Don’t Be A Tourist In Venice

Don’t be a tourist in Venice.

Be a traveler.

Venice, the most unique city on earth, gets a reported 25-30 million visitors per year.

Venice grand canal

Most tourists spend only 8 hours in Venice, coming in with a cruise or day trip.

I admit to being guilty of bringing some of my Glam Italia Tour groups in for just one day when the itinerary won’t permit a longer visit. The way I see it, to spend only one day in Venice is a crime, but to miss Venice all together is a worse crime!

Sometimes I get lucky and am able to stay in La Serenissima for several days. I was there for a week recently and with some days to myself was able to observe tourist culture in Venice from many different angles. Unfortunately I found that unlike my little groups who are perpetually in awe of this magnificent place, and who are respectful and polite, there are an enormous number of tourists who come here and treat Venice appallingly.


I worry about Venice. I worry that it may not still be around for my grandchildren, should I have any.

I worry when I watch the wake from the cruise ships splash up against the walls of buildings that are slowly sinking.

You should treat every place you travel to with respect, especially Venice.

How To Not Be A Tourist In Venice

1. Don’t Take A Cruise.

The average cruise ship holds 3000-4000 people, all of whom converge on a very small area of the city at once. The day I left Venice I went past the cruise ships and counted 5 of them, which means that day there were probably 15,000 – 20,000 cruisers descending on the city and hovering in the same small neighborhood.

Imagine that in your neighborhood at home! It would be awful.

The problem with this is that Venice was not designed or built to cope with this influx of thousands of humans. In my opinion the cruise ships are contributing to the demise of the most unique city in the world.

2. Don’t Crowd The Bridges.

The connection between the cruise ships and the bridges is significant. Venice is a series of tiny islands connected by bridges. These bridges were not built to take the weight of the thousands of tourists pouring over them from the cruise ships, and the volume of people is contributing to the destruction of the bridges.

Not all the tourists are from cruise ships, plenty come in by train as well, but the numbers don’t equate – during the tourist season up to 20,000 cruise ship tourists descend on the city at a time.

One thing to remember when crossing the bridges in Venice is that these are the thoroughfares over which the people who live here go about their daily life. This is how they go to and from work, to and from their appointments, to and from everywhere they go during their day. Can you even imagine how annoying it must be to try and get to where you need to go and be stuck in the middle of a tourist crowd?

Be respectful when crossing the bridges.

3. Don’t Throw Trash In The Canals.

It is ridiculous to even have to say this, but don’t throw trash in the canals. While I was there this summer I was horrified to see all the plastic bottles and food wrappers hitting the banks of the canals with the tide.

If you watch the locals moving around the city you will notice they don’t carry plastic water bottles with them and they don’t walk around eating fast food. That is the domain of the tourists, and it is tourists who are throwing this  trash into the canals.

 4. Explore Different Sestieri

Venice Canals

Wandering Venice, not a tourist in sight

Venice is divided into 6 neighborhoods or sestieri. (One sestiere, 2 or more sestieri) Cannaregio, the largest, stretches from the Santa Lucia train station to the Rialto Bridge. Santa Croce, the oldest and least touristy abuts San Polo, the sestiere that runs between Santa Croce and the Dorsoduro. San Polo is home to the Rialto fish market and Dorsoduro is home to the easily recognizable Guggenheim museum and Santa Maria della Salute church.

Canals in Venice

San Marco meets Cannaregio at the Rialto Bridge and encompasses the area of Piazza San Marco, the Basilica, The Doges Palace and Bridge of Sighs, before it meets Castello the sestiere that ends at the lagoon, with the Arsenale shipyards and the Fondamente Nove vaporetto stop, which is the gateway to Murano, Burano and Castello.

Venice Canals

Most tourists stay in the area from the Rialto Bridge to the far side of St Mark’s Square. That wouldn’t be such a big deal except that we are talking about a very small area and an enormous number of people.

Venice has so much to offer and so many beautiful things to see. Get out of San Marco and go explore some of the other sestieri. This is where you will see the magic of the city. When you wander along the smaller canals and the less tourist-populated parts of Venice you will fall in love with it. The cost of food and drinks is drastically less outside of San Marco than in San Marco, the walkways and bridges are not congested, and this is where you will find the artisan shops instead of the made-in-China merchandise that has flooded the market.

5. Explore The Other Islands.

Burano Island

Walking in Burano

The islands of Murano, Burano, Torcello and Lido are all fabulous and easily accessible by vaporetto.

You may not think about a day at the beach while in Venice, but the beaches on the Adriatic side of Lido Island are fabulous! The water is warm and the beach is clean.

Beach Lido venice

Beach day on Lido Island, Venice

Although it looks similar to colorful Burano, Murano is quite different. Either island is a fabulous place to get away from the crowds and enjoy a quiet lunch.


Torcello is very different again. The island is small and the main attraction, the basilica, is spectacular.

Torcello Island

6. Buy From Artisans.

Don’t buy cheap, knock off, tourist souvenirs. The vendor stands in Piazza San Marco and along the waterfront, and the cheap souvenir shops all sell cheap trinkets made in China. This is not merchandise made in Venice, and not only does it not help the Venetian economy, it hurts it. Venetian merchants have had to move out of the city, their shops taken over by the sellers of this junk.

Why not be respectful, wander the other sestieri, and buy from the remaining Venetian artisans in their artisan stores. Before it’s too late.

Find out my Secret Top 10 Places in Venice HERE

7. Hire Local Guides.

Italian guides have to be licensed. They are required to have degrees in Italian history or in art history. They study hard and work hard to earn the right to be an official guide. Here is an excerpt from the website:

The exam was really hard and it took months to pass all its steps. Written exams, oral exams, compositions about the history, the art and the city in all its aspects. Its museums, churches, palaces, even the ones that no longer exist… all its narrow alleyways! And of course, that wonderful and complex environment, the Venetian lagoon. And wait, let’s not forget there’s more. Language tests, three languages spoken fluently required. University degree required.

When Luisella from took her exams hundreds of people applied, only 26 were approved. Tour guiding here is a serious profession. Make sure the guides you hire are licensed local guides in Venice, not interlopers.

** A word to the wise. Venice is very small and all the professional guides know one another. Non-licensed guiding in Venice is forbidden.

*** Disclaimer: I don’t know Luisella and haven’t booked See Venice for my tours. I work with another guide in Venice. However, if I am quoting her website it is only fair that I put a link to it. And face it, in order to be a licensed guide in Venice you have to be both qualified and good, so I don’t hesitate to refer her!


8. Eat The Local Cuisine

Venice cicchetti

Cicchetti is the tapas like finger food famous in Venice. This cicchetti bar was in San Polo along a little side street.

Italian cuisine is entirely regional. The food is different everywhere you go in Italy and one of the big tourist mistakes is ordering what we here in the USA consider to be Italian food, regardless of where you are.

Fritto Misto Venice

Fritto Misto and salad for lunch.

Lasagna and pizza are not Venetian foods, so don’t order them here. Try cicchetti, (the local version of tapas), baccala’, and the famous local pastries. My book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy has a chapter devoted to Italian cuisine with a region by region guide to what to eat, where.

On the subject of eating…

9. Know Where You Can’t Eat.

There are places where it is not ok to eat. Don’t eat sitting on the steps of churches, on monuments or the steps of monuments, or on the steps of bridges. This is actually punishable by fine. If you want to have a picnic or eat while on the go, there are plenty of open spaces, parks and benches to find a good spot at and have a meal with a view.

Piazza San Marco is considered to be a monument. You can eat at an outdoor café or restaurant there but technically you cannot just buy a sandwich and a drink and hang out in the piazza eating.


10. Don’t Feed The Pigeons

Piazza San Marco is famous for its pigeons. You can stand in the piazza with your arms out wide and pigeons will land on you. To me, pigeons are flying rats, so I would rather die than have them on me, but plenty of tourists enjoy the idea of having pigeons land on them.

spritz aperol venice

A fearless pigeon stealing pretzels from our table.

Just don’t feed them. Venetian pigeons are quite aggressive. They are used to tourists feeding them and will fly up and try to steal food from your table. So as a sign of respect, don’t feed them.

spritz aperol venice

Flying of to raid the next table

11. Swimming and Swimwear.

Swimming in canals, bathing in the fountains, and wearing swimwear in the streets is both forbidden and punishable by fine. There are great beaches on Lido island if you want to swim. And no matter how hot it is, it is never appropriate to wander around town in your swimwear. Have a little respect.

Before you say that cruise tourism is funding the city, stop and think for a moment. The thousands of tourists arriving on ships every week aren’t filling the local hotels. They aren’t eating breakfast or dinner in Venice. They buy a gelato, and maybe some lunch, then buy some made-in-China trinkets before heading back to the ship. Some will buy tickets into museums and the Doge’s Palace. A few will spend money on gondola rides. But when you weigh out the dollars coming in versus the damage cost to the most unique city on earth, a city already facing the reality of sinking, is the cruise business really worth it?

What are your thoughts on tourism in Venice? Let me know in the comments below.

Would you like to know my Top 10 Secret Spots in Venice? These are places that won’t be on my blog and are only available to my private list members!

CLICK HERE for your free downloadable PDF

How To Enjoy The Best Of Venice

Have you ever dreamed of going to Venice? Is the city of canals and singing gondoliers on your travel list? Or maybe you have a trip booked and are heading there this year?


One of my dearest friends is getting ready to take her first trip to Venice. I wanted to make sure she didn’t miss anything so I started making her a list of things to see and do in this most magnificent city. The list grew and grew, and then more people wanted to see it, so in the end I turned it into a blogpost so everyone can share the love I feel for this glorious city on the water.
Buon viaggio Dani!

Venice is so moody in the rain


Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs 

in one go.

                                                                           Truman Capote

Venice, September 2014

Nothing but nothing prepares you for that first overwhelming glimpse of Venice.
To quote Marlena de Blasi ~ you just don’t know where to put your eyes.


exploring the canals in Venice, 2012.



The visual impact of this waterbound city is staggering. No matter how many pictures you have seen, or how well you think you know her, that first moment takes your breath away.
Every. Single. Time.

Make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom of the post to get my bonus information PDF!

Everywhere you put your eyes you find magic. I love Venice.

Shortly thereafter the sounds, smells and tastes weave their way into your consciousness, and once again she has you under her moody, sultry spell.

She is complex, exceedingly beautiful, mysterious, and perhaps the most unique city on earth.

Venice is also the perfect place to travel alone. It is one of the safest cities to walk around at night, in fact violent crime is virtually unknown here.


you feel safe walking around Venice, day or night.

But Venice can also be the ultimate tourist trap if you don’t know what you’re doing.
With fleets of cruise ships not only mauling the lagoon and blighting the horizon, but disgorging thousands of tourists for their kodak half day Venetian experience, you can easily find yourself in a mall-crush, overpriced, kitchy, waterlogged tourist hell.

Between 25 and 30 million people visit Venice each year, of which 80% are in the city for 8 hours or less, and 90% of whom head directly to Piazza San Marco. The average cruise ship tour is 3 hours long and includes a 30 minute gondola ride along with photo ops outside of the main attractions at Piazza San Marco, limiting the tourists’ experience of Venice to a postcard image.


As such the area in and around San Marco is full of vendors selling junky souvenirs made in China, and overpriced food.
To sit at a cafe in the piazza and drink a coffee you will pay around 15 to 20 euros – 12 euros to be seated and up to 8 euros for a coffee.


Step away from the madding crowds and you can have the streets to yourself…


5 minutes walk from St Marks Square Venice becomes your own. She is beautiful in the rain.
Corinna B’s World Glam Italia Tour 2014

And yet if you venture 5 minutes in any direction from the Piazza san Marco you will find a whole new world. One where you can grab coffee for 1 euro, one populated by very few tourists. This is the magic Venice that you need to explore and become well aquainted with.

But you cannot go to Venice and not see Piazza San Marco. Plan to get it out of the way quickly, and then move on. There is so much more to see and do in this spectacular city.


Of pigeons and weddings… Piazza San Marco 2014, Corinna B’s World Glam Italia Tour



I would die if a pigeon landed on me!
Others love it though

Get to Piazza San Marco early. 
You have to experience Piazza San Marco, the Basilica San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale (Doges Palace). The problem is if you are there with the teeming masses you won’t really get to experience it either. ***
The key is to get there early. Or late. I always think before 9am (be there at 8am if you can!) and after 5 when the tourists aren’t around in such force.
Walking through the Piazza San Marco when there’s no one round is just pure magic. I love it when the restaurants that line the piazza are just setting up for the day’s business, or when the blue hour hits and the crowds are thinning and you can meander along and soak it all in.

While at Piazza San Marco you need to visit the Basilica San Marco. This is the spiritual heart of Venice as well as being one of the world’s finest medieval buildings.
The present Basilica (the 3rd to be built on this site) was built between 1063 and 1094.
The dimly lit interior can be completely daunting. Built in the shape of the Greek cross, it’s five sections are topped with 11th century domes. The walls and the domes are covered in mosaics. 4000sq m/ 430, 500 sq ft of mosaic work, completed over a span of 600 years. The golds alone will stop you in your tracks.
Do your best to get there before the crowds.


Mosaics inside the Basilica San Marco, Venice
Corinna B’s World Glam Italia Tour 2014



The mosaics inside the Basilica San Marco will take your breath away.
Image from the Corinna B’s World Glam Italia Tour 2014

The Campanile sits opposite the Basilica. On a clear day you can see for forever from the top of the Campanile, and get a fantastic feel for Venice, but on a hazy day your view is restricted, and perhaps not worth the climb.
Either way, if you are planning a trip to the top make sure you are there before 9am to avoid the tourist madness (and endlessly long lines).


I saw these lovers getting shelter from the rain outside the Doges palace, and decided lovers, long dresses and rain are perfect in Venice

“Perhaps no one ever gets to know Venice as much as they remember her, recall her from an episode in some other dream.
Venice is all our fantasies.”
~ Di Blasi

Take an audio tour of the Doge’s Palace/Palazzo Ducale, one of the most astoundingly oppulent palaces in all of Europe. For centuries Venice was the heart of world trade, and the wealthiest city in the world. As such the home of it’s leader (The Doge) and it’s government had to have an awe inspiring impact on all who came here.
You get to see more of this palace than most palaces in Europe. Walk up the golden staircase to the Doge’s apartments, meander along the unbelievably ornate hallways each of which is more lavish the the last, and try to catch your breath as you gaze up at Tintoretto’s The Triumph Of Venice on the ceiling of the Sala del Senato.


The Triumph Of Venice, Senate Room of the Doge’s Palace, venice

Beyond this you will see the armory, the court rooms and across the Bridge Of Sighs (Ponte dei Sodpiri) to the prison and torture chambers.
Note: there is an amazing 75 minute secret itinerary tour of the palace which gives you insight into the inner workings of this secretive government, which is well worth taking. the tour english takes place at 10.30 in the morning, and you need to book in advance

Okay, now that thats done, lets go exploring.

The following comprise a list of great things to do and see, in no specific order.


Make sure you check out all the links I have put into this giant post. There are entire posts on each of my favorite places in Venice embedded in this main story. There is some fabulous information, and so many things you absolutely do not want to miss!


View from a bridge, Venice 2012


Get Your Bearings:
First let’s understand Venice. Venice is a series of 117 islands linked by a network of canals and bridges, broken up into 6 neighborhoods or sestieri.Cannaregio, Castello, San Marco, Santa Croce and San Polo, Dorsoduro and Guidecca, and the Lagoon Islands.
Buy a map or bring a guide book to help you navigate your way through the siestri so that you don’t miss any of the magic.
The artery from the Rialto in San Polo to Piazza San Marco is by far the busiest, and in my opinion, the part that you spend the least time.
At the bottom of this post I have links to my blogposts on my favorite sestiero,
The Dorsoduro, trips to The Lagoon Islands, The wonderful palaces of Ca D’Oro and Ca Rezzonico.

Everywhere you look there is something magical! Get away from the main tourist areas and go explore Venice.

Get Lost In Venice
Everybody does. And getting lost in Venice as you meander along the smaller canals and cross endless little bridges is just one of the loveliest experiences you can have. Whether she is bathing you in sunshine or dousing you in rain she is spectacular at every turn, and those moments of being lost within her leave you feeling like you’ve found your own private, very magical Venice.


I get lost in Venice all the time. And that’s when I find the very best things.
Somewhere in Venice, 2013


The city is quite small, so you can’t really get that lost. I have found that my greatest discoveries in all of Italy, as well as in Venice, have happened when I have somehow become lost.

What To Eat
Venice is a city of seafood. Inspite of the lagoon getting churned up by unending cruise ship traffic, it still is full of fish, as well as all the seafood gleaned from the surrounding area in the Adriatic.
A walk through the Rialto Market (in San Polo – you can’t miss it!) will show you a dazzling variety of seafood, some you’ve probably never seen or tasted before. Local restauranteurs shop here, so you are previewing what you will be eating later in the day. You will also find an unbelievable array of spices in the mercado ,having made their way here centuries ago dating back to the spice trade. ** Spices from asia and northern africa accessed the rest of the world via the world trade center, Venice.**
Make sure you try fritto misto, a mixture of deep fried squid, octopus and prawns. Unlike the heavy, oily deep fried seafood you’re used to, Venetian chefs are superbly light handed, creating a divine misto that doesn’t weigh you down.

Venetians are also celebrated for their cakes and pastries. Step up to the bar in a coffee shop, order a caffe (espresso to non italians) and enjoy a baicoli or a busolai, little local light biscuit/cookies.

Venetian pastries and cookies




One of the most fun ways to enjoy eating in Venice is to go bacari hopping.
A bacaro is a bar. Stop in for the local drink, prosecco, and pair it with a tapas like snack known as cicheti. These are little finger foods, perfect with a light drink. If you are like me, a total lightweight when it comes to drinking, you can order un’ombra (a shadow) or smaller taste of wine. I find that by stopping here and there for cicheti I wind up eating far less than if I’m stopping for full meals. Plus it’s much more fun, especially in the early evenings when all the locals are out and about, stopping to socialize on their way home.

Another thing you will see is people sipping on sunset colored drinks, normally red or orange. These are the famous Venetian spritz. White wine with a splash of campari (the red) or my favorite, with Aperol (the orange). The loveliest way to end the day and welcome the early evening is to sit outside a bacaro with a spritz and some snacks and watch the world go by. Avoid Piazza San Marco (as it will cost the same as your car payment!) instead head into the other neighborhoods, such as Cannaregio, and join the locals. The people watching is much more fun here! Read more about it in my post on Ca’ D’Oro (linked here)


Spritz Aperol and people watching in Cannaregio at the end of the day

Surprisingly Venice is quiet at night. The bulk of the tourists are only here during the day for a few hours so the streets empty out quickly. Locals head home and all is quiet.
If you are looking for some evening fun head to Campo Santa Margherita in the lovely Dorsoduro. This town square is full of bars and restaurants, and is also populated by students from the nearby university. This is where everyone goes, and it is fun! Read more about Campo Santa Margherita and the beautiful Dorsoduro in this separate blogpost (linked here).
The Dorsoduro is my favorite part of Venice and I have some great information on it for you.
The other great area for nightlife in Venice is the Rialto. The daytime market clears out and the fun bar scene takes it’s place.


Santa Maria della Salute seen from the vaporetto in 2012.
I can look at her 100 times in a day, and she will still take my breath away every time.

Buy a day pass or multi day pass for the Vaporetto. These ferry-like water buses are going to be your main mode of transport. Be wary of water taxis – they are super expensive.


Things you see from the vaporetto ~ Venice 2012

Make Your Own Vaporetto Tour Of The Grand Canal
I love to take a little vaporetto tour along the Grand Canal later in the day, starting at the train station and working backwards towards San Marco. I start at the train station because everyone else is heading in the opposite direction, going home from work, heading back to the cruise ships or heading out of town on the train after a day visit. They get to be in the human crush, I on the other hand, get a non obstructed view either from the front of the boat or in a window seat. With a guide book in hand, or Rick Steves’ fantastic podcast (I really recommend this) learn the stories behind the palaces that line the Grand Canal.


view from the vaporetto on the grand canal in Venice, 2012

I have frequently had the wonderful luck of finding myself seated next to a retired local who has given me a running commentary on what we are seeing, and has told me glorious stories of the history behind various palazzi along the way. Stories I have never seen in guide books. Which of course just adds another layer of magic to the experience!

Ca’ D’Oro

Magnificent Ca D’Oro in Venice

Venice is full of incredible palazzi (palaces). They line up along the Grand Canal in all their glory. Actually they are everywhere, but there is something so magnificent about seeing them along the banks of the Grand Canal. I sincerely recommend reading up on some of them before you arrive, and taking the time to go visit them.
One of my personal favorites is the Ca’ D’Oro in Cannaregio. I go visit Ca’ D’Oro (the golden house) every time I am in Venice, and because I have so much to tell you about it, I have written it’s own blogpost linked here. Make sure you take the time to read this separate post as it is full of great information, and tells you a little about Cannaregio too!

The Blue Hour

If I could give you Venice for a single hour, it would be this hour

~ De Blasi

While on your little home made private tour of the Grand Canal keep an eye out for where you would like to be for the blue hour. The blue hour is this magic time just after sunset when natural light and artificial light mix together creating a dramatic effect that turns the world blue. Venice is one of the most amazing places in the world to photograph the blue hour – the network of canals and the spectacularly beautiful buildings make it ridiculously photogenic. Blue hour only really lasts about 20-30 minutes so you want to plan out where you would like to shoot it, and allow yourself time to get there.
Check out photographer Jeff Bell‘s blogpost on the blue hour in Venice (click here) his images will inspire you! This is one of Jeff’s blue hour photos below:


Blue hour in Venice captured by photographer Jeff Bell.
Check out his blogpost linked above.

Walk At Night
I listened to a podcast recently where the gentleman talked about getting up and walking around Venice at 3am. At that time the streets are empty, the fog is rolling in, bathing her in mystery, and you can stroll unimpeded, feel the city, photograph everything with no one in your way. I’m not sure that I would necessarily get up at 3, but I do adore Venice by night. Remember there is almost no violent crime, so you feel safe as well as somewhat self indulgent, walking around having this incredible place all to yourself. Sometimes during the day the crush of the tourist crowd blocks your ability to feel Venice and her history. By night when she is all yours you can literally feel the past seeping from her walls. If you have studied up on some of the history behind the various palazzi you can almost hear the lavish 18th century parties going on inside. Or maybe thats just the prosecco talking…

My love of Venice comprises far too much information to put in a single blogpost, so I expanded different parts of this blogpost into their own little stories.
Read more about the lovely Dorsoduro here
Read more about the Lagoon Islands here
Read more about Ca D’Oro here

If you are like me and have a love affair with Venice, (or think you might have one if you go there), you must read 1000 Days In Venice by Marlena Di Blasi. 

If you have enjoyed this post and it’s sub-posts, please share it on your social media, and with any friends who may be interested in traveling to Venice.
You can follow me on Instagram here @Corinnamakeup
I have an Italy travel board on pinterest here
and I am on facebook here 
Most of these photos are my own, from my various trips to Venice over the years. Please do not use them without my written permission.

Bonus Information:

August 2018: I have made a downloadable PDF with my Top 10 Secret Places In Venice. These are my favorite restaurants, my favorite place to get an icy cold prosecco with a view, far from the crowds. (Keep your eyes open – the Clooneys go there!) Also on the list you will find my favorite places to go for a walk and some pretty amazing things to see, all of which are off the tourist radar. CLICK HERE to get your free Venice PDF

Ciao! xo