4 Days in Venice

4 Days in Venice

  A Photoblog by Kerry Cleasby – January 2016 

4 of the best travel days of my life…

As we sadly leave Venice today, I think I can safely say I have just had four of the best “travel days” of my life! It might have also been four of the most expensive … Venice is a city stretched under the constant demands of tourism (27 Million tourists each year) so it gets away with over-pricing almost everything. And while that sounds like a miserable place to start talking about a visit, can I say that it was worth every over-priced Euro we paid. So get ready to have your travel budget squeezed because Venice is too special to skimp or to miss out on anything. I suggest you go hard and then go home. Do everything, stay out late, drink your 20 Euro Bellinis’ at Harrys’ Bar, dine on the Grand Canal and take a slow ride on a gondola. You may never be in Venice again. So how to keep the costs down… Pre-plan, pre-book and pre-pay most of what you want to do so you can fit it all in efficiently, especially in summer as the crowds can really slow you down and many things completely book out. Pay for as much as you can before you arrive so you are are not as likely to begrudge the Bellinis, tapas and souvenirs that must be purchased spontaneously. 

This is my “Pre-Book Me” – 4 day Venice – suggested itinerary, designed from my own personal visits while travelling with my husband and teenage girls.  

Making a grand entrance…

Our beautiful timber water taxi. George Clooney was not driving.

Day 1 

Arrive– by Water Taxi – Like no other transfer you have ever had.

The Venice experience begins from the first moment you land at Marco Polo airport. As the airport is on an island, your hotel transfer has to involve a boat! If you get a water taxi, it will be a surprisingly beautiful boat. I had requested a George Clooney timber style boat, complete with George Clooney. Well, that was how I imagined arriving in Venice. As George had just got married to Amal in Venice and I had seen photos of them cruising around Venice looking incredible in these gorgeous boats. The water taxi that collected us was beautiful, the driver was definitely not George. 

Our first view of Venice in the morning light on arrival from the airport

Speeding along the Grand Canal, my teen girl’s eyes were very wide. It really is surreal. What a crazy place this is and what a grand entrance we have made. Happy Mum moment!  We pre-booked water taxi transfers so they were there to meet us when we arrived at Venice Airport. If you think you might be challenged for energy after your flight and don’t want to deal with bags and kids on the public ferry, not to mention dragging your bags over the cobblestones and bridges then this is the way to go. It’s certainly not as cheap as the ferry, but private arrival transfers are one of the ways I have found to keep kids happy and parents sane on big travel days in any city, but in Venice, it is also a wonderful experience. 

Stay- Hotel Saturnia

My favourite Hotel in Venice is Hotel Saturnia. This is where I stayed with my family on my last trip. It is a converted 14th-century palace with a unique Venetian style.  It’s been run by the same family since 1908. They welcome my clients like old friends. The location is perfect, only a few minutes walk from St Marks Square and it backs onto a small canal which allows for easy water transfers to/from the airport and train station. Some rooms back onto this canal with little Juliette balconies. (Ask me about “Kerrys family suite” if you want me to book you my special room)

It is considered 4 stars and priced moderately. 

My favourite Venice Hotel

See– 4-hour orientation private walking tour with “Localers”

I like to start in a new city with a guided walking tour. In Venice, this was a big welcome relief for us, as there is no way we could have found our way around these crazy winding narrow allies. A private guide allows us to venture right into the heart of Venice with confidence and without getting lost and gives you the ability to get away from the crowds and the queues.  It adds something really quickly to the knowledge bank and gets the kids right on board. The tour really helps you to orientate yourself and you can ask your guide all the things about the rest of your time there, like where to eat and drink and which art gallery to check out.

Click the link below for more detail on the tour I recommend.

Your tour covers three major districts of Venice – San Marco, San Polo, and Cannaregio, and in a half-day offers the best overall introduction to the city. In an intimate private tour, you will have a local expert lead the way to the city’s highlights such as St. Mark’s Square & Basilica, the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge, while demystifying the fascinating history behind the landmarks.

You’ll enjoy a unique local experience and walk through the narrow alleys of the Ghetto, sip a coffee in a peaceful neighbourhood campo, and even hop on a traghetto to cross the canal in the locals’ way!

Best of Venice Half Day Tour

I don’t think I have ever been more lost anywhere than I was in Venice…




Ticking off the must do’s with our guide. Trying to get everyone to smile for me.

Day 1 – Evening

You might be tired from a big day of travelling and walking, but to finish your first day by dining on the Grand Canal will leave you completely satisfied that you have arrived in Venice. I can pre-book a fabulous restaurant for you if you wish.
Or do what we did and head to the legendary Harry’s Bar, for the iconic Bellini, which originated here, before grabbing a pizza and taking it back to our room and crashing early.

St Marks Square at night

Day 2 – Day time

Today I suggest some Independent exploration of Venice. Now that you have your bearings from your guided tour, get a list of things together that you want to see.   Grab a map from your hotel concierge, ask for directions, wonder, get a little lost (you won’t be able to help that)
There is so much you could see in Venice, I suggest you just pick the highest priority. Pre-plan and pre-agree if you can do what you want to see today.
I am a big fan of Rick Steve’s. His guide books, his podcast and videos. Get one of his books before you leave home and start to read up and research before you get there. Then follow one of his guided audio walking tours. Or shortlist the museums and art galleries you want to see. Perhaps purchase skip the line tickets if you are there in summer. 

The ever-fascinating and changing Grand Canal.

Day 2 – Evening

While in Venice last time we found something really special to do one evening. I had been hoping to give the girls the chance to experience some live classical music while in Europe but taking kids to adult-oriented recitals can be difficult. But this looked a bit different. Musica aPalazzo is like Opera in the round. It is performed in an old Baroque Palace on the Grand Canal. The opera moves through 3 very grand rooms with each new scene. With only about 50 people in the audience, it is like being at your own personal performance. It begins with a party in the ballroom with the audience holding a glass of champagne and the performers wandering amongst us.  We saw La Traviata and even though it was of course sung in Italian and we had never watched Opera before, we were all incredibly moved by the performance. Even my punky teens.

Tonight for Dinner how about you grab something from the Cicheti (Venetian Tapas) style restaurants throughout Venice on route to the opera.  Known as the “Stand-up Progressive Venetian Pub Crawl” dinner.

Opera in the evening at Musica Palazzo

Musica aPalazzo

La Traviata… Opera, sung in Italian, in a ballroom on the Grand Canal. 

Day 3 – Day time 
See: One of the best days we had in Venice was to visit the nearby islands of Murano and Burano. Hotel Saturnia has a special arrangement with the glassmakers of Murano where they will pay for your water taxis if you will come and watch how the incredible Venetian glass is made. We were very happy for the chance to get back on the water and cruise around in these elegant timber water taxis to the nearby islands of Murano and Burano, especially for free. The January weather turned it on for us in spectacular fashion, crisp, but the skies were so blue. 

Beautiful Palaces line the Grand Canal

Speeding around in boats is a great way to keep kids happy, husbands too…

Cruising the waterways in our own white leather and timber boat, feeling like a million bucks and it didn’t cost anything! (This must be the only free tour in Venice)

The glass factories and shops were really interesting, and it’s not really a hard sell. I had planned to bring home a little piece of Murano glass anyway, so was very happy to go
directly to the factories to purchase it. We watched them make intricate chandelier parts. The kids were quite awestruck by the process of glass blowing and extremely hot furnace
and bending glass.

Heading into the Glass Factories in Murano

After we had made our purchases at the glass shops, we were offered the same deal of a free taxi to take us over to the nearby island of Burano. Burano is known for its colourfully painted fishing houses and intricate lace. A lovely young lady from the lace shops walked us through the vibrantly painted fishing houses, explaining their significance, let us browse a few of her shops and then even though we didn’t purchase anything, happily booked us a table at the best Italian seafood restaurant we experienced in Venice.

Brightly coloured fishing houses of Burano.

Eat: The Black Cat – Seafood restaurant in Burano was the real deal – Needs to be pre-booked. I can do that for you as part of your booking.
It felt completely authentic and great to not feel quite so touristy for a little while.  We ate fresh seafood and hand made pasta amongst the painted houses of Burano.! Just perfect. If you are there in summer, request an outside table.

The Black Cat Seafood restaurant was a local gem.

Then we caught the public ferry back to Venice, an authentic local experience in itself. The ferry dropped us off on the backside on Venice, which required about a 30-minute walk across the island through a maze of allies, thankfully well signposted. 

The sky was blue, the waterways like mirrors and Venice, what a spectacular place!

My mini model finding inspiration amongst the colours on Burano.

Day 3 – Evening

This evening, before you leave Venice, I think another tour is in order. A follow-up tour to get a little deeper into Venice life.

I suggest one of these two tours depending on whether you are travelling with kids or not.

Venice by Night is a walking tour to the dark side of Venice “after sunset when evening fog pervades the lamp-lit city and the tourists are gone” we will delve into the macabre depths of Venetian history and legends, inviting you on a dangerous journey to the city’s chilling past of murder, curse and plague.  The backdrop of the stories will be the city’s landmarks such as the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute. You’ll also discover gondola jetties, an abandoned 16th Century hospital and other unexpected corners of the Dorsoduro district.

Enjoy a Guided Progressive dinner and food tour through Cannaregio. “Our Progressive Dinner Tour through Venice’s Cannaregio neighbourhood visits at least 6 tasting locations in this historic community. Full portion tastings plus wine, enough for a full dinner, are included in the ticket price and offer many samples of Venetian delicacies.

We start by offering the top three most important traditional foods in the city.  These recipes date back 500 years and are still eaten daily by Venetians.  We feel it is very important to share these with you because it helps offer a greater understanding of Venice and her people.  As many traditions erode away, Venetians hold tightly to their culinary ones, knowing that it is vital to maintain a connection to the past, and what better way to do that than through food.  They also know if these foods are not prepared and eaten daily, then they will be forgotten, and all that will be left is footnotes in history books of what these foods use to be.  Venetians eat these foods to remind them of who they are.  You will be learning about all of them as we walk from bacaro to bacaro to eat them.

From there, it’s on to a traditional trattoria for more authentic Venetian dishes such as risotto or fritto misto, which is mixed fried seafood.

Then, we move on to gelato, because… well, because you are in Venice and it’s required by law to have at least a gelato per day.  We’ll help you meet that quota.

Finally, we end along the Grand Canal for the proper Venetian Spritz.

Between tastings, you’ll receive a behind-the-scenes look at one of Venice’s most intriguing neighbourhoods.  You will meet the chefs, the owners and the servers.  You will meet our friends.  We will share our expertise of local customs and eclectic folklore so you can have an authentic Venetian experience”  

Eat dinner the way local Venetians do!

Sometimes the fog descends on Venice giving it a very eerie mood.

Day 4 – Day time

Today sadly your time in Venice has come to an end.

Depending on what time your flight or train departs, you may have some time for a last bit of shopping or grab a few missed photos.

If you are lucky enough or is that unlucky… you might time your visit with a high tide.

Our last day had one more treat in store for us a high tide. Incredible that some of the worlds most expensive hotels and retail shops are within inches each month of being completely flooded. St Marks square underwater and lots of the lower areas. They were erecting raised pathways as we left. Check out the pink plastic booties that the hotels hand out to save your shoes

We were woken this morning by an alarm. At first, we thought it was a fire alarm, so I jumped up to check it out. But it was coming from outside the hotel. We eventually realised it was an alarm to warn the residents of incoming water. An extra high, high tide.

Check out the pink booties the hotels issue to their guests when the city floods

St Marks Square underwater, the tour must go on.

This wacky, spectacularly beautiful, partially submerged city must be visited at least once in your life.
I am a Personal Travel Manager for TravelManagers Australia and have been designing bespoke travel itineraries for 30 years.
I do my best to travel to the destinations personally, as there is no substitute for a personal inspection.
If you would like me to create and book the perfect Italian holiday for you and your family, please contact me at [email protected]

Kerry Cleasby
Based in South Brisbane, QLD
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