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.