Venice is one of the world’s prettiest cities. As the sun
sets, its rays wash the old buildings in a rosy glow that is both
mirrored and refracted, in the murky canals.
The city is always attractive, no matter what season is. In peak-season
August, Venice glows, but under the bleak November skies, it takes
on a delicious character. It is little wonder that, long before
photography, romantic painting was popular here.
on Italy’s north-eastern Adriatic coast, is composed of 118
separate islets. 150 canals crossed by over 400 bridges divide the
islands. A 7-kms. bridge spans the Laguna Veneta (Venetian Lagoon),
and connects the city to the mainland near the town of Mestre. The
city is protected from the Adriatic Sea by the natural breakwater
of the Lido, a long, narrow sandbar that is also one of the most
fashionable resorts on the Adriatic.
The harbour city began as a place of refuge from violent barbarian
invasions in the 5th century. Mainland inhabitants fled to a group
of isolated islands. As communities grew, the islands became increasingly
connected to one another, and Venice eventually developed into a
powerful, flourishing city-state. During the Crusades, the little
maritime republic came to dominate much of the Mediterranean, and
the winged Venetian lion, symbol of St. Mark, the city’s protector,
stood guard over a network of palaces from the Strait of Gibraltar
to the Bosphorus. Venice was the city of Marco Polo.
The Doges, or city’s rulers, celebrated their command over
the Mediterranean with an annual ceremony of marriage to the sea.
Vast profits from this great empire overflowed the city’s
coffers and financed the birth of some of the world’s most
spectacular art and architecture. The Venetian school of painting,
which produced great masters of colour, began with Giorgione and
peaked in the 16th century with students like Titian Vecellio, Paolo
Veronese and Jacopo Robusti (Tintoretto).
The thousand-year Venetian independence ended with the Treaty of
Campoformio in 1797, when Napoleon traded the territory to Austria.
Then, in 1866, after nearly 70 years of Bonaparte and Habsburg domination,
the city was joined to a newly unified Italy.
Piazza San Marco
Napoleon referred to St. Mark’s Square as “ the finest
drawing room in Europe.” Bells chime, flocks of pigeons crisscross
the sky, violins play, couples hug in the sunset while visitors take
it all in from the public, yet private perspective of an outdoor café.
Just turn your head to admire St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s
Palace, the 9th-century bell tower, the clock tower where giant bronze
Moors have struck the hours for 5 centuries, the old law courts, and
the old library. In the piazzetta, where the square opens onto the
Grand Canal, there are two granite columns. The Lion of St. Mark tops
one, and a statue of St. Theodore sits atop the other.
di San Marco
Mark’s Basilica is a masterpiece of the ornate Venetian-Byzantine
architecture. The church was built in the year 830 to house the tomb
of St. Mark. When first built, it was not a cathedral at all, but
a private chapel for the Doges. The present iteration was constructed
during the 11th century, but the meticulous decoration of both the
interior and exterior continued well into the 16th century. Inside,
the walls are embellished with precious art, rare marbles and magnificent
mosaics. Behind the high altar in the chancel is the famous gold altarpiece,
the Pala d’Oro.
The Doges’ Palace is next to the Basilica. It is a pink and
white palace with an unusual double loggia that served as the residence
of the Doges and the seat of government. The finest room is the Grand
Council Chamber. Paintings by Tintoretto and Veronese decorate the
with about 200 marble palaces built between the 12th and 18th centuries,
the Grand Canal has been called “the finest street with the
finest houses in the world”. On the east bank is the Palazzo
Vendramin-Calergi, where Wagner died. Further along is the Ca’
d’Oro, or Golden House, so named because its ornate facade once
was covered in gold. Palazzo Mocenigo, where Lord Byron lived follows.
On the opposite bank are the city’s premier museums: the Guggenheim
and the Accademia.
Venice has a variable although rarely extreme climate. High humidity
can be a discomfort in the hottest period (July, August). It can
rain for prolonged periods, the rainy months being March, November
and December. The major nuisance, however, is flooding, most likely
in November and December. There is fine sunny weather throughout
the year, especially in May, June, September and October, the best
period to visit Venice, consequently these are the most expensive
How to dress
Since walking is both a necessity and a pleasure in Venice, be sure
to pack comfortable shoes. The lightweight clothing suitable for
summer should be supplemented by a sweater and an umbrella in spring
buses (vaporetti) are the main mean of transportation.
Line no. 1 stops at every landing stage along the Grand Canal, other
lines run on different routes.
Gondolas The Grand Canal may be crossed at seven
points by public gondola ferries. The privately-rented gondola,
however, remains the most delightful way of admiring Venice, as
it was built to be admired from the water.
Water taxis are readily available but very expensive,
although the prices are regulated by tariffs.
Walking Venice is so small that nothing is beyond
reasonable walking distance. The major hazard is losing one’s
way, but this can become a pleasure and a chance to discover the
hidden corners of Venice.
Venice is one of the safest towns in Europe: crime and urban violence
are nearly unknown. It is, however, suggested to take care of personal
objects, when strolling in crowded areas and on the public waterbuses,
because of the pick-pocketing.
At night, Venice is romantic, but definitely not dangerous: you
can fearless walk in any area, as there is no red-light district
The visual splendour of the Venetian food market hold out a promise
of excellent cuisine to be performed by the city’s restaurants.
The hallmarks of the Venetian cuisine are the tasty dishes of fish:
cuttlefish in their ink, fried squids, “baccalà mantecato”
(stockfish whipped with olive oil), “sarde in saor”
(marinated sardines with onion). Fish and shellfish are offered
as starters or with pasta, or grilled, boiled or baked as a main
course. Don’t miss to taste the “risotto”, the
typically Italian way to cook the rice, filled with numberless ingredients,
and the “tiramisu”, the renowned Venetian dessert.
Italy has been producing wine for more than 3,000 years and the
Veneto is the region where the highest number of DOC wines is produced.
World-known are the Soave, the Valpolicella and the Bardolino, but
many other Veneto wines worth a toast, such as the Pinot Grigio,
the Bianco di Custoza, the Torcolato. A special remark is due to
the Prosecco, sparkling white wine, ideal both as an aperitif and
as accompaniment to the seafood.
you happen to be strolling in Venice in the evening and your attention
is drawn towards a warm welcoming lighted window, stop and take
a look: if you see a long wooden table surrounded by happy and laughing
faces, you have found one of the few still existing old “osterie”,
where one can drink good wine and eat light savouries, which in
Venice, from the early 19th century, have been known as “bàcari”.
“Bàcaro” is a typical expression of this strange
city, the pleasure of meeting there, away from the house and the
cares of the day, where the lonely can always meet someone prepared
to chat to them and to share a drink. “Bàcaro”
is a relaxing place to enjoy yourself, have a good gossip with a
friend. Indeed an encouragement to those, always in a hurry, to
stop and absorb the serenity of the atmosphere.
Shopping in Venice
Venice offers a dazzling concentration of shops with enticing window
displays. You will find exclusive shops and the most celebrated
Italian stylists’ boutiques in the St. Mark’s area.
Calle dei Fabbri and the Mercerie are lined with lovely little shops
all leading to where Venetians trade and city life have always been
very active, the Rialto district. Once over the Rialto bridge, you'll
see the huge open air market which is set up everyday with fresh
fruit and vegetables, cheese, flowers. Further on and to the right
is the fish market: it is probably the most animated corner of Venice,
worth to be seen for the numberless variety of fish displayed on
the counters. Budget-priced shops can be found around Rialto area
and on the Strada Nova leading to the railway station. Inevitably
you will see a good deal of junk in Venice too, mountains of glass
bric-a-brac and cheap souvenirs.
Costume jewellery abounds in Venice at reasonable prices. Gold and
silver pieces, including some marvellous filigree, are fairly expensive
but show the stamp of Venetian craftsmanship. Some distinctive Venetian
items: 18th century Carnival masks, gondolier slippers, normally
made of velvet with rope soles, laces made by the women of Burano
island. The Murano glassware you see today - and see it you will
all over Venice - is not up to the old standards. But with patience,
the discerning buyer can find a nice piece.
Mon. 15:30-19:30, Tue. to Sat. 09:00-12:30, 15:30-19:30, Sun. closed.
Usually, from May to September main shops are open during lunch-time
and on Sundays, too.
At the Lido of Venice, between the sea and the
lagoon, lies one of the finest 18 hole courses in Europe: the course
begins inside the ancient Venetian fortress and unwinds across the
beautiful scenery of poplars, holm oaks and cluster pines. A course
6,610 yards long from the regular tees and 6,700 yards long from
the championship tees. Par 72 S.S.S. 72. Large practice course,
putting and pitching greens.
The magnificent Villa Condulmer (25 kms far from
Venice) was erected in the 17th century by the noble family Condulmer
on the ruins of a pre-existing monastery in the middle of a wide
park. The Golf Club has an 18 hole golf course, extending over a
total area of 5,955 meters with a 71 Par, S.S.S. 72. There is also
a second 9-hole course, 1670 mts, at Par 20, as well as a practice
range, a putting green and tennis court. The Villa Condulmer restaurant
is renowned for its cuisine.
At the Lido of Venice the beaches stretch for nearly two miles along
the sandy coastline of the Adriatic Sea. The sand is fine and golden,
and the seabed slopes down very gently. There are sport facilities
for all kind of water sports, sailing, windsurfing.
There are tennis courts on the Lido at the larger hotels and at
Amateurs can test their skills in archery, bicycling, canoing, rafting,
target shooting, horse riding, parachuting, ultralight flight.
- Venice is built on 118 small islands.
- More than 150 canals, called “rii”, cross the city
and around 400 bridges span these canals.
The city is divided into two unequal parts by the Grand Canal.
- Venice has only one piazza (square) - Piazza San Marco - any
other open area is a campo (meadow), so-called because it was
- Venice is divided into six sestrieri or districts: Cannaregio,
Castello, Dorsoduro, San Marco, San Polo, Santa Croce.
- The Serenissima Arsenale of Venice was the first shipyard in
the world: in the 15th century the Arsenale launched one vessel
- A gondola is traditionally composed by 280 different pieces
- Bull chasing was one of the most popular and frequently held
celebrations in the 1700s.
- Caffè Florian in Saint Mark’s Square was the first
coffee house in Europe (1720).
- When it was built, in 1907, the Excelsior Hotel in Venice Lido
was the largest hotel in the world.