Planning a trip to Europe in 2023? Center your dream vacation around these once-in-a-lifetime festivals! There is no better way to experience the culture of a country than celebrating its landmark eve...Read more
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Teeming with charm and romance, Venice is a truly unique city built over water on a connected web of over 117 islands on marshlands in northeast Italy on the Venetian Lagoon. Renowned for its charming canals, winding pathways, romantic bridges and a vibrant culture, Venice is one of the world's favorite cities for its abundance of character. The city is heavily traversed with more tourists visiting annually than actual residents.
Venice is the type of city that everyone should have the chance to discover. Due to its setting over the water, Venice has no cars, buses or motorized transportation on the streets. All forms of transportation are in the canals and waterways from the touristy yet romantic gondola rides to official emergency vehicles and water taxis - everything takes place in the water itself. Visitors can stroll through the many different districts by walking along the meandering pathways and over the bridges that connect many of the islands. Venice is dense with elegant cathedrals, palaces, and art museums and galleries. Amazingly, this ancient city was constructed atop water and it remains one of the more majestic destinations in the world.
Valid passport needed for entry
Italian (English is widely spoken)
Venice, Italy, is romance: a bridge arching over a canal, a gondola gliding by, the moon reflecting off water. Venice is history: the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), Piazza San Marco, the Grand Canal, great art and great museums. Venice is modern: the headline names and paparazzi of the Venice Film Festival, the buzzing excitement of Carnival in the 10 days before Lent begins.
Venice has a plethora of world-famous museums and artistic treasures. The Basilica di San Marco, with its spectacular Golden Altar; the Bridge of Sighs, where prisoners could enjoy one last glimpse of the beautiful city before entering the dark jail; the Gallerie dell'Accademia, with its collection of art of the 14th-18th centuries; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection of 20th-century art—the list is long. Pick and choose which places you'll visit in-depth, or just skim the surface and soak up the atmosphere.
Venice is set on islands connected by bridges, with the Grand Canal as its main thoroughfare, and traffic moves by boats that range from the traditional gondolas to refuse barges. The absence of automobile noise means you can hear the laughter of children from your window, as well as footsteps seemingly just around the corner. But what makes Venice so unique also challenges its existence. The rising sea levels of global climate change threaten the city, and now, more often than in the past, high tides from the Adriatic Sea can flood whole sections of the city.
Although the resident population in Venice has declined as many young people have moved to the mainland, where real-estate prices and the cost of living are lower, the city continues to draw tourists. In fact, the central areas can be packed, people may be brusque, and prices are high. Even so, Venice remains a treasure to be savored.
Sights—Basilica di San Marco; Piazza San Marco; the Grand Canal by boat or gondola; the islands of Burano, Murano and Torcello; the Lido in fair weather.
Museums—Gallerie dell'Accademia; Museo Correr; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection; the Doge's Palace; Museo Ebraico; Palazzo Fortuny.
Memorable Meals—Ca' d'Oro alla Vedova for cicheti and baked mussels; risotto alla Torcellana at Locanda Cipriani; bigoli in salsa (spaghetti with anchovy and onion sauce, a Venetian specialty) at Trattoria Gatto Nero; fried razor clams at Vini da Gigio.
Late Night—Hanging out in Campo Santa Margherita; people-watching at Piccolo Mondo; strolling the Piazza San Marco under a full moon or on a foggy night; an after-dinner drink at Vineria all'Amarone.
Walks—Crossing the Rialto Bridge; getting lost in Sestiere di San Marco; wandering down Via Garibaldi.
Especially for Kids—Dressing up for Carnival and parading around town; traghetto rides; exploring the prisons and armory of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace).
Venice sprawls across hundreds of low-lying islands in a lagoon in the northern crescent of the Adriatic Sea. A single bridge links it to the mainland city of Mestre. Traffic ends at Piazzale Roma, making the city serenely free of buses, cars and motorcycles—even bicycles are prohibited.
The city's main thoroughfare is the Grand Canal. The islands are also crisscrossed by 177 smaller canals and connected by more than 400 pedestrian bridges. Streets are narrow and winding—some little more than sidewalks between buildings. The city is divided into six sestieri (districts): Cannaregio, San Polo, San Marco, Dorsoduro, Castello and Santa Croce.
A map of the city resembles a labyrinth, but surprisingly, it is not too difficult to find your way to the main attractions. Yellow signs are posted on the buildings at most major intersections, with arrows directing you to Piazzale Roma, Ferrovia (the train station, Santa Lucia), Rialto Bridge, Accademia Bridge and Piazza San Marco.
Specific addresses, however, can be hard to find, as many streets are so small they aren't on maps. Directories usually list addresses by the name of the sestiere and the number of the building, with no reference to a street. Often the easiest way to find a shop or restaurant is to ask—most people are helpful, and many speak English. Hotel employees and shopkeepers are usually quite knowledgeable about their neighborhoods.
Several islands in the lagoon are also part of the city area or connected to the city by regular public boats. In addition to Giudecca (the large island across from the Zattere) and Lido (where you'll find beaches), the best-known are the glassmaking island of Murano, colorful Burano and the lagoon's original seat of power, Torcello. The airport is on the mainland, north of Mestre.
As invaders swept down from the Alps in the fifth century, the farmers and fisherfolk living along what is now Italy's northeastern coast sought refuge on nearby scrub-covered islands. From the safety of their lagoon in the Adriatic, Venetians began building a powerful trading empire. By the ninth century, religious and political power had moved from Torcello to the island of Rivoaltum, where the Venetian leaders began clearing the land and driving wooden piles into the mud beneath the water—laying the foundations of modern Venice.
The city's merchants and traders (including Marco Polo's relatives) amassed huge fortunes, which were invested in the city. The fortunes built grand palaces and huge churches, and funded precious art collections (some of which still adorn the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale).
At its peak in the 1400s, the Repubblica Serenissima (the Most Serene Republic, as it was known) ruled the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean—its democratic-style government served as an international model for centuries. But the republic soon began to decay, weakened by expansion wars, famines, plagues and finally by invading French troops, led by Napoleon in 1797. French control ended when Venice was ceded to the Hapsburg Empire a few years later. In 1866 it switched hands again, joining the Kingdom of Italy.
Today, Venice is the capital of Italy's Veneto region and one of the country's most visited cities. Its watery setting and tourism-based economy bring modern challenges, such as structural erosion caused by motorboat wakes and a steadily decreasing population as younger generations move to less-expensive cities with more job opportunities. The proud Venetians are not ones to give in easily, though, and as measures are being taken to protect this fragile city, more travelers from around the world will have the opportunity to discover the treasures hidden within it.
A traditional gondola is 36 ft/11 m long and weighs 1,325 lb/600 kg. They are required by law to be painted black.
In the 16th century, an anonymous writer published an escort guide for visitors that listed the names, addresses, looks, skills and costs of the most beautiful courtesans in Venice. In 1509, about 11,500 working girls are said to have offered their services in Venice, which had a population of 170,000 at the time.
Amaretti (dome-shaped cookies) were first made in Venice during the Renaissance period.
St. Mark is the patron saint of Venice. His symbol of a winged lion holding a book can be seen on many of the older buildings. If the book is open, Venice was at peace when the building was erected; if closed, Venice was at war.
Casanova made the city synonymous with lovers. Once imprisoned in the Doge's Palace, he escaped by fleeing across the rooftops.
City-son Marco Polo is attributed with introducing both pasta and window blinds to Italy from the Far East.
The still-standing "Bridge of the Tits" in San Polo was named after the working girls who displayed themselves on the bridge and in the windows of the nearby houses in a "tempting state of undress" while the light from oil lamps illuminated the spectacle.
In 2010, Giorgia Boscolo became Venice's first female gondolier. It's a lucrative business. In high season, a gondolier can make 5,000 euros a month or more (depending on their singing skills).
Glass production has a 700-year-old tradition in Venice and was once regarded as a state secret. Revealing the secret could have meant the death penalty for the "traitor."
Cruise ships no longer dock directly in Venice, instead docking at Marghera on the mainland. Formerly, the two main docking areas were San Basilio pier, in the Giudecca Canal; and the Stazione Marittima, where bigger ships docked.
The quickest way into Venice from Marghera is to take a train from the port into the center of Venice.
Because Stazione Marittima and San Basilio are part of the Terminal Venezia Passeggeri (Venice Cruise Terminal), they have tourist information, duty-free shops, ATM machines, a currency exchange bureau, free Wi-Fi and refreshment facilities. All terminals have water taxis. http://www.vtp.it.
Venice Yacht Pier offers five private yacht berths located near the Stazione Marittima, San Basilio and along the St. Mark's Basin.
Outings include walking or boat tours of San Marco, a few churches and museums, Vivaldi's home and gondola rides.
Private tour companies may offer day tours, walking tours, gondola trips, bacaro tours (walking tours of traditional wine bars where Venetian tapas, known as cichetti, are served), excursions to the glass factories and many more. Inquire about pickup from where the cruise ship is docked.
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