The best day trips from Venice

Here's all you need to plan the best day trips from Venice, including where to stay, things to do and places to eat
Burano, Veneto is a great place for a day trip from Venice, Italy.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/廷燦 陳
By Eliza Apperly |
Advertising

Let’s be frank; for as charming as it is, Venice can also be claustrophobic. For all its unique things to do, world-famous attractions, cultural riches and charming vignettes around every corner, the many tourists, congested alleyways and crowded restaurants can begin to test even the best of traveller tempers.

The good news is that Venice is far from the only shining light of the Veneto region, nor even of the lagoon. Opportunities abound for an easy and accessible break from the not so serene Serenissima, whether you opt for majestic mosaics at Torcello or Ravenna, Renaissance gardens in Verona, or sun and sand on the Lido.

Best day trips from Venice

Murano

Torcello, Burano and Murano

There’s something for everyone on this trio of peripheral Venetian islands, all accessible by vaporetto. Lively Murano is famed the world over for its long tradition of glass-making and attracts a number of visitors with its Museo del Vetro and dainty glass souvenirs. Further out into the lagoon, the quaint fishing community of Burano serves up excellent seafood and abundant photo opportunities with its run of brightly-painted houses. For fans of art, architecture, and fine dining, meanwhile, the sleepy outlying isle of Torcello has wonders that belie its pastoral quiet: the astonishing cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the legendary Locanda Cipriani.

EAT:

Booking is essential at Locanda Cipriani on Torcello, a true Italian institution. Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, Winston Churchill, Liza Minelli, Mick Jagger, and, most devotedly, Ernest Hemingway, have all wined and dined at Cipriani’s tables, where expert sommeliers advise on Venetian wines and bow-tied waiters serve up house classics including carpaccio, homemade pastas, and a number of excellent fish dishes.

DRINK: 

On the island of Burano, you’ll probably smell Panificio Pasticceria Garbo before you see it. This superb old-school Italian pasticerria specialises in delicious crunchy biscotti, which go down particularly well with the house hot chocolate.

DO:

Vintage Murano glass is coveted by curators and interior designers to this day. Open daily, the island’s Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum) explores the island’s extraordinary glass-making dynasties as well as the intricate 4000 year old history of glass.

STAY: 

It may be modest by Venetian palazzo standards, but the Murano Palace Hotel sure lays on a royal hospitality. Hosts Cesare and Donatella, both Muranese natives, go out of their way to make guests feel welcome and share their island tips, while the bright and spotless bedrooms look directly onto Murano’s main canal.

If you do just one thing... 

Admire the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta on Torcello. One of the most ancient religious edifices in the entire Veneto region, it dates right back to 639. Rebuilding in the 11th century included two astonishing mosaics: a towering, celestial Madonna and Child on the apse and a frenzied Last Judgement on the West Wall. The reeling visual force of both mosaics is even more powerful amid the basilica’s calm — blissfully removed from the madding San Marco crowds.

Stone Bridge Verona

Verona

Immortalised by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona is steeped in romantic projection, with swooning tourists flocking to the so-called ‘Casa di Giulietta’. But there’s much more to this charming city than its story of star-crossed lovers and much-photographed balcony. Its extraordinary Roman, medieval, and Renaissance architecture include the Verona Arena, which gives the Colosseum a serious run for its money, and the immaculate Giardini Giusti.

EAT: 

Whether you opt for the sunny terrace in summer or the opulent, candle-lit interior in colder climes, it doesn’t get much more atmospheric than Ristorante La Fontanina. Dating back 200 years, this evocative inn is a stone’s throw from the Roman Theatre, with whimsical walls bedecked in paintings, mirrors, fine fabrics, and well-stocked wine racks.

DRINK:

Just down the street from the Piazza delle Erbe, Caffe Turbino has been serving a rich array of coffee, pastries, and gelato since 1969. For many Verona locals, this is the best caffeine fix in town. There’s only a few seats outside, but it’s more fun to knock back your espresso at the bar.

DO:

Visit the beautiful Giardini Giusti, considered one of the finest Renaissance gardens in Europe. Planted in 1580, its immaculate landscaping includes a maze, gargoyles, fountains, grottoes, and fabulous views over Verona.

STAY: 

With just three elegant rooms centred around a charming courtyard, B&B Casa e Natura Breviglieri is an oasis of ecological calm, set just across the river from the centro storico hub. Every product here is organic — from the bed linen and toiletries to the delicious breakfast — and bicycles are available to pedal your way around town.

If you do just one thing...

Head to Piazza del Erbe, the heart of Verona life since Roman times. Busy with market stalls by day and aperitivo action by evening, the square’s seamless run of remarkable medieval and Renaissance buildings make it one of the most beautiful in all of Italy.

Advertising
Padua

Padua

If there’s one reason to come to Padua, it’s the Scrovegni Chapel, decorated by the artist Giotto between 1303-05. His astonishing wall paintings depicting the life of Christ and the life of the Virgin were a true turning point in Western art history, transforming the flat world of 13th century painting into scenes of real human emotion and volume. Beyond the chapel, Padua also boasts a number of picturesque city squares, lively markets, an impressive medieval town hall, as well as one of the oldest universities in Italy and a vibrant student scene.

EAT: 

Invariably packed at lunchtime, Dalla Zita at Via Gorizia, 12 has a phenomenal selection of panini to go. Choose yours from the menu on the wall and enjoy in the nearby Piazza dei Frutti.

DRINK: 

Replete with marble and velvet surfaces, Café Pedrocchi counts among the classics of European café culture. Its three main rooms have served as hubs of intellectual and political conversation since the 19th century, favoured by Paduan students as much as the likes of Stendhal, Byron, George Sand, and Eleonora Duse.

DO:

Admire Padua’s former town hall, the Palazzo della Ragione, built in 1218 and enlarged in 1306. Its upper floor salone is one of the largest medieval halls in the world, with an astonishing series of frescoes depicting the influence of the stars.

STAY: 

With direct views onto the pilgrimage church of Sant’Antonio Basilica, stylish Belludi 37 provides excellent, minimalist comfort within walking distance of all major sites.

If you do just one thing... 

Book ahead for the Scrovegni Chapel.

Hotel Excelsior
Photograph: Courtesy Booking.com

Lido

Venice isn’t only packed piazzas and churches steeped in history. On the Lido, 10 minutes vaporetto ride from Venice central, it’s all about the beach, bikes, and Art Deco villas. Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, this 11km-long sandbar in the lagoon was a cosmopolitan summer hotspot. Moneyed and cultured Europeans flocked here, many leaving whimsical holiday houses in their wake. Somewhat forgotten in the latter half of the 20th century, the Lido has since made a serious comeback, priding itself on a more sustainable tourism than the centro storico across the water. If you’ve had enough of all the selfie-sticks and souvenirs, come here for slow food, strolls along the promenade, and big replenishing views over the lagoon.

EAT: 

One of the greatest pleasures of the Lido is exposure to proper Venetian locals. One such neighbourhood gem is Da Cri Cri e Tendina at 159 Via Gallo Sandro, specialising in simple seafood, laid-back service, and noisy tables of card players.

DRINK: 

Fancy a Lido aperitivo? Head to Osteria Al Mercà for a wine or spritz, accompanied by delicious seafood cichetti

DO:

Stretch your legs in the open wilds of Alberoni, a protected nature reserve of pines and dunes at the southern tip of the Lido.

STAY: 

Behind its elaborate mosaic façade, the Grande Albergo Ausonia & Hungaria channels the turn-of-the-century glamour that first made the Lido a jet-set location. Its 80 rooms are spacious and elegant, with great views over the lagoon from the top floor.

If you do just one thing... 

Enjoy the beach! The Lido’s 10km stretch of sand includes both public and private areas, with one of the most exclusive belonging to the Hotel Excelsior.

Advertising
Ravenna, Italy

Ravenna

Just over two hours’ drive from Venice, Ravenna makes for a longer excursion, but an unforgettable immersion in art and history. Unassuming and peaceful today, Ravenna was the vibrant capital of the Western Roman Empire between 402 and 476. During this golden age, craftspeople and artists flocked to the city, decorating churches and mausoleums across town with extraordinary mosaics that count among the very finest examples of early Christian art. No less than eight buildings across Ravenna are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Even if you think you’ve had your fix of religious edifices, these intricate, luminous walls will have you jaw-dropped in wonder. 

EAT:

Antica Trattoria al Gallo 1909may not lay claim to quite the same tenure as Ravenna’s famous basilicas, but with more than a century to its name, it has certainly established itself as one of the city’s gastronomic highlights. Seasoned chef Delia Clapiz specialises in local Romagna flavours: truffle, wild asparagus, and game.

DRINK: 

From the music to the local crowd, everything is laid-back at Moog Slow Bar. Tucked down a side alley in the city centre, it’s a great place to kick back with a beer or spritz.

DO:

Marvel the mosaics — as astonishing in their radiant colours and minute tile details as they are in their steadfast survival through the centuries. All eight UNESCO sites are outstanding, but the Basilica di San Vitale, Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe, and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (the earliest of all the sites) are absolute must-sees.

STAY: 

For romance, location, and superb service, book ahead for Casa Masoli B&B. Its four spacious rooms are replete with antique details, from four posters to paneled bathrooms, while gracious hosts Fabio and Sandra are a wealth of Ravenna knowledge.

If you do just one thing... 

It’s near impossible to choose between Ravenna’s resplendent mosaics, but if you have to, head for the Basilica di San Vitale and crane your neck in awe at the presbytery ceiling.

Save money in the city

Things to do

The 11 best free things to do in Venice

Everyone knows Venice don’t come cheap. But with truly breath-taking views around every corner, you don’t need to break the bank on sight-seeing; much of the city’s wonder may be found simply by walking on your own two feet. 

Advertising
This page was migrated to our new look automatically. Let us know if anything looks off at feedback@timeout.com