The complete sustainable travel guide to Venice, Italy.
Visiting Venice is a once-in-a-lifetime experience: there is nothing more romantic than a weekend getaway wandering through its narrow streets and getting lost.
Not only it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but Venice (the Serenissima) is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, demanding careful attention and preservation for future generations.
Personally, I loved the atmosphere of the city. It is something to experience once in your life! I spent a week there with my partner Matt in the winter, strolling through the streets, getting lost and drinking spritz. And it felt great! But even in this season, Venice was never quiet, and this popularity has come with a price: overtourism.
Overtourism, or mass tourism, is a phenomenon we have witnessed in recent years (especially accentuated by social media) when popular places are visited by excessive numbers of tourists, causing undesirable effects on the destination. And unfortunately, Venice particularly suffers from this phenomenon.
That is why thinking about sustainable tourism and adopting green practices is essential. And if you are planning a trip to Venice but want to learn more about reducing your impact and how to preserve the unique heritage and culture of the Italian city, keep reading!
My Venice experience: Duration 6 Days Dates visited Dec 29 - Jan 03 Season Winter
- What are the impacts of tourism in Venice?
- What does sustainable travel mean?
- Best time to visit Venice (without the crowds)
- How to get around Venice sustainably?
- Best green hotels in Venice
- Best vegan & vegetarian restaurants in Venice
- Best (eco-friendly) things to do in Venice
- How to be a responsible traveller in Venice
- 1- Travel off-season & avoid cruises
- 2- Book direct flights & carbon footprint
- 3- Prioritise slow travel
- 4- Stay in a green accommodation
- 5- Eat local & try typical Venetian cuisine
- 6- Be zero-waste & avoid plastic
- 7- Shop local & support authentic artisans
- 8- Use water fountains & be mindful of your water consumption
- 9- Go on a gondola ride (and avoid cruise ships)
- 10- Respect the locals and their culture
What are the impacts of tourism in Venice?
Unfortunately, tourism in Venice mainly has a negative impact due to the overabundance of visitors and the ever-increasing popularity of the Italian city.
Once a place filled with intellectuals and artists, Venice is today flooded by tourists and day-trippers.
Overtourism is a significant problem and translates into an excess of tourists. It results in overcrowding leading to conflicts with locals and increased ecological impact.
Over 36 million people visit Venice yearly, home to less than 50,000 permanent residents. And as many of these visitors focus their time on the most famous landmarks, they accentuate their carbon footprint – and the damage only increases.
Here are some examples of the damages caused by overtourism in Venice:
- Reduced quality of life
- Disrespectful visitor behaviour
- Excessive noise and crowds
- Congested narrow streets
- More pollution and litter
- Lost of authenticity
- Price increases in stores
- Shops cater to tourists, not locals
- Fragile buildings damaged
- Poor employment opportunities
- The rising cost of living
And what has been the result? Depopulation.
The number of permanent residents in Venice continues to decline, and falling under 40,000 would be catastrophic for the Italian city.
What is causing overtourism in Venice?
The causes of overtourism in Venice are complex and diverse.
As in other main European cities, the primary causes of overtourism are often due to low-cost flights, cruise ships and day trips. The latter is a significant issue in a fragile city like Venice. Over 36 million visitors each year, and only half stay overnight, having a consequential impact on the local economy and environment.
What are the positive impacts of tourism in Venice?
Despite these many harmful consequences, tourism still has some positive impacts on the beautiful city of Venice.
Yes, tourism is not all bad! And the goal of this article is not for you to stop travelling. It is about opening your eyes to the significant impacts you have and providing solutions and tips to reduce them as much as possible. All this to enjoy and immerse yourself in the unique Italian culture without damaging it!
The main advantage of tourism in Venice is the economy.
The tourism industry remains the primary source of income in Venice – a city that relies almost entirely on it.
As a result, tourism creates new job opportunities such as mechanics, waiters, water taxis, gondoliers, hoteliers and many more.
Finally, tax revenue from tourists is another benefit. If the number of visitors increases, the GDP will rise, and more employment possibilities will open – and, therefore, more earnings for the city.
What can we do as travellers?
It is no longer possible to ignore the environmental, social and economic impact we have by travelling. And that is why understanding responsible tourism is essential for a sustainable expansion of the industry and the preservation of the places we visit.
Green tourism and slow travel should be how we explore the world and connect with locals. It means travelling in ways that maximise positive impacts and minimise negative ones.
In the case of Venice, the solution is not simple. Avoiding visiting the city, which depends almost entirely on tourism, is problematic and not the best option.
In this sustainable travel guide to Venice, I provide everything you need to plan a green trip to the romantic Italian city along with 10 eco-tips to be a more responsible traveller – explore whilst reducing impact. Enjoy!
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What does sustainable travel mean?
Before we get into this guide to exploring Venice responsibly, it is essential to understand the definition and purpose of sustainable travel – which does not mean stopping travelling altogether!
Sustainable travel means exploring the world whilst being aware of your surroundings and having a positive social, environmental and economic impact on the places you visit.
It could be by adopting more sustainable methods of transportation, staying in more eco-friendly accommodations, eating local and seasonal foods, or avoiding harmful activities to flora and fauna.
Ultimately, the primary goal of sustainable travel is to create a better and more viable long-term future for tourism.
As a result, in response to climate change and the negative impacts of travelling on our planet, ecotourism was born and today continues to expand.
According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), you can define ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and involves interpretation and education”.
In other words, ecotourism means providing positive experiences to visitors and hosts whilst developing a culture of environmental respect and having a favourable social and economic impact.
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Best time to visit Venice (without the crowds)
Although Venice never gets quiet, the best time to visit the Italian city without the crowds is in the winter season: from September to February.
The weather might be wet and chilly from time to time, but you will be able to enjoy the best attractions in a more peaceful way.
The end of September is a particularly great time to discover Venice. The large crows would have left to return to work or school, and the weather will still be pleasant with mild temperatures. Plus, prices will fall, and life will be cheaper.
Finally, if you can, avoid visiting Venice on weekends. It is due to the cruise ship arrivals, as most arrive on a Saturday or Sunday. On top of that, day-trippers will most likely show up during the weekend, as Venice is an ideal getaway for neighbouring towns.
And if you are wondering, the worst month to travel to Venice is August – a perfect example of overtourism. Hotels will be expensive, restaurants will be full, bars will be overcrowded, and the streets will be congested. Therefore, it is not the best time to enjoy the city and connect with the locals.
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How to get around Venice sustainably?
You have two main options for getting around Venice: walking or by water.
The easiest way to get around Venice sustainably is on foot. In fact, cars are not allowed in this city! Therefore, it is the perfect place for leaving automobiles behind and exploring walking. Not only will you reduce your impact on the environment, but it will also allow you to slow down, truly appreciate your surroundings and discover hidden places you might otherwise miss.
As a bonus, feel free to bypass the crowded streets, avoid popular hotspots and wander off the beaten path. Venice is perfect for strolling and getting lost.
And do not worry too much about the acqua alta – the city has walkways in case the streets get flooded. However, it is always a good idea to bring rain boots when visiting in autumn and winter.
Finally, another way to get around Venice is to use the Vaporetti – a Venetian public waterbus. Nineteen scheduled lines serve areas of the city and connect them to nearby islands, such as Murano, Burano, and Lido.
Vaporetti can be expensive, especially when buying your ticket on board – so remember to purchase it in advance and choose a multi-day pass if it is easier. However, do not forget that these water boats are not eco-friendly and pollute the lagoon, so only use them when necessary.
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Best green hotels in Venice
Venice offers many examples of eco-conscious hotels aiming to preserve the heritage of the city whilst bringing modern and sustainable facilities.
Here are some of the best green hotels in the Serenissima:
1- Corte di Gabriela
Corte di Gabriela is located in the centre of Venice, nestled between the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge to the north; between Piazza San Marco and the Gran Teatro La Fenice to the south.
It is a lovely eco-friendly boutique hotel embodying a perfect blend of sustainability and luxury comfort. They stand as one of the pioneers of the eco-friendly approach in Venice and have been honoured with the European Certificate of Eco-Sustainable Hotel.
Ecology and zero-waste are undoubtedly at the core of the hotel. Corte di Gabriela strives for a green approach to tourism through better energy and water management and plastic reduction. For example, they only use glass bottles for the mini-bar and always choose zero-kilometres, local products.
2- Ca’ della Corte
Ca’ della Corte is an XVI-century Venetian Palace, completely renovated in a style that highlights its beauty, elegance and refinement. It also enjoys an excellent location, just 3 minutes from Piazzale Roma.
In addition to being transformed into a majestic hotel, Ca’ della Corte is certified by Eco World Hotels for its attention to the careful disposal of waste, recycling and intelligent use of energy sources and materials.
This unique hotel focuses mainly on the ecological use of power sources, minimising unnecessary consumption and prioritising recyclable and environmentally friendly materials.
3- NH Collection Palazzo Barocci
Set in a unique location overlooking the Grand Canal, Palazzo Barocci emerges like a jewel amongst the alleys and offers guests breathtaking views of one of the most romantic cities.
This hotel chain has a broad sustainability strategy that includes low-impact amenities and materials, decreasing water consumption, recycling, reducing CO2 emissions and protecting biodiversity.
Additionally, every NH hotel, including the Palazzo Barocci, is committed to being eco-friendly by avoiding plastic bottles, opting for fair trade and local produce, and choosing biodegradable materials. And to further educate its guests, The Venetian Hotel participates in several events throughout the year to promote sustainability and the importance of preserving our planet.
And if you want more, check out Bookdifferent and Ecobnb.
Best vegan & vegetarian restaurants in Venice
Impossible to visit Italy and Venice without tasting its delightful cuisine! And as more and more Italian restaurants are leaning toward vegan and vegetarian dishes with a classic touch, you will not have to compromise when travelling.
Here are some of the best restaurants in Venice for vegans and vegetarians:
1- La Zucca
La Zucca is a seasonal Venetian restaurant with vegetarian tendencies, established in a cosy setting with tables by the canal. And with seating for no more than 35 people, the atmosphere is classically intimate – a perfect getaway into the local cuisine and culture.
La Zucca is not a vegetarian restaurant but offers many fresh vegetable courses made with natural ingredients. And as its name suggests, its specialities focus on the pumpkin (or ‘Zucca’), offering dishes such as dreamy pumpkin flan and warming soup. They also have several authentic pasta-based plates perfect for vegetarians.
2- Pizzeria L’Angelo
Pizzeria L’Angelo is a unique place that offers many delicious options for vegetarians and vegans. The store is mainly a counter-service (no seating) and is perfect for eating on the go. In addition to vegetarian and vegan pizzas, the pizzeria also serves plenty of vegan sandwiches.
Located in the San Marco area, it is a perfect spot to recharge before a day of sightseeing in beautiful Venice, with many highlights and attractions nearby.
Website: Facebook page
3- La Tecia Vegana
La Tecia Vegana is a cosy restaurant specialising in vegan dishes made exclusively with products from organic farming. A fusion cuisine where ethnic mixes and a mission of revisiting classic specialities to suit plant-based lifestyles.
In keeping with their fresh approach to well-known dishes, the style of the restaurant itself is also a tribute to classic Italy, with a red awning outside and the ambience of a traditional Italian eatery inside. A perfect place to immerse yourself in the Venetian heritage whilst preserving our planet.
And if you want more, check out HappyCow.
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Best (eco-friendly) things to do in Venice
- Just wander & get lost
- Eat and drink like a local
- Explore Piazza San Marco
- See the golden domes of St Mark’s Basilica
- Climb the Campanile
- Visit the Dodge’s Palace
- Enjoy the view from Ponte di Rialto
- Cruise the canal with a gondola
- Admire the Bridge of Sighs
- Take a Venice food tour
Need more inspiration? Check out this article: Best Ecotourism Activities Around the World
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How to be a responsible traveller in Venice
Being a responsible traveller in Venice is not impossible and should be necessary to preserve the natural beauty of the Italian city.
There are ways to be more eco-conscious when visiting the Serenissima, and here are ten sustainable tourism tips to make your trip greener:
1- Travel off-season & avoid cruises
As Venice suffers heavily from overtourism, one of the best things you can do as a responsible traveller is to visit the city in off-peak times, such as winter (from September to mid-February).
You will do the planet a favour but also yourself by being able to discover the floating city without the crowds and genuinely appreciate the beauty of this place. Plus, by travelling off-season, you will contribute to the local economy with year-round jobs – and be able to connect with locals!
Another tip would be to prioritise visiting Venice on weekdays rather than weekends to avoid cruise ships and day trippers.
2- Book direct flights & carbon footprint
Once you have selected the dates for your trip, your next step would be to choose a direct flight to reach Venice.
Venice Airport is easily accessible and well-connected to most European cities. So if possible, choose a non-stop journey as taking off and landing use more fuel than cruising.
Finally, you can compensate for your impact by investing in local projects and communities (check out this article for more information on carbon offsetting your flights), BUT do not use carbon offset as a complete solution.
Combine it with other sustainable practices, like prioritising other methods of transport, avoiding single-use plastic on the plane and mindfully packing your suitcase to be ready for your green adventure.
3- Prioritise slow travel
One of the primary causes of overtourism in Venice is day trippers, usually because of cruise ships. Cruise passengers typically do not stay long (less than 20 hours) and do not contribute much to the local economy. Moreover, the first thing they will do once in the city is to visit the most famous sites, such as San Marco square.
This mass tourism phenomenon in such a small square destroys the cultural authenticity of the place and tarnishes the general charm of the city for tourists and locals. That is why it is essential to learn more about slow travel.
Slow travel is a way of exploring the world, accentuating slowing down and connecting with the places and locals. This approach allows you to take more time to get to know a country and its culture on a deeper level, which can also mean travelling less but staying longer = quality over quantity.
Therefore, if you can, try to visit Venice on your own and stay longer – for 3 or 4 days at least to get to know this wonderful city.
4- Stay in a green accommodation
Once you have booked your transport to Venice, try to reserve your city getaway at a hotel or B&B that adopts eco-responsible practices.
Many accommodations are working toward becoming greener by innovating and reducing their impact. For example, check out these three sustainable hotels in Venice:
- Corte di Gabriela
- Ca’ della Corte
- Palazzo Barocci
As guidance, read the hotel description, look for certification or statement committing to sustainability, or search for places locally owned.
And if you want more, check out Bookdifferent and Ecobnb.
5- Eat local & try typical Venetian cuisine
When travelling to Venice, being mindful of what you eat and buy is crucial to leaving a lower footprint and being a sustainable explorer. Ask the locals where they like to eat, buy your food at local markets, and go to local vegetarian and vegan restaurants supporting farmers and sustainable products.
Plus, more and more Italian restaurants are leaning toward vegan and vegetarian dishes with a classic touch, so you will not have to compromise when travelling. Here are some of the best restaurants in Venice for vegans and vegetarians:
- La Zucca
- Pizzeria L’Angelo
- La Tecia Vegana
And if you want more, check out HappyCow.
6- Be zero-waste & avoid plastic
Always pick up your trash or any you come across, and avoid plastic at all costs! And the best way to reduce waste when travelling to Venice is to arrive prepared. That is why considering what you bring with you is so important. Here are some ideas, bring:
- Reusable water bottles (reduce single-use plastic)
- Eco-friendly tote bags (reduce single-use plastic)
- Travel towels (reduce water usage)
- Cutlery and containers (reduce single-use plastic)
- Reusable straws (reduce single-use plastic)
- Biodegradable shampoos (reduce toxic chemicals)
- Zero-waste sunscreens (reduce single-use plastic & toxic chemicals)
- Solid toiletries (reduce water usage)
- Portable solar chargers (reduce energy usage)
Check out this page for more ideas on eco-friendly products & gear.
7- Shop local & support authentic artisans
The souvenirs we bring home matter as much as how we travel. Being mindful of your shopping habits is another way to become more responsible and contribute to the local economy.
Ask questions to learn more about the product you want to buy and its origin, shop local, decline objects made with animal products and refuse single-use plastic bags.
Be sure to support authentic, local artisans and be aware of tourist traps and illegal vendors. For this, look for certification and follow your own judgement.
8- Use water fountains & be mindful of your water consumption
Venice is full of free water fountains offering fresh and cold water – so bring your reusable water bottle to stay hydrated, even in winter! There is no reason for you to buy bottled water during your stay.
Sustainable travel in Venice is also about paying attention to your water consumption (and it should be the case whatever your destination!). It means: having shorter showers, checking all taps are closed properly or not washing your hotel towels daily. We often overlook the latter, but reusing your towel or bringing your own will save a lot of water and do good for the planet.
9- Go on a gondola ride (and avoid cruise ships)
I know going on a gondola ride might sound very touristy, but it is by seeing Venice from the water that you will truly appreciate its beauty. Plus, by taking a gondola ride (instead of water taxis), you will help preserve the lagoon, the environment, the fragile buildings and the local economy by supporting local and authentic gondoliers.
However, do not use the gondolas near popular spots to help spread mass tourism. Instead, venture into more secluded streets and local areas to book your gondola – and enjoy the ride!
10- Respect the locals and their culture
Remember that Venice is a city and people live there.
Treat people and their surroundings with respect. Sustainable travel in Venice is not only about the environment but also about the locals. So, smile, be respectful and try to learn a few Italian words.
It also applies to cultural sites. Be quiet, dress appropriately, do not touch anything and ask if you have any questions. And if you can, limit your time on Piazza San Marco.
In addition, walk to the right, be mindful when taking photos (do not stand on bridges forever!), do not sit on the floor or any step, and do not feed pigeons.
Going to Italy this summer? Check out this Rome travel guide: 5 Perfect Days in Rome, Italy: Complete Itinerary
Do you have any other suggestions for sustainable travel in Venice?
Let me know in the comments below!
With love ♡