“Where should I go for a day trip out of Rome?” That’s probably the most popular question question people ask me when planning a trip to Italy. Tivoli, Napoli, Cività di Bagnoreggio, Bomarzo, Caserta, Spoleto, Siena… so many sites, towns and cities up my sleeve and all within reasonable distance. But here’s one I never, until now, bothered to suggest: Venice.
Is a day trip to ambitious and frivolous? Yes. Impossible? Not at all.
Take the Train
Door to door Roma Termini- Venezia San Lucia is a 3 hour 45 minute train on Italy’s high speed rail provides Italo and TreniItalia. Double down for the return and you’re only 7.5 hours seated where you can contemplate time travel by catching up on your favorite series.
To make the most of a Venice day trip, you’re going to have to get up early. Plan on departing Rome at 6am for a 10am arrival in Venice at 10am, and book the latest train for your return (around 7pm) so you have nine full hours to do whatever you want in La Serenissima.
How to book? Mostly everyone uses TrainLine app. Make sure to check out day return fares, offered by both Italo and TreniItalia, whose great prices are an even better incentive if you are competitive and thrifty like me. *Daytripping from Florence is even easier: just 2.05 hours by train, and you don’t have to get up in the dark.
What to do in Venice
There is a lot to see in Venice, and to help you out I created Top 10 things to do in Venice, a list where I ranked the must see sites, neighborhoods and museums to explore. And if you want more, explore all of what I’ve written about Venice here. By the way, it’s going to be a long day, so I suggest powering up on protein and excitement or coffee, and wear your most comfortable (and waterproof) walking shoes.
Whether meandering or must-see, my best advice is have a plan or at least an idea of a plan, , bring a phone charger and download a curated Google map.If you want to be clever, customize a Google Map (or ask me about mine).
Biennale or No?
La Biennale is the perfect excuse to visit Venice for the day. But should you? That depends on whether or not you are a culture vulture. A heptathlon of cultural events, the Biennale’s big draws are art, architecture and cinema. If this is your thing, then make sure to plan a head.
Every other year, the islands are inundated with contemporary art for the international art festival, a six-month art fest from May through November. (Last biennale was 2022). The Biennale Gardens and Arsenale are the main venues and there is a lot of art to see. Yes, it can take the entire day so find the high lights.
When it’s not about contemporary art, the biennale draws in architecture and design lovers as the Biennale Gardens and Arsenale transform into the very cutting edge for the Architecture Biennale, May through November. Again, this could be an all day affair.
At the end of every August, Venice’s Lido island illuminates with a galaxy of silver screen stars at the annual Film Festival, an eleven-day affair which is both the both the worst and best time to book a reservation at a five star hotel. If you want to see a film, you’ll need more than a day in Venice, but if you want to see a movie star, just go to Cipriani’s or Harry’s Bar.
Where to Eat in Venice
The most important advice I can give you is know where you’re going to eat. For the daytripper, my best suggestion is get thee to a few baccari. Baccari are no-frills bars that ten to overflow with people during lunch time. Here you will find cicchetti, whimsical appetizers served on toasted bread -creamed cod, pickled onions or braised artichokes- and accompanied by a glass of wine, if you like.
Bacari are all about quick service. Elbow yourself to the counter and take a peek. You’ll find a line up of “little toasts” as my friend once called them. Cod (bacalà mantecato) is an excellent protein solution to fuel you through Venice. My favorite bacari are Da Fiore (San Marco/San Stefano), Cantine del Vino già Schiavi (Dorsoduro) and Osteria da Carla (San Marco). To learn more about cicchetti, listen to my podcast.
In Venice, your choices are walking, water bus and water taxi. Water taxis are great phone if you want to get an idea of Venice overall. Otherwise walk or take the vaporetto, Venice’s water bus public transport system. The system is pretty easy to understand, just pay attention to where you have to board. The 1-Day fare costs 20 euro, while a single 75-minute fare is 7.50 euro. Buy tickets in advance.. Cash and credit card.