Are you thinking about taking a day trip from Florence to Venice by train?
Whilst this is a long day excursion, it is easy to do and, with a little forward planning, you can see the highlights of Venice without a hitch.
Hit the ground running with my guide on how to take a day trip to Venice from Florence by train. This includes what to consider, how to get there, what to do, a map to help you find your way and tips for a perfect Venice day trip.
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Day Trip from Florence to Venice by Train at a Glance
- Distance from Florence to Venice: 160 miles
- Journey time: 2 hours 15 minutes one-way
- Cost of train ticket: From €17 one-way
Is One Day Enough for Venice?
However long you spend in Venice it will not be enough. I have visited La Serenissima on multiple occasions and there is still much that I would like to see.
That said, you will be able to hit Venice’s highlights in one memorable day. But manage your expectations.
As there is no way that you can do it all in a day, you will need to have a cunning plan up your sleeve to give yourself a fighting chance of seeing what you would like to see. Not only should this be cunning but it should also be realistic.
To make the best of your Florence to Venice day trip you will need to take an early train from Santa Maria Novella. Even using the fast trains, your return journey will take over four hours.
This is a long day trip.
And arrive mentally prepared for Venice’s crowds. Popular spots like St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge are likely to be mobbed by late morning. Another reason set your alarm for silly o’clock.
But when you get your first glimpse of the Grand Canal as you walk out of Venezia Santa Lucia station, all this will be forgotten. If this is your one opportunity to visit Venice, don’t hesitate.
How to Get from Florence to Venice by Train
For your Florence to Venice day trip, you have the choice of two train operators: Trenitalia, the national rail company, and Italo, the new kid on the block.
As both of these operators have set allocations of seats in the lower fare classes, consider booking your ticket in advance. However, in practice, I have found that unless you are travelling on a particularly busy service, you don’t need to pre-book your train ticket.
Trains depart from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station (Firenze S.M. Novella). When you are buying your train ticket, make sure that you select Venezia Santa Lucia not Venezia Mestre.
Forget about the indirect trains between Venice and Florence which take over four hours to make the one-way journey. Instead, choose the high-speed direct train from Venice to Florence which takes 2 hours and 15 minutes.
At the time of writing, the first train of the day leaves Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station shortly after 7 am; the last direct train of the day leaves Venice just before 7.30 pm. These fast trains run hourly.
One-way fares start from €21.
Italo runs up to eight services a day between Florence Santa Maria and Venice. The journey time is 2 hours 16 minutes. As of October 2022, advance one-way fares start at €17
However, at the time of writing, the first departure out of Santa Maria Novella is at 09:39, which is not ideal if you are hoping for an early start. Equally, the last train out of Venezia Santa Lucia departs just after 5 pm.
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Getting to Florence Santa Maria Novella Train Station
Santa Maria Novella train station is only a ten-minute walk from Florence’s Duomo.
Getting from Venice Santa Lucia Train Station
It will take you around 30 minutes to walk from the Venice Santa Lucia train station to St. Mark’s Square. But this is a wonderful walk, crossing meandering canals and taking you past the Rialto Bridge.
Alternatively, you can take a vaporetto. You’ll find the vaporetto stop for the Ferrovia as you exit the train station, where you can hop on #1 (slow boat) or #2 (fast boat) down the Grand Canal to Rialto and San Marco.
More about these later.
Getting Around Venice
I love walking around Venice. Signs on street corners will direct you towards the nearest landmark but if you go off-piste and disobey these signs you can make your own discoveries.
These helpful street signs make it almost impossible to get lost.
When it comes to public transport in Venice, you are talking about vaporetti, the city’s water buses, which churn the waters of the Grand Canal.
Travelling on a vaporetto is not cheap.
In 2022, a single ticket costs an eye-watering €9.50, which is valid for 75 minutes from the time it is first validated. You must validate your ticket on the electronic reader as soon as you get on board.
One-day passes are also available for €25.
Venice Tourist Tax for Day-trippers
From January 2023, day-trippers to Venice will need to pay a tourist tax.
This will be paid online and will cost between 3 euros to 10 euros per person, depending on the time of year and how busy the city is. The penalty for not paying this tax is a fine of up to 300 euros.
What to Do on Your Day Trip to Venice from Florence
First and foremost, don’t try to do too much on your day trip to Venice. This is a busy and sometimes disorienting city and trying to squeeze too much into your day is only likely to leave you feeling frazzled.
Tempting though it may be, don’t try to shoehorn the islands of Murano or Burano into your itinerary.
In short, pick a handful of attractions that interest you and stick with them. This will give you time to wander off-piste and uncover corners of Venice for yourself.
Here is my pick of things to do when you have limited time in Venice that you can use as a loose framework on which to hang your day.
If you like to map it out, here’s one that I prepared earlier. For an interactive map, simply click here or on the image itself.
You can save it to your Google Maps app by clicking on the star icon.
1. Take a slow boat along the Grand Canal in Venice
Although gondolas have inspired many poems and quotes about Venice, you don’t need to pay for an expensive ride in these iconic boats to take to the waters of the Grand Canal. Simply hop on a vaporetto.
I recommend a vaporetto ride as soon as you step off your train from Florence.
Take vaporetto #1 from the stop outside Venezia Santa Lucia train station for a leisurely 40-minute ride along the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco. There are around five boats an hour.
For less than 10 Euro, you will be treated to one of the most scenic boat rides on the planet, passing piazzas and palaces, bridges and churches. This visual parade of canal-side wonders is a splendid introduction to the city.
2. Have a coffee in St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco)
Described by Napoleon as ‘Europe’s finest drawing room’, Piazza San Marco never disappoints. Filled with music, tourist and pigeons, this was the political and religious centre of Venice.
Listening to the musicians over an outrageously over-priced cappuccino on the terrace of one of the elegant cafes lining St. Mark’s Square is a quintessential Venetian experience.
3. Be dazzled by St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco)
Built in the 11th Century, St. Mark’s Basilica was the holy shrine of the Venetian state. Merchants trading in the East were obliged to donate booty from their voyage to the basilica, turning it into an architectural trophy cabinet.
This riot of domes, columns and statues is as far removed from the Gothic and Renaissance churches of Florence or Rome’s Baroque churches as you can get. Its dazzling interior glows with gold mosaics and the sheen of coloured marble.
For an additional fee, you can climb St. Mark’s bell tower (campanile) for a bird’s eye view of Venice and the lagoon.
4. Take in the grandeur of the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)
The Doge’s Palace is the secular equivalent of St. Mark’s sacred architectural splendour. This dreamlike storybook of Venetian history and legend is like a delicately decorated cake.
Palazzo Ducale was the seat of the Venetian government and home to the its ruling duke, or doge. Built as a statement of the might of the Venetian Republic, this was the most powerful half-acre in Europe for more than 400 years.
From the doge’s former living quarters, a one-way tour takes you to the public rooms on the top floor. Veronese and Tintoretto provide the wallpaper.
5. Gaze out at the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri)
The tour of the Doge’s Palace finishes at the Bridge of Sighs.
Linking the palace to the prisons, this is one of the most famous bridges in Venice. It is the city’s only covered bridge.
Built in 1602, legend has it that it gets its name from the sighs of convicted prisoners who crossed it on their way to their prison cells. The famous seducer, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, was one of those prisoners.
The Leads, used for the confinement of state prisoners, are in fact the lofts of the Doge’s Palace, and take their name from the large plates of lead with which the roof is covered.Giacomo Casanova
One can only reach them through the gates of the palace, the prison buildings, or by the bridge of which I have spoken called the Bridge of Sighs.
6. Glide along Venice’s canals on a gondola
Taking a gondola ride in Venice is on many people’s bucket lists. However, a ride on one of these iconic boats comes with a hefty price tag attached.
Gondola fares are set officially. At the time of writing, it will cost you 80 euros for a 30-minute daytime ride and 100 euros for a ride after 7 pm. You can extend your ride for an additional (fixed) cost.
There is no need to book a gondola ride in advance.
A more economic option, especially if you are a solo traveller, is a shared gondola ride, which you will need to reserve in advance.
Click here to book
7. Hit the highlights of the Venetian Renaissance at the Accademia (Galleria dell’Accademia)
The Accademia is to the Venetian Renaissance what the Uffizi Gallery is to Florence’s Renaissance.
Venice’s number one art museum is stuffed to the gills with artistic treasures, including works from Canaletto, Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese.
Its collection is arranged chronologically, from medical altarpieces and Madonnas with golden haloes to Veronese’s bawdy Last Supper (Feast in the House of Levi) and Titian’s Presentation of the Virgin.
8. Walk across the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Realto)
The Rialto Bridge is Venice’s geographical heart.
Completed in 1591, this design of this beautiful stone bridge was considered so daring that its lifespan was predicted to be short. However, Ponte di Realto has defied its critics and is now one of Venice’s most famous landmarks.
9. Stroll around Cannaregio
Packed with personality, the crumbling yet charming Cannaregio is one of the least visited best areas of the city, but one of the best to get behind the tourist glitz. It is where I stay when I am visiting Venice.
Cannaregio is a welcome respite from the city’s sometimes overwhelming tourist hordes and close to Venezia Santa Lucia for your train journey back to Florence.