Rick Steves Has A Simple Solution To Avoiding Crowds On Your Trip To Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy, often referred to as the "Queen of the Adriatic," carries many prestigious nicknames, including "The Floating City," "City of Masks, Canals, Bridges, and Water," as well as "La Serenissima" (or "the Most Serene Republic"). These romantic titles enhance the city's reputation, helping to make it one of the world's most beautiful cities. However, such a reputation comes with boatloads of people wanting to see it. Thankfully, traveling guru Rick Steves suggests a simple solution to avoid them: Experience Venice in the early morning or late evening.

This advice is not to be taken lightly considering the immense tourist influx Venice experiences, especially in the summer when nearly 110,000 tourists visit daily — more than twice the number of its estimated 50,000 permanent residents. Imagine a city where double its population arrives and departs each day! The situation is exacerbated by the fact that 90% of these tourists cluster in a very narrow central zone. This type of "hit and run" tourism makes it extremely difficult to find a moment to actually see and feel what the Queen of the Adriatic has to offer — its unbelievable beauty.

According to Rick Steves, even the busiest parts of Venice are almost eerily quiet just after sunrise or after sunset. To experience this rare, serene atmosphere, it's advisable to stay for at least a night or two. Venice offers a wide range of accommodations, with at least 450 historical hotels and apartments scattered across its six districts: San Marco, San Polo, Dorsoduro, Cannaregio, Castello, and Santa Croce.

Venice: After hours

To maximize your experience and escape the midday crowds, consider arriving later in the day. Check in to your hotel, freshen up, plan your evening, and get ready to head out once the sun begins to set over Venice. At this time, the squalls of tourists begin to drain out, and the magic of Venice returns. For Rick Steves, this is the perfect time to visit the Doge's Palace.

Continuing with the Venetian Gothic ambiance, consider adding a traditional gondola ride to your bucket list. After your ride, stop by a historic bacaro — a traditional Venetian tavern — to enjoy an Aperol spritz (a signature Venetian drink) alongside cicchetti (small appetizers, such as calamari and deep-fried cheese). These taverns, favorites among locals, are typically nestled in the alleyways of Venice.

After enjoying local delicacies, consider ending your evening with live music at the Venice Jazz Club in Dorsoduro, one of Venice's artsier neighborhoods. Close by, you can explore landmarks such as La Salute Basilica (a church), Campo Santa Margherita (a vibrant city square), and Ponte dei Pugni (a bridge famous for its historic tradition of fistfights between rival groups). Venice at night is a timeless romance, provided you're willing to immerse yourself fully. Steves captures this sentiment perfectly: "Don a mask — or just a fresh shirt — and become someone else for a night" (via Rick Steves' Europe). 

Rising and shining with Venice

To experience Venice at its most serene, aim to wake up early and head out at sunrise. Begin your journey with a meditative walk along the calli, the narrow pedestrian streets of Venice flanked by buildings on either side. The smallest being Calle Varisco, only 20 inches wide! As you wander, you might find yourself on the fondamenta — streets that run beside a canal or river. Simply walk and enjoy the solitude, an experience most visitors don't get to have.

If you're feeling like covering more ground and finding more diverse photo opportunities, Rick Steves recommends taking a vaporetto (water bus) down the Grand Canal. During the early morning, you might be fortunate enough to encounter a mist that enhances the city's fairy-tale allure. As you explore, you could pass under iconic bridges, such as the Rialto and Accademia, and gain unique perspectives of historical palaces facing the water.

Once the ride is over, Rick Steves suggests checking out the local fish market, an iconic piece of Venice. After all, this is where the culinary delights of Venice come from, with eels, crustaceans, scallops, squid, and many more kinds of seafood up for grabs. Another advantage of early morning outings is the cooler temperature, especially during the high season in the summer. Enjoy the city at about 10 degrees cooler while savoring a hot espresso and cornetto (a type of croissant), reflecting on this rare and peaceful experience of Venice.