Short Breaks: Venice

Venice (Venezia) is a major tourist destination in Italy. With its enchanting waterways, stunning architecture, singing gondoliers, and ancient history, it is no wonder it’s nicknamed La Serenissima – “The Serene”. Venice is a city built on water; it has no roads. There are nearly 200 canals, with Grand Canal being the largest, separating the city into over 100 islands. To navigate between the islands, there are 400 bridges. To cross the Grand Canal, there are 4 bridges, the oldest of which is the Rialto Bridge, the most photographed bridge in the city which is unsurprisingly laden with tourist shops. There is no motorised transport allowed in the city, so these canals serve as ‘roads’ in Venice.

RECOMMENDED NUMBER OF DAYS: 3-5 DAYS

PRINCIPLE ACTIVITY: CULTURE

 

MUST SEE

MARK’S BASILICA

 

Believed to house the body of St. Mark (the city’s patron saint), brought from Egypt in 828AD. Just in front is St Mark’s Square, famous for its pigeons and many al fresco restaurants.

 

DOGE’S PALACE (PALAZZO DUCALE)

Once the home of the ruler of the Venetian Republic; it’s now a museum.

 

BRIDGE OF SIGHS

It connects the Doge’s Palace and the New Prisons; so named because legend has it captives crossing the bridge exhaled sighs of desperation as they were led away.

 

MUSEUMS

They’re dotted all over Venice, including the Ca’ d’Oro which houses an art collection from Baron Giorgio Franchetti, and the Gallerie dell’Accademia (Academy of Fine Arts) which houses one of several classic Madonna-and-child paintings by Giovanni Bellini.

 

THE GHETTO (‘GETTO’)

Located in Cannaregio is an ancient Jewish quarter from the 16th to 19th centuries; it consists of Ghetto Vecchio and Ghetto Nuovo, which houses 2 of the most beautiful synagogues in northern Italy: the Schola Levantina (1541) and the Schola Spagnola (1580), both featuring magnificent details.

 

NORTHERN ISLANDS

Murano, Burano, and Torcello are home to some of the oldest sites in Venice. Murano has been the home Venetian glass-making since the 13th century; Burano laces once graced European aristocracy (today it’s known for its pastel-coloured houses), and Torcello is the republic’s original island settlement, now home to just 14 permanent residents.

 

VENETIAN SPECIALTIES

VENETIAN MASKS

They are sold throughout Venice. These colourful, elaborate accessories are worn to parties during Carnival, one of the city’s biggest celebrations held during the 40 days leading up to Lent.

 

MURANO GLASS

They’re an icon of Venice. Artisans still employ centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass to souvenirs, available at workshops along Fondamenta dei Vetrai.

 

GETTING AROUND

Venice is famous for its gondolas, but if a traditional gondola with a singing gondolier is too pricey, you can opt for a traghetto – it’s a form of public transport that looks like an undecorated gondola and is a shared ride. At €2, it is technically the fifth way to cross the Grand Canal, easily accessible from a traghetto pier.

Another alternative is to get a 24-hour ACTV ticket (€20), which is a hop-on, hop-off type tour on a vaporetto (water bus) that plies the waterways and drops by the main sites.

The best way to get around is on foot, exploring the labyrinthian streets and bridges; with the crowds thinning out further away from the Rialto Bridge.

 

GETTING THERE

There are two airports in Venice – Marco Polo Airport and Treviso Airport – from where shuttle buses take you to the island, the last stop being Piazzale Roma. A water taxi is also an option when arriving from Marco Polo airport, since this airport is just next to the Venetian lagoon.

You can also arrive by train. Venice, the island, has only one train station, the Venezia Santa Lucia. Venezia Mestre station on the mainland is a 10-minute train ride to Venice.

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