Preparing a trip to Venice is already part of the fun of getting there. Whether you are visiting the city for the first time or you have been on numerous occasions, guide books are always a good source of inspiration. Personally, I always read a lot, both out of curiosity to better understand the dynamics and history of the city, but also to discover new points of interest. Whenever I enter a bookshop, whether it’s in Belgium, in Venice or anywhere else in the world, I will always look for books on Venice.
The list below shows you 10 inspiring books which can help you prepare your trip. You have general city guides, but there are also very interesting books related to an event or focused on a special topic such as food. However, you have to keep in mind that wandering around Venice and getting lost is part of the charm of the city. If you want to be surprised by unexpected views and admire the sheer beauty of the city, you will have to balance the use of books and your intuition.
This is a very practical map of Venice. It gives a lot of details, although it doesn’t cover part of the Castello and Sant’Elena district nor Giudecca. It is also rain and tear resistant, so it will still be useful if you would be lost while it’s raining or if you’re fighting over the map to see who was right. I bought it in one of the book shops in Venice.
The Lonely Planet is a must-have for your trip to Venice. Even though I know the city quite well, I still buy a new edition from time to time. The latest edition dates from December 2017. It gives you plenty of information on the history of the city, the different sestieri as well as practical information about landmarks and musea, including prices and opening hours. In general, the guide has good recommendations for bars and restaurants, but considering the number of copies sold, you won’t be there alone with locals.
This less known city guide is a very nice add-on for the traditional Lonely Planet. It focuses less on the main touristic landmarks, but it has a very wide directory with tips for hotels, restaurants, shops and art galleries. There are also atypical walking tours on art and architecture, luxury and fashion or in the steps of Ernest Hemingway.
Monocle has been publishing travel guides for a long time, but this 2017 edition is the first one about Venice. It is not the typical guide which focuses on landmarks and touristic routes. It gives you however plenty of inspiration for restaurants, bars, shops, as well as interesting and beautiful sites and locations across the city. Their selection is often rather upmarket, but you can also find tips on small local shops, artisans and bars.
This guide book does not only give loads of interesting information about Venice. It is also beautifully illustrated with drawings of the city and of the 4 types of travellers: a dreamer, an adventuress, an erudite and an elegant traveller. This original concept allows you to discover Venice city depending on your travel mood of the day. The book is available in English, Italian and French.
This book was published on the occasion of Fundamentals, the 14th Architecture Biennale. It looks at the architecture of Venice from a completely different angle. To give an example, one chapter focuses in detail on doors and explains the rationale and history of different door styles, while it also describes the potential impact of the Mose project on doors (i.e. no need anymore for the ‘paratie’ to keep the water outside at acqua alta). A must-have for architecture and Venice lovers.
If you are interested in the history of Venice, then you will certainly love this book. It follows Venice’s unique history from its foundation, and analyzes the city’s social, cultural, religious, and environmental history, as well as its politics and economy. The book is a perfect reference guide if you are looking for background information.
Once you have decided on your plans for the day in Venice, the secrets from this book will add something special to your visit. It varies from a garden which can only be visited on appointment to a hidden symbol in a church. The secrets are spread all over Venice, but practically organized by neighbourhood.
This beautiful book gives you a glimpse at the interiors of Venetian palazzos. You will find large format pictures of the interiors of museums such as Ca d’Oro or Ca’ Grimani, but also of many private homes. They show a mix of historical 19th century buildings to contemporary renovations that blend old and new. The private residences are not accessible to the public, but you’re bound to find plenty of inspiration for new palazzos to visit on your next trip.
Finally, it’s time to create your own guide book of Venice. This Moleskine City Notebook is ideal for this and it’s the perfect size to carry with you during the day. It has a map of Venice and an overview of the vaporetto lines. The most important are the 76 empty pages where you can list your own favourite shops, restaurants, musea and so on. I personally never travel without it. Whenever I come across something intriguing, nice or I taste some good food, I write it down. I have been using this notebook for many years and it’s now my personal source of inspiration.
Besides all the interesting facts in these books, there is also plenty of information available online. You can for instance find tips on how to prepare your trip to Venice in my post ‘How I prepare my trips to Venice as a frequent visitor‘ and start to plan your transporation with my ‘A practical how-to guide on transportation in Venice‘. Or you can check my favourite bookmarks on Venice for relevant information. I hope all this helps you to prepare your trip. If you still have questions, feel free to contact me.
Now that you have prepared all the practical elements for your trip, you can immerse yourself even further by reading a novel which is set in Venice.
PS: Several links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you when you order a book.
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