It’s unlikely that you’ll ever get bored enough of Venice to want to get out, but if you can force yourself away from the canals, you’ll find some treasures near enough to make a day trip out from La Serenissima. Here are five of our favorites.
Murano, Burano and Torcello
A tour of the islands will take a full day, but it’s more than worth it. And it’s also worth seeing them all, because they’re very different. Murano is the glass-making center with lots of factories open to the public and even a glass museum, Burano (pictured) is like a smaller-scaled, candy-colored Venice with bright-colored houses strung along canals, while Torcello is pretty much a wilderness apart from a couple of restaurants and a 7th century cathedral with Byzantine mosaics.
Venice isn’t the only city of love in northern Italy. Verona, of course, was the setting for Romeo and Juliet, and after a mere hour-long train ride from Venice, you can be standing under Juliet’s balcony and rubbing the lady lumps on her bronze statue (not to be pervy – it’s supposed to bring you luck in love). And Verona has loads to offer apart from the Shakespeare angle. The Roman amphitheater (home to Italy’s finest summer opera festival) is an incredible sight, and the medieval streets mixed with Roman remains are glorious to wander.
Another pretty-issimo little medieval town, university town Padova is also home to one of the most extraordinary art sights in Italy (and yes, that’s saying something): the Scrovegni Chapel, frescoed by Giotto. You’ll know many of the pictures already (think of Giotto, and the image you have in mind is probably from here – like the Judas kiss, pictured), but seeing them together, in situ, is nothing short of extraordinary. What’s even better is that it’s only a half hour train-ride from Venice. Book well ahead to get the slot you want.
Only half an hour away from Venice, Vicenza is one of the most important towns in Italy when it comes to Renaissance architecture. Palladio lived here, and designed many of the buildings in the city center (as well as the spectacular villas in the countryside around). But the crowning glory is the Teatro Olimpico (pictured) – the theater he designed, with the stage set up as it was in his day. The use of perspective (which was rediscovered in the Renaissance) is spectacular.
It’s further than the other destinations (a fast train gets you there in under two hours) but a trip to Trieste is totally worth it. It’s very similar to Venice – set on a lagoon, with Austro-Hungarian architecture – but it’s almost devoid of tourists. The spectacular Piazza dell’Unita is the largest sea-facing square in Europe (you can pull up to it by boat, should you be so inclined), and the town is full of coffee shops (that Austrian influence again). Understated and “untouristy,” Trieste is an essential daytrip.