Nicknamed the City of Canals, the City of Bridges and the Queen of the Adriatic, Venice is one of Italy’s - if not Europe’s - most romantic destinations. Many visitors are attracted by the allure of gondolas traversing the city’s maze-like waterways and the unique culture that can be found in the area. Leisurely strolls on the small cobblestone alleys and ornate stone arched bridges are more ingredients for a perfect holiday. Plan your enchanting escape using this Finnair travel guide to Venice.
Sights in Venice
Venice consists of 118 islands, with San Marco being probably the best known. The lively principal square is home to Saint Mark's Basilica and Doge’s Palace. Nearby, the bell tower of Campanile di San Marco affords terrific views over the lattice-like waterways and bridges. The covered Rialto Bridge, a symbol of Venice that was built in the 16th century, takes you from the square over the Grand Canal. On the other side of the canal, you will find cosy restaurants, small boutiques and the Rialto markets. Other famous islands include Murano, which is renowned for its glassmaking traditions; Burano, known for its lacework; and Lido, famed for its sandy beaches. The Jewish Ghetto of Venice offers glimpses into a different side of the city. Venice boasts an array of beautiful churches, many of which house stunning religious artwork, including Santa Maria dei Miracoli, San Giacomo di Rialto and San Simeone Piccolo. Museums are also plentiful, with the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, the Jewish Museum and the Marco Polo Museum within the larger art museum at Ca' Pesaro just a small selection to add to your travel list. Other major attractions include the glorious guild house of Scuola Grande di San Rocco and Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Of course, no visit to Venice is truly complete with taking a ride on the waters. If gondolas prove to be beyond your acceptable budget, traverse the Grand Canal by traghetto or hop aboard a motorised Vaporetto waterbus. Erbaria and Campo Santa Margherita are the main centres of nightlife in Venice.
Things to See and Do Near Venice
- Mestre – Located on the mainland, Mestre’s traditional streets are often less crowded than those in the popular tourist areas of Venice. Visit Parco San Giuliano for great views of Venice’s lagoon and Piazza Ferretto to watch local life.
- Padova – Steeped in history, this town is home to one of the world’s oldest universities and one of the earliest botanical gardens, as well as the gorgeous St. Anthony’s Cathedral and the Scrovegni Chapel with its many striking frescoes by Giotto.
- Lake Garda – An easy day trip from Venice, swap narrow canals for a vast expanse of water and admire one of Italy’s most stunning lakes. In the summer, bathing on the sandy beaches is popular.
Shopping in Venice
While you won’t find large malls and shopping centres in Venice, don’t think that it isn’t a haven for a little retail therapy; small shops, artisan workshops and boutiques are crammed down even the smallest of alleys, presenting a rather unique shopping experience.
- Piazza San Marco – The main place for designer fashions, brands include Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton.
- Campo Santo Stefano – A great place for people seeking more affordable fashions, the stores here specialise in local boutique items and clothing.
- Murano Art Shop – A top place for traditional crafts, including glasswork, carnival masks, paper work and intricate music boxes.
- San Samuele - Shops here tend to specialise in unique fashions, beautiful textiles, jewellery and crafts.
- Rialto Markets – The assortment of fresh produce, dry goods and other ingredients makes this a great place if you’re planning to cook some of your own meals in Venice, or love the idea of taking a picnic on a day out.
Food and Drink
- Polenta nella sepia – This dish of fried cornmeal, coloured and flavoured with the black ink of cuttlefish, may look a little unusual, but it’s actually very satisfying.
- Risotto al nero di seppia – Another Venetian dish that uses black ink, this seafood-based rice dish contains squid and its ink, onion, tomato and wine.
- Sarde in saor – Fried fillets of sardine are marinated in vinegar with onions, pine nuts and raisins to create a dish that finely balances sweet and sour tastes.
- Baicoli – With a seafaring history, these dry biscuits make a perfect accompaniment for coffee.
- Wine – The wider area has many vineyards and wineries, and there are even a few wines that are made on some of Venice’s islands. Try Venissa or Orto di Venezia for a truly local flavour.
Transport in Venice
As the only completely pedestrianised city on the planet, you don’t need to worry about what method of transportation to use to explore Venice!
- By foot – Although walking is the only viable option for getting around most parts of Venice, keep in mind that some passageways can be extremely narrow and that it is quite easy to get lost in the maze-like streets. Always carry a map and consider downloading an app to help you find your way around. Also, wearing comfortable shoes is highly recommended.
- Vaporetti – Water buses connect the islands and travel along the waterways. Single-journey tickets are available, but multi-day tickets are the most cost-effective way of keeping travel expenses down. Tickets should be validated before riding in a water bus. They operate on fixed routes and schedules and the services are fairly regular throughout the day. Some services operate into the night too.
- Water taxis – Providing a personalised transportation service, water taxis can be fairly expensive. They are, however, plentiful and often the best way of travelling if carrying heavy luggage.
- Traghetto – A boat service that crosses the Grand Canal, this is more cost effective than taking a water taxi. Essentially, a traghetto is an old gondola that is no longer in private service and operates on a shared passenger basis.
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