We're lucky enough that Venice is only about two hours from Cortina which makes it the perfect getaway. We've been down many times over the past four years and by now we've got a good collection of favorite spots to sleep, eat and drink so we compiled a short list to share:
My favorite hotel is Locanda la Corte which is located in a quieter/less touristy part of Venice but is still an easy walk to San Marco (the square) and the Rialto Bridge. They have nice, big rooms and a great courtyard where it's fun to sit and have a cappuccino or a Spritz Aperol, Venice's signature drink.
If you want to get closer to the scene though, Locanda ai Bareteri is in a great spot, right between San Marco and the Rialto. The rooms are simple and clean and the location is perfect for anything (and the price is right, too).
Our favorite wine bar is Cantina do Mori which has been in existence since 1462. They have a great cicchetti selection (small bites like meatballs, grilled eggplant, sardines on toast) and it's fun to have a plate of those with a little glass of wine.
When we want to sit on the canal, we go to Bancogiro where you can sit outside and watch the boats go by while you have a glass of Prosecco.
For two traditional Venice experiences, try Caffe Florian and Harry's Bar. Caffe Florian claims to be the oldest cafe in Europe (since 1720) and a symbol of Venice (true). When it's warm you can sit outside in the square and have a coffee while people-watching. Harry's Bar is where Ernest Hemingway worked on his book "Over the River and Into the Trees." Try their famous "Bellini" cocktail which was named after Giovanni Bellini, a 15th century Venetian painter. Be prepared to spend in both of these places - I would say they're both worth one visit though.
We've had a few favorite restaurants in Venice over the years. Seafood is the way to go: Trattoria da Bepi is great for spaghetti con vongole (clams) and branzino, a white fish similar to sea bass. Osteria il Milion has wonderful shrimp and zucchini risotto. Ai Tre Spiedi has an amazing seafood antipasti plate. And Osteria al Portego is great for a few cicchetti followed by a plate of shrimp scampi.
Our favorite thing to do is wander around, winding our way through tiny alleys and ending up (many a time) at a dead end where the road ends at the canal. In Venice, it's easy to get lost but that's part of the fun. Remember to look up: there are signs on the sides of the buildings that will point you towards the Rialto Bridge, San Marco, the train station, etc.
Venice is a water city, so at some point you should be on a boat. I think it's fun to do a gondola ride at least once, but that can be touristy and over-priced. It's easy to buy a day ticket for the vaporetto (water bus) and you can hop on and off as you please or ride them in circles all day, if you want. (Remember when my friend Cori said that she does this all the time with her three small boys and it always provides endless entertainment?) It's important to see Venice from the water too, because really, that's the best view.
PS - One thing I've always wanted to try in Venice: a cicchetti tour. And here's our expat interview with Karen who lives in Venice now.