As quintessential European destinations go, you can’t beat Venice. Its history, architecture, cuisine, and art all combine for an unparalleled ambience and experience.
The uniqueness of our Venetian experience began the moment we arrived at the airport. I’ve strolled through countless airports and I usually can’t wait to see the back of them. So it was a nice surprise to see something at the Venice airport that I’d never seen before. They had turned the luggage carousel into a giant roulette wheel!
Our fellow travellers placed imaginary bets on where their baggage would land and it broke the ordinary monotony to watch people groan when they “lost” or shout with glee when they “won.” It was clever advertising for a local casino, and I wish more airports would try something similar to make arrival and baggage claim more fun! (Or maybe I’m just easily amused…)
Venice itself is made up of red roof buildings with veins of waterways and canals running through the city. Here is an aerial photo I found online that gives you an idea of the density of the city. It’s not too far away from what I imagine Manhattan would look like if the East River flooded.
Large water taxis carry large groups of tourists or commuters through about two and a half miles of the most famous thoroughfare, the Grand Canal. Boarding stations are throughout the most accessible points in the city and are well marked and easy to find. We took a one of these taxis to get to the starting point of our tour, the Piazza San Marco, or ‘Saint Mark’s Square.’
Venice offers incredible architecture, but it all pales in comparison to the main feature on the piazza: Saint Mark’s Basilica. This ornate cathedral holds various treasures and holy relics, including Saint Mark’s body and what is reported to be a lock of the Virgin Mary’s hair.
There’s a great deal of history to explore in this one small area, as it’s the home to not only the Basilica, but also the Venetian Gothic architecture of the Doge Palace, and San Marco’s Clock Tower, an early Renaissance building on the north side of the Piazza San Marco.
Next, we explored the surrounding areas on foot, including the Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge across the canal, which was the dividing line for the districts of San Marco and San Polo. (Marco? Polo!)
Venice is also home to stores selling some of the most expensive and exquisite masquerade masks in the world, now more widely known as a symbol for the Venetian Carnival celebrations. Now, I like a good mask as much as the next person, and certainly appreciate the artistry and effort that goes into an individual mask. But when you’re surrounded by walls and ceilings adorned with hundreds of them it can be rather chilling.
But if you’re into the feeling of hundreds of dead-eyed, soul-less faces smiling or laughing at you as they sharpen their knives, this is the place for you. Enjoy!
We visited during the summer, so the nights took much longer to draw in, but it’s entirely worth the wait. The sunset reflects off the Venetian Lagoon that runs through and surrounds the city. You can feel a palpable shift in the atmosphere and ambiance of city. Of course, this is the ideal time to experience what Venice is probably most well-known for: gondola rides.
I have no idea whether the singing was extra.
Each gondola holds up to six people. The cost of the ride can be shared if you’re travelling in a group or if you should strike up a conversation with other couples or singletons in line at the gondola equivalent of a taxi rank. (Gondola rank sounds weird.) However, if you’re looking for a more private experience, it can come at a hefty price. The price goes up at peak times, usually around sunset or early evening when the gondoliers capitalize on the romantic atmosphere. During these hours you can pay up to 100 Euros per gondola for a trip around the canals that lasts around 40 minutes, though it’s possible to get it cheaper if you’re organized and book it in advance through a website or hotel. Despite the hefty price tag, taking a gondola through the canals is entirely worth the expense – there’s just no other way to appreciate the Floating City or the City of Bridges than from the water that runs through it!
Venice is a perfect destination for a city break. While art or architecture aficionados surely will want to spend more time there, two days were plenty for us to take it in and truly appreciate why it’s known as the Queen of the Adriatic!
Do you have advice or a recommendation for this destination? Please feel free to post the details in the comments section below!