6 Off-The-Beaten-Path Day Trips from Venice
It comes as no surprise that Venice is the most visited city in Italy. Between 26 million and 30 million tourists flock to the “Queen of the Adriatic” each year, and almost 75% of them are foreigners. Even the most jaded globetrotter can’t help but gasp at the sheer beauty of this centuries-old city built entirely on the water.
While Venice is enchanting and unique, there is much to see and do beyond the lagoon. The Veneto region is dotted with uncrowded art cities, charming villages, soaring mountains, fortified citadels, and noble villas within reach of Venice. Read on for six of our favorite off-the-beaten-path day trips from Venice!
1. Padua, the University Town That Sparked the Renaissance
Less than a half hour away by train, Padua is one of the most rewarding day trips you can take from Venice, or all of Italy for that matter. Your obligatory first stop is the Scrovegni Chapel. Tuscan painter Giotto di Bondone completely covered its interior with exquisite frescoes from 1303-05. Few artists can rival his depictions of human emotion.
The University of Padua, founded in 1222, is Italy’s second oldest and famed as the cradle of modern medicine. The university’s celebrated Anatomical Theatre is a highlight of the guided tour, given twice daily in English. Explore the university’s 16th-century botanical garden, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the other side of town.
Is all this culture making you hungry? Padua boasts a vibrant food scene centered around their medieval town hall, Palazzo della Ragione. Each morning (excluding Sundays) butchers, bakers, and pasta makers set up shop on the hall’s ground floor. The market spills outdoors with vendors selling everything from seasonal produce to all sorts of clothing and household items. Finally, don’t leave town without trying an Aperol spritz. This citrusy aperitivo was invented in Padua over a century ago!
2. Treviso & the Prosecco Hills
A little over a half hour by train from Venice sits Treviso. If you’re seeking an old-world town of narrow, arcade-lined streets this is one day trip you’ll definitely want to take! The two rivers that encircle Treviso are diverted into a series of canals and tiny waterways. Adding to the charm is the occasional waterwheel that once drove the grist mills. You’ll see one near the Pescheria, a bustling morning fish market. Contained on its own little island, it’s one of Treviso’s most atmospheric sights.
Northwest of Treviso is the home of Prosecco, the world’s most popular sparkling wine. The checkerboard landscape of these vineyards was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2019. Join the party by enjoying a glass, or by humming along to the Prosecco Song!
3. Asolo, City of a Hundred Horizons
This picture-perfect town in the foothills of the Dolomites has attracted artists, writers, and royals for centuries. Asolo’s name comes from the Latin word asylum. Those who took refuge here include Caterina Cornaro, the last Queen of Cyprus; English poet Robert Browning; and Italian actress Eleonora Duse. At just over an hour’s drive, it makes for a scenic day trip from Venice.
For an even more scenic diversion, five miles from Asolo is the splendid Villa Barbaro at Maser. Celebrated architect Andrea Palladio designed this agricultural estate in 1550 for two noble Venetian brothers. They escaped Venice’s heat and humidity by spending their summers here. If you only have time for one Palladian villa, make it this one.
4. Vicenza, City of Gold & Palladio
UNESCO really hit the jackpot with Palladio in Vicenza! Their World Heritage List notes 26 buildings by the great architect in Vicenza, and another 21 villas in the surrounding countryside. Clocking in at under an hour by car or by train, it’s another great option for a day trip from Venice. The city center can be easily explored on foot. It’s the best way to admire how Palladio’s classically-inspired buildings fit in with the landscape of medieval Vicenza. Not to mention it’s also a good way to window shop the Italian capital of gold jewellery making!
You’ll want to save some time for the Teatro Olimpico, though. It’s Palladio’s final work; with construction beginning just six months before his death in 1580. Today, the elliptical auditorium of this 400 seat theater still hosts performances. Even more amazing are the stage sets that create an incredible illusion of deep space and distance. See how it’s done in this short, professionally-produced YouTube video.
5. Bassano del Grappa & Its Iconic Wooden Bridge
The crystal clear Brenta River splits Bassano del Grappa in two. Founded in pre-Roman times, the town is known for its medieval and Venetian architecture. Most notable is the Ponte degli Alpini. This rare surviving example of a covered wooden pontoon bridge is an engineering masterpiece that bears the signature of (who else?) Andrea Palladio.
In addition to a castle used for opera performances in the summer, you’ll find many old palaces with faded frescoes on their facades. Be sure to try some Grappa, a potent alcoholic drink distilled from grapes, that Bassano is famous for (it’s in the name after all). Aside from drinks, Bassano’s local ceramics industry is also well known and worth a browse. You may just want to leave some space in your suitcase for souvenirs!
6. Castelfranco Veneto, Walled Birthplace of a Poetic Painter
One of the most photogenic places to visit in Veneto is also under an hour’s drive from Venice. We’re talking about the fortified town of Castelfranco. Its imposing red-brick walls, rising above a moat, were built in the late 1100’s to defend against rival Padua.
Once inside the defensive walls, follow a cobblestone lane to the cathedral. Here hangs a Renaissance masterpiece by the incomparable Giorgione. The Castelfranco Madonna (1503) displays all the elusive poetic quality that characterizes his work. As a matter of fact, a few steps away is the house where Giorgione grew up which is now a museum.
Congrats you now have plenty of options for day trips from Venice! Other towns we love in Veneto are Marostica, Cortina, Belluno, and romantic Verona which, along with neighboring Lake Garda, deserve a longer stay. A single day in Verona just isn’t enough!
Have you been to any off-the-beaten-path destinations in Veneto? Tell us about it in the comments below!