“IN SHORT, THE MAN’S A FOOL WHO DOES NOT GO TO VENICE” – ANTON CHEKHOV
Venice is, according to many, the most beautiful city in the world. It’s certainly the most unique. If you go to Italy you don’t want to miss it, you may even travel to Italy just to see Venice.
It’s one of the world’s greatest tourist’s destinations.
Venice is small, and you can easily walk around all of it in 2-3 days.
Venice is a place where bread comes by boat. Almost every Venetian child fell into the water once in a lifetime. Many Venetians start rowing when they are young children. The Venetian style of rowing is standing up on the boat. Wealthy Venice residents drive motorboats (“motoscafi”) as if they were cars.
One of the most enchanting sights is from any watercraft, watching the mouth of the Grand Canal slide by, looking at the Doges’ Palace (Palazzo Ducale) and the Campanile of St. Mark’s. If you are close enough to the shore you can see the multitudes on St. Mark’s Square with their bright shirts.
Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, Joan Miro, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Mel Brooks, Somerset Maugham, Lauren Bacall, Peggy Guggenhein, Noel Coward are among the celebrity clientele who have dined in Venice’s restaurants, of which the most illustrious is Harry’s Bar, the bar with the richest history in Europe, the legendary 1930s bar famous for its Bellini cocktails.
The problem of high water (“acqua alta”) still exists, but it’s occasional and it will be improved by the completion of the MOSE project (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico) is in process.
When the Biennale opens, artists crowd the bars and cafes, drinking and talking,
Gondolas are exquisitely elegant, as if wearing their black evening dress.
If you visit Venice in autumn, the queues for the most famous landmarks and sights are very tolerable.
Away from the madding crowds of St. Mark’s Square, there are many oases of silence, solitude and tranquility in the secondary, narrower canals and passages, where breathtaking beauty expects you at every corner. The absence of cars has maintained large parts of Venice quiet, and you only hear the occasional exhaust bubble.
One of the best hotels in Venice is the 5-star The Gritti Palace. It is few minutes’ walk from St. Mark’s Square, but just far enough along the Grand Canal to be able to dine or luch on its terrace in majestic peace, with the stunning view of the 17th-century Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and its enormous dome in front of you across the Grand Canal. It is smaller and cosier than most international grand hotels of its type.
THE GRAND CANAL
The Grand Canal is the main artery of Venice, the longest, broadest and deepest among the city’s more than 150 canals. It is the first experience of Venice that most visitors have. It runs for the length of 4 kilometres, has a breadth of 30-70 metres and a maximum depth of 5 metres.
The Grand Canal has always been Venice’s status address; along its looping banks the aristocrats, or Nobili Homini, as they called themselves, built a hundred marble palaces with their front doors looking onto the water, framed by the peppermint stick posts of the period. Some of them reflect Byzantine influences, but most display Venetian, Gothic or Lombardesque styles, or combinations of them.
The trip along the Grand Canal is one of the most stirring moments Venice offers, at any hour of the day, and a chance for you to share the experiences of writers of the past. Starting from Piazzale Roma to St. Mark’s Square, Piazza San Marco:
THE RIALTO BRIDGE
Rialto was originally the name given to all the island on which the city was built. It established itself from the centre of trade for the inhabitants of the lagoon. Originally this part of the canal was spanned by a bridge of boats, then by a wooden bridge, and then, when the latter was on the point of collapsing, the Republic of Venice held a competition for designing a new stone structure. The aptly-named engineer Antonio da Ponte proposed a single arch spanning 48 metres.
Built in 1592 on 12,000 stakes (wooden piles), it has since defied the pessimistic predictions of the day and still stands, even with the extra weight of the two rows of shops that sit on the top of the bridge: 24 shops in all.
At the foot of bridge, on the left, there is a 16th century building: the ‘Palazzo dei Savi’, or palace of wise men concerned with the tithes.
On the right side at the foot of the bridge, there is another beautiful building of the 16th century, in Renaissance style: ‘Palazzo dei Camerlenghi’, palace of exchequers, magistrates of treasure.
FONDACO DEI TEDESCHI
The German Warehouse, to the left of the Rialto, was once the busy trading centre of Venice. The building is now the Post Office. In 1505 the building was remodelled and decorated with frescoes by Giorgione and Titian, fragments of which can be found in the Ca’ d’Oro.
Among the various islands of the Venetian lagoon, close to Venice and easily reachable by boat from Venice, are Giudecca, Murano, Burano and the less-known San Pietro in Volta.
Murano is almost synonymous with glass, having been renowned since the Middle Ages for its exquisite craft of glass making.
Burano is a lovely island with small houses, little canals and mini bridges. Everything there seems to be in miniature, the same impression I had back in England every time I visited the Isle of Wight.
Burano is very relaxing. The lace for the manufacturing of which the island is world famous in the fresh breeze flutters from the shops where it hangs.
The little houses are painted in different bright colours: orange, green, deep blue, red, pink, yellow, purple. Their roof tiles are wavy and made of terracotta. There is a very beautiful, ancient stone-and-brick steeple where grass grows out of its top.
Many international publications and magazines include Burano among the world’s top 10 most colorful cities, although its size is not that of a city.
You can get to Burano from the Rialto Bridge by water taxi (“taxi acqueo” or “motoscafo”) or water bus, a ferry boat called “vaporetto”: the latter is obviously cheaper than the former.
San Pietro in Volta is not a tourist island. it doesn’t resemble Venice, There are no canals, only ancient churches and boatyards. It has a strange, quite unique atmosphere, though. Its main square, with the cathedral, is right by the sea, with the lagoon lapping. People cycle through its cobbled streets.