Venice is one of the world’s greatest cities – a floating work of art, an open-air museum, and a place that everyone wants to visit at least once in their lifetime.
But what makes it great also makes it crowded…and then some. This fragile city is the poster child for overtourism and not only is it unpleasant to be part of that, but a whistle-stop tour of the sights makes you part of the problem. Our advice? Stay longer. A week is a decent amount of time to get a feel for the real Venice, beyond the crowds, and to take a couple of day trips beyond the canals.
The Italian railway system is excellent and in this part of the country, there are regular high-speed trains that can whisk you to another world in less than half an hour. Whether you’re looking for somewhere close by or fancy a day out in another region or even in the mountains, here are some of the best places to go.
1. See world-changing art in Padova
Travel time: 26 minutes by train
If it wasn’t so close to Venice, Padova (or Padua) would be one of northern Italy’s most feted cities. As it is, not many tourists make it to the place that changed art history – yet it’s one of the easiest day trips from Venice by train. Here, in the Cappella degli Scrovegni – the chapel of the Scrovegni banking family, which now sits in a little park, just 10 minutes’ walk from the train station – Giotto spent two years from 1303 to 1305, frescoing it from top to bottom. What he produced shattered medieval artistic conventions, introducing perspective and humanizing his figures, instead of keeping them stiff and sculptural. If his Nativity and Flight to Egypt scenes are familiar, that’s because they make regular appearances on Christmas cards around the globe.
Other sights include the colossal Basilica di Santa’Antonio – where the remains of St. Anthony of Padua are kept – and Prato della Valle, a huge square (said to be Europe’s largest) where grand statues of local luminaries stand guard over a moated island (join the locals and buy a pizza at nearby Pizzeria Orsucci, going strong since 1922, and eat it in the square). Don’t miss Piazza delle Erbe, where there’s still a busy food market, both inside and out. Looking for souvenirs? La Bottega del Pane is a pantry of exceptional local foods.
How to get to Padova from Venice: The easiest way to get there is by train. Fast…
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