Train at Venice’s Santa Lucia station || creative commons photo by Italo Greco
Venice is a popular destination for day trips from other places, but if you’re clever enough to be spending several days in Venice (yes, I’m biased, because I think everyone ought to spend at least one night in Venice) then you can also use it as the starting point for day trips in the area. And believe me, in this part of Italy there’s plenty worth exploring.
Whether you’re looking for a destination that’s nearby so you won’t spend too much time in transit, or you’re hoping to squeeze in a must-see place that’s a little farther away, there are lots of options. I’ve broken them down on the list below by how long it takes to get there and back.
Keep in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list of places you can go on a day trip from Venice, either – this is just meant to get you started on your trip planning process.
Guided Tours In & From Venice
The places I’ve listed below are all do-able as DIY day trips, but if you’d rather just leave the planning to someone else here’s a selection of tours both in and from Venice.
Quick Day Trips from Venice: 2 Hours or Less in Transit
The historic center of Padua || creative commons photo by Pavlo Boyko
- Lagoon Islands – Even during a short stay in Venice, spending a half-day visiting some of the other islands in the Venetian Lagoon is easy. The closest, Murano, is only 10 minutes away by vaporetto, and famous for centuries for its fine glass making. Take the vaporetto to Burano from there (35 minutes from Murano) to visit the Lace Museum and enjoy the beauty of the multi-colored houses. Torcello (five minutes from Burano) is mostly an uninhabited nature reserve, but worth the trip as it’s got the oldest structures from the original Venetian settlers – including a 7th century cathedral with mosaic work you’ll recognize as similar to that of St. Mark’s Basilica. If you’re craving some beach time, what with all that water around, then hop on a vaporetto to the Venice Lido (15 minutes from the San Marco/San Zaccaria stop), the local beach island.
- Treviso – The historic city of Treviso, a short 30 minute train ride from Venice, offers still-intact 14th century Venetian Republic walls and many churches and palaces built during the period of Venetian rule in the 14th-17th centuries. Though it doesn’t have a canal system like Venice’s, Treviso is at the confluence of two rivers, and so very much a city on the water. This is the city where tiramisù was created, and it’s also one of the centers of prosecco production, so it’s an excellent spot for a celebratory dessert outing.
- Padua – The city of Padua (Padova in Italian) has an enormous 12th century city hall building, a beautiful 13th century church in which Saint Anthony is said to be buried, and a picturesque historic center that’s wonderful for exploring on foot. But the main attraction is inside the Scrovegni Chapel. The frescoes inside – scenes of the Virgin Mary’s life – were painted by Giotto in the early 14th century, renowned as some of the most important frescoes in the world. Padua is only 25 minutes by train from Venice.
- Vicenza – There was an ancient Roman city on the site of modern-day Vicenza, but it was a 16th century architect who really put this city on the map. Andrea Palladio’s handiwork can be seen in many places, but there’s such a concentration of his buildings in and around Vicenza that UNESCO calls Vicenza the “City of Palladio.” You can visit 23 different Palladian Villas in Vicenza, including perhaps the most famous one – known as La Rotonda – just outside the city center. Vicenza is 43 minutes from Venice on the train.
Medium Day Trips from Venice: 2-4 Hours in Transit
Palladio’s bridge in Bassano del Grappa || creative commons photo by Graeme Churchard
- Verona – The city of Verona has an incredibly well-preserved Roman arena in the historic center, where the Verona Opera Festival takes place each summer, as well as the remains of an ancient Roman theatre and former city gates. There are several Romanesque churches with beautiful interior decorations. This city, however, is primarily known as the setting for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The house known as “Juliet’s House” is one of the top sights in the city (nevermind that the balcony is a 20th century addition), and the statue of Juliet that stands below it in the small courtyard is the object of much caressing. It’s said that you’ll have good luck if you rub her breast. If you ask me, Verona’s charms lie beyond Juliet’s House – and they are plentiful. You can get there in one hour ten minutes from Venice by train. Verona is also the perfect jumping-off point for a wine tour of the Valpolicella region just to the north, if you’ve got a guide.
- Lake Garda – The famous lakes in northern Italy are typically thought of as day trips from Milan or Verona, but the town of Desenzano del Garda is only an hour and a half by train from Venice. Desenzano del Garda is on Lake Garda’s southern shore, and it’s a transportation hub in the area – so you can hop on a ferry to visit other towns around the lake easily. There are beaches to enjoy, historic monuments to look at, and lots of shopping to do.
- Bassano del Grappa – Perhaps you’ve heard of the incredibly strong brandy called “grappa?” Well, legend says that it was invented in the town of Bassano del Grappa, which sits in the shadow of Monte Grappa. That’s not necessarily why you’ll want to visit, though. You’ll want to see the wooden bridge that crosses the Brenta River – it was designed by the famed architect Andrea Palladio in 1569. The historic center is also quite lovely and walkable, and it’s roughly one hour ten minutes by train from Venice.
- Cittadella – The word “cittadella” means citadel, or fortress, so it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the town of Cittadella was founded in the 13th century as a military post. The walls that were built to fortify the city are being restored to their original appearance. They stand more than 45 feet tall around the whole historic center, and there are several towers and four city gates. It’s a fascinating step back in time that’s just over an hour and a half away from Venice (with a train change in Castelfranco Veneto).
Longer Day Trips from Venice: 4+ Hours in Transit
Piazza Unità d’Italia in Trieste at night || creative commons photo by Roberto Ferrari
- Trieste – Trieste is the capital of the neighboring Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, just over the border from Slovenia. It was, at various times, ruled by Venice, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the French – and the local Friuli dialect is a distinct language used widely throughout the region. So, in some ways, a day trip to Trieste is like visiting another country. Don’t miss a walk along the waterfront, a visit to the spectacular Miramare Castle (five miles from the city center), and a visit to the Piazza Unità d’Italia at night – the pavement lights up. Trieste is just over two hours from Venice by train.
- Ravenna – If you’re as enchanted by the mosaics in St. Mark’s Basilica as I am, then make Ravenna a day trip priority. It’s a longer trip – just shy of three hours each way, and you have to change trains in Bologna – but the churches there have what are widely considered to be the finest examples of Byzantine mosaics. The churches date from the 5th and 6th centuries, and the mosaics are as bright and colorful today as they day they were made – eight of the structures from this period in Ravenna are on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
- Milan – Milan isn’t on the Italy itinerary of most people (though that may change during and following the 2015 Expo), but it’s a pretty ideal day trip destination, even from Venice – it’s two hours 35 minutes away by train. The historic center is compact and easy to get around, and the major sights can be visited in a day. Tickets to see Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” fresco sell out months in advance, so buy that first and then organize your day trip around it. If it’s a clear day, don’t miss a climb up onto the roof of the Duomo.
- Bolzano – The Dolomite mountain range in the northern part of Italy is reachable on a day trip from Venice, if you’re willing to invest the time. The town of Bolzano, high in the mountains, is three hours fifteen minutes away by train. Once there, you can not only explore Bolzano, you can hop on the cable car to visit the town of Soprabolzano, which more than 4,000 feet up. You can keep going, if you want, onto a 100-year-old electric train – the historic Ritten Railway – that stops in the village of Collalbo. It’s an excellent way to explore the mountains without climbing them yourself.