For a “fresh perspective on Venice itself,” head to the water, says Teresa Machan in the The Guardian. The lagoon’s “wide-open shallows” offer a “refreshing contrast to the constraints of the city,” she writes. Some of the best, and most affordable fun to be had in Venice is out on the water, learning the art of voga alla Veneta (stand-up Venetian rowing), paddling your own kayak down narrow canals or steering a little sailboat with a lanteen sail around the lagoon.
Here are three of the best ways to see Venice from the water, according to Insider Guides:
Be your own gondolier: “Tourists in their hundreds shell out eye-watering rates to be paraded about in a shiny black boat by a grumpy oarsman … much more exciting (and better value) to have a go at being a gondolier yourself, during a lesson with Row Venice ... it’s heart in the mouth stuff, but think of the photos.”
Venice Kayak: “You can paddle your way past crumbling palazzi into the quiet heart of the city on what must be the world’s most romantic kayak trip … it’s a magical experience, though watch you don’t scratch any gondolas as you pass, unless you want to hear just how rich the Venetian dialect is in expletives … Venice Kayak has day-trips from €120.”
Vaporetto route 4.2: “Boat trips don’t come more eye-pleasing than the ferry to the little islands of Murano and Burano … sail off on the No. 4.2 from St Mark’s Square, past the Lido, and soon you’ll arrive at the glass-making island of Murano … then hop on the No. 12 to Burano, where shops display local lace beneath lilac, sky blue and sunshine-hued facades.”
See the city as the locals do, from the stern of a flat-bottomed batellina coda di gambero (shrimp-tailed boat) as rowing coaches Jane Caporal and Nan McElroy and their team of 15 Venetian regatta champions at Row Venice teach the ins and outs of rowing like a gondolier. “If the thought of all the physical exercise makes you peckish, opt for the cichetti row,” writes Rebecca Winke at Italy Magazine. “Here you have all the fun of a voga rowing lesson paired with a gourmet food and wine tour.” Sailing is a year-round passion in Venice, with classes available at Vento di Venezia, located on the Isola di Certosa, and with the Compagnie della Vela, on the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore.
Wild rides to the outer edges of the lagoon are possible in a historic bragozzo with Eolo Cruises and Terra e Acqua, or in a modern Linssen yacht with Laguna Longa. “If you want to see the secret Venice, you need to paddle your own canoe,” says Stephen Bleach in The Times. You can even join a flotilla and pilot your own boat around the lagoon, which James Stewart at The Times found a “proper pinch-me brilliant” experience. And, in summer, indulge in surfing on the Lido beaches and Stand-UP Paddling (SUP).
Sign up for Guidebook's weekly collection of fresh stories and useful news about Venice for travelers. It’s free.