There is more to Venice than just gondolas and gold mosaics. This northern Italian city, sprawled across 117 small islands connected by 400 bridges, might be seen as overcrowded, but that’s only if you don’t really know where to go. Venice has some fascinating islands, neighbourhoods and outer-city villages that stretch beyond your typical museums and churches. Here are six different day trips from Venice to escape the overwhelming crowds, from the island of Burano to beaches on the Lido and even a day trip to Verona, the town that inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
For a quiet escape to real Venice, take a day trip to this set of three neighbouring islands steeped in cultural history. Though the islands of Murano, Torcello and Burano take up to 30 minutes to reach by vaporetto (water bus), they’re worth the trip across the Venetian lagoon. Murano is historically known for its glassblowing (some glass factories are still active today), while Burano put lacemaking on the map in the 14th century. Torcello, home to the famed Torcello Cathedral, has rainbow-hued buildings lining the cobblestone roads. A day trip via boat offers an affordable and convenient itinerary that stops off at each of the three islands and showcases the highlights of the lagoon.
Escape the choppy waters of the Venetian lagoon and explore beyond the gondolas on this mini cruise. Leaving from San Marco Square and heading to the city of Padua, this journey will give architecture fans the chance to glimpse over 70 ancient villas lining the Brenta Riviera. Visiting this city in the Veneto region of northern Italy reveals more than just charming canal: visit a stunning 13th-century chapel, a Byzantine basilica, and the Villa Pisani National Museum, which is housed in a former Baroque palace.
This long, beach-lined island is just a 15-minute water boat ride from the central San Marco Square, but it makes the perfect day trip if you want to relax away from the main tourist buzz. While it’s best known for hosting the annual Venice Film Festival every summer, Lido is also a residential hub with a peaceful aura that’s sometimes difficult to find in central Venice. Even during the off-season, it’s worth a visit; check out the church of San Nicolò, or walk through the Oasis of Alberoni, a natural reserve. One must-see is the Malamocco village on the island’s southern tip – this quaint town has a venerable history and was once the original home of Venice’s ruling Doges.
Prosecco is Italy’s most well-known sparkling wine, but it can be enjoyed well beyond the restaurant table or hotel bar. Although prosecco was first cultivated in the vineyards of Trieste back in 200 BC, today it’s made in the countryside region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene in Veneto. On a day trip to this wine-making region, you’ll get an inside glimpse behind the scenes at the wineries who make some of the country’s best prosecco. Learn how prosecco is made and how to differentiate between varieties (with plenty of samples, of course) while overlooking the rolling hills of northern Italy. A light lunch featuring local dishes is provided to pair with the sparkling drink.
Swap the canals for the mountains with this day trip to the Italian alps. A short visit to the charming town of Cortina, as well as the rocky Dolomites mountain range, shows how rural Italy – and its mountains, lakes and villages – are just as enchanting as the city of Venice. Though the Dolomites are best known for skiing and hiking (they’re lined with resorts in South Tyrol and Trento), it’s worth visiting here if you’re an avid photographer; there are impressive panoramic views of the mountains, and the picturesque nearby mountain villages and valleys are postcard-perfect.
Fair Verona is known as the backdrop for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but there’s much more to offer here than just a photo-op background for honeymooners. There are medieval piazzas, historic churches and a Roman amphitheater in this charming town, which is an hour’s drive from Venice; it’s also a short distance to Lake Garda. This day trip will take you to see Juliet’s balcony, where the Shakespearean heroine called out to her Romeo, as well as the gothic Basilica of Saint Anastasia, which was built in the 13th century. Peruse the Mazzanti houses, which are decorated with 16th-century frescoes, and hear the lesser-known stories of this beautiful town.