"If you read a lot, nothing is ever as good as you imagined. Venice is -- Venice is better." ~ Fran Lebowitz
02.04.2015 - 03.04.2015 20 °C
Where did we stay? Hotel Venezia
The City of Water is old and beautiful. Walking down the narrow alleys and over the hundreds of bridges, 400 bridges to be precise, the magical feeling of Venice is lost to none. Once known as the Republic of Venice, the city is now part of Italy. The rich history of Venice can be felt everywhere, and the charm of this beautiful city takes your breathe away.
We stayed on the mainland of Venice, known as Mestre. In the past, the islands of Venice was only accessible by boat. Today, a 4km bus connects the mainland with Venice. As no cars are allowed inside Venice, all busses, trains and cars park in a big parking lot after they cross the bridge and everyone walks from there. In Venice everyone walks everywhere and walking is definitely the best way to explore this collection of 118 little islands.
Street names with Venetian corrections
Venetians have their own dialect, which is different from the Italian spoken in the rest of Italy. Venetians also used to know their way around the city without needing any street signs. Street signs have been put up by the Italian government. These do not use the Venetian dialect of not using double letters in their spelling and the Venetians have rebelled by painting over the letters on most of the signs in the city.
Signs directing you to the main areas in Venice
During the day, tourists and the general population crowd the streets. During the night, Venice gets quiet. The streets are less crowded and the narrow alleyways, some requiring single file are easier to navigate. Getting lost in Venice is the best way to explore the city, but luckily you are never really lost as there are signs everywhere pointing you towards the three main areas.
These main areas are: Piazzale Roma, Rialto and San Marco.
This is the square right at the entrance of Venice and no vehicles are allowed past this point. There are many shops here where you can buy souveniers. If you are in Venice and you want to get back to the main square or the entrance bridge, just follow the signs to Piazzale Roma.
Alleys of Venice
Exploring Venice, you will eventually come across the Grand Canal. You will recognise the canal immediately. It is the widest canal in Venice as well as the busiests canal. There are many vaporetti's (water buses), as well as gondolas and water taxis on this canal. The Rialto bridge connects the markets, which is the economic side of of Venice, to San Marco, the political side of Venice. The shops on this bridge were put here to pay for the construction of the bridge. The market was one of the busiest areas of Venice and one of the big gathering points of Venice.
"What news on the Rialto?" - Merchant of Venice (William Shakespeare)
The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal at Night
After you cross the Rialto Bridge, follow the signs and you will eventually get to San Marco's Square. San Marco hosts many of Venice's famous sights such as the the Doge's Palace, the Basilica as well as the Bell Tower. These are not political buildings anymore, but are now public buildings and museums. This square is also featured in several video games such as Tekken and Assassins Creed.
San Marco Square
The San Marco square is famous for its flooding. The holes which were designed to collect rainwater is also what floods the square. Podiums are built across the square for people to walk on. Venice sinks by 12cm a year. Venice has started building layers on top of their current floors to counteract the sinking. As a result of this, the pillars on the Doge's Palace is now much shorter than it was when the palace was built. Many lower floors of buildings are now also boarded up and unused as a result of the rising water.
Campanile di San Marco (The Campanile / Bell Tower of San Marco)
A must see in the San Marco square is the Bell Tower. For 8€, you take a lift up to the top of the tower and from here you will see a 360° view of Venice. Standing in the queue to go up the tower is well worth the wait. The views from above are beautiful and you definitely get a sense of the many canals and alleys of Venice.
San Giorgio Island from the Bell Tower
From San Marco, you can take a gondola ride through Venice. The ride will be approximately 30 minutes long and will take you through the small canals of Venice. You will see places only accessible by boat and experience the quiet, peaceful areas of Venice. A gondola ride will be 80€ and can take up to 6 people. Look for any of the areas where people are getting onto gondolas and wait in line.
1. DO GET LOST: There is no better way to explore Venice than getting lost in the narrow alleys and streets. Just follow the signs to the main areas if you feel lost.
2. DO ASK ABOUT THE SEATING FEE: As everywhere in Italy, some restaurants charge a seating fee to simply sit at a table and drink a glass of wine. That glass of wine can become expensive very quickly, especially if you are at a popular restaurant with a nice view.
3. DO GO UP HIGH: The best view of Venice is from the Bell Tower. Standing in the queue will ensure you a 360 degree view.
4. DO TAKE A MOMENT TO TAKE IT ALL IN: Buy a bottle of wine and some plastic cups and sit next to the canal. Take in the people, the gondolas, the water, the movement of Venice.