Venice Travel Guide (Italia)

Venice is built on one hundred and seventeen small islands, and holds one hundred and fifty canals, connected by an amazing four hundred and nine bridges, of which only three cross the main canal. The area it covers is a mere 284 miles (458 kilometres). Although the city appears small, it is really quite extensive for its size with a fair number of Venice restaurants and Venice hotels (off peak) to choose from. While most tour guides don’t recommend getting lost in the majority of cities during your Venice vacation, Venice is the place to get hopelessly lost for a day. However, Venice isn’t all cities and crowded streets. Through the mysterious alleyways leading off from the city, endless mazes of backstreets and deserted squares, on your Venice trip, you'll find that this city is a perfect place to walk for hours on end, pretending to know where you are.

The unique Venice activities you'll discover during a walk around town are plentiful. The now-famous watery villages on rafts of wooden posts driven into the soil, laid the foundations for the floating palaces of today.

The traditional date of Venice's birth is given as 25 March 421, but there is little evidence to support this belief. The population is roughly 63,000 people, but there is belief that Venice will, over time, lose most of its population and become merely a large theme park, purely for the entertainment of camera-clad tourists on their very first Venice trip. People with big bums walk around everywhere.

Venice is always in celebrating something, although Venice is a particularly busy vacation city in the flourishing months of spring, especially around Easter. Venice hotel accommodations are one of the most difficult things to find around peak time, as well as around Christmas, New Year, and festival Carnevale in February. Like Italy 's other great tourist areas, Venice is not at its worst in summer. Although it's crowded, there are many other special Venice activities on offer. The most extraordinary time of year to visit is late March into May, with clear spring days and fewer crowds. September is also extraordinary in terms of weather, but October is quieter. Flooding occurs in November and December, and winter can be unpleasantly cold - although seeing Venice under a layer of snow can cast the aura of a fairy tale.

Vaporetto (water bus) is the most amazing method of getting around Venice; you won’t find too many public transport routes as unforgettable as vaporetto. Get yourself a travel pass to ride the exclusive vaporetto - single tickets don't come cheap, and are less economical if you plan to spend days touring Venice and exploring every nook and cranny.

The classic gondola ride with the opera-warbling operator is pretty touristy and expensive but the traghetto is a commuter gondola that crosses the Grand Canal at strategic points. It's quite a balance test for newbies, as you have to stand. Water taxis (motorboats) are almost as expensive as gondolas, but their pilots don't wear stripper shirts and bellow out 'O Sole Mio'.

The famous willy wonka-villages of Venice post a threat to the historical buildings, which are slowly sinking into the marshy ground. It is believed that if construction work does not continue, these buildings may, in turn, pose a threat to the safety of locals and tourists. It has been said that “When this precious place sinks, the world will be the poorer”, and also stated that Venice has a bleak future. Looking on the optimistic side, the villages are beautiful today, and are still open to being admired for years to come.

Regular buses (yes, they do exist) run from one place to another, but it's probably the least exciting way to get around the city. Obviously, don't bring the rental car to Venice - you'll just be paying to leave it in a car park for the duration, and in a few car parks you’ll find yourself with a large fine afterwards. Taxis - the regular four-wheeled variety - do operate from Piazzale Roma.

And who can forget the romantic side of Venice? Although it can be excruciatingly hot and stuffy in summer, when the tourists flock, it is nonetheless one of the most romantic cities for lovestruck Venice vacationers. With the image of an inky-blue sky laden in a full moon and dotted with stars; above a glowing cityscape, seen from a tiled square bordered by Italian words and Pizza outlets, it’s no wonder.

Like every tourist location, it’s not just tourists from the surrounding countries who visit; all kinds of people can be found, cameras at the ready, in Venice. The attractions in Venice include many remarkable structures, such as an impressive array of bronze work, tapestries and paintings from the 5th to 6th century, as well as a whole handful of amazing buildings and galleries showcasing the artistic side of Venice.

If you are looking for the upbeat bars and tasty Venice restaurants, you cannot go wrong with the area surrounding Campo di Santa Margarita in San Polo. There you will find an Irish pub, trendy bars that do the limbo, and just plain fun. The area is frequented by students from the University and is buzzing with life during the weekends as market stalls of fish and vegetables open up.

The sea surrounds Venice, so Venetian cuisine can be disappointing unless cuttlefish and sardines are what you're after. You don't order pasta in Venice; you order lots of noodles with a dab of sauce. Cichetti (chee-keht-tee) are small portions of food served in bars all over the city, usually with an ombra, which is a small glass of wine. When you go out for cichetti , you will eat standing up, hopefully in a crowded room. Mosey up to the bar, where all the cichetti will be displayed before you. A typical cichetto (this is the singular) might be a square of mortadella on a toothpick, or a rice stuffed tomato, or a ball of rice stuffed with an olive and deep fried. Summon the bartender, order your glass of wine and point to your choice of cichetti, which will then be served to you. The bartender will keep your tab going and present it to you when you are ready to leave.

Top Ten Things to Do in Venice

Collezione Peggy Guggenheim (Peggy Guggenheim Collection) - Housed in the former Venetian home of Peggy Guggenheim, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is one of the most outstanding art collections in the world. Visitors to the home -- Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which sits on the Grand Canal in Venice, can browse through works by Jackson Pollock, Max Ernst (whom Peggy Guggenheim was once married to), Picasso, Chagill, Delvaux, Salvador Dali, Duchamp, and Mondrian. Also on site is a garden of modern sculpture with Giacometti, a museum shop, and a cafe overlooking the sculpture garden. 704 Dorsoduro, I-30123, Ph: +39 041 2405411, www.guggenheim-venice.it.

Chiesa di San Giacomo di Rialto - Possibly built around 421, Chiesa di San Giacomo di Rialto, also called San Giacometo, is considered the oldest church in Venice. Highlights include the great clock, the Gothic Portico (one of the last remaining examples in the city), and the interior design.

Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica) – Finished in 1094, Basilica di San Marco houses a number of otherworldly relics from all over the world and the icon of the Madonna of Nicopeia. Other points of interest include: the atrium, the baptistery, Pala d'Oro, and the Marciano Museum and the Loggia dei Cavalli. San Marco 328, Ph: +39 041 2708311, www.basilicasanmarco.it.

Palazzo Pisani - Located between the Bridge of Rialto and the Ca'Foscari's Vault, Palazzo Pisani stands at one of the most beautiful points along the Grand Canal. The architecture is significant, due in part, to the palace’s fa├žade, which features two levels of Gothic mulliones windows. Inside, Baroque decoration can be found throughout by the best Venetian artists of the XVIIIth Century such as Giuseppe Angeli, Gaspere Diziani, Giambattista Tiepoloi, and Jacopo Guarana. Other points of interest include the grand staircase, antique furnishings, and the palace's art collections. www.pisanimoretta.com

Torre dell'Orologio (The Clock Tower) - Also known as St. Mark’s Clock Tower or the Moors Clock Tower, The Clock displays the current phase of the moon, the dominant sign of the zodiac, and of course, the time of day. The Clock Tower is 500 years old and it is one of Venice’s top tourist attractions. Torre dell'Orologio sits on St. Mark's Square – the heart of Venice. Guided tours take place at 9:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and at 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Canal Grande (The Grand Canal) - Grand views, galleries, museums, and beautiful Venetian Gothic style palaces -- these are just a few of the sights visitors will see while floating down the Grand Canal in a vaporetto (Venice waterbus). Another way to explore the Grand Canal is by Gondola or motorboat. The Grand Canal begins at Piazetta San Marco and ends at the rail station.

Museo Storico Navale (Naval History Museum) – Some of the most interesting items are on display at Museo Storico Navale such as a lavish gondola that belonged to Peggy Guggenheim and several sheds where several historic barges are displayed. The Museum has three floors featuring everything from Second World War torpedoes and artillery pieces to decorative 17th and 18th century gondola prows

San Rocco – San Rocco features canvases by Tintoretto. Works can be found throughout the entire space – in the upper and lower halls, a grand hallway, and in a separate room which includes Tintoretto’s Crucifixion.
St. Mark’s Square – St. Marks Square is the heart of Venice. Tourists flock to the square to explore many of the city’s main attractions (located here or in close proximity) including St. Marks Basilica, Doge’s Palace, Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower), and Piazetta San Marco, to name a few.

San Zaccaria – San Zaccaria is a Gothic church that also houses a number of works of art. One of the major works that can be found here is Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna Enthroned. Works by Tintoretto, Anthony Van Dyck, Bassano, Il Vecchio, and Titian can also be found here as well as the frescoes of Andrea al Castagno.

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