Venice is such a great tourist attraction in itself that many visitors venture no further. Or, mistakenly, they are led to believe that there is no point in staying more than a couple of nights or seeing more than the main sights in the city In fact, there is a lot to see in this region of Italy, the Veneto, and several of its most interesting destinations are within easy reach of Venice, which makes a good base for a wide range of excursions.
Around the Venetian lagoon
Firstly, and nearest to Venice, there are the lagoon islands. Heading northwards to Mazzorbo, Burano and Torcello makes at least a half-day trip and is more enjoyable if you take your time. Reading our lagoon islands travel advice should help give you an idea of how to combine islands into enjoyable full-day tours using public transport.
Chioggia, a fishing town at the southern end of the lagoon – technically another lagoon island – makes an interesting outing as the journey there is so scenic. Again, Chioggia can be visited in half a day, but allowing more time will give you a chance to wander and perhaps to appreciate the town’s famous fish market and seafood restaurants. Alternatively you can break your journey and explore either the Lido and/or the fishing island of Pellestrina. Read about travelling to Chioggia.
The mainland Veneto
Venice may be stuck out in the lagoon, but its rail links are good, with trains heading over the railway bridge towards the mainland every few minutes. Frequent bus services also run from Piazzale Roma, some covering long distances. Both bus and train prices are quite cheap in Italy so making excursions into the Veneto shouldn’t make much of a hole in your budget.
Treviso is often overlooked by tourists despite having its own budget airport. It’s just half an hour from Venice by train, and is a calm, prosperous town with a network of quiet canals, some interesting churches and good art.
Padua, a supremely fine art city, is also just half an hour away by train. There’s lots to do and see as well as shopping and food to enjoy; this is one of my top days out from Venice. If you want to see Giotto’s famous paintings in the Cappella degli Scrovegni, you should make plans and book ahead.
One of my favourite days out, though a slightly longer one, is to Vicenza, an hour away by train. This pretty town has a mellow atmosphere, and you can enjoy a pleasant walk between countryside villas and viewpoints.
There are many lovely and renowned historic villas dotting the countryside of the Veneto, and some of these can be appreciated by taking an expensive boat excursion up the Brenta Canal from Venice to Padua. If you’d prefer to save money, several of the same villas can be reached by taking public bus services from Piazzale Roma. The grandest villa is on the bus route, and has the advantage of large gardens and a historic maze: the Villa Pisani, Strà.
For a very different, and less cultural, experience, beach-lovers could take a day trip to one of the Veneto’s seaside resorts, such as Lido di Jesolo, north of the lagoon. Further north you come to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region; some of the region’s sites, including the ruins of Roman Aquileia, can be visited as a day trip from Venice though the train journey will take a couple of hours.
For a more unusual day trip off the beaten track, you could head to one of the quieter, smaller towns of the Veneto region, like the fortified towns Castelfranco Veneto and Cittadella. Monselice is a picturesque little town with a castle and a fortress on a hill, and the nearby Euganean hills offer pleasant views and footpaths. I’ve also enjoyed a couple of excellent days out, coinciding with art exhibitions, to Conegliano, birthplace of the Renaissance artist Cima da Conegliano.
Browsing theVeneto region section of Italy Heaven will give you some ideas of the many destinations which can be reached from Venice, along with travel information.
If you’d prefer to go on a guided tour with someone else to make all the arrangements, it’s worth investigating trips organised by Viator. You can book online in advance for their outings, which include trips up into the Dolomites, visiting Cortina d’Ampezzo and tours of pretty mainland towns. You’ll probably see more than if you were planning trips by public transport, but obviously you won’t have the same leisure to wander. You can read reviews to see what other travellers have thought of their different excursions:
> Find and book Venice tours and activities with Viator.