Generally not the busiest time for Venice, we LOVED getting lost in this strange city’s twisted alleyways, giggling over hot chocolate and espresso while chilly mist filled the air and learning about the late November/December phenomenon of Acqua Alta. If you want to capture the mystery and haunting beauty of this magical city, I TOTALLY recommend visiting Venice over the Thanksgiving holiday.
I’m not going to waste too much of your time going through the typical Venetian activities. You know you need to go to Piazza San Marco (aka St. Marks Square), visit St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. For more info on that, I recommend checking out Italy Magazine’s article that covers the basics beautifully. Click HERE to read.
(Practical note: They do not allow you to bring in backpacks or other bags into popular tourist areas so be prepared to check your bags in a designated bag-check area located down the alley from St. Marks Square)
I will say however, that traveling to Venice in November (and into December) can put an interesting spin on the Venice-must-do list because of the “Acqua Alta.” Much hyped in the news for an historic flood in early November 2018, during the months of November and December, Venice gets super-high tides which fill St. Marks Square and much of the low-lying city.
Does this freak the Venetians out? Uh, they laugh at you when you ask. Will it hamper your vacation? Nope. In fact, the Acqua Alta is an attraction in itself. We were lucky enough to experience a pretty-typical event the last day of our stay. In order to catch it in full-glory, we wolfed down our breakfast and trucked it to St. Marks to join the (tiny for Venice standards) to crowds to walk on the elevated sidewalks. The whole water event lasted 3ish hours (as long as a high tide lasts) and then poof! It was over, like it never happened!
It can be helpful to have access to the tide schedule. Click HERE to see what the water levels will be on a daily basis.
So what to do beyond the obvious tourist stops or frolicking in the flood water? We recommend these 3 trips:
1. Taking a trip to the top of T Fondaco dei Tedeschi.
Glide up the super-gorgeous red escalators (designed by Rem Koolhaas) to the top of this swanky outpost at the foot of the Rialto Bridge. You will get panoramic views of the city and on a clear day, the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Totally free, this is definitely worth the stop for some selfies and pano-pics. (Note that when crowds are low during months like November, you do not need to book a ticket in advance, however according to many sources, during popular tourist months you will need to get tickets to the top ahead of time. You might want to check in ahead of time just in case. To do so, click HERE)
Be sure to stop by AMO for some hot chocolate (as thick as a melted chocolate bar) and Irish coffee to warm up after your view.
If you’re into shoes and/or fashion, check out the third floor shoe gallery, where you will get to spy amazing views of Venice while trying on some Golden Goose and Valentino.
2. Make a stop at Libreria Acqua Alta
Slightly off the beaten path (however social media is making this stop more popular), this little bookstore is chock-a-block with books, post cards, posters and CATS. Totally quirky and more for photo ops and less for actual book purchasing, this spot oozes charm and Venetian history. And the walk here, which winds through narrow Venetian alleyways, is part of the visit. For more info click HERE.
3. Stopping by the Island of Torcello
We were lucky enough to have a private boat take us to Murano (to check out the awesome glass) and Burano (to soak in the bright buildings).
While we were out, our driver insisted that we stop by the tiny island of Torcello before heading back to the hotel, and I’m so glad that we did. Small and peaceful, the island which once housed Hemingway as he penned “Across the River and Through the Trees,” is host to the gorgeous Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
While on the island you can also check out medieval artifacts as well as archeological treasures from the Roman and Paleolitic eras.
Apparently quite popular with tourists, we felt like Torcello was a hidden gem. This may be part of the glory of traveling in the off-season, but due to it’s distance from the main parts of the city, it appears that Torcello is sleepy all times of the year. If you don’t get a private boat, you can access the island via the Laguna Nord route from various spots in Venice, Burano and Murano. For more info, click HERE.
And I can’t wrap this up without mentioning the most RANDOM stop we made to the Ex Cinema Teatro Italia. While we were exploring along Calle de le Pignate we came across this SUPERMARKET housed in a former theater and were blown away! The walls are complete with frescoes, gorgeous murals and moldings.
It was so much fun to stroll the isles and take in the amazing meats, cheeses and other Italian delicacies while soaking up the former splendor of this theater. A definite must-stop if you are in the northeast of Venice. For walking directions from the Rialto Bridge, click HERE.
I was so besotted by our hotel that I created an entire entry JUST about staying there. To read about the Aman Venice (Palazzo Papadopoli), click HERE.
But putting aside my love affair with all things Aman, there are SO MANY amazing places to stay in Venice! While we loved the idea, looks and luxe of the Belmond Cipriani, it’s more suited to warm weather where you can better enjoy the pool and property. We also loved the quirky and authentic rooms at The Palazzo Venart. For a good, comprehensive review of some gorgeous Venetian hotels, click HERE.
If you have read anything else on this blog, it is evident to you that we are NOT gourmands. So if you are a foodie and want the ins and outs of the most authentic eateries in Venice, click HERE. The good folks at Bon Appetit had a grand ‘ol time finding amazing dining in Venice over Thanksgiving. And Food and Wine has a comprehensive list of high class restaurants. But if you are down with easy, tasty places with kid-friendly dishes, check out:
Birraria La Corte. Definitely the tastiest meal we had in Venice. We loved the pizzas, the curried bread and thin but chewy wood-fired breadsticks!
Restaurante da Ivo. Great prosciutto, beef carpaccio and an amazing special’s menu. The quaint atmosphere and lingering awesomeness from famous clientele like Bono, Matt Damon and George Clooney & Amal makes Ivo a place worth spending the evening!
And don’t forget the drinks! Our most festive evening was spent hopping from place to place trying various Italian wines. Our top 2 favorites:
Osteria Enoteca for charcuterie & vino. We actually chose this place for the ambiance but the meats and wine were spot on!
Harry’s Bar. Sorry to be so obvious, but you can’t say no to the place that invented the Bellini.