Have you ever wanted to take a DeLorean back in time? Well, Venice doesn’t have a DeLorean, but you really don’t need one! The romance of the once richest city in Europe can easily be recreated since everything still looks the same as it did in the 15th and 16th centuries. Don a mask, enjoy the moment, and party like it’s 1499!
1.) Saint Mark’s Square
Venice is a great place to unwind and in the evening the ambiance is magical. The cruise ship crowd has cleared out and you get the true feel of the city. Make it a point to visit St. Mark’s Square in the evening. It’s some of the best real estate in all of Italy, and you will be charged accordingly if you stop to buy a drink or meal, but it is well worth every Euro. Take a seat in front of one of the three orchestras, order a glass of wine and enjoy the show.
2.) Get Lost
It’s not difficult to get lost in Venice with the narrow, twisting streets, but make it a point to go for a walk with no destination in mind. You might discover a beautiful piazza, a quiet canal-side restaurant, or few interesting shops. If you’re lucky you might happen across a masquerade shop where you can view the artists at work behind the counters crafting their intricate masks. Just make sure to invest in a good map so that when you’re ready to be found you can get to where you need to be and not get yelled at by your wife for getting permanently lost.
3.) Day Trip to Murano/Burano
Take the vaporetto to the islands of Murano and Burano and enjoy a break from the hordes of tourists in Venice. Murano is where the famous and exquisite Murano glass is produced. There’s no shortage of vases, jewelry or trinkets to purchase, so watch a free demo and support these local artisans. On the colorful island of Burano, charm abounds as well as lace products. You can buy lace dresses, tablecloths, pillow cases, scarves and so much more in a delightful atmosphere where all of the buildings are painted in cheerful colors.
4.) Saint Mark’s Basilica
Two Venetian merchants put Venice on the pilgrimage map when they stole, or “recovered,” (you say potato, I say potahto) the remains of Saint Mark from Egypt around 800 AD. St. Mark’s Basilica was built to house the remains, Saint Mark became the patron saint of Venice, and the basilica is now the most famous church in Venice. The outside is as beautiful as the inside, with detailed mosaics telling the story of the journey to recover St. Mark’s remains on the outside, and as much gold as you can imagine covering the inside.
5.) Grand Canal
Take a vaporetto down the Grand Canal. Go under the romantic Rialto Bridge and end at the famed St. Mark’s Square. Along the way, marvel at the palaces-turned-museums like Ca’ d’Oro or Ca’ Rezzonico. Venice’s wealthiest merchants lived along the Grand Canal, and there are very strict laws governing the upkeep and refurbishment of all structures in Venice so that the medieval feel is preserved.
6.) Gondola Ride
Riding in a gondola can seem like you’re taking a really expensive ride at Disney World, especially if you take one near St. Mark’s Square since the gondolas glide through the canals one after another. But, the further you get from the square, the better your experience can be. The prices are fixed, so you’ll pay the same 80 Euros for a 40 minute ride before 7pm (100 Euros after 7pm), but you might not be tailgating the gondola in front of you. Please note that the gondolas can seat up to 6 people, so you can split the cost if you want, and also, the gondoliers don’t sing like they do in the movies. Once you get into the more remote canals you will feel like you’re getting the authentic romantic experience you paid for. If you can afford the price, you should take the ride. You don’t want to leave Venice with regrets, and where else in the world can you have this experience?
7.) Rialto Market
Peruse the stalls at the Rialto Market in search of fish you’ve never seen or eaten before. This colorful market has been selling food to Venetians since 1097. From dawn to about noon Tuesdays to Saturdays, the market bustles. New boats come in every morning with fresh fish, fruit and vegetables that restaurant chefs and locals shop for their daily meals.
8.) Venetian Art
The Gallerie dell’Accademia, Scuola di San Rocco, and Friari Church are great places to see fine Venetian art. The Gallerie dell’Accademia specializes in pre-19th century Venetian art. Don’t miss Tintoretto’s Sistine Chapel at the Scuola di San Rocco. Painted in the mid 1500’s, Tintoretto depicts biblical scenes on the ceiling of the Great Upper Hall. In addition to being a beautiful church that possesses many interesting tombs of notable Venetians, the Friari Church holds Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin, which is the high altarpiece. This work really brightens up this Italian Gothic style church, so take a seat and admire the view of this painting that was created about 500 years ago.
9.) Venetian Food
When in Venice, do as the Venetians do, and eat what the Venetian’s eat! Enjoy some of the freshest fish in Italy since the fish is caught fresh and brought in daily Tuesdays through Saturdays. An exciting adventure to be had in Venetian food is going to a cicchetti bar, or doing a cicchetti bar crawl. Drink a glass of wine and eat interesting things on toothpicks while standing around the bar. Point out a few finger sandwiches, some arancini (fried rice balls) or some other unidentifiable treat. Be adventurous and try something new. You don’t know if you like it until you try it!
10.) Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace was the headquarters of the Venetian Republic for about 700 years. The Doge lived here, Venice’s political bodies were housed here, and the prisons were attached via the famous Bridge of Sighs, where prisoners had their last look of Venice before being locked away. Now a museum, the palace is one of the most famous buildings in Venice, and you can see the Doge’s apartments, the Chamber of the Great Council, the Chamber of the Council of Ten, the prisons and even walk over the Bridge of Sighs.
Venice is one of the most romantic cities I’ve visited, and when I was there I wanted time to stop so that I could wander more of the streets. It was a thrill to discover a square surrounded by apartments with window boxes spilling with flowers, a shop with an owner meticulously working at his craft, or even a quiet canal side restaurant where I could sip a glass of wine and think about how lucky I was to be there. The elegance is still alive in Venice, but I encourage you to visit soon – before it’s permanently flooded and completely covered in tourists, because the real Venice is truly beautiful.
Is there something different on your list of top things to do in Venice? Please comment and let me know what you would add. Grazie! Please be sure to check out my whole page on Italy for other great tips!
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