While Milan was easy to pack into a day, Venice is a city that'll take several to explore. It's one of few places where getting lost should be mandatory — with every twist and turn, I'd stumble onto a sight more charming than the next, whether it was a picturesque footbridge or an artist at work. Whatever your itinerary may be, I highly recommend tossing the map and letting the vaporetti and your feet take the lead.
Grand Canal: It's the biggest waterway in Venice and certainly the busiest. While not nearly as romantic as the tinier, less popular corridors, the Grand Canal is home to the marvelous palazzos built by Venetian nobles between the 13th and 17th centuries. To get a closer view of the architecture, catch the number one vaperetto (a public ferry) at the train station and that'll take you up the entire stretch, under the Rialto Bridge to the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square). I bought one of the tourist travel cards with unlimited rides during my stay and loved hopping on and off the different ferry lines.
Piazza San Marco: The most impressive view of St. Mark's Square is actually from above. Weave your way through the crowds — and there'll be a big one, many of them playing with the pigeons (why?!) — over to the bell tower and take the elevator up to the observatory. From there, you'll be able to capture stunning 360-degree views of the entire city and lagoon.
Burano: If you have time to hop over to one of the surrounding islands, make the lovely Burano a priority over the rest. It takes less than an hour to get there by vaperetto and spend the afternoon meandering through streets lined with technicolor houses. There's a lace museum and a church there too, but the main draw for me was definitely the rainbow homes.
Gelateria Nico: The location of this ice cream shop, right along the Grand Canal, screams tourist trap, but the gelato here was by far the best I had on my trip. To this day, whenever I crave gelato, I think back to the scoops I had at Nico, especially the pistachio, which was just so deliciously nutty and dreamy.
Osteria Ca D'Oro: Known by locals as Alla Vedova, this quaint family-run restaurant is known for meatballs, but not the dense spaghetti toppers we typically think of — the specialty here are juicy, breadcrumb-crusted polpettes that arrive hot and crunchy. The pastas are just as good, like the nero di seppia (squid ink, a Venetian classic) and the surprise hit of the night, an incredible vegetable and shrimp lasagna.
Trattoria al Gatto Nero: Book a canalside seat if you can. It's the perfect setting for stellar seafood dishes that include a terrific spaghetti with clams and the Burano-style risotto cooked with fish from the lagoon. The rice dish isn't as Instagram-worthy, but definitely the more memorable of the bunch.
Prossimo fermata, Amalfi!