Venice is a wonderful city, but there may come a time when travelers want a change of pace and scenery, if only for a day. Visitors have a lot of options when it comes to getting away from Venice for a few hours. They need only hop on a train or take a tour for a trip to the scenic beauty of the southern Alps, also known as the Dolomite. Or they can travel down the coast of Italy or inland to smaller towns with a great heritage and beauty. An overview of the best day trips from Venice:
Ravenna’s old churches, some dating back 1,500 years, are a very good reason to make the two-hour train trip from Venice. These churches contain some of the best Byzantine mosaics in Europe. The central city section is popular with pedestrians and bicyclists as they stop to see the Basilica di San Vitale with fabulous mosaics such as scenes with the Apostles; the Piazza del Populo, the town square that dates back to 1500; the colorful indoor market Mercato Coperto to buy snacks, and the Mausoleum de Gallia Placidia with its fantastic mosaics.
A popular day trip from Venice, Padua may be the oldest city in northern Italy, reportedly founded by the Trojans in the 12 century BC. Ancient history aside, the city’s top attraction is the Scrovegni Chapel that is home to an important series of frescoes painted by Giotto in his later years; the frescoes are considered a masterpiece of 14th century painting in Europe. Impressive art, including an equestrian sculpture by Donatello, can be found at Basilica de Sant’ Antonio where the apostle St. Mark is buried. Visitors will want to take a break at the Caffé Pedrocchi that has been serving customers since 1831.
Just 60 km (37 miles) from Venice is the historic, cosmopolitan city of Vicenza. It’s famous for its architecture, especially buildings by Andrea Palladio, who built several, of which the Teatro Olimpico is one of his most famous. Visitors will want to stroll through the historic section, stopping to take in museums, art galleries and public squares, including the Piazza dei Signori that was also designed by Palladio. Just outside the city lies the Villa Rotonda, the highlight, and sometimes the main reason, of anyone’s trip to Vicenza. Designed by Palladio in 1591, it contains all of his revolutionary ideas into one perfect building. As harmonious as the exterior is, the interior is also breathtaking, being completely frescoed with tromp l’oeil scenes from the villa’s ideal everyday life.
A visit to Verona is a must for Shakespeare fans, since Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew are set here. Sites connected to the plays, however, are beat out by the ornate Romanesque San Zeno Maggiore Church, which is considered Verona’s top tourist attraction. Another top draw is the Ponte Scaligero, a bridge first built in the first century and rebuilt after it was destroyed in World War II. The most famous structure in Verona however is the Arena, an enormous Roman amphitheater that is crumbling on the outside but still functioning today. It was erected in the 1st century AD in an elliptical shape, and is the world’s third-largest amphitheater to survive from antiquity. Verona is 114 km (71 miles) from Venice and can be reached easily by train or car.
The Dolomites are considered one of the top alpine areas in Europe. While they’re not Italy’s highest mountains, the Dolomites’ red-hued pinnacles are the country’s most spectacular. One of the best places to enjoy the alpine experience is Cortina d’Ampezzo, popular with jet setters and winter sports enthusiasts; Cortina hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics. The popular 1963 movie, The Pink Panther, was filmed here. The Dolomites are popular with hikers who want to hike its many paths. The spectacular scenery of the Dolomites can be found just over 160 km (100 miles) from Venice.
The Venice Lagoon is dotted with islands, with the northern outlying islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello the most famous. Murano is famous for its glassmaking where travelers can visit shops and see artisans at work as well as several historic churches. Burano is an island of fisher folk that is also known for lace making and its colorfully painted houses. At one time Torcello was bigger than Venice; today, it’s a quiet, green island that is famous for ancient Byzantine churches, including the Cathedral of Santa Maria Asunta. Vaporettos link the islands and Venice together.