Few places in the world remain nearly unchanged throughout the centuries. The northeastern coast of Italy is fortunate to boast one of these unique locations. Unique is actually the perfect word to describe this fish-shaped island. Hundreds of canals weave through the city in lieu of streets. Boats, not cars, are the motorized form of transportation of this island. Hundreds of years of history of opulence and sin line its cobble stone streets. Only one place in the world can own up to all these categories: Venice.
The Italian city of sin lives up to its nickname, La Serenissima, meaning the most serene. One can easily forget the rest of the world while in Venice. Most of its buildings have stood for several centuries. There is a certain mystique to being on an island which has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. You start to wonder how many stories the streets and walls would tell if they could speak. You also glance upon the Grand Canal and wonder how many secrets have drowned within its depths. Whatever your inclination to visit Venice, these tips will help make your trip a memorable one.
The Obvious Sights
As a city woven by hundreds of canals, bridges are not rare in Venice. The most famous and stunning of all, however, is Rialto Bridge. One of the four bridges spanning over the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge is also the city’s oldest bridge. This beautiful structure is one of the first images which comes to mind at the mention of Venice. Souvenir shops selling traditional Venetian merchandise line the bridge’s inclined ramps. These shops sell everything from Carnevale masks to miniature gondolas. On one side of Rialto Bridge, you will find clothing stores, restaurants, and gelaterias. On the other side, you will find bars and some of Venice’s nightlife. Therefore, Rialto Bridge truly is the hub of life in Venice.
Another obligatory Venetian sight is Piazza San Marco. Truly the center of Venetian culture, religion, and life, Piazza San Marco dominates the island. The crown jewel of the piazza is the magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica. The present ornate cathedral dates back to 1073, with previous versions dating back to the ninth century. The architecture is a mix of the Italian and Byzantine styles, which reflect Venice’s history as an important trade port. Golden accents embellish St. Mark’s in intricate patterns. Make sure you take the tour inside the basilica and even visit the antique crypts.
While still in Piazza San Marco, a visit to the Doge’s Palace is an absolute requirement. This Venetian Gothic building housed several generations of dogs, or dukes. The doge was the island’s monarch during its time as an important trading port. The exterior of the palace is beautifully decorated by arched windows. Once inside the palace, you will have the chance to visit the doge’s apartments, institutional chambers, and even the prison. One of the most famous prisoners of the Doge’s Palace was Giacomo Casanova, the famous womanizer. You will also be able to walk across the famous Bridge of Sighs. Don’t forget to also take a gondola ride underneath the small, picturesque bridge. Legend has it this will guarantee your return to Venice.
A final must-see in the piazza is the Campanile di San Marco. This marvelous clock tower bestows you with an immensely picturesque view of Venice, the Grand Canal, and the island of Giudecca. Quite a lengthy line, but definitely well worth the wait.
Hidden Venetian Gems
The beauty of Venice lies not only in its famous landmarks, but also in its neighborhoods, or sestieri. Cannaregio, for instance, is where travelers can go to catch glimpses of the authentic Venice. Home to the oldest Jewish ghetto in Europe, Cannaregio is a mosaic of synagogues, kosher restaurants, and Venetian culture. It is also one of the best places on the island to go for a scenic walk without the hassle of tourists. Its small, beautiful canals and ancient architecture give Cannaregio a centuries-old aura.
If neighborhoods are down your alley of interests, you should also visit Castello. This antique Venetian sestiere possesses the authenticity of local life, as it is not heavily populated by tourists. Castello is also the home of Giardini Della Biennale, a garden founded by Napoleon Bonaparte following his invasion of the city. Giardini is the perfect place to take a stroll while soaking in nature.
One of Venice’s most obscure gems is the island of San Servolo. The only way of reaching the island is by taking the number 20 vaporetto, or waterbus, from one of the stops at Piazza San Marco. The waterbuses to the island run about every 20 minutes, and the trip is 10 minutes long. This is all worth it, though. San Servolo was the home of nuns and Benedictine monks for hundreds of years. Several generations later, the island became the home of a psychiatric hospital. Today, it houses Venice International University and beautiful gardens. The small, scenic island is perfect for those who seek an escape from the bustle of Venice.
Islands off the Coast of an Island
The islands surrounding Venice are worth a visit while in La Serenissima. Famous for its glass products, Murano is one of the foremost choices. While in Murano, you will have the opportunity of visiting glass blowing factories and witnessing the process on your own. You can then purchase some beautiful Murano glass products and come back home to brag to your friends.
Burano, not to be confused with Murano, is the epitome of Venetian charm. This island is famous for its multicolored houses. The system established is so elaborate that if someone wishes to repaint their house, a request must be sent to the government. The response will include the colors permitted for that particular house. Burano is also famous for its lace products, so be sure to shop for these while you are there.
It’s Called Eataly for a Reason
This might be perhaps your favorite part of this article. Italy is world famous for its delectable cuisine. Venice is characterized by its succulent seafood dishes. Crab, anchovies, shrimp, goby, and cuttlefish are just a few among the many types of fish included in the city’s cuisine. Venetians combine these fish with handmade noodles, soups, and even risotto to create magnificent dishes that will have you screaming “Mamma mia!” nonstop.
It is true that a meal in Venice can be quite pricey for tourists. However, your wallet may not suffer as much if you visit the restaurants frequented by locals. They are wise in their choices. Imagine a hidden, quaint spot right by the Grand Canal. You can watch the gondolas and boats drift by as you indulge in a delectable dish of risotto and a glass of fine wine. The beautiful Italian language will drift to your ears as the soft risotto teases your taste buds.
No, this place is not part of the imagination. Its name is Taverna al Remer. This restaurant is concealed within the obscurity of Venetian alleys. Most tourists do not know how to reach it. However, most locals know exactly where it is. To reach it, one must definitely ask a local for directions. Still, you will not regret it. Al Remer offers an amazing daily happy hour. For only €5, you can enjoy a drink and Venetian buffet. There are other options if a buffet is not your style. You can indulge in dishes from Venice as well as other parts of Italy in this cozy restaurant.
V for Venice or V for Vino?
Italy and wine have are nearly synonymous. Therefore, a visit to Venice is incomplete without some delicious wine. Luckily, there are several places in which you can buy wine for incredibly affordable prices. Wine will be poured directly from a barrel into an empty bottle (which you must take). A liter of wine is sold for as low as €2. Trust us, it is not the equivalent of a cheap $2 wine. This heavenly nectar will be certain to rival any expensive wine in your cellar.
Another must taste while in Venice is the spritz. This typical Prosecco-based cocktail is the most enjoyed by both locals and tourists alike. The cocktail consists of Prosecco, soda water, as well as either Aperol or Campari. If you like orange-flavored cocktails then go with the Aperol. If you seek a stronger drink, then go with Campari. Either way, you are sure to enjoy Venetian spritz.
Where is the best place to mingle with locals while you enjoy some delicious vino? Campo Santa Margherita, of course! Venice might not have a lively nightlife, but this particular campo, or plaza, is rich in bars. Campo Santa Margherita is frequented by students, locals, and tourists. You will be able to buy a spritz at any bar for as low as €2. If you are lucky, your mingling will result in meeting some interesting locals who could host you on a future visit to Venice. For one thing will be certain, you will definitely want to return to La Serenissima.