Venice is known as “The City of Canals,” “The Floating City,” and goes by many other names. Venice is also one of Europe’s most romantic cities.
The city stretches across 117 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy. The buildings of Venice are constructed on closely spaced wood piles, which were imported from the mainland. (Under water, in the absence of oxygen, wood does not decay. It is petrified as a result of the constant flow of mineral-rich water around and through it, so that it becomes a stone-like structure.) These 117 islands are formed by 177 canals in a shallow lagoon. The islands that form Venice are connected by 455 bridges. Venice is Europe's largest urban car-free area, unique in Europe by remaining a sizable functioning city in the 21st century entirely without motorcars or trucks.
Recently, Monte Carlo Travel, Inc. led a group that visited Venice. As we left Marco Polo Airport, it felt strange to board a water taxi to transport us to our hotel, the Hotel Giorgione, located in the Cannaregio district. The Hotel Giorgione is a 4-star hotel with upscale Venetian décor. The antiques and extraordinary Murano glass chandeliers add to the beauty of the hotel. The hotel began as a warehouse which stored sweets. In the early 19th century it was converted to an inn.
After checking into the hotel and seeing our beautiful rooms, we started our tour of Venice by taking a water taxi to the island of Murano, famous for its blown glass. Today there are not many glass factories on the island. We were given a demonstration in the art of glass blowing.
Burano was our next stop. This island is located 40 minutes via vaporetto from Venice. Burano is known for its small, brightly-painted houses, popular with artists, as well as for its handmade lace.
A gondola ride is a must for any visitor to Venice. A word to the wise - ask a few simple questions of your gondolier - price, length of ride and where you will be dropped off. They are very friendly and knowledgeable of Venice. All gondoliers must go to school and be licensed. It is quite a different perspective to see Venice via a gondola. The buildings are sitting right on the water and many have “water entrances.” The architecture is amazing. It is a wonder that Venice has looked the same for hundreds of years. Why improve on something that is so beautiful? There is so much detail in the trim of the buildings - carved wood and carved stone embellish building after building.
Saint Mark’s Square, Saint Mark’s Basilica and The Doge’s Palace were all part of our arranged walking tour. Wandering through the streets can be the best way to see Venice. There are so many alleyways and paths. Our guide brought us past the vast number of shops that sell everything from Murano glass to leather pocketbooks to Parmesan cheese. My favorite moment was wandering, turning a corner, walking through an archway, and suddenly stepping into Saint Mark’s Square.
Saint Mark’s Basilica was built in 1063. Most of the exterior brickwork is covered with various marbles and carvings, some much older than the building itself.
The Doge’s Palace, now a museum, was the home of the Doge (loosely translated as Duke) of Venice. The inner courtyard is adorned with magnificent marble statues and brickwork. The exterior of the Palace is known for its famous gothic façade. Our visit included walking over the Bridge of Sighs. This enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. A local legend says that lovers will be granted everlasting love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the bridge.
Venice has so much to offer - sights, shops, history, and, of course, the food! One cannot walk through the streets without being lured in for a fantastic meal! Pasta is all homemade, the sauces are superb, and the pizza is nothing like what we experience in the States. The people of Venice have a strong sense of pride for their city and who they are. Venetians are some of the most welcoming and warm group of people that I have experienced in my travels. Venice should be added to everyone’s must-do list!
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