24 Hours In Venice: A Photo Journal

Observations and musings on the status of tourism in the renown Italian destination.

Ft Nove Dock
Ft. Nove Dock, Venice. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

We arrive in mainland Venice on a boat. With a couple of stops in between, it takes a good hour to get here from the Marco Polo Airport. By this time, it is nearing dusk; our first impression of Venice is cobbles and seaside houses awash in golden light, as we sway toward the dock on the calm water.

Combo Hostel Venezia
The Combo Hostel courtyard. FACEBOOK @Hostelsclub

It’s only a short drag of our suitcases until we reach our place for the next couple of nights: The Combo Hostel. Don’t let the name deceive you as it utterly deceives us — this one is nothing like your sooty, run-down “hostel” with over-bleached bedsheets and filthy shared showers. The Combo is one of the loveliest pieces of historical architecture-turned-commercial space that I’ve set foot in — it being a literal, refurbished monastery.

The front door leads us first into the courtyard. Greenery and natural light decorate the airy space as families, friends, and solo travelers huddle by the tables. A good number of them have laptops propped up beside their coffee cups. I imagine the life of a digital nomad in Venice; how you would become so accustomed to it that the world’s prettiest city becomes a casual hubbub in the background. I secretly swoon at the idea.

combo hostel 24 hours in venice
The view from our room. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

Our room turns out to be on the top floor — fifth — and lures us into an otherworldly view of sunset-lit rooftops and the canal below. It’s exactly what you’d conjure up when someone mentions “Venice,” and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

night street 24 hours in venice
A night stroll in Venice. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

After we’ve settled down a bit, we head out for a short stroll and dinner. It’s dark by now; the storefronts glow in the lamplight while the street signs are obscured from view. It’s all too easy to get lost like this, pulled by the nearest pretty lights and the powerful smell of food. Without much deliberation on our part, we land in a hole-in-the-wall that goes by the name of Bar Puppa.

Bar Puppa Instagram
Bar Puppa Venice. Credit: INSTAGRAM @barpuppa

Three of us order beer, unspecified, and the lovely waiter brings to our table three different Italian brews. We taste-test all three and quickly decide on our favorites. The pasta are all fresh and hearty, but the real star of the show is the mozzarella-and-prosciutto pizza. The melty-white splatters of mozzarella make me doubt if I’d ever had cheese in my life before this.

Rialto Bridge.
The Rialto Bridge. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

The next morning, we wake up to the bells of two church towers from two different directions. The laughter of early-bird tourists drift through our windows as we quickly slurp up coffee and gear up for a full day in the city.

Piazza in venice.
A piazza in Venice. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

Narrow streets and shallow canals criss-cross like lattice across the city; here, we walk the cobblestones just as much as we cross the small stone bridges, which pop into view after each new corner we turn. And after every handful of such turns, we find ourselves in a square — or a piazza — that is most often flanked by a canal, a church, a cafe, and outdoor seats shaded beneath parasols. Perhaps a street musician for an extra spice.

Gondolas.
Venetian Gondolas adrift on a narrow canal. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

Then, of course, you can’t talk about Venice without talking about the gondolas. Gondolas are ornate row-boats, shaped like a crescent moon, that were used as a means of transportation by Venetians since the 11th century. While pricey to get on, simply standing atop a little bridge and watching them drift by under your feet is a magnificent experience you’ll write home about.

Venetian Masks.
Carnevale masks on display in a souvenir shop in Venice. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

Some of the most popular souvenir choices of Venice are Carnevale masks. These masks are hung across the walls in most souvenir shops here, with contemporary and oddly-themed masks flaunting strong personalities among a sea of more traditional ones. The choice to purchase a mask for a souvenir would be the first step; the process of deciding on which one to take home might turn out to be quite an ordeal. (For the history and cultural meaning behind Venetian masks, here is my previous article.)

Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco. FACEBOOK @Italy.Venice

About a half-hour of slow walking, we arrive in Piazza San Marco. This square and its surrounding buildings are the main sights of Venice. The most prominent piece of architecture here is the San Marco Cathedral: A Byzantine structure that visually established the power of the Venetian Republic in the 11th century.

San Marco cathedral exterior.
The Cathedral’s exterior blows us away as we queue up for a tour inside. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

Commanding the space next to the Cathedral is the Doge’s Palace. Here was where the Doge (Chief of State) resided, and political gatherings and criminal trials were held. A ticket for entry is on the pricier range, at 25 euro per adult, but it definitely isn’t your regular museum — the artworks hung on the walls and adorning the ceilings are detailed to a shocking extent, as they altogether form a cohesive thing of beauty. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more expensive single building.

Doge's Palace in venice
The Doge’s Palace. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

Needless to say, Venice teems with tourists all-year-round. Although we visited in August of 2021, which was when the world kept staggering under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, Venice almost made us forget about it. While heading inside a museum or staying at a hotel required a proof of vaccination, the pandemic surely didn’t hinder many from venturing out to the Floating City.

The city has been suffering from over-tourism for many years — a heavy issue that spans across social, economic, and cultural spheres. Locals find less and less affordable housing as every architectural monument and barely-erect house gets marketed as bedrooms for temporary travelers. Going to school or work is out of the question: public transportation fills up every hour with chattering, uninhibited tourists, leaving no room for locals to breathe.

Maria Alice Ferigo, who lived in Venice as a student, claims she had trouble finding a pharmacy as, unbeknownst to her, only one existed in the neighborhood. In place of where pharmacies and other daily necessities would be situated, there were souvenir shops and “tourist trap” restaurants.

“…vertourism shapes people’s minds to the point they forget a city was made by its inhabitants to suit them, their lifestyle, and their culture. A city exists because its people made it in the past and live it in the present.” — Maria Alice Ferigo

24 hours in venice
Venetian locals having a conversation through a window. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

As I marveled at the scale of preservation in Venice, in the end, I was a little saddened to see so many historical structures stretched far beyond their cultural contexts to cater to us spectators. There was a feeling that beneath the luster and euros was where the true magic of Venice lay. Forget the Michelin-star restaurants and iconic cathedrals — every street corner in Venice is quite picturesque in its own right. Simply walk for a few minutes and Venice will present you with a cute little hidden gem trimmed exactly to your taste: a focaccia bakery tucked into the edge of a tree-shaded piazza, or a narrow dead-end street sandwiched from three sides by colorful peeled-paint walls, bold flowers displayed by their windows.

Venetian Streetview.
Venetian streetview. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

And talk about hidden gems — ! There are as many as there are stars in the night sky when it comes to the little street-ends that face out toward the water. Stone steps crammed between two houses that sink below the surface, or a short wooden dock that toe into the wide, main canal… A cuddling couple taking up one of these niches to themselves filled me with more envy than did the tourists dining in any of the garnished, candle-lit ristorantes.

It’s sunset on our second day. We cruise on a vaporetto through the Grand Canal that meanders across the city, and have our breaths taken away.

24 hours in Venice.
Storm clouds and a sunset frame the silhouette of the Bazilica Santa Maria. Credit: Lyon Nishizawa

Lyon Nishizawa

Contributor

Lyon is a lifelong traveler, who looks at each destination as her next classroom and playground. She is fascinated by the stories, music, and languages of the world. Her parents are Japanese, but she spent her childhood in multiple cultures and identifies as a third culture kid.

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