Getting away from the hustle and bustle of a city is hard to do these days. Venice on the other hand is quiet, has almost no car traffic and has a rustic almost relaxing beauty to it. Are there crowds? You bet there is especially during the summer months but still it’s one of the most enjoyable destinations in the Mediterranean. What brings travelers back year after year? Here are 12 reasons why:
1. Sail Away – It’s cheap, its fun and you get a close up view of the Grand Canal. Vaparettos are what buses are for us but on water. Navigate the ancient waterways viewing homes up to 900 years old. Known as Venetian Byzantine and Venetian Gothic styles the buildings have decorative pointed arched windows. A favorite home is the House of Gold near Ca d’Oro with striking golden tile murals in the facade. The best time to take a Vaparetto ride is in the morning. Passing by are small boats filled with fruits and vegetables and other goods in transport to the market place. The canals become a busy highway on water. Its fun to hear the people as they are floating by talking to each other.
2. Shop for Murano Glass – Take a vaparetto to Murano for an artful shopping spree! Although you can find Murano glass in Venice why not take the short 15 minute ride to the island where it’s actually made. Take a short walk to the glass factory where you can watch skilled artisans as they blow glass. You can watch as they give you a firsthand demonstration. Take time to explore Murano where you can see leaning towers along the canals and interesting buildings. Strolling the streets there are fun shops where you can buy unique items of handmade lace, glass and leather. Some of the best pizza in Venice is here too!
3. Delight in a rainbow of colors – From either Venice or adding on to your Murano trip hop a vaparetto to Burano. Here you walk and see buildings painted in red, green, yellow, orange with flowered window boxes that reflect along the canal waters. You can visit the school of lace making which was the main trade of Burano years ago and still a featured best seller for visitors. Best is choosing a restaurant on a canal kicking back with a drink and meal and taking it all in. Considered the most picturesque islands in Venice don’t forget your camera!
3. Walk the Canals – The most romantic way to see Venice is strolling the canals, bridges and narrow pathways. Try not to take a map, lose yourself and discover the hidden Venice on your own. You will probably hit a few dead ends but take time and look up the canals from them you may have the view of a lifetime! Exploring is the best way to find the best eateries, you can tell by the filled tables and amazing aromas filtering their way to your nostrils. Walking over the Venetian foot bridges take some time to linger, enjoying the peacefulness of it all. Of course you will find busier areas where young people will meet sitting on the bridges hanging out or even someone sitting on stairs that lead to the water dangling their feet in the water.
4. Visit the Guggenheim Museum – Peggy Guggenheim a New York banking heiress was a woman with a passion for art. She fell in love with European Art and traveled throughout Europe to acquire the art and open a gallery in London. She eventually grew bored with the gallery and put her thoughts towards opening a museum in London and by making a promise to herself to buy a new painting everyday. She did as she promised and the rest is history with Guggenheim museums in both Europe and America. Here in Venice houses the best of abstract and surrealist art, its one of the best in all of Europe and holds a lot of her personal favorites.
5. Bring the tastes of Italy home at Isa’s Cooking School – Who doesn’t love Italian food? Want to learn how to make it yourself, and from the best instructors? Culinary vacations are becoming a destination in themselves. Isa’s is one of the best experiences and actually less expensive than other cooking schools in Italy. Learn the art of how to make pasta from scratch, traditional Italian meals like Mama Isa’s lasagna or the Italian spin on crepe’s as a main course and desserts like tiramisu or chocolate budino. A favorite is her bread baking class where you learn the techniques on how to prepare perfect artisan breads. Mama Isa as she is known is a full-fledged chef with a private restaurant in Padua.
6. Take your breath away at St. Marks Basilica – One of the most opulent churches in the world and will literally swoon with its beauty. Built in the 9th century finished in the 11th St. Marks Basilica is a complete work of art. Nicknamed the Chiesa d’Oro or Church of Gold, this structure is almost completely covered in shimmering gold mosaic tiles that recreate stories of the bible. The Basilica holds the remains of the apostle St. Mark. Built in the shape of a cross inside the tomb is brimming with religious relics. One of the most impressive pieces inside is the Pala d’Oro. The golden panel is adorned with precious gems and Byzantine reliefs.
The most interesting is the Four Horses of St. Mark. Built in Constantinople for Theodosius II, they were eventually stolen by the Venetians in 1204. Napoleon during his reign took a liking to them and brought them to Paris. In a war with the Emperor of Austria he took and returned them to Venice. The horses on the outside balcony are copies, the original four are safely sealed inside the upstairs museum. Although it’s the most popular tourist attraction and the lines can get quite long don’t let that stop you from going in.
7. Grab a slice along the way – No kidding, this pizza is awesome! Antico Forno is the busiest parlor in Venice. Don’t expect a sit down feast it’s all takeout. Choose from thin or traditional Italian thin crust all displayed in a case with a variety of toppings. A favorite is the Margherita with basil. mozzarella and tomatoes, fantastic! Expect to pay between 2 and 4 Euro per slice. Don’t be surprised if people come up to you as you walk the alleyways of Venice eating your pizza where you got it. It’s very easy to find about a 5 minute walk from the Rialto bridge on Ruga San Giovanni, or just follow the aroma.
8. Get classical at Teatro La Fenice – One of the first music centers to hold Opera, it became so popular that it spread across the world. Although it started in Florence, Venice has one of the most beautiful theaters in the world and a must see when visiting. Built in 1774 burned to the ground, rebuilt in 1790, burned to the ground again in 1836 La Fenice or Theatre of the phoenix because it rose from ashes opened again around Christmas in 1837. All the famous venues from La traviata to Emani, Beethoven to Wagner have played even up to today. Inside is perfectly done with a lower level of seats and 5 balconies that surround the stage like a miniature coliseum. Check ahead of time to see if there will be a performance and seats while in Venice.
9. Get historic at Torre dell’Orologio Clock Tower – probably one of the most underrated attractions in Venice. In reality it is one of those small gems you don’t want to miss. There are four different levels on the exterior of notice starting with a beautiful high arched entry. Right up above is the blue clock with gold astrological figures as the numbers and roman numerals for the minutes, the hand is a pointy sun. The next level is a golden Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus. The top-level has a winged lion with a blue tiled background with golden stars. At the very top are 2 large bronze figures ringing a large bell on the hour. Its said that the figures represent the young and old, adults and children. Taking a tour of the tower is a great way to hear the history of the tower and St. Marks Square.
10. High times with a glass of wine – While wandering the streets of Venice you will find both well-known and hidden cafe’s and bars along the canals. What a great place to kick back with a glass of Tuscan wine next to the water and watch the gondolas float by. Doesn’t get any better than this! Here are a few you might want to check out. Naranzaria, Bancogiro and Pescador near the Rialto Bridge 3 establishments side by side with a grand view of the Grand Canal. Trattoria Alle Burchielle not far from the rail station but quiet and quite charming. Metri Quadrati overlooking the Canale di Cannaregio is very popular. and Al Timon in Cannaregio where both tourist and locals hang out.
11. Live a little with a delicious scoop of Gelato – Everyone knows Italy created the best frozen treat in the world. Gelato made from milk is actually smoother, more flavorful than ice cream. Fresh made is the best held in metal container with gelato swirled to the top. Favorites are cioccolato/chocolate, bacio/chocolate hazelnut, pistachio, cocco/coconut, amarena/sour cherry sauce, limone/lemon, stracciatella/chocolate chip just to name a few. Some of our favorite shops are La Mela Verde, Gelateria Nico, Gelateria del Doge and La Boutique del Gelato.
12. Doges Palace – Next to St. Mark’s Basilica is Doge’s Palace also known as Palazzo Ducale. I don’t which structure is more picturesque. Doge’s Palace with its white and pink marble facade has a balcony of columns with crosses and keys. Surrounding the Byzantine courtyard are statues. Most notable, the Venetian winged lion that Venice is so well-known for. Other statues include the patron saints throughout history and tall spiked spires. Golden gilded frescos cover the high Roman arched ceiling. Lavish rooms are filled with ornamental works of art. Hand carved golden ceilings with historic paintings of the past highlight the Sala dell Scrutinio.
The Bridge of Sighs is a link between Doges palace and prison of Venice. As prisoners crossed the bridge they would sigh at the last view of Venice before living in a dirty, dark dungeon cell.
Venice, so much to see, so much to do but if all you are in the mood for is rest and relaxation grab a towel and head for the Lido. Venice’s premier beach. No matter what type of traveler you are these islands have so much to offer whether for a day, a week or a month.