Are you curious about how to spend three or more days in Venice with a slow and sustainable itinerary? Can you imagine visiting one of the most unique and beautiful cities in the world and only staying for less than 20 hours? On top of that, do you spend most of your time waiting in line for a crowded tourist attraction? Ultimately at the end of the day, how you visit contributes to the very decline of the beautiful place you’re seeing. Unfortunately, that is how most people spend their time in Venice,
Italy. Trying to cram a city as unique as Venice in 20 hours contributes to overcrowding, unsustainable tourism, and poor living conditions for locals. It also decreases the quality of your experience. Venice was meant to be experienced at a slower pace throughout a 3-day (minimum) itinerary.
A slow travel itinerary for Venice immerses you in Venice’s rich culture and history while allowing you to understand the complex modern problems threatening the future of Venice.
Spending 3 or more days in Venice will enable you to get off the beaten path exploring local neighborhoods while supporting small local businesses. Yes, it even allows for time to see the main attractions more sustainably.
If you spend even more time in Venice, you’ll also have time to explore more of the remote islands for a unique experience. Whether you have time for a satisfying, sustainable 3-day itinerary for Venice or even more time for a slower travel itinerary, you’ll leave this beautiful destination refreshed and in love with its charm rather than frazzled and stressed.
A sustainable and slow itinerary for Venice is no longer just an option for the mindful traveler; it is the bare minimum and a must for ALL travelers visiting Venice. Otherwise, Venice will no longer be a place we can visit and enjoy in the future.
Day One: Off-Beat Tour with Local Guide
When visiting Venice, you should see much more than San Marco. For this reason, I recommend starting your sustainable itinerary by exploring a more local side of the city.
This sets the tone of a more mindful trip, away from the crowds, allowing you to see the diversity and charm of the city. The day will focus on hiring a local guide for an off-the-beaten-path tour, followed by some options to suit your tastes, and end with traditional Cicchetti and spritz.
Morning: Private Off-Beat Tour
The best way to start your three-day slow travel itinerary in Venice is with a private or small-group tour led by a local guide committed to sustainability. Doing so helps prevent tourism leakage by infusing money directly into the local economy. It also creates opportunities for cultural exchange, a pillar of sustainable tourism. Exploring the city with a local guide is the perfect way to find hidden gems, and learn about modern life and the threats to Venice.
Using your guide as a resource, you can also ask questions aligned with your travel interests to help you plan a multi-day itinerary that you love. For example, we used our guide to ask questions to help us find local breweries, art shops, and the best espresso, allowing us to spend our three days in Venice doing the kinds of things we love for an enjoyable experience.
The best part about hiring When in Venice is they can customize any of these tours to suit your interests. Matteo crafted the perfect itinerary for us, and we spent a wonderful 4 hours exploring local neighborhoods and the hidden gems of Venice. We got espresso at the coffee shop he frequented while in university. We learned how to spot and identify authentic artisanal craftwork – even popping into some artists’ workshops. We learned about local life as we explored the charming side streets away from the main sights.
I can recommend you take their off-the-beaten-path tour, as I think this experience is not often offered by many guides, and you can see some of the main highlights on your own or with a different guide.
Afternoon: Choose Your Own Adventure
Shopping, museums, exploring neighborhoods- you choose! But first, Lunch. We started our tour around 9:30 in the morning and finished about 1:30 pm – just in time for lunch. Depending on where you end your tour, ask your guide for a lunch recommendation. Since we are vegetarian and wanted something simple and quick,
where you’ll find gems like Perla Madre Designs for hand-blown glass beads created by women and Ca’Macana for hand-made traditional Venetian masks. Process Collettivo sells creations from women at the local prison, which helps them develop practical skills. Another area for shopping is a store called Paperowl for sustainable paper jewelry and crafts and the surrounding area.
Evening: Cicchetti and Spritz
It is an important part of sustainable travel in Venice to experience the local food and drink. Spritz, or a drink that is cut with sparkling water, was created in the Venetian region, and it is typical to get an Aperol or other type of spritz in the later afternoon. It is often paired with Cicchetti, which is a Venetian-style tapas. Cicchetti is small pieces of bread topped with nibbles such as cheese, olives, hummus, fish, or cured meats.
If you’re a spring chicken and still have the energy, you can enjoy the university vibe of Dorsoduro and see what the youths of Venice are doing. Caffe Rosso is a great local spot for a nightcap in the heart of the university district. It is also perfect for an early morning espresso to start day two.
Day Two: The ‘Highlights’ of Venice
Just because they aren’t the main focus of your sustainable three-day itinerary doesn’t mean the highlights of Venice aren’t worth seeing. St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace add crucial historical context to your itinerary in addition to learning about modern and local life on day 1. Don’t worry, though, because even after seeing the touristy highlights, we will, of course, include some local hidden gems for a well-rounded day.
Morning: Guided Tour of St. Mark’s and Doge’s Palace
It is, again, critical to hire a local guide to take you to see St. Mark’s and Doge’s Palace continuing the theme of supporting the local economy. In addition, our guide gave us significant local context about both locations that no audio guide or self-guided tour could offer. You should book your small group guided tour in English ahead of time. We met at 10 am at the San Marco ferry terminal and gathered with a few others before heading into St. Mark’s Basilica.
Our tickets included access to the terrace and the museum, which in my opinion should not be missed. Our guide shared stories of how the flooding and unsustainable tourism impacted the church and his livelihood. Hearing these stories firsthand alongside a mix of modern local perspectives with technical history about the Venetians was wonderful.
Afternoon: Castello and Gondola Ride
Our tour was just over 3 hours, so we were on our own for lunch again. Matteo from our private guided tour had recommended Bar All’Arco, near the Rialto market. While it is a Cicchetti bar, I am sure, they say there is no such thing as eating too much Cicchetti in Venice. Bar All’Arco is located in a bit of a touristy area, so one might think this isn’t a great option, but it is a place frequented by locals for its authentic Cicchetti. It gets a sustainability stamp of approval for serving local seafood.
After lunch, take some time to explore the Rialto Market and Bridge before heading into Castello. The Rialto Bridge is ultra touristy, so while the views are great, I don’t recommend spending a lot of time here and do not buy any of the items for sale. Enjoy the view and drop into the Rialto market.
If you still have a lot of energy, take the time to enjoy Venice’s gardens, including Giardino della Marinaressa and Bienalle. Visiting parks is a great way to enjoy a bit of nature and stay grounded while exploring Venice.
Evening: Gondola Ride and Local Dinner
For dinner, we are going to work our way back into the heart of Castello. To get there, it is time to take a famous gondola ride! When we talked to Matteo, about whether it was ethical to take a gondola ride, he said, “Of course! Venice was meant to be seen from the water. The entrance to the city and the many historical buildings were designed to be seen from a gondola along the canals.
You are doing yourself and our city a disservice if you don’t ride a gondola!” He did have one tip for us though, don’t ride the gondola near the San Marco or Rialto Bridge. Getting into the more local neighborhoods means it is less crowded, and you get to see some hidden gems. So, Castello is a great place to catch a gondola.
After dinner, you can head home to rest and relax or catch an evening gondola if you opted for that option. For those looking for another nightcap in the form of a Spritz, I recommend heading back into the San Polo region around S. Maria, where you’ll find great Spritz at Adagio or La Bottiglia.
Day Three: Islands and Agri-Tourism
Day three is about getting out of Venice proper and seeing some of the islands and surrounding areas. While Murano and Burano are trendy destinations, I will encourage you once again to get off the beaten path and see a unique Venetian island, Sant’Erasmo. (But, there is time for Murano, if you’re up for it!)
Morning: Agricultural Bike and Honey Tasting
For day three of our sustainable multi-day Venice itinerary, you’ll need to book a guided tour to Sant’Erasmo. As you’ve been following my three-day sustainable itinerary of Venice, you’ll have eaten plenty of local produce and food.
Late Afternoon and Evening: Murano
After your day on a bike, you’ll surely be hungry. Make sure to stop by the Experientia food truck on Sant’Erasmo for a foodie experience. Sit outside and enjoy casual but quality eats at a slow food pace.
If you have the energy and want to make the most of your time in Venice, you can catch the ferry back to the main island via Murano if you want. Murano is known for its long history of glassmaking. Take time to learn about the trade by visiting the museum and popping in the shops throughout the island. If you purchase something, make sure you look for the artisan seal of quality craft to avoid tourist traps.
For dinner, you can visit Osteria Acquastanca in Murano. This standing-room-only restaurant gets a sustainable seafood approval rating serving up lagoon-caught seafood for fresh and low-carbon food. If you are a vegetarian, there are plenty of other pizza and pasta joints in Murano with veggie options.
After dinner, you will likely be wiped out and ready to head back to your sustainable accommodation to call it a night.
This Venice 3-Day Sustainable Itinerary and Slow Travel Guide have provided you with all the information you need to make the most out of your time in the beautiful city of Venice. From the best places to stay to the best restaurants and activities, this guide has helped you plan a unique and memorable trip that is both sustainable and enjoyable.
Whether you choose to explore the city by foot, gondola, or Vaporetto, you can be sure to get an experience that is both authentic and responsible. With this guide, you can be confident that your time in Venice will be unforgettable.