A Visit to Venice
Venice or Venezia, Italy, is situated on 118 islands and has 438 bridges. It was built on wooden platforms supported by wooden stakes driven deep into the ground. These original wooden piles have remained intact for over 500 years.
In medieval times Venice was the greatest seaport and Europe’s link and trade route to Asia. The city was extremely wealthy and very ostentatious. Seeing Venice is like being transported back in time. It is a beautiful city full of ornate palaces, churches and bridges, with many of its buildings carved from the white marble easily transported from local quarries.
My Visit to Venice
Today there are 52,000 locals but in the height of summer there can be 70,000 visitors to Venice every day, of which only 30,000 will stay overnight. It is estimated that Venice has lost two thirds of its resident population. When I visited because of the effects of Corona virus there were only 10% of normal visitor numbers. Here life revolves around the water. There used to be over 10,000 gondolas floating along the many canals, today there are 380. Now all types of craft use the canal, including the emergency services.
For me the best time to see Venice is early in the morning before the world wakes up. I got up at 5.30am and wandered around appreciating the quiet and the solitude. My first stop was the Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge
The Ponte Di Rialto is the most famous bridge in Venice and the oldest of the 4 bridges that span the Grand Canal. The current bridge was built between 1588 – 1591. It is recognisable by its 24 foot arch. 12,000 wooden pilings support it and have done for over 400 years. It was lovely to see the bridge and the views from it without crowds of people. It is also very atmospheric at sunset.
St Mark’s Square
A maze of narrow streets full of shops brings you to Piazza San Marco, the largest square in the city and the most important. It is said that Napoleon called San Marco ‘the drawing room of Europe’.
It is home to St. Mark’s Basilica, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Venice, intricately and ornately designed with over 500 columns and 800 square metres of mosaics. It is said to contain the remains of St. Mark which had been stolen and smuggled out of Egypt. It was the first building I saw at the bottom of a narrow lane and it took my breath away. Then I stood in the vast square, devoid of people looking around at the cathedral, the Doges Palace, the bell tower and the waterfront, it was magical.
The Doges ruled the Venetian Empire until 1797 and the palace is very impressive inside and out. Inside are artworks by Titian and Tintoretto as well the Bridge of Sighs, the beautiful bridge from where prisoners got their last look of Venice before being taken to the dungeons of the prison also housed in the palace. Please be aware that due to the Corona virus outbreak the palace is currently closed.
The Bell Tower
The Basilica’s bell tower, Campanile Di San Marco is one of Venice’s most recognisable landmarks at 99 metres high. Inside a small lift with take you to the top for spectacular views over Venice and the lagoon.
At the entrance to the waterfront are 2 twelfth century columns on which sit Venice’s 2 patron saints – St Mark, as a winged lion and St. Teodoro.
The clock tower, Torre dell’Orologio is now on show again, in full working order. It shows the time, the signs of the zodiac and the current phase of the moon. It is the official timepiece of Venice to which every other clock should be set.
I also explored some of the islands and took a trip to:
Murano and Burano
Murano is known for its long tradition of glass making. Here you can see glass blowing demonstrations and shops are awash with colour from all the beautiful glass objects on display. It is a lovely place to while away an hour or two.
Book a boat trip to Murano and Burano
Burano is very pretty and is known for its colourful fisherman’s houses and its fresh seafood straight from the lagoon. It also has a history of lace making as does the city where I live in England, Nottingham.
Also worth a visit is the local fish market.
There is also a free walking tour which was excellent. It lasts around two and a half hours. I learnt a lot about the history of Venice and a few quirky facts. You go to the non-tourist areas and see parts of Venice you wouldn’t otherwise see.
One of the other bridges over the canal is the Ponte dell’Academia. The walk there is interesting past churches, squares and modern art galleries. From there a walk along the waterfront with bring you to a different type of bridge.
For me the best thing to do in Venice is just to wander. Someone said that if you’d never been lost in Venice you’ve never really been.
Where I Stayed on My Visit to Venice
I stayed at San Cassiano Ca’ Favretto which is on the Grand Canal. From the floating patio I’d drink Prosecco and watch the world go by – by boat. The views from the breakfast terrace were stunning.