"Where should I go for a day trip out of Rome?" That's probably the most popular question question people ask me when planning a trip to Italy. Tivoli, Napoli, Cività di Bagnoreggio, Bomarzo, Caserta, Spoleto, Siena... so many sites, towns and cities up my sleeve and all within reasonable distance. But here's one I never, until now, bothered to suggest: Venice.
Venice? Impossible, you say. Not at all. . .
Door to door Roma Termini- Venezia San Lucia is a 3 hour 45 minute train on the Alta Velocità (high speed) trains. Double down for the return and you're only 7.5 hours seated where you can contemplate time travel by catching up on most of the entire first season of Dark. To make the most of a Venice day trip, you're going to have to get up early. The best Rome departure is on the Italo 6.15am train*, arriving in Venice at 10am with a return train at 7:00pm- that gives you nine full hours to do whatever you want in La Serenissima. And to make the day trip evening sweeter, Italo Treno offers day return fare at great prices, the kind of incentive if you are competitive and thrifty like me.
Whether meandering or must-see, if you're really going to day trip to Venice, have a plan. Or better yet, download a Google map for an idea of where you want to go and how you will need to get there- your choices are walking, water bus (see below) and water taxi. If you want to be clever, customize a My Maps by dropping pins on cultural and food sites and download it onto your phone. It's going to be a long day, so I suggest powering up on protein and excitement or coffee, and wear your most comfortable (and waterproof) walking shoes.
Most importantly, know where you're going to eat. For the daytripper, my only suggestion (and latest mantra) is get thee to a few baccari.. Baccari are those no-frills bars overflowing with people queued up for cicchetti, whimsical appetizers like creamed cod, pickled onions or braised artichokes on a bread, usually accompanied by a glass of wine. Service is quick, once you are front and center at the counter, and the cod (bacalà mantecato) is an excellent protein solution to fuel you through Venice. My go-tos are Da Fiore (San Marco/San Stefano), Cantine del Vino già Schiavi (Dorsoduro) and Osteria da Carla (San Marco).
And the best tip? Keep spare euro in your pocket for cicchetti and also the vaporetto, Venice's water bus public transport system. The 1-Day fare costs 20 euro, while a single 75-minute fare is 7.50 euro (and can be bought on board). Again, cash is king and makes everything go faster.
Is a day trip to ambitious and frivolous? Yes, just like Venice and at times, just like me.
*Daytripping from Florence is even easier: just 2.05 hours by train, and you don't have to get up in the dark. Departure: 7.54 am.
La Biennale is the perfect excuse to visit Venice for the day. A heptathlon of cultural events, the Biennale's big draws are art, architecture and cinema. Every odd numbered year, the islands are inundated with contemporary art for the international art festival, a six-month art fest from May through November. Architecture and design lovers head to Venice in even number years as the Biennale Gardens and Arsenale transform into the very cutting edge for the Architecture Biennale, May through November. At the end of every August, Venice's Lido island illuminates with a galaxy of silver screen stars at the annual Film Festival, an eleven-day affair which is both the both the worst and best time to book a reservation at a five star hotel.
My latest day trip to Venice was an intense attempt to visit all 120 artists and 86 country participants in the *57th International Art Exhibition - Viva Arte Viva in less than 8 hours. My take? Christine Macel's curation for Viva Arte Viva was more introspective, and had more humor and human interaction than biennales past. The Italia Pavilion was finally something to talk about and at times, amazing like a Neil Gaiman story, whereas Russia was a disappointment. The USA Pavilion was somewhere in between, but that was artist Mark Bradford's point. The Biennale's roster of artists was solid- enough new entries to make you feel like the art world's wheels are moving more aggressively.
PHOTOS FROM THE 57th INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION