While playing for Imoco Volleyball, my closest airport and major train station was Venice. And while I think Venice is an amazing place, you really only need a couple days to explore. So, I quickly became an expert in navigating the trains, planes and automobiles to visit towns nearby. Read on to see my favorite day trips from Venice!
If you need some adventure in between all the touring, look no further than Cortina d’Ampezzo, which is home to world-renowned skiing and snowboarding and is nestled in-between the Dolomites. Only a two-hour drive from Venezia, you’ll quickly find yourself surrounded by the Austrian Alps. The city was host to the 1956 Winter Olympics and still holds world-class events, including the 2016 Grand Prix. Even if you aren’t a winter activity person, you can spend your time shopping the high-end apparel stores so you at least look the part or you can warm up with blankets and hot chocolate outside while enjoying the picturesque mountains. You can also still take the lifts up to the top where restaurants serve beer or mulled wine with incredible views. If you have the chance to go around Christmas time…do it. Lights are hung throughout the city and line the cobblestone streets making it look like a scene from the North Pole.
Often referred to as “little Venice,” this city is exactly that. Hop in the car or catch a train on TrenItalia and you can be there in 30-to-40 minutes. With a small river circling the city, you’ll get all the Venice vibes without all the tourism. Treviso provides a more local vibe with shopping, dining, and cafes. Take a stroll and enjoy the side alleys and cobblestone streets (I wish America had these *sigh*). Make sure to hit up the town square where the Duomo and old castle walls take center stage. Cateria Dalla Gigia is located down a side street and serves up the best panini’s, sandwiches, and espresso. Right around the corner of the Duomo you can find Beltramo for an apertivo or sit down and eat at the cozy La Breccherie. Off the beaten path of Treviso near the outskirts of the center, Odeon alla Colonna, is a small, homey restaurant serving up authentic foods from the area. At night it is especially romantic complete with cozy heat warmers outside and a water wheel flowing into the river.
Some of the best meats I’ve ever had in my life, I found at Al Vecchio Falconiere. Down side streets in the center of Padova, this gem of a restaurant lets you pick your meat, and you can watch as they cook it on an extremely hot rock right in front of you. You’ll leave stuffed and happy, in a slight food coma. My mouth is watering thinking about going back!
If exploring has you worn out, drive about 30 minutes south of Padova and arrive at Galzignano Terme Spa & Golf Resort located in the middle of the Euganean Hills. You can enjoy spa treatments, extensive cuisine options, and take a dip in the 37 degree celsius natural springs (even in the winter!). They also have an option to swim at night under the stars…super romantic! Add on breakfast in bed complete with champagne and life doesn’t get much better.
Northern Italy often doesn’t get a lot of credit, but for me it is one of the most beautiful areas. Just take an hour drive north west and pass through Belluno, you’ll understand. Huge mountain ranges rise up from both sides, it’s so hard to focus on the road so you’ll have to drive slow. Here you will find the untapped, non-tourist Italy. Beautiful and natural and every twist or turn offers a new perspective. We headed up with a couple of homemade breakfast burritos and coffee around 5 a.m. to catch the sunrise. After sunrise, pull over and soak up the enchanting views at Parco Nazionale Delle Dolomiti Bellunesi.
If you keep driving a bit further, you’ll run into Cadini del Brenton in Valle di Mis. Here you can hike about five to ten minutes up a small path and you’ll discover turquoise blue waterfalls that seem to come out of nowhere. Take a break from your trek and revel in the undisturbed beauty of this area.
Grotte del Caglieron
This next stop requires a car and oftentimes parking is minimal so expect to park and walk. However, the views cannot be missed!
Driving around Italy from any city you’re bound to stumble on something not in the guide books, Pinterest, or Tripadvisor. I headed northwest from Venice, stopping or driving slowly through small towns, for around an hour until I found Grotte del Caglieron, which is located in Fregona. This natural park reserve, with free entry, makes you feel like you aren’t in Italy anymore. It consists of trails and paths winding through waterfalls and caves. It’s a hidden gem worth discovering.
While it’s an easy walk, there is a hill at the end to be aware of. So, take the wooden walkway and stop at Ristorante “Alle grotte” da Nereo for a much-earned snack.
While not necessarily a day trip, if you have explored all of Venice and are looking for something a little off the beaten path, take a ferry over to the two islands near Venice (Murano and Burano). Murano, the island of glass blowing, offer tours (complete with champagne if you act like you’re going to buy something *pro tip!). You can also check out the museum or wander in their stores and ask to see the backroom…if you’re lucky you can see glass being made.
The island of Burano makes for great Instagram photos thanks to the pastel painted buildings. Each one is colored in soft pinks and hues of lavender purple, yellows and blues, it feels like Easter all year. You can also see glass processing of its own kind and lacemaking. Of all the beautiful buildings, don’t miss La Casa di Bepi Sua, the most famous house on the island painted with colorful geometric shapes.
Make sure to have a taste of typical Burano dishes, including the most popular “risotto de go.”
Only an hour and half, both train or driving, Verona is one of my all-time favorite cities. Not to mention, it’s one of the most romantic. With so much to do here, you’ll need a full day to tour. Stop by Juliet’s balcony and write a letter to your loved one on the wall. Sit outside in the plaza and have an apertivo just outside the arena or Piazza delle Erbe. No matter where you turn, Verona’s streets are filled with charm. Head up to the Castel Vecchio for a beautiful view. Don’t stop at just the sights, the city is popular for its cuisine and hosts a few Michelin starred restaurants such as Il Desco & Casa Perbillini. For something more traditional try La Taverna di Via Stella.
In 2012, Lonely Planet listed the city of Trieste as the world’s most underrated travel destination, and it’s easy to see why. Trieste is about 2 hours from Venice by train or car, and it’s a nice day trip that doesn’t take too much exertion. Trieste is a quaint port city that is best known for the literary authors who wrote there. You can find a statute dedicated to Italo Svevo in the Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia. Stroll a little further and you’ll find one of James Joyce, as well.
Trieste’s buildings, culture, restaurants and cafes show just how it’s been influenced by the many countries that have occupied it. Just over the border is Slovenia. Additionally, it used to be part of the Habsburg Dynasty, so there is a tone of Austrian vibes. You’ll find many Vienna-inspired cafes in the town. And of course, there’s the Italian influence (Trieste didn’t become a part of Italy until 1954).
While you’re visiting, stroll through the old town or head up to Cattedrale di San Giusto. From the cathedral, you can head over to the Castle of Saint Giusto. From the top of this castle, you can see great panoramic views of the quaint port town. Walk from the castle and try to find the Arco di Riccardo, which was built in the first century BC. Head down to the port and stroll along the water. There is so much to do and see in this town, but my favorite was taking in all the cultures that have impacted it.
One thing to note – when you get into Trieste, make sure to grab some food. When I was there, I noticed that a lot of the shops begin closing up around 5pm. I visited in November so maybe that had something to do with it, but I’m glad I ate so I wasn’t starving on my trip back home!
There are so many towns that you can visit and there’s so much more to explore! What are some of your favorite stops in Italy?