Venice – Islands, Canals and Amore
This beautiful Italian city is world famous for its unique setting, superb architecture, and romantic gondola rides. Actually, Venice one of the most romantic cities in Europe, and according to The New York Times it is “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man”. Consisting of 118 islands that communicate with each other via bridges over beautiful canals, the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Back in the 10th century BC, the people who lived here were called Veneti, so it is not difficult to guess where the name Venice comes from. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period, the city was a significant maritime power, and later it evolved into a major center of commerce and arts. During the 13th century and all the way to the end of the 17th century, it had a lot of success in trading goods, especially grains, spice and silk. For most of its existence, Venice was a wealthy and blooming city, so naturally the arts flourished here as well. Antonio Vivaldi was just one of the many Venetians who contributed significantly to the evolution of art.
If you only have one day to visit ‘The Floating City’, the place you need to go to is the fabled Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). Always crowded with people and pigeons (be careful, feeding them is illegal!), this is the largest square in the city and one of its most significant landmarks. It dates back to the 9th century, and it is one of the lowest areas of Venice, which makes it the first ‘victim’ of acqua alta, a larger than usual tide peak that results in the flooding of several low areas in the city. At night, under the moonlight, when the Piazza is covered with water, the view is absolutely amazing.
Some very important landmarks can be seen here, including the two columns of the Piazzetta which represent the city’s patron saints, St. Mark and St. Theodore. Another remarkable sight is the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), which is an imposing yet elegant gothic construction from the 15th century. The palace was the seat of Venice’s government – yes, the city was once an independent state known as the Venetian Republic – for approximately seven centuries. Today, however, it is a remarkable museum with a very ornate exterior and lavish interiors.
Also in the square you will find St. Mark’s Basilica, an architectural masterpiece that proves the cosmopolitan character of the city. Boasting a Greek cross layout, Egyptian marble walls, Byzantine domes and Gothic rosette windows, the cathedral is truly unique and utterly beautiful. Its development took approximately 800 years, and legend says that a group of Venetian merchants stole St. Mark’s dead body from Egypt and hid it in a barrel of lard in order to bring it here, where it still lies today. A visit inside is definitely a must: almost 91,500 square feet of old, intricate mosaics made with bronze, gold and various stones will leave you breathless. The oldest of all dates back almost a thousand years.
As your day of sightseeing is slowly reaching its end, you may want to make time for one last stop. The 323 foot St. Mark’s Campanile is a great place to end your short visit to this amazing city. The Campanile is the separate bell tower of the basilica, and it is open to visitors, so make sure you climb all the way up and end your tour with a stunning view of the city. We think this is a perfect way to end a perfect day in Venice.
- The best months to visit the City of Masks are April, May and even February, for the famous Carnival of Venice.
- Just know that the city is always crowded.
- Foods to try here include sardines, riso nero (rice with tuna sauce), and fegato alla veneziana (veal liver with onions).
- If you want to buy a souvenir, go for lace, carnival masks and Murano glass.
- Coffee always tastes better if you drink it at one of the many cafes in Piazza San Marco.
- If you decide to spend the night in the city, we recommend Hotel Cipriani, or the Gritti Palace Hotel.