Venice or Rome: The Ultimate Guide for Your Italian Adventure

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Living just an hour away from the enchanting City of Canals, Venice, I’ve had the privilege of immersing myself in its unique charm and allure over the years. 

I’ve also been fortunate enough to visit Rome, the Eternal City, more than a dozen times. 

Both cities, rich in history, culture, and mouth-watering Italian cuisine, offer distinct experiences to the discerning traveler. 

If I didn’t live nearby to be able to visit Venice on a whim and could only choose one to visit, it would be Rome as I am a huge Roman Empire buff. However, I love both Venice and Rome and each has its own unique reasons to visit. 

From the romantic gondola rides through Venice’s waterways to the awe-inspiring grandeur of Rome’s Colosseum, each city tells a different tale.

But how can you decide between Rome or Venice when planning the perfect getaway? 

This guide, steeped in my personal experiences and observations, will help you explore various factors such as attractions, local culture, cuisine, and accommodations, and guide you toward making an informed decision for your dream vacation.

Read on and decide for yourself which destination is better for your next Italian adventure!

Staying overnight in Venice? Here’s my ultimate 2 day itinerary!

Historical Significance


Venice is one of the rare cities in which there is no need to imagine what it used to look like in its glory days. The city is trapped in amber and looks just as it did centuries ago.

The City of Canals boasts a history that’s as deep and winding as its iconic waterways. Known for its strategic importance in the spice trade, Venice flourished during the Middle Ages and Renaissance as a wealthy and powerful maritime republic.

basilica san marco in venice italy

Today, you can visit Venice and step back in time by visiting landmarks such as the Doge’s Palace, once the residence of the Venetian leader, or the Basilica di San Marco, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. 

For a deeper dive into Venetian history, consider visiting the Correr Museum, where you can explore an extensive collection of art and historical artifacts. Or, check out the Arsenale where the Venetian warships were famously made with one being launched every day. 

Walking tours, gondola rides, and the simple act of wandering through Venice’s labyrinth of canals and narrow alleys offer countless opportunities to appreciate the city’s unique blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Byzantine architecture.


When it comes to historical significance, both Venice and Rome have a high historical value, but Rome is in a league of its own. 

Founded in 753 BC, the city has been the center of one of the greatest civilizations in history, the Roman Empire, and the heart of the Catholic Church. When you visit Rome and wander its streets, you’re treading on layers of history, where ancient ruins lie beneath medieval buildings and Renaissance palaces. 

coloseum in rome

Visit the Colosseum, the largest amphitheater ever built, to picture the gladiatorial contests and public spectacles of ancient Rome. Explore the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, where the foundations of the empire were laid. 

The Vatican Museums house an enormous collection of artworks and historical pieces, while the Sistine Chapel offers a glimpse into the artistic genius of Michelangelo. Every corner of Rome speaks volumes about its past, from the ancient ruins to the Baroque architecture that characterizes the cityscape.

Cultural Experiences


Venice, the enchanting city of water, has a cultural scene that’s as vibrant and diverse as its history. A city renowned for its connection to music, Venice was the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi and it played a crucial role in the development of operatic music. 

Today, you can enjoy performances at historic venues like the Teatro La Fenice, one of Italy’s major opera houses when you visit Venice. Venice is also a haven for art enthusiasts, hosting internationally acclaimed art festivals such as the Venice Biennale and the Venice Film Festival. 

The Peggy Guggenheim is a must-visit for art lovers to get a glimpse of iconic paintings by masters such as Picasso, Pollack, and many more. 

These events offer a chance to engage with cutting-edge contemporary art from around the globe. Don’t forget to take a vaporetto to the island of Murano, world-famous for its centuries-old tradition of glassmaking. Here, you can watch glassblowers at work and marvel at the exquisite craftsmanship of Murano glass.

In essence, choose Venice when you want to try some unique experiences not to be found anywhere else.


Venice or Rome, they are both living museums. Rome might have the edge, however, as its streets and squares brimming with classical art and architectural marvels that date back to the Roman Empire. But the city’s cultural offerings don’t stop at its ancient ruins. 

vatican st peter's cathedral

The Vatican City, situated within Rome, is the smallest sovereign state in the world and a treasure trove of priceless art and architecture. Visit Rome and the Vatican Museums to see works by masters like Michelangelo and Raphael. 

At the same time, modern culture thrives alongside the city’s rich history. Contemporary art galleries such as the MAXXI and MACRO showcase innovative works from Italian and international artists. Rome’s vibrant neighborhoods offer a taste of Italian life, with bustling markets, quaint cafés, and traditional trattorias offering an authentic cultural experience.

Culinary Experiences


When it comes to food, both Venice and Rome have excellent cuisine, but Venice casts a unique spell. Nestled in the heart of a lagoon, the city’s cuisine is a delightful blend of the sea and the land. You’ll find an array of delectable local specialties featuring fish, rice, and vegetables if you choose Venice. 

plate of typical cicchetti in venice with tuna meatball, bacalà mantecato, mozzarella in carrozza, and crostino

Begin your culinary journey with ‘sarde in saor’, a sweet and sour dish of sardines marinated in onions, vinegar, raisins, and pine nuts. For a main, try ‘risi e bisi’, a creamy rice and pea risotto that was once a favorite of the Doges of Venice. 

But the star of Venetian cuisine is undoubtedly the seafood. From squid ink spaghetti to ‘fritto misto’, a mixed fry of sea creatures, the freshness of the ingredients shines through in every bite. And let’s not forget ‘gelato‘, the Italian take on ice cream, a perfect treat to enjoy while wandering through the city’s charming streets when you visit Venice.


The Eternal City, on the other hand, is a haven for lovers of hearty, rustic flavors. 

spaghetti alla gricia typical pasta of rome

The city is famed for its exceptional pizza and pasta dishes, especially the ‘Quartetto Romano’ – the four pasta dishes that Rome is best known for: cacio e pepe, carbonara, spaghetti alla gricia, and amatriciana. 

‘Cacio e pepe’ is a simple yet sublime combination of pecorino cheese and black pepper. ‘Carbonara’ combines guanciale (Italian cured pork cheek), eggs, and pecorino for a creamy, decadent treat. 

‘Spaghetti alla gricia’ is similar to carbonara but without the eggs, while ‘amatriciana’ adds a tangy tomato sauce to the mix. 

But Roman cuisine is more than just pasta. Visit a local ‘trattoria’ for ‘saltimbocca’, a dish of veal, prosciutto, and sage, or try ‘carciofi alla romana’, a tender artichoke that has been braised in wine with parsley and garlic. No meal in Rome is complete without a scoop of ‘gelato’, perhaps enjoyed in the shadow of the Colosseum.

There is more of a nightlife scene in Rome, as well, since there tend to be more people hanging out in central Rome. There are also lots more clubs where you can go after dinner than you would find in Venice.



When you visit Venice as a budget traveler can cost around €55-€88/day, or approximately $60-$93/day when you eat on a budget, rarely spend on attractions and stay in a hostel. This can increase if you decide to upgrade your accommodations, with an added cost of €120/night to well over €1,000 depending on your choice of accommodation​.

A daily breakdown could look as follows (Note that none of these costs includes transportation but you can walk everywhere in Venice):

  • For a more frugal traveler, costs may include €8 for attractions (free walking tour + visit one of the free sights), €21 for food (€2 for breakfast, €7 for lunch, €10 for dinner, and €2 for a wine), and €26 for accommodation at a cheap hostel. This brings the total to about €55/day​.
  • For a slightly more comfortable budget, costs may include €30 for attractions (one paid attraction + any free sights), €33 for food (€3 for breakfast, €9 for lunch, €18 for dinner, and €3 for a wine), and €38 for accommodation at a hostel. This brings the total to about €103/day​.
  • Specific attraction and museum prices in Venice can vary. For example, the St. Mark’s Square Museums cost €25, the Basilica dei Frari costs €5, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection costs €16, and gondola rides can range from €80-€100 (which can be shared to lower the price significantly). There are also several free attractions, such as The Libreria Acqua Alta and many of the famous churches​.

Food prices in Venice can be high, especially around popular areas like St. Marks Square (Piazza San Marco). Local Venetian cuisine includes dishes like Baccala’ Mantecata (salted cod), marinated sardines (sarde in saor), and risi i bisi (fresh rice and green beans)​.

However, eating cicchetti (Venetian style tapas) away from the tourist hotspots is very economical and will allow you to try a bigger variety of food. 

On a budget? Check out my tips for saving money in Venice!


Visiting the capital city as budget travelers can cost around €65-€95/day, or approximately $69-$101/day. If you wish to upgrade your accommodations, you can add another €80-€110/night depending on your desired level of comfort​​.

A daily breakdown could look as follows:

  • For a frugal traveler, costs may include €10 for attractions (free walking tour + visit one of the free sights), €35.50 for food (€3 for breakfast, €10 for lunch, €20 for dinner, and €2.50 for a spritz), and €26 for accommodation at a cheap hostel. This brings the total to about €71.50/day or approximately $62/day​​.
  • For a more comfortable budget, costs may include €18 for attractions (one paid attraction + any free sights), €51 for food (€3 for breakfast, €15 for lunch, €30 for dinner, and €3 for a treat), and €40 for accommodation at a hostel. This brings the total to about €109/day​.
  • Rome offers several free attractions, but most of the paid ones are fairly expensive. For example, the Pantheon and Saint Peter’s Basilica are free to visit (though it costs €8-€10 to visit the dome of the basilica and the Pantheon will soon have a modest entrance fee), while the Colosseum & Roman Forum cost €24, and the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel cost €27. Other attractions, such as the Capitoline Museum and the Galleria Borghese, have entry fees of €16 and €13, respectively​​.

Whether in Venice or Rome, things are going to be expensive. Even though both do offer some budget options, there are more free and low cost things to do in Rome.



Venice is known for its boutique and romantic hotels, many of which are small with fewer than 20 rooms. This can create a high demand for specific hotels, which often fill up quickly. 

exclusive hotel danieli in historic palace

Additionally, the overall number of beds available in Venice is lower compared to Rome, which may limit your options, especially during peak travel times. This is why it’s often recommended to book your accommodations in Venice well in advance.

However, there are a lot of luxury accommodations in Venice that blow away the expectations of most visitors. Just about every hotel and even some of the hostels are located in palaces that are of historic importance and are often well over 400 years old. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the history of Venice. 


The capital city offers a broader range of accommodation options compared to Venice, making it more suitable for last-minute bookings. Whether you’re looking for luxury hotels, boutique accommodations, budget hostels, or vacation rentals, you’ll likely find a wider variety in Rome. 

This can provide more flexibility in terms of price, location, and type of accommodation, and it allows for more spontaneous travel plans.

Once again, whether in Venice or Rome, finding accommodations close to the action can be difficult if you don’t book ahead, however, Rome has more options in off the beaten path areas than Venice does,



Venice is unique in its own right with its romantic canals, elegant gondolas, and stunning architecture. Notable attractions include:

  • St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco): This is the heart of Venice, adorned by the stunning St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. Visiting the square and exploring these buildings should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s worth noting that the museums within the square like Doge’s Palace, Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana can be visited with a Venice Pass that saves money and lets you skip the line​.
  • Gondola Ride: While it may seem cliché, a gondola ride through the Venetian canals is a must-do. It’s a unique way to see the city from a different perspective. It can cost around €80 during the day and €100 after 7pm​. Make sure to read my full guide about how to experience the ultimate gondola ride in Venice.
  • Rialto Bridge: The oldest bridge spanning the Grand Canal, it offers a panoramic view of the city and is a great spot for photographs, and is totally free.
gondola ride in front of hard rock cafe

For off-the-beaten-path attractions:

  • Basilica dei Frari: Less crowded than St. Mark’s Basilica, it houses numerous pieces of Renaissance art and offers a glimpse into Venice’s history​​. There are many more famous churches worth a visit in Venice, as well.
  • Peggy Guggenheim Collection: An impressive collection of 20th-century American and European art housed in a palazzo on the Grand Canal.
  • Venice’s Smaller Islands: Consider visiting the lesser-known islands of Venice such as Burano, known for its colorful houses and lace-making, or Torcello, which boasts a cathedral with stunning mosaics.
  • Jewish Ghetto: The Jewish Ghetto, the world’s first ghetto, is a quieter area with deep history, interesting synagogues, and delicious Kosher food.


Rome, the Eternal City, is a treasure trove of Roman Empire history and culture. It offers a wider range of attractions compared to Venice:

  • Colosseum: A symbol of Rome’s ancient grandeur, it’s a must-visit for its historic significance. Entry, which also includes the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
  • Vatican City: Home to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums (including the Sistine Chapel). Visiting the basilica is free, but it costs to visit the dome. The Vatican City museums and the Sistine Chapel.
  • Pantheon: One of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings, it’s free to enter and is truly a marvel of architectural ingenuity.
  • Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps: Two iconic spots in Rome that are free to visit. (For now anyway, since the Pantheon will soon have a modest charge to get in)

For off-the-beaten-path attractions:

  • Basilica of St. John Lateran: Less crowded than St. Peter’s Basilica, yet it’s the cathedral of Rome.
  • Capitoline Museums: Home to a vast collection of art and archaeological exhibits. 
  • Trastevere Neighborhood: Experience Rome like a local in this charming neighborhood, known for its narrow cobblestone streets, beautiful squares, and excellent restaurants.
  • Appian Way and Catacombs: A bit outside the city center, the Appian Way is one of the earliest Roman roads, offering a unique historical perspective. Nearby are several catacombs, ancient underground burial places, that offer guided tours.

In terms of the sheer number of sites to visit, Rome being a capital city wins hands down. The city is much bigger and has had far more history and changes happening over the centuries. However, the fact that Venice sits in the middle of a lagoon and has a totally different history makes some of the attractions more unique. 

Getting Around


Venice, with its car-free streets, is a city made for walking and boating. 

The narrow, winding streets and canals offer a unique and enchanting means of getting around, making every stroll a scenic experience. The compact size of the city means that most of the major attractions, such as St. Mark’s Square, Rialto Bridge, and the Doge’s Palace, are within a reasonable walking distance of each other.

For longer distances, or simply for the experience, you can take a ride on a vaporetto, a large passenger boat that is the equivalent of a city bus in Venice. Vaporetti operate on regular routes along the Grand Canal and to other islands in the Venetian lagoon. Single tickets cost €9.50, but multiple-day travel cards are available and offer significant savings if you plan on using the vaporetti frequently.

water taxi in front of hotel in venice

A water taxi is a convenient option for getting around but is very, very expensive. You should read my guide on water taxis to understand how they work. 

Getting to Venice from Treviso airport or Marco Polo Airport is also very straightforward as is Rome so this is a push.


Rome offers a range of public transportation options, including buses, trams, and a metro system. The two-line metro system is relatively limited for a bustling city of Rome’s size, but it can be convenient for reaching some major attractions such as the Colosseum or the Vatican.

Buses are the most extensive and commonly used form of public transportation in Rome. Tickets for both the metro and buses can be purchased at metro stations, newsstands, and tobacco shops.

While Rome is a larger city than Venice, it is still quite walkable, particularly in the historic city center where many of the major sites are located. Attractions like the Vatican City, Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon are all within comfortable walking distance of each other.

For either of these two cities, it’s worth noting that the charm of exploring often comes from wandering around on foot, discovering hidden corners, local shops, and restaurants, or simply soaking in the atmosphere of these historic and vibrant cities.

Wrapping It Up

Choosing between Venice and Rome can be a difficult decision as these two cities offer unique and unforgettable experiences. Your choice ultimately depends on your personal interests and what you’re looking for in your Italian adventure.

If you’re drawn to the romance and tranquility of canals, narrow winding streets, and a city that feels like a step back in time, then Venice might be your choice. With its unique island setting, enchanting gondola rides, and stunning architecture, Venice is a city like no other. Its compact size makes it perfect for those who love to explore by foot or by boat, and its rich history and culture are truly mesmerizing.

On the other hand, if you’re fascinated by ancient history, vibrant city life, and a vast range of cultural attractions, then Rome may be the city for you. As one of the world’s most historically rich cities, Rome provides a deeper dive into the past, from the Colosseum to the Roman Forum. The city offers a diverse range of experiences that extend beyond its historical sites, including an exciting food scene and beautiful neighborhoods to explore.

Sal Presti

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