Venice

Venice is one of the most interesting and wonderful places in the world. Imagine the audacity of building a city of marble palaces on a lagoon – and that was only the start. This sanctuary on a lagoon is virtually the same as it was six hundred years ago, which adds to the fascinating character.

Venice is a city unlike any other. No matter how often you’ve seen it in photos and films, the real thing is more dreamlike than you could imagine. With canals where streets should be, water shimmers everywhere. The fabulous palaces and churches reflect centuries of history in what was a wealthy trading center between Europe and the Orient.

You might get lost exploring Venice through its narrow alleyways, but then you would invariably end up at the Piazza San Marco, where tourists and locals gather for a coffee or an aperitif. Even frequent travelers lose their way in the intricate network bridges, pedestrian alleys and canals, but this the beauty of Venice. Take a stroll from the palace to the piazza, exploring the museums, shopping at street stalls, and being fascinated by the harmonious blend of the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Italian architectural influences.

When to Travel

The ideal time to travel to Venice is between April to June or September to October when the temperature is mild and the crowds are sparse. July to mid-September is peak season. It is the rainy season during February and March. August is humid and Venice is run over by tourists and Italians who also have their vacation during this time.

Flying to Venice

The city is served by the Marco Polo airport and has connections to all major European and International cities. The Antonio Canova airport is a smaller one, located near the city Treviso.

The Marco Polo airport

The airport is connected to the Venezia Mestre railway station and is also convenient to reach Verona, Milan, Trieste, Padova and other cities of Italy. It is just a 5 minutes’ walk to the railway station of Venice, from Piazzale Roma. Scheduled bus services also connect the airport to the bus terminal of Piazzale Roma in Venice. You have the choice of taking a bus or a taxi.

Enjoy the unique experience of traveling in a water taxi which is also the most comfortable, though expensive, way to reach your hotel in Venice, or to Venice Cruise Port terminal or to the Lido di Venezia which is a big island near Venice.

Water is the major way of transportation, as Venice is on a lagoon. Whichever way you reach Venice, the final part of your travel will be on foot from the waterbus / watertaxi jetty.

Reaching Venice by Rail

The modern building in the Santa Croce area houses the Venice Santa Lucia station. The station is a convenient point from where the main tourist attractions of the city are reachable by walking down Strada Nuova or by taking a water bus. The Santa Lucia station is well connected to all major European and Italian cities like Milan, Rome, Venice, Zurich, Paris and Munich.

Venezia-Mestre is another prominent railway station outside Venice. Do check your train ticket to ensure if this is your destination. If so, alight here to take another train or bus to the Santa Lucia station.

What to see in Venice

Piazza San Marco

Standing in the middle of the magnificent Piazza San Marco is an experience in itself. It was aptly described as the ‘drawing room of Europe’ by Napoleon, as at times it appears that much of Europe’s population has gathered in this great square.

The square is home to the some of Venice’s most famous landmarks, the St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco), which marks Venice’s links to the Byzantine era, the Doge’s Palace, which was once Venice’s political and judicial center, and the clock tower (Torre dell’Orologio), which was built between 1496 and 1506. Now a days, the square teems with tourists and pigeons but stills stands magnificent and it could take a couple of days to explore all the sights it has to offer.

Basilica di San Marco

Venice’s basilica provides an impressive sight with its byzantine domes and 8500 sq. m. of glowing mosaics. It has been standing tall since the 9th century. Legend has it that two merchants smuggled out of Egypt, the dead body of St. Mark, in a barrel of pork fat. Some say they smuggled out Alexander the Great’s dead body instead, by mistake.

The basilica is well-known for its fascinating secret places and invaluable treasures. The Zen Chapel and the Baptistery are not open to public. Admission to the basilica is free, but the entrance fee to the museum upstairs costs €5 and for the view of the high altar and treasury, €2.

Gallerie dell’Accademia

The Accademia is a historic museum gallery that traces the development of Venetian art from the 14th to the 18th centuries. It showcases the works of Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Canaletto among others, not to forget, Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man.

The prestigious center of the Scuola Grande of Santa Maria della Carita houses the estate of the Accademia Galleries. The collection were housed in the Santa Maria della Carita convent in serenity until 1807 when Napoleon installed his haul of the Venetian art trophies in the Accademia and since then the visual appeal of the gallery has increased.

Palazzo Ducale

If the basilica was the nerve center of the Venetian Republic, the Palazzo Ducale or the Doge’s Palace was the seat of government of Venice for centuries. The Gothic palace was the Doge’s official residence from the 9th century. It was the seat of the Venetian court of law and civil administration and the Republic’s government and also housed the prisons for almost seven centuries. The first floor of the grand palace was the Doge’s Apartments, but the masterpiece is the lavishly decorated second floor chambers.

The home to the Doge’s throne, is the grand Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Grand Council Hall) which also houses the “Paradise”, a 22m x 7m painting by Tintoretto.

If the lines are long at the palace, regular tickets can also be purchased across the square at the Museo Correr. “Secret Itinerary” is an interesting guided tour costing twenty Euros. This tour lets you explore the part of the palace where the city’s administration functioned, the jail where Casanova was imprisoned and the wonderful 500-year-old roof structure.

Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower)

One of the famous architectural landmark of the city, the Clock Tower, stands over an arch that leads into the main shopping street, the old Merceria.

St Marks Square was not only the seat of political and religious power but was also a public space of economic activity. It faced the sea and placed a functional role as the hub for the entire layout of the city. The clock tower marked both a division and juncture between different architectural components of St Marks square. The clock tower is a technological masterpiece and is an essential part of the image of Venice. It has stood the test of time for over 500 years, being a silent witness to life and history of the city.

Designed by Maurizio Codussi, the clock tower was constructed between 1496 and 1506. The addition of the wings are sometimes attributed to Pietro Lombardo, who later rebuilt the Procuratie. The wings, which not so distinct, were probably was designed by Gonella, the then proto (manager, in charge of buildings) of St. Mark’s. The Madonna is above the clock face. During Ascension week and Epiphany, statues of the Three Wise Men emerge to pass in front of Mary and Child in a procession. The hours and minutes are indicated in Roman and Arabic numerals on either sides of the Madonna figurine. Dating from 1858, this feature is one of the earliest examples of a digital clock!

A trip on the Grand Canal

The best way to see the Grand Canal is to hop on to the omnipresent waterbus, called a vaporetto, The canal is no longer crowded with cargo boats, but is still the main thoroughfare of Venice. The three and half kilometer trip from the railway station to San Marco, will help you understand how Venice works, giving you a beautiful introduction to the city. Every family of high repute had a palazzo on the waterfront. These were not for snob value but they were prominent commercial enterprises. Their designs are both practical and eye-catching.

The tickets for the vaporetto must be bought before boarding at most stops, or at the Venezia Unica office. If you board at a stop where the tickets are not sold, a single-trip ticket can be purchased on board. Tickets are available
  • for single trips, costing Euro 7, valid for 60 minutes on multiple boats
  • for 24 hours, costing Euro 20
  • for 48 hours, costing Euro 38
  • for 72 hours, costing Euro 40
  • for 7 days, costing Euro 60.
If you intend to stay in Venice for a few more days, plan a visit to the islands of the Venetian Lagoon – Murano and Burano in particular.

Murano

The islands of the Venetian Lagoon has been the center for glass making for 1300 years. Torcello was the place where the industry began in the 7th or 8th Century. The production shifted to Venice later, till the furnaces were moved to the island of Murano to prevent fire accidents, in 1291.

The “Venetian glass” that we know today is this very “Murano glass”! The glass industry of the island, now enjoys a resurgence under the new generation of craftsmen and masters.

 

How to reach Murano:

The vaporetto takes 10 minutes from Fondamenta Nove to reach Murano. The waterboat stops at Cimitero stop on the cemetery island of San Michele. You have a choice getting off at Colonna or Faro and follow the canals to the center.

You can’t get lost in Murano as it is a small island. If you just want to just see only the Glass Museum and the Basilica, continue your travel on the boat till Navagero or Museo, which is only a few minutes from Murano.

Burano

The island of Burano is about 40 minutes on motorboat from Venice, in the northern part of the Venetian Lagoon. The atmosphere here is much different than that of Murano or Venice’s historic center because of the Buranese custom of painting houses in bright colors. This may have had its origins in the color schemes of local fishing boats. Wherever you look, the houses are colored in bright hues of pink, blue, rose, green, purple, lavender, yellow and other hues. The small Burano houses lend a cozy feel to the island.

How to reach Burano:

Hop on to ACTV’s Line 12 boat at Fondamenta Nove in Venice or the Faro to reach Burano. It is a 33 minutes trip to Burano from Faro.

Rialto Markets

The centuries old open-air fish and produce markets across the famous 16th century Rialto bridge and the nearby meat, cheese and specialty food shops a foodies paradise. The fish market is closed on Sundays and Mondays and the produce market is closed on Sundays.

Though the local population of is only around 58,000, given that there are approximately 2 million tourists per year in Venice, there is a big market for food produce.

The Venetians have depended on the Rialto markets since 1097, for their daily supplies of fish fruits, vegetables and other foods.

The markets are open to the public. It is quite a show to see the action in the market. Crates of produce from barges unloaded by the stevedores, wares hawked by the vendors, the daily supply of fish and clams, crustaceans, mussels and oysters examined by the restaurant chefs, handcarts of fruit and vegetables pushed in by delivery men – the market is abuzz with action!

Erberia, the vegetable market and Pescheria, the fish market can be seen in their full swing only if visited early. The barges arrive at dawn and the customers start to arrive by 8 a.m. By midday (or 1 p.m.) the wholesalers and most of the retailers close shop. So, plan your visit accordingly.

Get Lost in Venice

Wandering the alleys of Venice is an exciting experience. Even if your time is limited to 3 to 4 hours in the city, do this first, even before you go to other tourist attractions. It is an essential component to enjoy your visit. Walking in the opposite direction of the crowd helps you enjoy Venice’s charming squares and streets. It helps you appreciate the city better.

You would see signs everywhere directing you to either Piazza di San Marco or the Rialto or both. But then, there may also be two signs for the same landmark pointing the opposite directions! It might be an indication that you are meant to get lost in Venice after all

Venice is a small city and you will eventually find your way! So, if you get lost, ditch the map and enjoy the amble!

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