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One Day in Venice, the Magical Floating City

Experience the magic of Venice in just one day. From gondola rides to charming bookshops and mouthwatering gelato, we're sharing all there is to know about the enchanting floating city!
A view of a canal in Venice. In the distance is a bridge and on either side of the canal are tall buildings of different colours with balconies lined with flower beds.
One of Venice, Italy's many canals. Photo by Emily Fata.

Last September, I spent one day in Venice, venturing from Bergamo where I was staying with cousins for a weekend. This was a city I had to see, one that had been on my bucket list for decades.


When I was 13-going-on-14, during a summer where I moved cities and spent the entire summer hours from my friends and in my room with a big ol’ desktop computer, I wrote a novel (because why not?). The story was about two Italian-Canadians who met on a plane on their way to Venice and fell in love, spending the summer together before returning to Toronto and getting married…as one does in your imagination when you’re 13.


The only problem was that, while I was fascinated with the city, I had never been to Italy, let alone Venice. Because of this, I had to ‘travel’ via Google Maps, using street view to go through different pathways with the drag of my mouse. Some things were lost on me, like not understanding how truly touristic this city is, seemingly devoid of locals. Plus, there was another imperative fact—there are no vehicles on the island. Thus, my characters were booting around the entire city in non-existent Venetian taxis.


So, what is Venice like, really?


Imagine a city where the streets are made of water, and the primary mode of transportation is ferries, if not walking. As you glide along the shimmering canals, surrounded by centuries-old architecture and rich history, you can see Italy through a unique lens that seems—in so many ways—different from how I experienced the rest of the country.



A woman in a white shirt with blue polka dots stands in front of Venice's famous Bridge of Sighs. It stretches over a canal behind her.
In front of the Bridge of Sighs. Photo by Cinzia De Caro.

Beginning Your One Day in Venice


Can you really see Venice in a single day? The short answer is yes.


Our adventure began early in the morning in Bergamo, where our large group (me and my nine cousins) piled into two cars and embarked on the scenic highway drive toward Venice. With so many people, driving seemed to be the best and most economical option for us, as well as the most convenient. However, you can also take the train from Bergamo (as well as Milan) if you prefer!


Venice is often referred to as ‘The Floating City’ because it is uniquely built on over 100 small islands in the Venetian Lagoon, which are connected by a complex network of canals and bridges that give the impression that the city floats on water. The buildings are supported by wooden piles driven deep into the waterlogged ground, providing a stable foundation. This clever engineering and the canals serving as streets for boats and gondolas create Venice's distinctive floating appearance.


With all this floating, taking boats to get around is to be expected; when we arrived on the city's immediate outskirts, we found parking in a multi-level car park. Instead of taking the crowded public boats, we opted for a quicker experience by hopping on a water taxi and paying a bit more. From afar, the city’s structures appear to emerge directly from the water, enhancing this enchanting illusion.


I’m not going to lie—as we approached Venice, I felt myself sliding towards the edge of my seat, eyes fixated on the shoreline ahead of us that reflected the city off the Grand Canal.


Details of the colours and intricate architecture at Saint Mark's Basilica.
A close-up of Basilica di San Marco's details. Photo by Emily Fata.

First Impressions of Venice


Stepping off the boat, we found ourselves amidst Venice's labyrinth of interconnecting paths, all interlaced with canals. As we walked along the cobblestone walkways, I felt like my attention was constantly being pulled in a million different directions, my eyes darting around and admiring all the surrounding area's architecture.


Our first stop was the iconic Bridge of Sigh, a beautiful white limestone bridge with a sombre history. It connects the Doge’s Palace to the Prigioni Nuove, or new prisons, and it’s said that prisoners would sigh as they caught their last glimpse of Venice through the small windows before being taken to their cells. Likewise, prisoners finally set free from prison would sigh in relief when they passed through the bridge and back into the city they were recently locked away from. The bridge's delicate beauty, contrasted with its dark but fascinating past, is just one example of Venice’s exciting history.


A red brick bell tower stands over an old building.
The Campanile in Piazza San Marco. Photo by Emily Fata.

From here, we found ourselves wandering outside of Doge’s Palace, sidestepping the water of the slightly flooded canal that had come up over the marble terrace. As we headed toward Saint Mark’s Square or Piazza San Marco, I checked out almost every kiosk along the way, buying magnets from one person, a little sailor dress for my goddaughter from another, and postcards from a third (when you only have one day in Venice, you have to shop smart). It was only after I finished poking around that we finally reached St. Mark's Basilica.


The Perfect Lunchtime Break


By now, it was lunchtime, and we had worked up an appetite in all of our travels. In the heart of Venice, in Piazza San Marco, finding a spot to eat while admiring St Mark's Basilica is a must. This bustling square is home to some of the city’s most famous landmarks—not just the church, but also the Campanile, or bell tower, opposite of it. If you like to people watch (AKA you’re a little bit nosy and/or you want to make up stories about strangers passing on the street…or both), this is the prime spot to do so. After all, being right smack in the middle of one of the most famous cities in the world is a prime location for this.


We settled down at the Loggetta, at the foot of the Campanile, to eat. My cousin had prepared delicious sandwiches for us, and as we ate, we soaked in the vibrant atmosphere of the square. In fact, her food was so good that tourists came up to us and asked where they could buy the same meal, leaving disappointed when they discovered that they couldn’t.


A group of 5 smiling cousins sit on a gondola in a canal in Venice.
Enjoying a gondola ride!

Taking a Classic Venetian Gondola Ride


No trip to Venice would be complete without a gondola ride, so we went straight to the docks after we finished eating. Given our large group, we had to split into two gondole, but that only added to the fun. Gliding through the narrow canals, we were treated to stunning views of Venice’s hidden gems—charming bridges, quaint and colourful homes, flower-adorned balconies, and schools of tiny fish that would occasionally come up to the edge of our boats. Our gondolier shared fascinating facts and anecdotes about the city, which made the experience all the more interesting. After all, it’s always cool to know about the places you see firsthand, especially when they’re right in front of you!


As we made our way through the different canals, we could see even more of the sights that are famous to the floating city. With only one day in Venice, a gondola ride was an excellent way to maximize seeing the most of this beautiful place.


Hidden Literary Finds in Venice


Braided pasta drying, hung up on a wooden dowel.
Pasta drying in a shop window. Photo by Emily Fata.

After our gondola ride, we continued our exploration on foot. Back into the labyrinth we went, and I was again enthralled by the visual stimuli filling the pathways at every corner—dried garlic hanging in one shop window, entire baroque costumes on mannequins in another, and everything and anything in between.


Somewhere along the way, we found a gelateria, which we collectively agreed was the perfect place to stop. Naturally, We had also stopped for espresso at a bar not long before, but now we realized that a sweet pick-me-up was much needed. Not only was the gelato itself incredible—I got for di latte, as always—but the signage at this gelateria was also absolutely on-point. Does it get better than this?



With our sweet tooth satisfied, we happily made it to the famous Libreria Acqua Alta, a unique bookstore known for its creative way of protecting books from flooding—by storing them in bathtubs, gondolas, and waterproof bins. I fell in love with this little bookshop and all of its charming character, from the old tomes to the stationary, all the way to its mountain of books piled for a photo op and personal gondola on the canal.


While there, I couldn’t resist picking up a set of tarot cards featuring Klimt’s artwork and a few vintage books and bookmarks. Each item felt like a treasure, a piece of Venice to take home with me that could transport me back to this little shop even once I had left the pretty, watery city.


A brick building along the canal with greenery growing from its many window baskets.
One of Venice's many beautiful buildings. Photo by Emily Fata.

The Perfect Ending for Just One Day in Venice


Before we left Venice, I decided to pop into a little shop that sold handmade masks. After all, Venice is renowned for its elaborate masks, traditionally worn during the Carnival of Venice. Amidst the colourful masks lining the walls from floor to ceiling, I carefully examined the different designs, looking for the perfect one to bring home for my brother.


Eventually, I found a beautifully hand-painted sad clown mask for him, a unique souvenir that perfectly captured Venetian craftsmanship's essence and fit my brother’s love of horror movies. With our bags full of Venetian mementos, our group divided ourselves into two, with half going back to Bergamo and the other half—the group I was now a part of—deciding to take the public ferry over to the nearby Island of Murano that is famous for its glassmaking. I’ll talk more about Murano in a separate article, don’t worry, but overall, it was an incredible experience and totally worth a visit.


Finally, we took the ferry back to Venice and grabbed a connecting boat to return to the city's outskirts. Here, we retrieved the car and headed back to Bergamo ourselves, ending an amazing day in the floating city.


White marble buildings adorned with statues and beautiful arches..
The façades of beautiful Venetian buildings. Photo by Emily Fata.

All in All


With its unique charm and rich history, Venice is a must-visit destination. While I would have loved to be able to stay longer if time had permitted, even if you were only able to spend one day in Venice, it’s definitely worthwhile. Whether you’re strolling through its picturesque walkways, enjoying a gondola ride, or exploring its many shops and historical treasures, the floating city of Venice offers a magical experience to its visitors.


 

6 Comments


Barbie Ritzman
Barbie Ritzman
3 days ago

The title got my attention. But those famous canals is something I've always wanted to experience.

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Ramil Hinolan
Ramil Hinolan
Jul 04

Venice is famous for its picturesque canals and iconic landmarks such as the Bridge of Sighs and St. Mark's Basilica. After reading about your experience, this is definitely a must-visit destination when I travel to Venice. Thanks for sharing your delightful adventure and those helpful insider tips!

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Olga Wefler
Olga Wefler
Jul 03

I love Italy, and I really want to visit Venice! I can see this city vibe through your pictures.

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Night Helper Blog
Night Helper Blog
Jul 03

Wow, these images are absolutely stunning! Venice has been on my bucket list for a while, and I can't wait to visit. I've heard it's an incredible and romantic destination.

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Ramil Hinolan
Ramil Hinolan
Jul 02

Visiting Venice is on my bucket list. I'd love to see the floating city one day, even if it's just for a short trip. The gondola rides, delicious gelato, and charming bookstores make it seem like a dream come true.


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