Venice, Italy is an incredibly unique city and a must-see for everyone, and May is an excellent time to go to Venice. Their summer starts in June, so you should have relatively warm weather, but without the extreme crowds of summer tourists. Additionally, most of the areas that flood do so in autumn and winter, so the tides should be receding by May.
Spend a day just walking around in Venice. Take a day trip to Burano. Visit Basilica di San Marco, Campanile di San Marco, and Doge’s Palace in the Piazza San Marco. Take a Grand Canal tour and experience a gondola ride. Play bridge bingo and discover hidden gems.
We hope that this helps you to plan the best trip to Venice in May. We have included famous landmarks, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and the less well-known sites to see in Venice.
Take a Day to Walk Around
If you are going to Venice, Italy, then leave one day with an empty itinerary. On this day, pack up some water and a few snacks, a map (just in case), and some sunscreen, then walk out of your hotel and keep walking.
You can avoid the crowds and find your way to all the quiet corners of the city. Speak to the locals and ask them to recommend a great café or restaurant for the best coffees and meals. You can also ask what their favorite spot in Venice is and then go see it for yourself.
Take some cash so that you are able to indulge your spontaneous side. You will make incredible memories on this day of getting lost in Venice.
Enjoy Coffee in the Piazza San Marco
The Piazza San Marco, or St Mark’s Square, is a Venetian hub. Many people call it the heart of the city. During the winter months, you would have had to wade through the square, but the worst flooding should be over by May.
The Piazza San Marco is the perfect spot to people-watch while sipping on rich coffee from one of the nearby cafés.
The square is also in the center of four of the most famous landmarks in Venice.
Basilica di San Marco
The massive cathedral with its gilded domes was built in the 9th century to house the remains of San Marco. Each of the four façades are covered with spectacular details, so take the time to walk around the cathedral.
You can also tour inside the Basilica di San Marco. The vaulted ceiling, marble columns, and arches express grandeur as is only found in ancient architecture.
You probably won’t know where you should look first, however, we recommend the following:
- Triumphal Quadriga (the four bronze horses)
- Pala d’Oro (a golden altarpiece studded with hundreds of gems)
- The treasury,
- Museo di San Marco
- The marble inlay floors—yes, even the floors of this cathedral are worthy of individual attention
Head to the Top of the Campanile di San Marco
The Campanile di San Marco, also known as St Mark’s Bell Tower, stands 99 meters (325 feet) tall, topped with a copper-faced spire and a golden statue of the Archangel Gabriel.
The architecture, which is the product of several rebuilds, restorations, and reworking, is impressive, if not quite so ornate as that of some of the other Piazza San Marco surrounds, but the view from the top is unrivaled.
You can take an elevator to the apex (just in case you were worried about climbing 325 feet-worth of stairs) and have views of the city and the lagoon.
Visit Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)
The Doge’s were the reigning family of Venice until the fall of the Venetian Republic. The palace was constructed in parts from the 14th to 16th century, and the repetitive details of the Gothic architecture are uniquely pleasing to the eye.
Inside, you can view everything from senate and cabinet halls (Sala del Senato and Sala del Collegio) to what is known as the golden staircase (Scala d’Oro) and from the palace apartments to the old prisons.
Typical of the style and era, the interior is lavish and ornate on a grand scale; even the ceilings could be examined for hours without seeing all of the details.
View the Torre Dell’Orologio
The Torre Dell’Orologio is a clock tower, and there is so much just to stand and take in.
In fact, the legend of the Torre Dell’Orologio says that the doge was so impressed by its design that he had the man who created it blinded so he would never be able to make anything that would rival the clock.
The tower is topped by two bronze figures and a bronze bell. On the hour, these figures move on hinges and strike the bell.
On the face of the tower, below the figures, is a blue background covered with golden stars, in front of which stands a carved winged lion.
Below the lion is another panel consisting of a figure of Mary and the baby Jesus, flanked by two doors. On the hour, the doors open, and mechanical magi move from one door, past the figure, and in through the other door.
Finally, there is a massive blue clock face with golden Zodiac symbols.
Play Bridge Bingo
In a floating city, you can well imagine that there are many bridges to be seen. Venice actually has approximately 400 bridges! If you are an extreme scavenger hunter, then this may make the perfect trip for you—it will certainly take you around the entire city.
However, if you are not keen to find all 400, here are two lists. The first are the most famous bridges in Venice that you should definitely have a look at. The second list comprises a few other notables that you can cross off your bridge bingo sheet if you come across them.
|Ponte dell Accademia||This notable high-arch wooden bridge spans the Grand Canal and affords spectacular views of the Canal and city. It also brings you out right by the famous Galleria dell Accademia.|
|Ponte della Costituzione||This bridge is not a masterpiece of ancient design. It was, in fact, only completed in 2008, and it stands out for its distinctly modern design. It is also one of four bridges extending over the Grand Canal.|
|Ponte delle Guglie||The Ponte delle Guglie spans the Cannaregio Canal. It is made from brick and stone and ornately decorated—spires and gargoyles included.|
|Ponte della Libertà||Like the Ponte della Costituzione, the Liberty Bridge is also of newer construction, although it dates back to the 1930s. It is a very important bridge in Venice as it connects the city center to the mainland.|
|Ponte della Paglia*||The Bridge of Straw is actually made out of stone. The substantial design makes it look more like a tunnel than a bridge. From this bridge, you have a good view of the Bridge of Sighs.|
|Ponte dei Pugni||The Bridge of Fists may not look all that spectacular to you, but it used to be extremely popular in the 1700s when it was used for the “Wars of the Fist” between rival Venetian clans.|
|Ponte di Rialto||This is the main pedestrian bridge over the Grand Canal. It is lined with shops, and it is a great spot to view the city and take photos. However, it is also very popular with the tourists, so try to find a time when it is quieter unless you are happy with a few dozen strangers being in your pictures!|
|Ponte degli Scalzi*||This Bridge of the Barefoot Monks is constructed with stone and spans the Grand Canal. This is certainly not just a bridge you cross. Take a few minutes to appreciate the views.|
|Ponte dei Tre Archi||The Three Arches Bridge spans the Cannaregio Canal, and, as you will have guessed from the name, it comprises three arches that are made from brick and stone.|
|Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs)*||Many people interpret the name to be romantic, and it is a popular spot to snap that kiss photo. However, this bridge extends from the Doge’s Palace to the prisons across the canal, so the prisoners would get one final view of the city as they traversed the bridge, hence the Bridge of Sighs.|
|Ponte Balbi||Ponte dell’Inferno||Ponte Pasqualia|
|Ponte dei Bareteri||Ponte del Lovo||Ponte del Purgatorio|
|Ponte de la Canonica||Ponte Manin||Ponte San Antonio|
|Ponte dei Carmini||Ponte Marcello||Ponte Sant’Antonin|
|Ponte del Cavallo||Ponte Maria Callas||Ponte San Moisé|
|Ponte de la Cazziola||Ponte Minich||Ponte San Polo|
|Ponte Chiodo||Ponte Novo||Ponte Storto|
|Ponte dei Frati||Ponte de l’Ogio||Ponte delle Tette|
|Ponte del Gheto Novo||Ponte delle Ostreghe||Ponte Tron|
|Ponte Guistinian||Ponte del Paradiso||Ponte della Verona|
Experience a Gondola Ride
If you are in Venice, Italy, and you do not go on a gondola ride, you are missing out. Yes, it is a very cliché and touristy thing to do, but there is nothing wrong with that—where else are you going to get this experience!
Besides, it provides you with a whole new viewpoint of the city and a great opportunity to cross some bridges off of your bingo list.
However, you will have to agree on a time and price with your gondolier before you start out, and it is a bit of a luck-of-the-draw situation whether you get a happy and friendly gondolier or an unfriendly one.
Tour the City by Boat on the Grand Canal
Most of the main buildings of Venice were built beside the Grand Canal. By taking a boat ride along the Grand Canal, you get a view of these sites from angles that the street could not offer. You also don’t have to push your way through throngs of people to see them.
You can easily see the city from the public bus boat known as the Vaporettos, so there is no need to hire a personal boat.
Visit the Libreria Acqua Alta
While not a famous and historical landmark, you could say that the Libreria Acqua Alta (the Library of High Water) is history in the making.
This book shop has stacks and stacks of books piled in high-legged shelves, bathtubs, and gondolas to keep them safe from the yearly winter floods.
But the store is not just overflowing with books and water, it has charm coming out of the woodwork, from the steps made of old encyclopedias that lead up to a viewing point on the wall of the shop to the cats that have taken up residence among the stacks.
Spend a Few Hours in Burano
Burano is a small island, about 40 minutes-boat ride from the Piazza San Marco. The small fishing village will captivate your heart with its rows of brightly painted houses.
Burano is also known for its lace, and you can visit the Lace Museum.
There are several great places to eat in Burano, and it is a good place if you are looking to escape the throngs in the city center.
See Venice at Night
You might do this one just as a matter of course as you fill your days to the brim with activities and only make your way back to the hotel once the sun has set.
However, we would recommend planning a full evening out one of the nights that you are there. Go back to the hotel earlier in the afternoon for a rest and a change, and then hit the starlit city in style.
Eat as Much Gelato as You Can
You are going to be doing a lot of walking around Venice, touring the landmarks, and exploring the city, so remember to stop for some guilt-free gelato any chance you get.
Honestly, there is nothing like authentic Italian gelato.
Venice in May is stunning. The sun is out, but you don’t have the mid-summer sun beating down on you. Explore the ancient buildings, unique waterways, myriad islands, and hidden corners of the city. Eat good food, drink great coffee, and experience the magic of a city at the mercy of the ocean.