Insider's Venice

The water-laced city of Venice lies suspended between reality and fantasy. Experience the unique pleasures of this ethereal city on this tour featuring rare access to amazing art collections, after-hours tours, and a visit to a glassblowing factory.

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 View of the Doge's Palace and Campanile from the canal in Venice  Venice's San Marco  Piazza San Marco at night  Fresco by Veronese seen at the Accademia in Venice. Credit: Peter Barritt/Alamy  Contemporary glass designed in Murano  The skill of glass blowing in Murano  Colorful homes along a canal in the fishing village of Burano  Rialto Bridge in Venice  A traveler in Venice  The legendary Grand Canal in Venice

The water-laced city of Venice lies suspended between reality and fantasy. Go behind the scenes to experience the unique pleasures of this ethereal city in the company a Smithsonian Journeys Expert. You’ll gain rare access to amazing art collections, including an after-hours tour of the Basilica San Marco, an in-depth visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia, and private entry to the Cini Foundation, a former Benedictine monastery designed by Palladio.

During this in-depth tour devoted to art and culture, you’ll learn about the art works of Venetian masters Titian, Bellini, Veronese, and Tintoretto as you view their works in museums, grand palaces, and important churches. During a full-day excursion to the outer islands, explore the original settlement and stunning mosaics of Torcello, savor lunch at the idyllic Locanda Cipriani, and on Murano visit a glassblowing factory by special arrangement. Become part of the rhythm of Venetian life as you watch the activity along the Grand Canal from the balcony of a private palazzo and enjoy local cuisine throughout your trip. Plus, you'll stay in a historic hotel only steps from Piazza San Marco to make for easy exploration during your time at leisure. Feel the magic of Venice when fewer tourists are here and experience its hidden treasures familiar only to the Venetians.


Day 1 — Depart the U.S. for Venice, Italy

Day 2 — Arrive in Venice

Upon arrival to Venice, transfer to the centrally located Hotel Saturnia. This evening, gather for a welcome reception and dinner at the hotel. (R,D)

Day 3 — Doge’s Palace and San Marco

Begin your immersion into Venetian history, culture, and art with a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace, the former political seat of the Serene Republic. This afternoon, enjoy a visit to Palazzo Pisani-Moretta to admire the Tiepolo ceiling, the beautiful Murano glass chandeliers, and the view of the Grand Canal from the piano nobile. Then, savor the experience of a special after-hours tour of the grand Basilica di San Marco. View dazzling mosaics, which reflect the eastern Byzantine style that influenced the Venetian craftsmen, and admire the exquisite Pala d'Oro, a 10th-century golden altarpiece studded with enamel work and precious stones. Enjoy privileged access to parts of the Basilica that are normally closed to the public. (B)

Day 4 — Murano, Torcello, and Burano

Travel by private motorcoach to other islands in the Venetian Lagoon. Murano has been the home of Venetian glassblowers since 1291, when the furnaces and glass craftsmen were ordered to leave Venice due to the risk of fire in the city. Visit a glassblowing factory by special arrangement. Then continue to the island of Torcello and savor a lunch of Venetian specialties at the renowned country inn, Locanda Cipriani. At the 9th-century Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, view the 13th-century apse mosaic, a moving portrayal of the Madonna and Child, and the Last Judgment mosaic covering the entire west wall. Return to Venice in the late afternoon, after a stop in the colorful fishing island of Burano, renowned for its lace-making. (B,L)

Day 5 — Ca’ Rezzonico and the Dorsoduro District

Experience the sumptuous style of 18th-century Venice during a visit to Ca’ Rezzonico on the Grand Canal, a baroque palace that showcases a rich collection of 18th-century frescoes, paintings, and period furniture. Conclude the morning with a walking tour of the neighborhood, known as the Dorsoduro district. Visit the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, filled with a dramatic cycle of paintings by Tintoretto. Continue to the magnificent Gothic church of S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari to admire works by Titian and Bellini. Then enjoy some time at leisure to explore this magical city on your own. (B)

Day 6 — Accademia

A lecture on the use of color and light in Venetian painting prepares you for an in-depth visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia, whose fine painting collection spans the Byzantine, Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo periods. Highlights include large altarpieces by Carpaccio, Giovanni Bellini, and da Conegliano and paintings by Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto. This afternoon, visit the Jewish Ghetto, which has particular significance, as it was the first of its kind in Italy. Explore the neighborhood and visit a small museum and local synagogue. End the day at the church, Madonna dell’Orto, to view interior paintings by Tintoretto. (B)

Day 7 — San Giorgio Maggiore

Learn about the unique architectural design of Venice during a morning presentation. Then cross the lagoon to visit a Palladian masterpiece, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, rebuilt between 1559 and 1580. Palladio used the classical style of ancient Rome in designing the temple front and the perfect interior proportions of this church. By special arrangement, tour the adjacent Cini Foundation, a former Benedictine monastery with cloisters, also designed by Palladio. The monastery was rehabilitated in the 1950s by Count Vittorio Cini and now houses international events and exhibitions. Enjoy time at leisure to stroll through the enchanting streets of this idyllic city. This evening, celebrate your Venetian interlude during a festive farewell reception and dinner. (B,R,D)

Day 8 — Depart Venice

Depart Venice for the U.S. on individual flights. (B)