In the age of internet and social media, I didn’t think there was much left to wonder, especially in a celebrated city like Venice!
But, boy was I wrong!
Owing to the cold wave at the end of February this year, it was snowing in Venice. Apparently, the first snow of the season.
If Venice feels magical throughout the year, it’s more so during the winter months when clad in snow.
If you are curious, here are some incredible shots of Venice donned in the snow!
There are so many things to do while planning your Euro trip, this post will guide you!
Never was I so thrilled to be wrong!
However, I had just arrived from Florence and only had a day in Venice before I was moving on to Zurich. Which made it even more essential to understand the city better in a short time. Something beyond the gondola rides and St. Mark’s Cathedral.
I was looking for a tour operator which is beyond narrating the history of Venice in dates and names. Somewhere I could have an authentic travel experience of the culture. Explore the fragrance, flavors and the taste of a new location.
Wander jack is a perfect way to explore Venice off the beaten path, especially when you are short on time. Find out all that you can do in Venice, with a friendly and passionate local guiding you through the narrow lanes and non-touristy corners.
Having seen legions of tourists arriving in Venice to take the gondola ride and wear the Venetian masks, the local folks at Wanderjack got together and created Wanderjack, a local offbeat way of exploring Venice and Sicily.
Local Things to do in Venice, Italy with Wanderjack
For me, Venice was love at first sight. Having explored the floating city with Wanderjack made me love Venice even more!
Venice is without a doubt an uncommon city with its unique canal systems, over 100 islands and over 400 bridges connecting the city.
Venice is decked up in February during the Venice festival, but keep in mind it’s very heavily crowded at the time.
I was in Venice just after the carnival, and I was able to navigate around the city without having to wait in long lines or pushed around by crowds.
We had a rendezvous with the Wanderjack folks at Venezia Santa Lucia railway station. We met Elia and his lovely assistants Alec and Kira right at 11 AM for a tour around their beloved city which was going to last for three hours.
Venice right from the beginning enticed me with its magical charm. And more so after listening to his stories of Venice – of the present and bygone eras.
Travel tip: The only means of transportation in Venice is by water taxis or gondolas, through the canals. If you’d like to explore mainland Venice, then expect a lot of walking around the city. Owing to narrow lanes, there is absolutely no transportation on land.
There are over ten squares around Venice, but did you know that only St. Mark’s square is actually a square!
Confused much? Don’t be.
All of these squares(except St. Mark’s square) are actually campo (means field in Italian), where earlier it used to be a field. You can find wells in some of the Campos at times, where locals used in earlier days to gather water. It is no more in use.
However, the wells are not just in the Campos. I found one inside a mall too, which used to the location where German merchants used to gather to buy wares and goods from Venetian merchants. This mall even offers a panoramic view of the city from the top floor, but owing to snow, it was not meant to be for us!
Calegheri school of shoemaking – Local things to do in Venice
We passed through a historic shoemaker school – Calegheri school, built in the 13th century which now houses a public library. On the entrance wall, you can find a relief depicting St. Mark healing St. Antonio. Legend has it that St. Mark’s sandals got broken and he arrived at St. Antonio’s workshop for fixing his sandals. The shoemaker while repairing the sandals got badly hurt and St. Mark came to the rescue and miraculously healed the wound.
Seafood tasting – Local things to do in Venice
If you are into seafood, then maybe try fried seafood(Calamari, octopus, prawns, and so on), which is a Venetian speciality. Since I don’t like seafood, I tried fried vegetables instead.
Local market – Local things to do in Venice
Elia took us to a Rialto local market, where the Venetian women, go to buy fresh vegetables, fruits and variety of fishes from the fisherman and local vendors.
Library – Local things to do in Venice
And then visit the oldest library in Venice which houses a Gondola made of books, and a staircase of books, which leads to a nice view of the canals.
Oar making workshop – Local things to do in Venice
As opposed to the tens of thousands of gondoliers who lived in the 16th and 17th century, there are only 400 licensed gondoliers in Venice now. Most of them are now just serviced for tourists.
Did you know? The gondoliers row in a way that’s unique to Venice only on one side and yet manage to navigate through the meandering canals.
And all of the gondolas, oars and the oarlocks(used to lock the oars in position while rowing) are made by just four craftsmen living in the city. I happened to visit one of the oar making workshops.
Glassmaking workshop – Local things to do in Venice
Glassmaking is popular in one of the islands near Venice – Murano. But, there are a few glass making workshops scattered around the city as well.
To shed some light on the glass making process of Venice, the local jacks took us to a workshop in Venice. It was interesting to see the artisan playing with fire, blowing the glass and witness a gradual change of color of the glass. The product then becomes a part of bracelets or necklaces or earrings.
Tip – If you are staying over a day in Venice, then explore the glass making town of Murano, and the colourful town of Burano, as a day trip from Venice through Vaporetto (water bus).
Tiramisu tasting – Local things to do in Venice
Tiramisu, a coffee flavored Italian dessert, is speculated to have originated from Veneto region(Venice belongs to the Veneto region). We went to a popular dessert place among the locals called I Tre Mercanti – a gourmet shop and coffee house for sampling Tiramisu.
Apart from the original coffee flavor, they even have 24 different flavors of Tiramisu(they make around half a dozen flavors each day) to sample from.
I tried the classic one, and it was so soft, creamy and rich in taste. Definitely, the best Tiramisu I tasted in Italy.
Additionally, there are so many delicious dishes in Italy to choose from — you’ll be spoilt with choices!
The local Wanderjack Elia, dropped us at St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), where you can find the Basilica of St. Marks, the bell tower, and Doge’s palace.
Having hopped along a ride with Wanderjack, I now know how much it matters to choose the right set of people to explore a new place.
I realized that there many more things to do in Venice beyond the gondola ride, St. Mark’s Cathedral or wearing Venetian masks. Thanks to Wanderjack, I got to experience this beautiful floating city like the locals do!
This tour lasts for about three hours and gives you a local essence of Venice!
If you are looking for a non-seasonal time to enter Venice or any of the popular attractions, then November to April would be ideal. Keep in mind that it will be chilly at this time. But as they say, there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes! Also, some of the attractions might be closed during these times, so do your due diligence.
The unique ecosystem of Venice clad in snow (and no small credits to Wanderjack), Venice is one of my favorite cities in the world now.
Visiting Italy from India? Find a DIY Guide for scoring a Schengen Italy visa here.
Disclaimer – I was invited on a tour of Venice with Wanderjack. However, all opinions mentioned here are entirely my own.