Italy is one of those places in Europe that is a must see. I know that a lot of people go to Italy for their first European adventure. Why not, there are so many great cities to visit. Venice is one of those great Italian cities and in this article I am going to tell you why.
Venice is in northern Italy along the Adriatic sea. Venice consists of the mainland and the historic city. The historic city has the beautiful canals and endless bridges. If you decide to stay in the historic city you will pay more but it is worth the experience. There is nothing like walking out of your hotel in the morning and seeing the gondolas lined up in the water or seeing the vendors getting ready to open their shops.
Venice has been around for over a thousand years and some of the buildings date back to this time. The hotels not so much and they are limited on space. There is a picture of our hotel room and you can see our luggage is against the cabinet and almost touching the bed. Also, make sure that you if you want your privacy that you book a hotel room with a bathroom en-suite. Otherwise, you will really get to know your fellow travelers in ways you weren’t expecting!
|Piazza San Marco|
Our hotel was located just a few steps from Piazza San Marco or as some people call it Saint Mark’s Square. This square has been famously shown in many movies including one of my favorites The Italian Job. There are shops, cafes, and alleyways that lead to those beautiful canals all around the Piazza. Early in the morning there is nobody around, not even the pigeons. By lunch time there are swarms of visitors feeding thousands of pigeons that seem to come from the water. If you are afraid of birds, I would highly recommend staying away from this area from mid-morning to evening.
Also, part of this large Piazza is the astrological clock. If you enter into the alleyway under the clock it takes you into a labyrinth of shops, markets, cafes, gelato stands, and restaurants. It feels like it is never ending and one can easily get lost. Just enjoy the treats that are offered to you along the way. On of my husband’s favorite stories to tell is that even though we got lost, we always ended up finding the same gelato stand! He didn’t really complain since he loved the tiramisu flavored gelato and I didn’t mind it too much either.
One of the most eye catching parts of the Piazza is Saint Mark’s Basilica and Saint Mark’s Campanile (the bell tower to Saint Mark’s Basilica). The bell tower is an iconic symbol of the this historic city along with the winged lions that symbolize Saint Mark, see picture below.
Saint Mark’s Basilica is part of the Catholic church and is open for anyone to take a tour. In the hot summer months when you may be wearing a sleeveless shirt the Basilica requests your shoulders and knees be covered. If you don’t have something to cover with they will provide you with a cloth. Once inside you are mesmerized by marble floors, bright mosaics, and a treasury that boosts one of the largest collections of preserved Byzantine objects. This is a very popular site and lines can be long. According to the Basilica’s website, the average wait is 45 minutes. But they do offer reservations so plan in advance!
|Bridge of Sighs|
Right next to the Basilica is another well-known landmark, Doge’s Palace. I didn’t know what a Doge was until I went to Venice but a Doge is an elected official. Typically this was the eldest male in the city and the position was a life-long position. If you were elected you and your family lived in the Doge’s Palace. Now the Palace was both a home and work area for the elected official. It also housed the jail from which the infamous Casanova resided until his escape. Many prisoners walked over the Bridge of Sighs which was given its’ name because it was the prisoners last glimpse of the beautiful Venetian lagoon before going to jail. For an amazing experience, ask about a private tour! We had splurged and taken a VIP tour of the palace. We went into the work chambers of the all the past Doge’s, which is not typically seen by any tour, and we took secret passage ways around the palace. We even came out of a tour where a tour group was behind the red rope and thought we were famous people. Very exciting!
Venice is definitely known for it’s beautiful and plentiful canals but the main canal is the Grand Canal. You can walk up and down the canal and enjoy the site of boats, gondoliers, shops, restaurants, and brightly colored buildings. The Grand Canal is one of the wider canals that originally split Venice into San Marco and San Polo districts. The bridge that connected these two was the Rialto Bridge. Even though there are multiple bridges along the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge is the oldest. Many visitors stop along the bridge to get their photo taken over the canal. Now I really enjoyed see the Grand Canal but I preferred the more intimate canals through the rest of the city. They had charm, and honestly were not as polluted as the Grand Canal. I am not sure if it was the time of year, but there was a lot of food and bottles floating in the water.
When it comes to souvenirs in Venice purchasing one of the famous masquerade masks or Venetian masks is a must! We were told to make sure you ask around which are the authentic shops. There are a lot of stores that sell beautiful porcelain masks but the authentic ones are made from paper mache. These stores will also ship them for you so you don’t have to worry about making sure your fragile purchase makes it home in one piece.
Whichever cities you choose to see on your trip to Italy make sure that you fit in Venice. If you decide to take a gondola ride make sure that you have the Euros to pay for it. They can be quite expensive but it is a great way to see the city. There are a lot of cafes and restaurants so make sure to ask your concierge which ones they recommend. Whatever you eat will be the best meal of your life but make sure that you save room for some gelato, preferably the tiramisu flavor.
Venice was my very first European city and I want to say thank you to this beautiful, well-preserved, and romantic city for helping me understand why Life is Better Traveling.
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