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What to Do in Venice When It Rains
It’s a fact. Venice can be wet. Exploring when there’s rain in Venice can be a true adventure, especially if it’s combined with acqua alta, the high tide flooding that makes lakes and rivers out of the streets.
At some point, however, you’ll want to stay dry.
Yes, yes, you can go to the basilica in St Mark’s Square or the Doge’s Palace like everyone else … or you can branch out.
Here are some tips on what to do when you’re faced with an unending Venice rain, from top sights to visit to lesser known attractions and lavish cozy bars.
And, just as importantly, we’ll give you some tips on what not to do in Venice during a downpour.
See a Performance at La Fenice Opera House
Check the forecast first thing. If it calls for rain in the evening, head to La Fenice Opera House, the Teatro La Fenice, to see if you can get a same-day ticket for that night. The ticket office is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.
The renowned La Fenice Opera House is worth seeing for its over-the-top 19th century-esque architecture alone. Think pale green, gilt and red velvet.
Not only can you experience some world famous opera, you can savour Venetian luxury living at its best.
Warning: Fashion rules. You’ll be brushing shoulders with tuxes, jewels and furs, so dress your best.
And don’t mind that La Fenice is not as old as it looks, or that it has burned down and been rebuilt more than once. It’s still glorious, because La Fenice, which means The Phoenix in Italian, rises from the ashes every time.
Prefer to tour La Fenice in the daytime? You can buy an entry ticket and audioguide tour in advance here.
How to Book a Performance at La Fenice
Don’t be scared of the high prices online. Tickets can run hundreds of dollars. However, Mark and I got cheap seats on the day of the performance by going to the theatre and buying last minute tickets.
What Not to Do at La Fenice
Be careful of ‘B’ seats. When we found our upper level box seats I was shocked to find I couldn’t see the stage, not even one little glimpse!
The seats are not tiered like at other places, so try to be at the front (they’re only two deep so you have a 50-50 chance).
Learn from my mistake and look at the seating plan carefully when the clerk shows it to you when buying your tickets.
Fortunately for me, three elderly Italian men had a spare seat and let me move up. My husband Mark was left to fend for himself, but love doesn’t always mean sacrifice. Besides, he’s tall and could see at least a third of the stage.
Visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
If you can’t decide what to do in Venice when it rains, think culture. Venice is so rich in art it would be a shame not to see some of it.
Peggy Guggenheim’s former home (and burial site), the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, overlooks the Grand Canal. It’s a good way to view top rate modern art and satisfy your curiosity about how the other half lived in the 1940s.
What to See at the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery
Designed to showcase the late heiress’s personal stash of great art, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection has an excellent selection of ‘isms’ – Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism and American Abstract Expressionism.
Amidst the masterpieces by Picasso, Duchamp, Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock, you’ll find plenty of titles to ponder over. This is modern art after all, and boundaries were being broken.
In the running for most outrageous titles are: Woman with Her Throat Cut by Giacometti, Picabia’s Very Rare Picture on Earth and Dali’s Birth of Liquid Desires.
Do not miss the crowd-pleasing sculpture on the terrace facing the Grand Canal, even if you get a tiny bit wet.
This bronze horse and rider entitled Angel of the City by Marino Marini was created in 1948. What stands out – literally – is the rider’s prominent, er private part.
It was considered quite outrageous at the time and had to be made detachable in case luminaries such as the pope floated by.
(It’s now been welded on to prevent people from stealing it. So don’t even think about it. Not that you would.)
I hate to criticize, but another thing not to do is eat at the cafe there. My pomodoro sauce tasted as if it came from a can and the pasta was mushy. Even if you’re desperate to stay inside in Venice when it rains, I’d suggest going elsewhere. Although maybe I just caught it on a bad day.
Get your ticket to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in advance here.
Imagine the Past at Ca’Rezzonico
If you thought Peggy Guggenheim had it good, wait until you see how the rich Venetians lived in the 1700s.
Also located on the Grand Canal, the stunning Baroque palace, Ca’Rezzonico, is another good way to occupy yourself in Venice when it rains.
Now the Museum of 18th century Venice, Ca’Rezzonico is a glorious mansion full of ceilings painted by Tiepolo complete with flying cherubs (putti), and revealing paintings by Pietro Longhi.
Longhi, a Venice-born painter during the Rococo Period, is well known for documenting Venetian life, often with a satirical edge. Stay in Venice long enough and you’ll start seeing him everywhere.
Above all, while you’re at it, imagine the decadence. The 18th century was a notorious period in Venetian society. Venice’s power was crumbling but its citizens lived in denial, adopting an over-the-top lifestyle of excess and masked balls.
(Not every Venetian, obviously, but this is the lore.)
What Not to Do at Ca’Rezzonico
Don’t spend all your energy on the ground floor. The place goes up and up. Give yourself time to enjoy the top floor gallery – unlike my husband Mark and me who had only five minutes before it closed. (But I was tired by that time anyway.)
What to Do at Ca’Rezzonico
Stand in the ballroom and imagine Casanova asking you to dance. (Or, feel free to imagine you’re the romantic playboy himself. It’s your fantasy.)
Search for arched alcoves or a spot on a balcony where, if said Casanova had asked you to dance, he might have led you to steal a passionate kiss.
And don’t worry about your husband finding out. Your identity is hidden behind a golden mask decorated with crystals and topaz.
(What? I’m getting carried away? Of course I’m not. I’m just trying to help you get into the spirit of things and figure out what to do in Venice when it rains.)
What More to Do at Ca’Rezzonico
Look at the glorious centuries-old Murano glass chandeliers very very carefully. That way, when the sun finally shines, and it will, you can take a vaporetto out to the nearby island of Murano and buy a chandelier for yourself.
That’s what we did, except we ended up buying ours in the Italian spa town of Abano. After all, you have to take home some kind of souvenir.
Sit Back at Bar Longhi
If the paintings by Longhi piqued your interest, or you just want to have an expensive cocktail in one of the most intimate opulent hotels bars in the city, follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway (and a long list of other celebrities) and stop in at the Bar Longhi for a drink.
It’s a cozy way to make the best of a Venice rainstorm.
In fact, stepping into the 5-star Gritti Palace on the Grand Canal is a pleasure in itself, like stepping into a living museum – and the two nights we spent here (before moving into an Airbnb that I hated) created one of our most memorable stays.
Another memorable stay was our four nights in a restored palace, the Palazzo Grimani, across the street from the Gritti. It was during record breaking high water plus it rained every day.
But who cared? The entire villa was ours to roam around in. What a place to hide out from bad weather.
Hole Up With a Drink at the Fabulous Hotel Danieli
Since we’re on the topic of drinks … if a second cocktail is sounding good, relax in the most glorious hotel lobby in Venice.
Unlike the intimate luxury of the Gritti Palace, the Hotel Danieli is over-the-top glam.
I’ll never forget seeing the lounge at the historic Danieli Hotel for the first time. The immense candy-coloured-on-clear-glass chandeliers were my introduction to Murano Glass, which, to my husband’s despair, started me on an expensive home decor path.
(I also remember the snooty waiter but that’s beside the point.)
The main palazzo of the Danieli, with its Venetian Gothic windows and distinctive red tones, dates back to the 14th century and is located right on the Grand Canal just around the corner from St Mark’s Square.
It’s not the cheapest place to have a drink, but it may be the most memorable, and honestly, when it comes to rain and high water in Venice, you need to gather up as many good (and dry) memories as you can.
Explore the Accademia
If you’re still looking for things to do in Venice on a rainy day, and the sky’s not getting any lighter, check out the Accademia Gallery of Venice.
Churches are a great way to escape a downpour (the Frari is not to be missed), but if the rain has settled in for good, somewhere bigger like this renowned museum will keep you dry longer.
Located in Dorosdouro on the south bank of the Grand Canal, the Accademia is right at the foot of the photo-worthy Accademia Bridge.
What to See at the Accademia
Inside you’ll find a treasure trove of great Venetian art. This includes work by Bellini, Carpaccio, Tintoretto, Canaletto and our good friend, Longhi.
Look for Vitruvian Man
One of the Accademia’s most prized pieces is Vitruvian Man. This is the famous drawing by Leonardo da Vinci of a naked man in a circle (and a square) that explores the ‘geometry of perfect proportion.’
What Not to Do at the Accademia
First, don’t be disappointed if you don’t see Vitruvian Man. It’s very fragile and almost never on display.
Second, if you do see Vitruvian Man don’t get so caught up in comparing yourself to the perfectly-proportioned male that you get depressed because you don’t measure up.
And don’t get depressed because you’re confused and don’t understand it. Here is just one of Da Vinci’s notes on proportion:
“If you open your legs so much as to decrease your height 1/14 and spread and raise your arms till your middle fingers touch the level of the top of your head you must know that the center of the outspread limbs will be in the navel and the space between the legs will be an equilateral triangle …”
Trying to figure this out will make you feel not just badly proportioned but thick as a plank, too.
Tour the Doge’s Palace
Of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the top two things to do in Venice in bad weather – touring the Doge’s Palace, the Gothic masterpiece also known as the Palazzo Ducale, and visiting St. Mark’s Basilica.
Both are on St. Mark’s Square, so it’s an easy peasy destination.
About the Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace was the seat of Venetian power. It’s where the Doge, the great ruler of Venice, lived; where dignitaries visited and where the all-important council met.
It was built mainly in the 14th and 15th century, and looks a bit like a Byzantine palace.
As you go in, take a good look at the entrance, the Porta della Carta, with its stunning carved figures (I love the winged lion!) that are rich in symbolism and allegory.
From the Scala dei Giganti, the Giant’s Staircase, to the imposing Sala del Maggior Consiglio, the Hall of the Great Council, there’s so much to see that you’ll forget all about the rain outside.
Don’t wait in the rain: Get Your Doge’s Palace ticket with reserved entry time here.
Embrace the Gloom at Piombi Prison
If, however, you want to match the mood to the gloomy gray skies outside, tour one of the darkest sides of the palace, Piombi Prison.
It’s here that doomed prisoners spent their last days, and where Casanova miraculously managed an escape.
Dry Out in St. Mark’s Basilica
Golden walls, glass mosaics, marble columns (pillaged from Constantinople), and much-revered relics of St. Mark are some of the eye-stopping things to see at St. Mark’s Basilica, the cathedral church of Venice.
My favourite things to see here are the horses of St. Mark’s, four life size bronze horses (also pillaged from Constantinople. If you’re sensing a theme here, you would be right.)
You can see the originals in the basilica’s museum, but note that the museum has an entrance fee unlike the cathedral itself, which is free. Alternatively you can see replicas of the horses on the front balcony of the basilica. They’re impressive, too.
Check out prices for a luxe tour of the Doge’s Palace, Piombi Prison and St. Mark’s Basilica here.
Rain in Venice? Things Not To Do
While you can do almost anything in a Venice rain that you can on a sunny day, there are some things you might want to avoid.
Clearly, it’s not the best time for a gondola ride.
Venice in the rain is not the best time for a walking tour of the city. I’d suggest you do specific tours, like the Doge’s Palace, instead.
Avoid carrying a huge umbrella. The winding streets of Venice are small and crowded, and unless you’re tall and can hold it over peoples’ heads, it can get in the way.
Don’t go to Venice during rainy season with only one pair of shoes. They’ll never dry out before you put them on again.
If There’s Rain in Venice, Is It Worth It?
Can you visit Venice in the rain? Of course. While admittedly it isn’t as much fun as Venice in the sunshine, there is still so much to see.
And besides, you can’t predict the weather so who knows what you’re going to get?
As I seem to often be here in November, one of the worst times for wet weather, I’ve learned to embrace exploring Venice in rain gear, accept wet feet, and celebrate the fact that many of the city’s major attractions are inside.
So that’s my advice on what to do in Venice when it rains. Grab your raincoat, ask at your hotel if they have rubber boots and enjoy your trip to this fabulous city of canals.
Read more about Venice:
Read more: about the Top Cities to Visit in Italy
For more of the best places in Europe to see: visit Top Destinations in Europe