Venice, Italy

Jason R. Matheson
8 min readNov 19, 2023


Ah, Venezia. There’s just no place on earth quite like La Serenissima, the ancient lagoon city known for centuries as “Most Serene”. Positioned on the north end of the Adriatic Sea, the maritime Venetian Republic was once a world superpower with all the riches to go with it. Today, with it’s trading network long eclipsed, the city is in a prolonged state of elegant decay.

I landed at Marco Polo Airport on the Italian mainland but rather than catch a more pedestrian mode of travel like a train or a bus, I walked to the airport’s adjacent dock and boarded a jaunty Alilaguna boat for a relatively inexpensive yet dramatic entrance to the city.

Venice engages all your senses at once. The sun glints off the choppy blue-green water of the Adriatic and the scent of seawater fills your nose while boats of all shapes and sizes zip past.

Once you set foot in Venice itself, locals and tourists stream past you chattering in a plethora of languages. On the travel bucket list for most people around the globe, Venice certainly hosts the world.

It’s best to immediately slow down and just soak it all in. You are absolutely guaranteed to get lost on your way to your hotel, restaurant or sightseeing destination. Venice is a maze of narrow lanes walled in on both sides with precious few opportunities to get your bearings.

After walking along an empty pathway accompanied only by the sound of your own footsteps, you’ll suddenly pop out on a small bridge over a bustling canal crammed with local boats and tourist-laden gondolas.

Or you’ll land in a sunlit square full of chattering Italian kids happily kicking a soccer ball against an ancient church with its precariously leaning tower. Everything here seems to slowly be sinking into the lagoon.

While most destinations boast a list of top sights, Venice itself is the prize here. Sure, most tourists head for St. Mark’s Square or the Rialto but the best experience in Venice is to simply wander and soak in the atmosphere. Go ahead and linger on a sunny corner while an Italian grandmother fusses over her balcony garden.

As an American, I’m fascinated by what I call “crumbly” Europe. Everything is relatively new back home compared to the Old World so this is what I flew seven time zones over the Atlantic to experience.

Point your phone camera in just about any direction and you’ll frame a scene worthy of a picture. All of Venice seems to be a canvas but there are official (and unofficial) works of art to be discovered around every corner.

From works by Banksy to carefully composed shop windows to completely random creations by anonymous street artists, Venice surprises and delights the careful observer.

I soaked up modern art including Klee and Picasso at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum on the Grand Canal and studied replicas of the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper to better grasp the genius of Leonardo da Vinci at his interactive museum.

You overwhelmingly travel by foot in Venice since cars and bicycles are banned. Sometimes I board a passing vaporetto (Venice’s floating boat fleet for public transportation) or pay just two Euro for a quick bob over the canal in a traghetto. You enjoy a slice of the gondola ride experience without the exorbitant cost.

Attention to detail is rewarded in Venice like practically no other place. This is Italy after all. The locals have long prided themselves on putting their best foot forward in fashion. It makes perfect sense that a historical flair for the extravagant extends to all manner of door handles, bells and architectural details.

Many old buildings have mirrors you can pick up and carry around so you don’t wear your neck out looking up at the intricately detailed ceilings.

But remember to zoom out from time to time and soak up the overall atmosphere of the city.

The light here changes throughout the day and becomes especially dramatic as the low November sun begins to set. I timed a ride to the top of St. Mark’s campanile to look out over the lagoon as it turned golden.

The stately lamps in the piazza far below slowly blinked on and contributed to the hazy glow.

Most of the tourists subside to the mainland at night and Venice regains its title as “Most Serene”. This is why staying in the city itself is so rewarding.

This is my third visit to Venice over the years and I’m blessed to have an extended time here. I am not rushing around.

Just as the Italians take their time with meals, I am wandering the quieter parts of the city and soaking it all in. Of course I’m typically fueled by gelato which is dished out by shops on every corner.

I have frequented a few small cafes and bars which specialize in the Venetian evening cicchetti (prounounced chee-KET-tee) which are small snacks or side dishes traditionally consumed with a glass of wine.

My Airbnb is located in the quiet northern sestiere (neighborhood) of Cannaregio. It’s just a 15-minute walk to the train station and also within reasonable distance of St. Mark’s and the Rialto. The renovated interior is a pleasant mix of modern and old-school Venetian style.

Just around the corner is a handy Coop grocery store. As I walk over the canal bridge, I glance over my shoulder at a Gothic arch entryway with its ghostly stairs covered by water. They once led down to the canal but now serve as a stark reminder that Venice is sinking while the sea is rising.


Thanks for coming along on the trip. If you have questions or suggestions, tweet @JasonRMatheson. Missed an entry? Click here.



Jason R. Matheson

I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, cars, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.