As frustrating as it is fascinating, Venice is not an easy city to get to know. Getting lost is a given. The crowds can be beastly. And yes, the whole place is sinking — literally under rising sea levels, and figuratively beneath the weight of day-tripping tourists. But these obstacles have not hindered this beguiling city from establishing itself as one of the most popular must see sites in the world.
The old town centre stands on the lagoon and consists of about a hundred little islands. You can start with a boat tour from Piazzale Roma or Ferrovia through the Grand Canal which is the major canal in Venice. It is crossed by four bridges: Ponte della Costituzione (Constitution Bridge) designed by the Spanish Architect Santiago Calatrava, a modern bridge open to the public in 2008; Ponte degli Scalzi (Bridge of the Barefoot); Ponte di Rialto, the oldest and most famous bridge in Venice. Nearby is the Rialto Market to which the Bridge owes its name. You can admire the beautiful city from a Gondola, traditional Venetian boat, which is probably the greatest symbol of the city.
Jews could conduct business in Venice but they were allowed to settle in a specific neighborhood. The word Ghetto comes from the Venetian language and the Venetian Jewish Ghetto is often considered the first of the world.
Going through the Canal you can see the Ca’ d’oro (Golden House), stunning Palace on the Grand Canal and great example of Venetian Gothic Architecture.
The Gran Canal will lead up to the biggest square in Venice St. Mark Square where some of the main symbols of the city are located: the Campanile of St. Mark, rebuilt after its fall in 1902 and of which you can easily reach the top with an elevator, admiring the city from the top. The peculiar Clock Tower signs time, day, lunar cycle and zodiac, furthermore on the top of the building, two moors are striking the bell symbolizing the passing of time and the time to come. Just behind the Campanile you have St Mark’s Basilica which highlights the strong Venetian connection with Byzantium culture, it’s profusely decorated with loot from around the world. Beside the Basilica is the Doge’s Palace, former Doge’s residence and seat of the government. From the back of the palace you can cross the famous Bridge of Sighs that leads to the Prisons. In front of St. Marks Square there’s the St. Giorgio Island which hosts the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, was designed by Palladio and its decoration have been made by Tintoretto. If you are interested in paintings, you can also visit the Grande Scuola di San Rocco an ancient building filled with Tintoretto’s works. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is instead a great collection of modern art encompassing styles like Cubism, Surrealism and Futurism.
In the District of Castello is located the Venice Naval Historical Museum where you can retrace the history of the Republic of Venice admiring this great collections of boat models, costumes and weapons. Nearby the Arsenal which represented maritime supremacy of Venice and used to be the core of the naval industry back in the twelfth century.
In the neighborhood is also located La Fenice Opera House, this seventeenth century opera house is now the main in Venice, destroyed twice, which explain the name of the mythological phoenix, animal that can always rise again from its ashes.
The lagoon is full of little islands, although some of them are worthy more attention: Cimitero or San Michele is a monumental cemetery which is still in use today. Famous people have been buried there and that makes it a really interesting place to visit; Murano is well known for its glass production, furthermore if you are interested you can attend a glass-blower demonstration; Burano is renowned for the lace production and for its colored houses; Torcello even if now is the least developed island, was the place of the arrival of the first Venetians. Lastly Lido making a barrier between the Adriatic sea and the lagoon, hosts deluxe hotels and also Venice International Film Festival.
What/where to eat
Venetian cuisine offers a range of delicious recipes that can satisfy everyone’s tastes: rice and peas, Venetian liver, creamed cod and bigoli in Venetian sauce are some of the main specialties, but if you are in a hurry and with a reduced budget you can taste the famous “cicchetti” of appetizers excellent to accompany a spritz or a good Venetian wine, strictly to try in the typical bacari. In Venice you will find many places to taste traditional specialties in a magical location: from small and cheap bacari to historic taverns and bars to the most modern restaurants, you are spoiled for choice.
Florian bar. Under the arcades of the square, where the Florian bar is located, it is one of the oldest and most expensive bars in Venice. A unique atmosphere and live music, ideal for a quick snack with typical cicchetti.
Osteria Enoteca San Marco. A historic trattoria transformed into a restaurant-wine bar with an informal but elegant atmosphere where you can taste traditional specialties and excellent wines.
Tuttinpiedi. Small restaurant in the center, offering freshly cooked first courses and appetizers. As per the name of the place, there are no seats. Fast and cheap.
Enoteca Al Volto. Venice’s historic restaurant founded in 1936, between Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge, offers typical Venetian cuisine.
Rosticceria Gislon. A historic rotisserie famous for its mozzarella in a carriage, very popular since the 1800s. For the evening you can choose between a substantial meal comfortably enjoyed in a restaurant or an inexpensive aperitif based on cicchetti and the inevitable spritz, the most famous drink in Venice. Where:
Bacareto da Lele. Historic Venetian venue popular with university students. Excellent snacks for an aperitif or a quick meal and super affordable prices.
Cantina Arnaldi. A welcoming wine shop offering Venetian cuisine and the famous cicchetti to be accompanied by excellent wine.
Riviera. In addition to the suggestive views of the Giudecca canal, this elegant restaurant is one of the most appreciated for its refinement in flavors, with both meat and fish dishes. It also offers outdoor spaces.
Harry’s Bar. Ideal for those who want to immerse themselves in the timeless atmosphere of a historic place famous all over the world and declared a national heritage.
What/where to buy
Venice is not only art, history and culture, but it is also an ideal destination for shopping enthusiasts. The city and neighboring towns such as Murano and Burano are in fact renowned for their ancient craft traditions and gastronomy, thus offering many ideas for souvenirs and mementos of the day in Venice. Among the products that can not miss on the return of your trip there are:
Murano glass items; Burano lace; Venetian masks; fine and worked fabrics such as velvet and lace;
sweets, including many types of rustic biscuits such as “baicoli”, and the typical Carnival “fritole”.
Le Mercerie is the main shopping street, with luxury boutiques and souvenir shops, and extends from Piazza San Marco and the Rialto bridge, with an array of boutiques, shops and shops of all kinds, but you can find other interesting places to shop all over the city. Among the shops we suggest are:
Pied à terre. Next to the Rialto Bridge, this is one of the best shops to buy the “furlane“, typical velvet slippers worn by Venice gondoliers.
Ca-Macana. It is the ideal place to buy a typical Venetian mask and houses a laboratory where everyone can create their own personalized mask.
Atmosfera Veneziana, shop very close to Piazza San Marco and ideal for buying jewelry and household items produced with Murano glass.
Legatoria Piazzesi. It was the first paper shop in Europe and still retains the charm of the past: you will find writing paper, calendars, prints, etc.