Exploring Venice

Venice is a magical city, and while I’ve heard tourists complain that it feels like a film set, that’s just because it’s so perfect and devoid of modern architecture. While high rents are pushing residents out, and Venice is swamped with tourists, in a city so beautiful it’s easy to see past its faults. Travelling along its glistening canals, under historic bridges and past elegant palaces, you’re transported to a completely different time.

The only way to get around Venice is by boat or on foot, and the lack of cars and motorbikes give the city a very special atmosphere. You don’t have to splash out on expensive gondolas or water taxis, however – you can enjoy most of the same views from the reasonably-priced Vaporetto (waterbus).

If it’s your first visit to Venice, head straight to Piazza San Marco, the city’s grandest square, dominated by the beautiful Basilica of San Marco, its Campanile (bell tower), and the Doge’s Palace. For amazing views over Venice’s rooftops, the lagoon, and even out to the distant Alps, pay a few Euros to take the lift to the top of the 98.6-metre Campanile, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

Next head to the nearby Bridge of Sighs, which passes over a canal connecting the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. Built in 1602, this bridge gave convicts their last view of Venice before their incarceration.

Next up, take a trip along the aptly-named Grand Canal, lined with many of the Venice’s most famous palaces and buildings such as the Accademia Gallery and Santa Maria Della Salute, a baroque church built as a votive offering for the city’s deliverance from the Plague. The canal is crossed by three important bridges: the Accademia, the famous Rialto with its double row of shops, and the Scalzi.

Venice also boasts many famous Gothic churches, museums such as the Ca’Rezzonico palace, and galleries such as Venier dei Leoni Palace, which is home to the famous Peggy Guggenheim collection.

If you’re there for more than a few days, or are on a return trip, you may be able to squeeze in a few different sights. A popular excursion is to the surrounding lagoon islands such as nearby Murano, world-famous for its glass-making factories, and Burano, known for its handmade lace. Burano in particular is a charming island, about 40 minutes from Venice by waterbus, and well worth the trip for the many photo opportunities offered up by its vibrantly-coloured fishermen’s houses and network of canals.

Finally, if you fancy a day on the beach during Venice’s warmer months, head to Lido de Venezia, an island about 12 minutes by water bus from San Marco, which is home to an 11km-long sandbar that gets heaving with sun-seekers in the summer.

Flickr: bridgink

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