After a great deal of Pinterest searching, a lot of travel reading and Youtube watching, I felt like I knew Venice before I even stepped on the grounds of the city. Romantic sunsets, hidden bridges, gondolas, Venetian masks and local boats sounded ideal for our next trip away and we were keen to experience the city that everyone was talking about.We came to Venice by train and normally I would say that train stations are faceless, boring and time inside of them is dragging but not in Venice. As soon as you walk out of the Venice train station, the view simply mesmerises you. The floating city has got a train station right next to the water. The view of beautiful boats, Venetian architecture and peaceful water is something I would gladly sit and admire even if my train was not due for another hour or so. It’s no surprise that many people choose exactly that and spend the last few hours of their time in Venice here, sitting by the train station, watching boats pass by and catching people’s emotions. Those who have just put their first step outside of the station and those who are saying their goodbyes to the city of water.I can’t deny that Venice is a city like no other separated by canals and connected by bridges. It’s one of those places in the world that you have to see and tick off your bucket list but it will not be everyone’s favourite. It’s so easy to get lost in Venice but that’s the best thing about the city as you will find little streets, empty bridges and abandoned boats on your way. That’s when you will fall in love with Venice on your own or with your travel companion, not accompanied by other groups of people you don’t even know. You probably already know that Venice is the star of the Veneto region and possibly the most popular city in northeastern Italy. When people come to Venice, they are in search of beautiful settings, architecture and artwork. The city has always been an important player in symphonic and operatic music and was the place that Antonio Vivaldi called home. Today the Venetian Lagoon and part of the city are both listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and I could not agree more on the beauty of it. You might not like the amount of tourists or how commercial some places have become but there’s one thing for sure – there’s no place like Venice. In the past Venice was the capital of the Republic of Venice and for many years it’s been known as the city of water or the floating city. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance it was a strong financial and maritime centre and it is also believed that Venice was the first real international finance centre that turned into a wealthy city at the time. As you will see later on, a lot of famous buildings in the city were build to showcase its wealth and power. In 2016, Venice was also ranked as the most beautiful city in the world. Did you know that it has over 400 bridges? 400, I know!However, during the last few years some things have changed and Venice is not at its highest as it used to be. The city is facing a lot of challenges and an excessive number of tourists in peak seasons is one of them. Piazza San Marco is overtaken by tourists, trying to capture their ideal Venetian moment, looking for places they’ve seen on their tourist guides and sometimes forgetting their manners.
As we travelled to Venice in July, we were taken aback by the reality of this problem and how half-hearted people are, including ourselves for choosing summer season to travel to Venice. Venice is not a big city and with a population of only 260, 000, I truly believe that it struggles to handle all our selfish touristic needs. So if you are planning a trip to Venice, don’t repeat our mistake and immerse with the city in Autumn or Spring. Sunsets by the water will be magical at all times and there’s an adventure waiting for you whenever you will come. Don’t forget that for some of us this is a temporary stop while for others it is a place they call home so be human & pay respect to locals.If you are pinning iconic Venetian landscapes, planning your trip across the Grand Canal or are still not sure where your Italian trip should take you, then keep on reading because I’ve got places to show you!
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco is where a lot of people would tell you the magic of the city happens and today it is the place where the majority of tourists would start their adventure from. Moreover, before the opening of the Venice’s train station, this was exactly the first stop where people would get off their ships at Piazzetta di San Marco which is a little San Marco square, joining the piazza with the lagoon. As Napoleon once said, Piazza San Marco is the drawing room of Europe and I now understand what Napoleon meant when he said it. It is the main public square in the city and without a doubt one of the most spectacular looking piazzas in the world. The only piazza in Venice to make it even more special.This time travellers are not wrong for choosing Piazza San Marco as their starting point because you get to see the best of the city’s architecture all in one place with such golden pieces as Basilica di San Marco (Basilica of St Mark’s), the Campanile (bell tower) and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) all set up on the piazza.
Basilica di San Marco
The first thing you will notice when coming to Piazza San Marco is Basilica di San Marco. Simply because it is breathtaking by any standards. The Basilica is the most famous cathedral church in Venice and is a great example of Italo-Byzantine architecture. The church is located at the eastern end of the Piazza and is connected to the Doge’s Palace. However, it was not always known as a cathedral and only got this important status in 1807. Before that, the building was the chapel of the Doge.Today Basilica di San Marco is one of the most visited places in Venice and it is famous for its extravagant design, beautiful golden mosaics and marble. It comes as no surprise that the church is a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, and was even nicknamed Chiesa d’Ora, which means Church of gold. Another interesting fact of the Basilica is that it was built to a Greek-cross plan and it has 5 domes reminiscent of Islamic design and supports 4 prancing stallions.Campanile di San Marco
The Campanile, otherwise known as the bell-tower for the St Mark’s basilica, is another highlight of Piazza San Marco. It was originally built in 1156 but had to be completely rebuilt in 1912 after the tower collapsed in 1902. During the rebuilding phase, they tried to keep as much of the old building as possible and wanted to rebuild it exactly where it was. The original Piazza San Marco Bell Tower was built as a beacon for sailors of the lagoon.Today the Campanile is one of the most recognisable symbols of the city. The tower is 98.6 metres tall and stand in a corner of Piazza San Marco, next to the Basilica. With no surprise it has got the best views over the city so if you are after beautiful landscapes reaching as far as the Alps on a sunny day, get yourself up there!
Many visitors skip this landmark because of long queues at the entrance, just like we did, however, you can book your tickets online and get a skip-the-line entrance to the San Marco Bell Tower. The only issue is that skip-the-line entrance is restricted to individual visitors as there are only 12 places available per one time slot. On the other hand, it’s your best bet if you want to go up without long queuing. Remember, you can only get skip-the-line tickets online so make sure to make time and book them in advance.Did you know that the Campanile was an inspiration behind a variety of other towers, especially in the areas that were part of former Republic of Venice? You can find similar replicas of the Campanile in Slovenia, Croatia as well as Australia, Germany and even South Africa.
The Doge’s Palace is part of the Civic Museums Foundation of Venice and is one of the essential sights to see in the city. It was originally build in 810Ad, however, it took a few stages until the building looked like it looks today, as the palace had a few devastating fires. The Doge’s Palace is located in the monumental area of Piazza San Marco and it’s been the heart of Venice ever since it’s been built. The history of the Doge’s Palace in Venice started with the transfer of the Doge’s headquarters and the radical transformation of the building was started during the 14th century. Over time the Doge’s Palace has been enriched with an array of constructive and ornamental elements.The Doge’s Palace is a unique treasure of Venice with stunning architecture and the famous Bridge of Sighs that will leave you speechless. The Bridge of Sighs was build to join the Doge’s Palace to the New Prisons. It is said that prisoners used to cross the Bridge of Sighs while walking to the prison for their last peek at beautiful Venice and they would sigh.If you’d like to visit The Doge’s Palace, it is worth knowing that you need a cumulative ticket to enter inside. This means you have to get either Museums of St. Mark’s Square ticket or a Museum pass which includes entries to another 11 museums in Venice.
For as long as I remember, Venice has always been associated with gondola rides, cheery Italian gondoliers singing romantic songs and very personal experiences around the Venice canals. It was always seen as one of the must-do things while in Venice and almost a necessity for visiting couples that way proving their love and romance to each other. Even today many people would say that a trip to Venice is not complete if you haven’t taken a gondola ride and I would like to confront them!Don’t get me wrong, I would like to sit in a gondola and go down the narrow streets of the beautiful city but I don’t agree with today’s gondola ride prices that are simply a daylight robbery! A gondola ride which is normally 40 mins long is about €80. That’s an expensive treasure to have for a single ride around the city as you will later on realise that water transportation will become your new best friend because of the complecity of the city and there is so much more to do and see in the city than just a gondola ride! If you are like me and the price really bothers you, pass on that one & enjoy it from aside.However, if you are one of those romantic travellers who wants a private tour around the city with a serenade, go for it. There’s no one who could change your mind anyway! Make sure to look around wherever you go & take pictures – you will be lucky to snap a few good shots of the city!The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal is one of the most popular canals in Venice, forming a major water-traffic corridor in the city. The canal connects Venice’s Santa Lucia train station with the aforementioned Piazza San Marco, therefore, it is a daily route used by both locals and tourists alike. The banks of the Grand Canal showcase the welfare and art of the Republic of Venice and many people suggest it is an incredibly important part of Venice to explore. The buildings reflect locals’ pride and connection with the lagoon. So make sure to make time for a trip around the canal and soak in beautiful colours of the buildings, the stunning looking Santa Maria della Salute church, waterside Venetian restaurants and passing boats and ships. You can travel around the Grand Canal by public transport such as water buses (vaporetto) or private water taxis. If you are taking a gondola ride, you will most likely pass the canal too. The best and cheapest way to experience it is on a vaporetto. To take Venice’s water bus, you need to purchase your tickets beforehand. If you are visiting Venice for a few days or planning travelling a lot during the day, you can purchase 24, 48 or 72 hour or even seven days tickets that you would have to validate on your first trip and then you are free to hop-on or hop-off as you wish. Otherwise, you can purchase single or return tickets next to the bus stops.Gelato
Italian holidays are not Italian enough if you don’t have too many portions of gelato. If there’s one country where having gelatos for your breakfast, lunch and dinner is acceptable that’s Italy and I was doing it with pleasure. Locals say that the best gelato is served in Boutique del Gelato which is located not too far away from Rialto Bridge on Salizzada San Lio. There’s one rule in Italy in regards to gelato, if you want the best one, you have to be patient to wait because there’s always big queues. That’s one of the signs of how to find a good place for gelato. If there’s a lot of people waiting, it means it is worth the wait.I can’t remember other names of places we went to for our gelato fix because I used it as an opportunity to cool down on a hot day that it was. My most go-to flavours were tiramisu, caramel and when I wanted a cooler option, I opted in for sorbets that were delicious too. In some places I truly trusted recommendations at the shop and I loved them all but I guess I am a little biased, I would eat any ice cream if you give me.Eat seafood
I remember the first time I heard about Venetian cuisine I was watching Jamie Oliver’s trip to Venice where he continuingly praised the island’s seafood selection and its freshness. We visited Venice for one day only as we decided to base ourselves in Verona and took a train to Venice which is only 1 hour long. Therefore, we did not go for dinner there and filled ourselves with quick snacks and ice cream on the go. For our lunch, we had a crazy wrap called Rotollini at Crazy Pizza place which is basically a pizza rolled up as a wrap. At first, I was a little sceptical about the place as it is located not far away from Piazza San Marco and looks like a tourist trap but wraps were delicious & it was very cheap for Venice. After that I went to check the place on TripAdvisor and it actually rates as the 23rd best place in Venice (out of 1,259). Not a bad shout for a quick snack!However, the city is famous for its seafood culinary traditions so if you are staying in Venice for a few days, make sure to try seafood and even more, try seafood that you’ve never seen or heard before. If you want to have a look at them, you can get a great variety of seafood at the Rialto market which is held next to the Rialto Bridge. Up for a challenge? Venetians say you’ve got to try granseola (a spider crab), garusoli (sea snails) or canore (mantis shrimps). Buon Appetito! Travel to Burano
Now before I even went to Venice, I’ve heard a lot about a little island of Venice called Burano which is famous for its colourful houses. It was not up for discussion at any point of our trip and we had to go to Burano no matter what. I am glad we did because the little island is incredibly beautiful and still very traditional. If you are interested to find out more, read my previous post about Burano here.You can take a vaporetto to Burano and a trip will take about 45minutes but I promise it is worth it. Have you been to Venice before? What were your favourite moments in this spectacular city? Share it with me!