleyways and along the narrow canals is well worth a morning and the Jewish Museum provides an insight into what life must have been like in this ghetto. Click for more on the ghetto and its history.
Both of these buildings are architecturally important examples of 17th century Venetian architecture. Cà Zenobio has some great works of art by important artists of the period – while Cà Rezzonico houses a delightful Venice museum on 17th century Venetian life – you can read a little more about Cà Rezzonico under our Dorsoduro section.
Mainly a working class area that can seem a little run down, despite this the area is worth a visit. Hidden away here and there are some very interesting places and this is most certainly one of those parts of Venice tourism has not touched.
The oldest Greek Orthodox Church outside of Greece/Turkey, San
Giorgio dei Greci, is found here. Dating back to the 16th
century it was the centre of Venice’s once fairly large Greek community –
a community that had a profound influence on the city and contributed
to the Byzantine look so prevalent in Venice. For more on Castello read our guide here.
A haunted castle in Venice? Well I suppose it is more of a haunted palace. Built in 1487 Ca’ Dario is not the sort of place you want to own but if you do feel rich and brave then I believe it might be for sale again.
Since it was first built this very unusual and strangely
beautiful building has led to the deaths of nearly all who have owned
it. The long list of victims includes the manager of the rock band “The
Who”. Brave enough to want to learn more? Click here!
The Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (friars in Italian) was the first
church in Venice built by the Franciscan Friars, the church dates back
to the 14th century.
The simple no nonsense elegance of the church is in keeping with
the lifestyle of the Franciscans. Inside though it contains some very
significant art works by Titian, including the magnificent Assumption. Read more about the church here.
In the San Polo district of Venice you will find this bustling market for fish, fruit, vegetables flowers and much more.
The market offers a cheerful, colorful and spectacular show of real Venetian life and is a good place to do your shopping. The prices here are far below anywhere else in Venice and the range and quality of products on offer is incredible.
This is where the people of Venice Italy come to shop. The market starts from dawn and the best quality products go early. From around 8am you can often pick up good bargains from stallholders wanting to sell off what they have left.
Not one of the "traditional" sights of Venice this is still a definite must-see. I can spend hours in here. Read more and see the photos of this incredible bookstore here.
The hunchback of Rialto, opposite the Church of San Giacomo, has an intriguing history. Dating back to 1541 it was originally intended as a place of official proclamation. It was also the place the naked offenders, guilty of minor transgressions, had to kiss before being forgiven and pardoned.
A rather dull looking church but artistically and architecturally this is one of the most significant of Venice's churches. More in my article.
Venetians, like all Italians, love their after lunch and dinner strolls – passeggiata as they are known in Italian. Venice’s most famous promenade is the Riva degli Schiavoni, situated just off St Marks square.
The walk along here is lovely, particularly on a fine summers day when the canal is abuzz with life, the view across to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore is magnificent, and the Riva is full of people enjoying the sunshine. This is pretty much a part of most Venice tourism itineraries but it is well worth doing.
The Metropole hotel in Venice's Castello district and right on the Riva degli Schiavone is a superb place to stay. For more on the Metropole Hotel click here.
Looking across from St Marks square the island of San Giorgio is an
incredibly lovely sight and yet relatively few tourists make it over to
the island. Don't make the same mistake - the journey over on the water
bus is easy and well worth the effort and it certainly should be one of
the major Venice tourist attractions. For more on the island click here.
You can visit here with the number 42 water bus which makes a stop at Cimitero (cemetery). Why you should visit a cemetery while in Venice Italy – well firstly because it is a touching insight into the history of Venice through the ages and secondly it somehow seems especially sad being located on an island entirely dedicated to the dead.
Many a famous Venetian and a whole lot of foreigners are buried here and the names are indeed impressive, ranging from Ezra Pound through to Stravinsky. In Venice tourism has indeed been popular for centuries.
The cemetery is divided into Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox sections making it fairly easy to locate specific graves. Please remember to dress with decorum and show respect as this cemetery is still in use and many Venetians are there to visit the recently deceased.
If you would like to visit the Big Six sights of Venice tourism, then you can view our
Essential Venice Tourism Guide here.
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I would love to hear about your visit to Venice, your experiences in the city, travel tips, favorite things about Venice. Anything you can share would be really appreciated by me and I am sure by other visitors to this site.
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