To us, the key to enjoying a stay in Venice is, once you’ve put it behind you, to stay away from San Marco. Instead, concentrate on areas where real Venetians live. Those areas are basically concentrated within a short walk of the train station: the neighborhoods of Cannaregio and Santa Croce. Why do most Venetians live there? For the simple reason that it’s easier to get to their car, of necessity parked in one of the big parking garages around Piazzale Roma. Of course, you’ll want to explore the whole city: Dorsoduro, San Polo, Castello. But the further out you go, the less activity you’ll find. That may be attractive to you, as it’s immensely atmospheric. It’s up to you!
Arrive and get settled; check on local food stores, butchers, fishmongers, dairy stores, markets, laundries, etc. Most important of all: take-out restaurants/rosticcerie/coffee bars/sandwich shops. Evening walk in the immediate neighborhood.
Let’s get them over with first thing: San Marco, the Doge’s Palace, and its surroundings. This is a full day’s exploring.
Walk through the Jewish Ghetto, stopping also at the Madonna dell’Orto; tour the honkytonk area of Cannareggio near the station.
Trip to one of the islands. Our favorites are Torcello and the cemetery island of San Michele. The trip to Torcello alone is a full day. Lunch at the Locanda Cipriani, one of the loveliest restaurants in Italy.
Trip by train to delightful university city of Padua, 20-30 minutes away; plan at least 1-2 hours to see the Giottos at the Cappella degli Scrovegni; visit the university, including the Teatro Anatomico, and walk around the medieval town.
The islands of Giudecca and San Giorgio, including the famous Palladian churches, but leaving plenty of time for a walk through the backstreets of Giudecca, some of the most characteristic in Venice.
The Accademia Gallery and walk through the Dorsoduro section of town, especially its more remote areas.
The area around the Rialto and San Polo: Ca’Rezzonico, Ca’d’Oro, the Frari, and the school of San Rocco.
A day at the Lido (you should have planned a day in your first week for this, if you’re with kids!).
All-day trip by boat down the Brenta Canal, visiting some of the famous villas such as at Malcontenta, Stra, Mira, Oriago, etc. Wonderful area for a picnic.
The area behind San Marco: the school of San Giorgio degli Schiavoni; the school of San Niccolo dei Greci, the Arsenal; various interesting churches; this area is full of local color.
Murano and/or Burano.
Daytrip to Vicenza, one of the handsomest cities in Italy, less than an hour away by train. Be sure to visit at least one of Palladio’s villas.
Relax in the city, re-visiting your favorite areas.