Why You (Yes, You) Need A Guide In Venice

Consider the following: Venice is made up of no fewer than 117 small islands, and upwards of 409 bridges connecting them in different places. For the intrepid traveler, that means two things, the first of which is that strolling at random can be a fun and interesting experience. But it also means that having an expert to guide you through the ancient labyrinth can be a mighty fine idea. It saves you time – you won’t get lost with a resident Venetian by your side – and often enables you skip right past long lines. Plus you can make the most of your time in the city by picking one or more thematic tent-poles on which to pitch a portion of your trip.

Even travel experts such as myself can appreciate and enjoy a guided tour. Not long ago an editor for the prestigious travel magazine Departures approached us with several questions about what to do in Venice beyond the clichés, and I could quickly see that he wanted to cover a lot of ground in a very short time span. We drew up a customized guided walking tour for him that focused not just on history but also textiles and Fortuny fabrics…he professed to an amazing experience that he might otherwise not have had.

But speaking of those clichés, it’s also true that sometimes they can be fun. You can’t go to Paris and skip the Eiffel Tower (unless you’re really afraid of heights and/or pointy French objects). And you can’t make a trip to Venice – at least, not your first one – and miss out on experiencing the canals and lagoon  on an authentic Venetian gondola. That’s because Venice is not simply a place to see, but a place that must be felt in order to truly be understood. Yet something as seemingly simple as a gondola ride can be stressful when you’re on the spot, pressed for time and pressed in by crowds. How do you know which one is the right one? How to avoid the tourist rip-offs (of which there are plenty)? Two snaps up for Venice by Private Gondola. Or what about an insider’s introduction to the main Venice highlights? It’s much better than milling about Piazza San Marco like a lost pigeon – and also a snap to book in advance.

Through us you can book tickets in advance to some real jewels of Venetian art and architecture, such as the Ca’d’Oro and Ca’Rezzonico, both magnificent old palaces right on the Grand Canal and now fascinating, fabulous “palazzo museums.” But Venice is more than museums. Indeed, despite its small size, Venice is home to many different worlds. A unique Jewish heritage is just one example. You can arrange a  half-day tour of Jewish Venice and Cannaregio (one of the six districts of Venice) with Select Italy, and explore this fascinating aspect of Venetian history. In fact, there are as many reasons to try a guided tour in Venice as there are planes landing at Marco Polo Airport (and there are more than you think, including direct flights from New York!): With kids in tow, you might delve into Venice’s rich maritime past with our “Venice for Children: Belltowers, Gondola Makers & Sailing Ships” guided tour. How about the craft of mask-making? We’ll plug you in to an actual Venetian mask workshop. How about exploring the storied islands of the famed Venetian lagoon, like Murano, Burano and mysterious Torcello? We’ve got a tour for that too. Palladian villas? We’ve sent top travel editors on our Architecture of Joy tour of the fabulous mansions of the Veneto – chances are good you’ll love it, too.