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Travel Features >> Venice


May 17, 2011

“Like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go!” - a well-deserved tribute to the city of Venice by Truman Capote. This intoxicating city of canals and romance has a charming serenity and was once called `La Serenissima’, free as it was from blaring car-horns and roaring mopeds. For centuries altogether Venice was one of the most powerful and important republics of not just Italy, but also all of Europe. A seafaring, mercantile, and artistic power, which listed amongst its scions illustrious names such as Marco Polo - Venice was the ultimate in fabled cities. And unlike many other cities which have succumbed to the passage of time, Venice manages to retain much of the charm which once made it a favoured destination.

On a trip here today, you’ll still find yourself spoilt for choice. Palaces or squares? Churches or museums? Do put a little bit of all on your itinerary- they’re all worth it. Begin with the pigeon-filled Piazza San Marco, Venice’s main square, from where you can wander on to the city’s main medieval buildings, such as the beautiful Basilica di San Marco, a gem of a church on which construction began in the 9th century. From here, move on to the Palazzo Ducale, the Doge’s Palace, once a spectacular royal residence and now a museum.

Sail peacefully in a black gondola (according to law, the only gondolas in Venice which are allowed to be painted in bright colours are government-owned ones), down the Grand Canal, below the stunning Rialto Bridge and the famous Bridge of Sighs. Get back on terra firma to have a look-see at the city’s many churches: the gothic Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari; the imposing Chiesa di Santissimi Giovanni e Paolo, the city’s largest gothic church; and the historic Redentore, built by the Venetian Senate in fulfilment of a vow that they would construct a church if the plague left their city.

Spend a while at the Libreria and the Zecco (the coin mint), or wander through the fabulous display of art at the Biblioteca Marciana, the Accademia and the Collezione Peggy Guggenheim. Head out of Venice’s canals to the Lagoon, where the cemetery island of San Michele is the resting place for a number of well-known personalities, including Ezra Pound; or go to the nearby town of Murano, famed for its exquisite glass.

Making your way here
Venice’s Marco Polo airport is 12 km outside the city, with flight connections to major cities across the globe. The Santa Lucia Station is linked by rail to Bologna, Florence, Milan, Rome, Padua and Verona and to neighbouring countries. If you choose to “do it right” enter Venice on a motoscafi (motorboat) which ferries passengers till St. Mark’s Square. It takes an hour getting in and costs around EUR 9. By bus it takes 20 minutes and EUR 2.50 to get to Piazzale Roma road.

and getting around
The best way to see Venice is on foot. But if you are looking for easier options, hop a ride on a vaporetto, a traghetto, motoscafi, a bus or hire a taxi. A traghetto is a 2-man gondola and it ferries people across the Grand Canal. A Vaporetto is an ACTV water-bus. ACTV information is available at the following number: 041/5287886. Motoscafi, or motorboats, are slightly less expensive than the exclusive water taxis.

A Roof over Your Head
Accommodation in Venice is expensive compared to other Italian cities, and it is always advisable to book in advance. Without reservation, you could probably get a bed in hostel dormitories, which are numerous, but single rooms require at least a month’s notice. Tourist organisations like the AVA in the train station and at Ple.Roma at the bus station will help reserve rooms for you. San Marco has luxury hotels and is also close to Venice’s main sights.

a Good Meal, a Great Bargain and more.
Venice is packed with osterie, trattorie and bacaro. Dining here runs the whole gastronomic gamut, from exclusive restaurants to roadside cafes and bakeries. You’ll find many a menu sporting polpo, a suitably squishy word that means octopus – and tons of other seafood specialities. And the wine list never disappoints!
Shopping in Venice ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. Bring home some hand blown Murano glass, lace from Burano, hand painted carnival masks and fabric, designer apparel and accessories by big Italian names. Or load your suitcase with quirky indulgences like gondolier couture and gondola shaped pasta.

…and one Last bit of Advice.
Take a gondola ride preferably in the quiet of the evening, when the rest of Venice has returned home. Ask the gondolier to show you the smaller canals, as also the Grand Canal.

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