A gondola ride to explore its countless canals, young lovers kissing o the Bridge of Sighs, the magnificence of St Mark’s Square, its Basilica and neighbouring Doge’s Palace — is plain to see why its magical allure never fades.
There are Venetians who have lived here for years and have still not visited all of its delights. Unfortunately the vast majority of visitors do not have that luxury.
So here’s what to see in this most wonderful of cities if you have just three days in which to do it.
St Mark’s Square is as good a place as any to start your whirlwind visit to Venice.
The square is dominated by its bell tower, the city’s tallest building, overlooking St Mark’s Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace).
The Basilica, built in the late 11th century, is said to house the remains of St Mark the Evangelist. It is topped by five magnificent domes while inside it boasts more than 4sq km of golden mosaics.
Next to the Basilica is the Gothic Doge’s Palace, which dates from the mid-15th century and served as home of the city’s rulers until the late 18th. It contains masterpieces by some of the greats of Renaissance art, such as Bassano, Veronese, Titian and Tintoretto. It is also home to the Bridge of Sighs, which leads from the Palace’s interrogation rooms to the prison cells that once held Casanova.
Once you’ve torn yourself away from the Doge’s Palace, pop into the Clock Tower, on the north side of the Square. You can climb a spiral staircase to marvel at close hand the intricate workings of the ancient timepiece.
Whether you opt for a leisurely gondola or a packed vaporetto, make this the time to explore Venice’s sprawling thoroughfare, The Grand Canal.
This 3.8km giant waterway is overlooked on each side by some of Venice’s most imposing homes and palazzi buildings, such as the Palazzo Grimani, the Fabbriche Nuove, the covered Pescaria (fish market) and the Gallerie dell'Accademia, which house Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man sketch.
The Grand Canal is spanned by four bridges, each built in a different era and the most recent dating from just 2008. The oldest and most famous is Rialto Bridge, initially built in wood but later remade in stone.
The Rialto Bridge is worthy of a stop-off. It offers superb views over Venice and is also packed with artisan and souvenir shops — offering goods of differing quality, it has to be said.
Take a stroll, too, down the Riva degli Schiavoni (Slovenes’ Dock), a lively promenade that runs alongside the waterfront at St Mark’s. Dating from the ninth century, it was built on dredged silt and named after the men (from present-day Croatia and Slovenia) who brought cargo to Venice from across the Adriatic Sea.
Don’t leave Venice without a trip to Dorsoduro the city’s southernmost sestiere which runs from the church of the Salute to the western docks.
On every morning except Sunday there is a bustling Santa Margherita street market, while the district becomes even livelier after sunset as its cafes and bars start to hum with activity.
Dorsoduro is Venice’s artistic quarter, home to writers, antique bookstores, art dealers, artisans and wealthy foreigners. There are also two famed museums here — the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which houses some of Italy’s most important modern art.
If you have the time and wish to venture slightly further afield, try Murano and Burano, two of the 30-odd islands in the Venetian lagoon.
In the late 13th century all of the city’s glassmaking furnaces were moved to Murano, ostensibly for fear of their being burned by fire in the main city. Burano, meanwhile, is very popular with tourists and renowned for its stores selling lace.
Article written by Simon
(Photo by pedrosz via Flickr)