When on a vacation you probably don’t want to deal with bad weather, but rain is a given when visiting Venice. Built on the Venetian Lagoon and full of canals, this city is no stranger to water. Venice is especially wet during the spring and fall months when the Aqua Alta (high water) strikes, flooding popular areas like Piazza San Marco. This doesn't necessarily mean that you will be confined indoors, as the city is just as beautiful and explorable in the rain as it is in the sunshine. There are plenty of options for indoor entertainment as well, from museums to restaurants to glass blowing demonstrations and of course the opera. Needless to say, there are plenty of rainy day activities all throughout Venice.
If you are looking for a true Venetian adventure while it’s raining, try wandering along the streets, searching for some of the small artisan shops hidden along the tiny streets. Stop by a local cafe for a cup of hot chocolate or coffee, and explore the many historical sites that Venice is known for. You can safely store your luggage in Venice at the closest Bounce locker so that you don’t have to cart all of that extra weight around while enjoying your vacation.
Peggy Guggenheim Museum
Peggy Guggenheim was an avid art collector, amassing her collection in the years during and after the Second World War. Now, most of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection can be found in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in Venice which has made a name for itself as one of the best museums in Venice.
The old, pillared exterior of the small palace is a stark contrast to the Surrealist and Impressionistic art pieces that it contains. The collection includes works from Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali, as well as many sculptures from the 20th century and earlier.
The museum can be a nice change of pace from all of the older artifacts and paintings in historical museums, as the modern art in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection truly stands out from the ancient city.
Because this museum is so popular, it would be best to buy tickets ahead of time. If you are looking for a spontaneous rainy day activity, you may want to try a smaller museum.
St. Mark’s Square
You can easily spend an entire day admiring St. Marks Square and the nearby historical sites and museums. Though you should keep in mind that Piazza San Marco will sometimes flood in heavy rain. As long as you check the local forecast beforehand, and keep a pair of rubber boots handy, you should be all set, flooding or no flooding.
At one end of the Square, St. Mark's Basilica stands in all its glory keeping watch over all of the Piazza. Next to it St. Mark’s Campanile, a tall bell tower, overlooks the surrounding area. Behind the basilica is the Doge’s Palace.
St. Mark’s Basilica was originally the chapel for the Doge’s Palace but skyrocketed to fame after the Byzantinian crusaders brought back a hoard of religious artifacts. The cathedral is now richly decorated with mosaics, paintings, and columns, attracting many tourists and pilgrims through the years.
The exterior of the Basilica is just as breathtaking, with classic gothic spikes, sculptures, and even more columns.
St. Mark’s Campanile was originally built during the 12th century and has been used as a watchtower, a lighthouse, and a bell tower. It was rebuilt after collapsing in 1902, an incident that destroyed four of the original five bells. You can climb up the Campanile to get a better view of St. Mark's Square.
Originally built in the 14th century, the palace is a beautiful work of Gothic architecture. Located in St. Mark’s Square behind the Basilica, the initial layout of the palace included the Doge’s apartments, governmental offices, courtrooms, and the armory. The complex has been through several renovations through the years and has changed owners and purpose many times as well, before being passed onto the City Officials to be opened and maintained as a museum in 1923.
In the museum, you can wander through what used to be courtrooms, kitchens, and private apartments. When you visit the palace, don’t neglect to look up, as many of the ceilings are exquisitely painted in classic Renaissance style.
Connected to the palace is the Bridge of Sighs, which leads to the prison across a narrow canal.
Bridge of Sighs
Built in 1614, the Bridge of Sighs is a stone corridor designed to bring prisoners from the courtrooms and interrogation chambers in the palace to the cells where they would be kept in the New Prison. With tiny windows, thick stone walls, and a dreary atmosphere, the New Prison was still an improvement over the original prisons (known as the wells) located inside the Doge’s Palace.
The bridge itself was first called “the bridge of sighs” by Lord Byron in a poem, stating that the condemned prisoners would sigh as they took their last glance of Venice through the small iron-barred windows of the bridge. It is a very romantic place to visit on a dark and rainy day, as you can easily imagine the downcast faces of the past inhabitants.
The Archeology Museum in Venice is a large collection of artifacts including Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman pieces. Located in the heart of Venice near St. Mark’s Square, the museum started with just the artworks and relics donated by distinguished Venetian families. Through the years the collection grew, adding various coins, jewels, and a plethora of statues. While it may be difficult to look away from all of the beautiful antiquities, try to take a moment to look up, as the ceilings of the building are covered in magnificent paintings and carvings.
It is quite easy to get lost admiring all that the Archaeology Museum has to offer. A relatively small museum, it would be easy to combine a visit to this museum with another tour or a relaxing dinner.
La Fenice Opera House and Theater
In the 1800s, Venice had a history of opera houses burning down, so when the San Benedetto Theatre was destroyed and replaced by La Fenice in 1774, they decided to name it after the mythical phoenix. Compared to other legendary opera houses, La Fenice can seem a bit small.
You will have the option to take a guided tour of the theater, which is a great way to learn the history, admire the architecture, and possibly even listen in on a rehearsal.
Dress codes can vary from theater to theater, so be sure to check before the performance. Generally, though, weekend attire should be formal, while on the weekdays semi-formal is acceptable.
Venice Jazz Club
If you find yourself wondering what to do on an evening after a day with no sun, try heading over to the Venice Jazz Club. Located near Ponte dei Pugni (the bridge of fists), the club is open in the evenings and features live music, drinks, and a small menu.
They serve a light dinner at 7:30 pm and are open until 11. The owner also plays the piano for the band, and the atmosphere overall is friendly and relaxed. This little hole-in-the-wall is quite popular, so it might be best to call ahead and book a table.
Murano can still be visited in the rain so long as you don’t mind the possibility of getting wet during the trip there. The island is a short Vaporetto ride from central Venice and is a lovely place to experience Venice without so many tourists.
Known for the ancient art of glass blowing, this picturesque little island has become popular for the Murano Glass Museum, and the demonstrations you can watch. In the museum, you’ll find not only examples of fine Murano glass, but also ancient Roman artifacts from the island’s first inhabitants.
You may also want to check out the Church of St. Peter the Martyr, an old Catholic church on the island. The small ministry became a collection point for the artworks of other churches on the islands that were destroyed. It is a lovely place to stop in and take a breath while admiring the Renaissance-era paintings and carvings.
You really can’t visit Italy without partaking in the traditional Italian cuisine. Seafood is especially popular in water-locked Venice, as many of the smaller islands were known as fishing villages. And when you are fighting back the rainy day blues, nothing is quite as good as a warm and delicious meal in a Venetian restaurant. Whether you are looking for a great brunch in Venice, a light midday meal, or a full dinner, this city is by no means lacking in restaurants. While you have no doubt heard of some of the older eateries, such as Caffe Florian, you may be looking for a more economical meal. For this, you would want to find one of the less touristy cafes, which can be found easily enough with a bit of sleuthing.
La Serra dei Giardini
Located in the Castello district of Venice, La Serra dei Giardini is a public greenhouse and cafe. It is a wonderful place to sit back and read while enjoying a cup of coffee or take part in one of the offered botanical education programs for the whole family. You will find many different and exotic plants and flowers in both the greenhouse area and floral shop. There is also a library full of magazines on gardening and botany. If you are looking for a serene place among the flowers and trees, but without the risk of getting soaked in the rain, you should consider spending an afternoon in this lovely greenhouse.
Another great way to spend a rainy day is in one of Venice’s bookshops. From ancient collections to current publications, there is nothing quite like settling down in a comfortable spot with a book and a warm drink.
One shop worth checking out would be Liberia Linea D’Acqua. Specializing in first edition books and maps, they also deal with the works of art done by Venice native Davide Battistin.
A much larger bookshop, Libreria Toletta is known as one of Venice’s largest bookstores. Opened in 1933 by Angelo Pelizatto as a small bookstall, the business has grown into a publisher with a large selection of books to browse. It is also home to a literary cafe (which is a coffee shop with books), making it a lovely place to spend a relaxing afternoon.
Whether the sun is shining or the rain is pouring down, Venice’s charm cannot be missed. While you can while away an entire day in a single museum, if you feel like dodging raindrops you can still see some of Venice’s most popular locations. Whatever you are interested in, be it history, food, sites of cultural significance, or theater, Venice can be just as spectacular in the dreary weather. There are even covered greenhouses where you can take a book and enjoy nature without getting soaked.
Any way that you want to spend the day can be great so long as you have rubber boots and a positive outlook. An umbrella doesn't hurt either!