If you love water, Venice is a must. It’s literally a floating city. There are no cars in Venice, and the “roads” are 3 feet under water. It’s a boating city, and to get around you either walk the alleyways (which are sometimes underwater themselves), or take a boat. There are boat buses, boat taxis, and private boats. The nicer hotels will pick you up in their boat shuttle.
The Piazza San Marco is well represented by the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. In this square, you will find the beautiful Saint Mark’s Cathedral, Bell Tower, and Doge’s Palace.
The Basilica di San Marco was originally the chapel of the Doge, situated inside the Doge’s Palace and dated back to 828. It housed the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist, which Venetian merchants from Alexandria, Egypt supposedly stole several years earlier. The church burned down in 976 and was rebuilt twice, the final one we see today built in 1063. After the turmoil, it symbolized the republic’s growing power and wealth. It was the doge’s private chapel until 1807, when it became the city’s cathedral. It is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world. Due to its symbolism of wealth and power and its extravagant design and gold interior mosaics, it’s nickname is the Church of Gold.. It’s the most famous of Venice’s 120 churches.
The Campanile di San Marco is the bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica. It’s 98.6 m (323 ft) tall and houses five bells. Each bell had a purpose: the largest rang at the beginning and end of the work day, one rang at midday, another rang to call members to council meetings, another proclaimed a session of the Senate, and the last announced executions. It dates back to 1514, collapsed in 1902, and was rebuilt in 1912. From the top of the bell tower, you can see as far as the Alps. There is an elevator to take you to the top.
The Doge’s Palace, Palazzo Ducale, was constructed in two phases: the eastern wing facing the Rio di Palazzo was built between 1301 and 1340. The western wing faces the Piazza San Marco and wasn’t completed until 1450. The building is Venetian Gothic – a gothic structure with byzantine influences. Among the rows of white pillars on the Doge’s Palace are two pale pink pillars; according to legend, they mark the spot where the doge used to stand during ceremonies, and from where he read the death sentences out to the crowd below.
Venice is famous for gondolas. It’s almost illegal to visit Venice without taking a gondola ride, but the cheapest ride is 80€ for 30 minutes (120€ for 45 minutes, 160€ for one hour) so your best bet is to make new friends who want to split a gondola with you. Gondolas can hold up to 6 people, but large groups can take out multiple gondolas held together by the gondoliers. Some gondola rides are tours that will show you important buildings, churches, and homes of famous people (Marco Polo, Giacomo Casanova, etc.) Other gondola rides are romantic with one gondolier who paddles and one gondolier who sings in Italian. Being a gondolier is a prestigious title, and many fathers pass down the honor to their sons. If the family business is being a gondolier, it will stay the family business! Gondolas are as common in the Venetian canals are cars are in a street.
The Bridge of Sighs is a darkly famous bridge in Venice. According to legend, it was so named because it connected the prison to the Doge’s Palace and as prisoners crossed to the palace for sentencing, they would sigh at their last look at Venice before being brought to the dungeons or executed. The enclosed white limestone bridge has windows with stone bars. It dates back to 1600. A local legend says that lovers will have eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St. Mark’s Campanile toll. The movie A Little Romance with Laurence Olivier and Diane Lane was filmed here because of this legend.
The Rialto Bridge is one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal. It is the oldest of the four, and marks the division between San Marco and San Polo. It was built in 1181. You can get great photos of the Grand Canal and the Rialto Market from this bridge, but there are always plenty of people trying to snap a shot too. Good thing it’s a strong bridge! Souvenir shops and pop-up stands also line the inside of the bridge.
The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is a Roman Catholic church at the Grand Canal’s entrance, making it visible when entering the Piazza San Marco by water. The dome of the Salute is a symbol of the city and Venice skyline.
The Church of San Giorgio is just a shuttle away from San Marco Square on San Giorgio Island. The San Giorgio Bell Tower has an elevator to take view-seekers to the top of the bell tower for panoramic views of Venice.
La Scala Contarini di Bovolo is also known as the Snail Staircase because the external spiral staircase and arches look like a snail’s shell. This is a lesser known, lesser traveled tourist sight in Venice, down a side street that dead ends into houses and apartments. Shakespeare’s Othello was filmed here in 1952.
The Casino Venier is not a casino as you would expect it. Casini were small, hidden places in the time of the Republic used to entertain the rich and famous. Inside is very richly decorated with expensive furniture, ornate carvings and detailed paintings. In fact, the Venice Carnival that is so popular began in the casini, and the high-class of society gathered in the Casino Venier to hold masquerades and balls. Hidden in the marble floor of the entrance hall is a peephole that allowed people inside to see who was about to enter in case they needed to make a quick getaway out a back exit from the authorities. Today, the Casino Venier is the headquarters of the Italian-French Alliance, but there are still active casinos in Venice.
Carnevale is one of the most famous parties of Venice, and the shops sell masks all year long for the big party. Carnevale is an annual festival that ends with Lent. It’s a famous celebration because of its elaborate costumes and masks. The biggest Carnevale celebration in Italy is held in Venice.
Venice is famous for its Venetian Glass, made mainly on the island of Murano. It’s world-renowned for being colorful, elaborate, and skillfully made. Thought Venetian-style glassmaking is now produced in other cities and countries of Europe, Venice holds the title for the beautifully created glass.
Miscellaneous Information About Venice
Venice is a port town as well as a tourist town. You can find some of the best and freshest seafood in Venice, although since supplies are difficult to import to a town that has no roads for trucks, prices are a little higher than on the mainland. Because there are plenty of fisherman who wake up with the sun to get their catch, the little town shuts down early, with most things closed by 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. There’s not much in the way of nightlife, so the best plan is to get an early night’s sleep and wake up early to fit in a good day of walking, boating, and photography.
Wood pilings hold up the city built on submerged islands, giving it the magical name “the floating city.” There are 118 islands that make up the city. There are also 177 boat canals that connect the city. Thus, the city has 420 foot bridges to make it easily accessible by pedestrians. Everything in Venice is walkable, however boats may be a more practical option depending on the water level.
It is common for the water to rise and cover the pathways up to three feet, so pedestrians must walk through water to move around the city. No one lives in the bottom floors of houses because of constant flooding. It’s a mysterious yet beautiful city that has cleaned up its act in recent years, and you will no longer find trash in the canals.