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Venice or Florence????

Right now we are planning on staying in Venice 3 nights and Florence 2. We've had 3-4 people tell us they spent a week in Florence and could have stayed longer.

Now we're wondering if we should flip flop and stay 3 nights in Florence instead of Venice. We might have to sacrifice $50 for the train we already paid for.

We have never had a burning desire for either but we do like art!

HELP!!!

Posted by
3341 posts

We've been to Florence and it is, without question, a great city with much to offer art lovers. Venice, however, is not only a great city with lots of great art, but one that is truly unique and unlike any other we've visited. We spent two complete days in Florence and managed to enjoy all the highlights. We've been to Venice several times and will return to spend more time there. Three nights in Venice will only give you two complete days and, depending on arrival and departure times, part of another. That will barely scratch the surface. Suggest you stay with the original plan but that is just our personal preference.

Posted by
4695 posts

What's the rest of your itinerary, before and after Florence and Venice? If you are flying in or out before or after one of them, that would give you even less time there or could mean a jetlagged day or something.

Some people really could spend a week in Florence. Not me - though it is a good base for day trips. Otherwise, it wasn't my favorite stop in Italy, even though I have a nice sunset panoramic hanging in my dining room that I shot in Florence. I've been to Florence only once, though I'd love to go back someday. I've been to Venice four times.

Venice tip: make plans to get away from the crushing crowds. You really can, but it takes some planning. Don't spend all of your time by Rialto or San Marco or you'll feel like you're at Disneyland. There are quiet areas that fewer tourists visit. On my last trip, I did a lovely morning walk from the train station to Rialto - but on the south side of the Grand Canal, through San Polo, through a maze of narrow streets and courtyards (follow signs "Per Rialto"), not the northern side along touristy Strada Nuova.

Posted by
2463 posts

If you love art, it's Florence without question. I'm the opposite of Andrew H and TC. I've been to Florence 3 times and every trip spend more time there than on the previous trip. The only time I've been to Venice was on a tour-enjoyed it but no desire to return.

Posted by
468 posts

Stick with Venice, you’ll want time to wander around and explore. Since you haven’t prioritized Florence from the start, I’m kind of assuming you’re not art fanatics. If that’s the case, I actually didn’t love Florence as a city. I found it lacking in charm compared to other places.

Posted by
5320 posts

Hands down its Venice. No where like it on the planet. If stay far from the madding crowd you'll be able to meander, explore and appreciate its absolute uniqueness. Be sure to make this a stop, http://carezzonico.visitmuve.it/en/home/. I never tire of Venice. Florence spent a week there. No desire to see it again.

Posted by
1623 posts

Recommend the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice. Great art, definitely a favorite.

Posted by
142 posts

We found Venice to be super crowded with thousands of tourists at all the popular attractions, probably because we visited in the first week of June. Overall, it had a Disneyland-like vibe to it. Florence on the other hand felt like the real Italy, it was nice to walk around, also not as crowded as Venice.

Posted by
619 posts

I just came back from Italy in early June, traveling with my husband, and five other people. We spent 4 nights in Venice (first stop on our trip) and 3 nights in Florence before we went to Tuscany. Interestingly, half the group would have spent more time in Venice, the other half in Florence. You can’t go wrong with either choice, but here are some of the reasons why.

Pros for Venice:
- It is magical and yes, you can’t entirely avoid the crowds at the major tourist sites, but by staying in a neighborhood, getting up early to explore, and later in the evening you can see a quieter and more intimate side of Venice.
- There is so much to explore in Venice: while Florence is the capital of Renaissance Art and Architecture, Venice has much to offer in art, from the mosaics at St. Mark’s to the 20th century masterpieces as Peggy Guggenheim museum, to the modern art glass of Mirano, we could not see it all.
- The food. Fresh fish from the Adriac, the bounty of the local neighborhood markets. We stayed in an apartment and wished that we had more time to cook and explore food that we normally didn’t get at home.

Cons for Venice:

  • Tourist out number residents and some in our group were overwhelmed with the number of people in a small and concentrated space.
  • Lots of walking—other than the deliberate hiking we did in other places, we walked more in Venice to get to our destinations. Yes, you can take water taxis or buses, but you still have to walk and that was an issue for some of our group.

Pros for Florence:

  • Art & Architecture: if you love the Renaissance, this is the place to go. The Duomo museum was one of the favorites, even among our group who are not big museum fans and this is on top of the biggies: Uffizi and Accademia.
  • Florence is a real city. We stayed in a flat, we went grocery shopping (awesome experience), we ate at places in which we were the only non-Italians. If you want to avoid tourists, it is easier in Florence.
  • Good base for day trips

Cons for Florence:
- Some in our group were not big art fans and they were done after a few museums
- Felt too much like a real city, some of our group liked the smaller footprint of Venice

Regardless of your decision, you will have a good time and form your own views on what is your preference. Please share with us in your trip report when you return.

Sandy

Posted by
11170 posts

As you see, everyone has different reactions to these places. You don't know how you'll feel until you get there.

I agree that you should tell us the rest of your trip, and do what works best logistically with that.

Posted by
126 posts

I like Florence and love the art, but it is too crowded for my taste - love, love Venice - been twice and hope to go again in a couple years. No place like it.

Posted by
552 posts

For me it's Venice. As some others have mentioned it is a totally unique city. You will see nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Yes, it's crowded when the cruise ships are in, but Florence is also crowded. We waited in line for 45 minutes just to get in to the Duomo to climb the stairs, then I think it took us another 45 minutes to get up to the top because of all the people. I like both places for the art and architecture, but Venice is truly a piece of art itself, and a living museum. In Venice if you get away from St. Mark's Square where most of the day trippers from the cruise ships are you can still find a quiet spot to just sit and admire the scenery. I could easily spend a lot of time in either place.

Posted by
390 posts

I would say stick with both, but go Venice 2 nights and Florence 3 nights. 2 nights in Venice were fine with me, I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Florence, you need at least a day to see some major sites, but if you want, you can use your other day to go out of the city. But if you like art, then Florence all the way!

Posted by
43 posts

I have a question for those of you who did a lot of walking in Venice. If we plan to walk a lot and explore out of the way places, Is it still worthwhile to purchase a Vaporetta pass? We will definitely have to do the Vaporetta for Rick's Self Guided Cruise, but I am not sure whether the pass will be cost effective for us. I have already purchased the Streetwise Venice map and am trying to become familiar with it prior to our trip this November. Suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
619 posts

For us, we purchased the Vaporetta tickets when we needed them. We could walk to most of the destinations we needed to get to and since we were there only for 3 days, didn't seem worth it to us.

Sandy

Posted by
1043 posts

I would spend the three days in Venice. Venice is an amazing city unlike any other city in the world. I really liked both cities so I don’t think you could go wrong with either decision. Venice can be real crowded during the day so I think you would need more time there to see it. Mornings and evenings are magical. With reservations, I think you can hit the highlights of Florence in two days. I think Venice will have you wanting for more days.

Posted by
11170 posts

Roger: this is one of those things with very split opinions, due to different people's experiences. Some people (like SandyO above) take only a few vaporetti. I both walked a ton and took a lot of vaporetti, so for me, the 72 hour vaporetto pass paid for itself after my first day!

Part of it depends on where you're staying. I was in Dorsoduro, so I often found a vaporetto ride was more convenient than a convoluted walk (remember only 4 bridges cross the Grand Canal, but the boats stop on both sides as they go down the canal). And if you're going to one of the outer islands (San Michele, Murano, Burano, Torcello, Lido), the pass is a no-brainer. Also remember that the longer passes cost less per day, so if you are definitely going to benefit from having one for part of your stay, it's often only a bit more to get it for the whole stay.

Posted by
43 posts

We are staying near the Frari Church, quite a way from the touristy locals. And, as Rick says, the pass pays for itself if you are taking more than 2 or 3 Vaporetti. Its probably not feasible to plan on walking everywhere.

Posted by
303 posts

Roger, in reply to your query about the vaporetto pass, it was our experience that the 3 day pass we purchased was a "save the day" investment. We had a hotel near the San Stae vaporetto stop, so we used the vaporetto to make the return to this stop after a long day of walking/touring. It was especially useful on the day we got lost ( Yes, even with a great map) for 2 hours! It was a warm afternoon, and I was exhausted from wandering hither and yon in the back streets of Venice. When we found the vaporetto stop close by, it was a relief. We also bought the pass so we could use it on our last morning to get to the train station. One less thing to worry about. Be advised that you still have to activate/ swipe a 3 day pass every time you use it.

Posted by
11170 posts

Barb's tip about using the vaporetto pass to get to the train station reminds me - the passes are for hours, not days (except the 7 day one). So, if you buy a 72 hour pass and first use at 1 PM on Monday, it will still be good at 8 AM on Thursday, to get you back to the train station.

Posted by
248 posts

It's a question of taste...but Venice for all it isn't is Venice...there are no cars, scooters, only boats and narrow streets and alleys. There is plenty to keep you busy there and the crowds fall off as you get away from the core sites.
Florence is a place to visit and it has a certain charm...but for my taste, it's over-rated. Three days there were enough for me to say, been there, done that, there are so many other places I prefer. I do like art and in Florence you can check off some big names from your list...but you will see an overload of Renaissance art (IMHO). After seeing hundreds of paintings of "little baby Jesus" and
Jesus wounds you start counting how many arrows are stuck in his body and where and will start wondering why there is no convention?
Venice, a spritz, a Vaporetto pass, the Guggenheim....

Posted by
12 posts

Was it you or someone else who said the trip is in November? Venice will have a lot less tourists by then. So that is the one major negative removed. However, with winter approaching, it might be starting to get dank. The canals can smell a bit in damp weather.

Florence is a major city by most countries’ standards. It has 2.8 million people. Yes it has some beautiful architecture and a lot of galleries and art as others have pointed out. But for the rest, it is a big city and I agree with a couple of others who think it is over rated.

In my younger days I too visited all the big name cities. I will be 60 by the time I am back there in October and much prefer the smaller places where you can wander safely and not be over run with people rushing to and fro and swamped by lots of tourist queues. So I would opt for 3 days in Venice.

Think about which one sounds more like you and your tastes - are you big city people or do you prefer less hustle and bustle, and traffic noise?

If you are going on to Rome or other big cities like Milan (beautiful) or Rome you will see enough of Italian cities and perhaps should consider a more leisurely paced place like Venice.

Don’t worry too much over it all though as you will probably enjoy both places in different ways.

Posted by
106 posts

Venice is like no other town you'll visit in Italy, I would give more time to Venice. Quieter and every turn is a view and bridge to cross and explore. Just hop on a vaporetto and enjoy a city you'll never see any where else. Florence is nice but a bustling city.

Posted by
3 posts

We just got back from a trip that included both cities. As the previous folks noted, it’s kind of a toss up. Here are a few comments that may help-
In Venice you can take the vaparetto to Lido and go to the beach. It’s s great ride and a great way to cool off. The beach is a bit crowded but you can always find a spot.
While both were crowded Florence was a real city vibe. We found that for our family this wasn’t our favorite environment. Lots to do there for sure. Consider the Gallileo museum. Not very crowded and decent air conditioner.
Enjoy!

Posted by
211 posts

My wife and I have been to both cities twice. It depends on what your interests are. Our favorite is Florence. We are not experts on art but you will be amazed at what Florence offers. You are also close to some great day trip destinations. Venice is wonderful. If you elect to go there try and arrange to see the 2 islands off Venice - Marion and Bariano.

Posted by
1500 posts

hey kdkjat
been to venice three times, love it. get up early and see the uncrowded sites before day trippers arrive, took a ride to mazzorbo, crossed bridge to burano, walked around had lunch then to the lido, totally different atmosphere, walked to beach then back thru main street. stopped for a glass of wine, people watched, talked with others just enjoying the "quietness" and back to venice during the sunset, gorgeous. back to our apt in san polo area, had dinner with people watching again and glass of wine in different piazzas. great day.
aloha

Posted by
24 posts

We've been to Italy some 15-20 times in the last 15 years. For a while, our tally looked like this:

  1. Rome
  2. Florence
  3. Anywhere else (and happy to get there!)

Now, I'm at Rome and Venice 1 & 2.

What has made me appreciate Venice more is travel to other countries and cities in Europe (sorry, not interested in countries outside of Europe). What travel to and in Belgium, Austria, Holland / Amsterdam, Germany, Czech Republic, UK, France and other parts of Italy has taught me is this: There is nothing like Venice anywhere, but a lot of 'medieval towns' to be found.

I have been to Venice on all three of my last three trips to Italy in the last five years, and don't regret it. I wish I'd not stayed away so long, with 10 years between visits. Dig deep to Venice. Get 100% lost in Venice. Get a glass of cheap wine in a side alley of Venice.

Posted by
835 posts

Venice works best once you have ticket off the “main sights”, Ducal Palace, Basilica, Campanile, Piazza. It gets more interesting and seductive after that, as you come to realise that the second and third tiers of venues are really worth seeking out.

We have visited Venice eight or nine times, and have spent about eleven months there. So there are favorite small galleries, exhibitions, interesting things happening, islands worth visiting.

Venice really does it for us.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/rubbish-in-venice-a-story-of-sorts