Venice lies in a shallow lagoon in the Adriatic Sea surrounded by a string of islands and is an old, elegant city. It is the capital of the Veneto Region of Northeastern Italy. Venice was an important and wealthy city in the Roman Empire. As the Empire began to collapse however, people began to flee to these islands for shelter around 400 A.D. Venice began to be settled permanently around 450 A.D.
Venice came to be seen as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There is a great history here of art and architecture. From the Grand Canal’s many Palazzo’s to the Doge’s Palace (Duke) and Saint Mark’s Basilica there is always something to remind you of the deep history here. This city has a deep history in political and social institutions as well.
The traditions here run deep and are still celebrated throughout the year like Carnevale!
Venice was a major maritime power and financial power during the Renaissance and was involved in the Crusades from the beginning. The city was a very important center for commerce and art from the 13th thru the 17th century. By the end of the 15th century Venice was the second largest city after Paris in Europe and most likely the richest!
Let’s explore some of this city’s landmark buildings and sites. First the Rialto Fish and Farmer’s Market. In the morning your senses are assailed by every variety of fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits. The colors are incredible and you probably don’t have a basket big enough since I guarantee your eyes are bigger than your stomach or basket 🙂
Of course, around every corner is another magnificent church!
Carnevale Di Venezia is probably one of the most famous carnivals in the world! Beautiful costumes and Venetian masks create a magical atmosphere.
The Venice Carnival is an annual festival like Mardi Gras held each year in Venice, Italy and is famous for the elaborate masks and costumes. The Carnival ends with the celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter, the day before Ash Wednesday. This year it runs from Saturday, January 27th thru Tuesday, February 13th, 2018.
This tradition started way back in 1162 to celebrate a victory of the Venice Republic. It became an official celebration during the Renaissance. After a long drought the Carnival was reborn in 1979.
Masks were always an important part of the Venetian festival. They vary greatly in design and can be made from porcelain, glass, leather, gesso and gold leaf. Many are hand painted and employ feathers and jewels!
Did you miss the blog on Asiago located high in the mountains above Venice and Vicenza? Here is a link: Asiago
While exploring Venice you will notice six distinct neighborhoods called “sestieri”. This city is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world with its rich history of art, architecture, music, culture and of course, fashion!
Tourists are drawn to the many attractions like the Rialto Bridge and Market, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and of course the Grand Canal which is more than 2 miles long, nearly 150 feet wide and 15 feet deep. This city is unique in that it is the largest urban car free area in Europe. Did you know that of the more than 400 bridges only four cross the Grand Canal. The Rialto is the oldest and most famous which is lined with shops and tourists day and night and originally dates to 1180. It is a stone arch bridge completed around 1591 and for 300 years it was the only way to cross the Grand Canal on foot.
Known for its canals Venice transport is by boat. That means all goods and people, deliveries, mail, ambulances, garbage, police, food and funeral boats etc. are handled on the water. The classic boat is of course the gondola although today it is mostly used for tourists willing to pay dearly for that once in a lifetime experience. This is truly an art and each gondola is unique to its owner. There is only one gondola factory left on the island.
“Traghetti” are used by locals especially to cross the Grand Canal when there are no nearby bridges. Did I mention there are more than 400 hundred bridges linking the different areas of the city allowing travel by foot everywhere! Then there are the “Vaporetto’s”. These are motorized water buses basically transporting tourists up and down the canal and like our local buses you can hop on and off and back on again later.
The Grand Canal is lined by Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance structures as well as Palazzos. It is a wonderland for photographers with its landscapes, art, architecture and life on the water enhancing the light and color daily! Venice has long been known for glass and the world renowned glass industry lives on the Island of Murano in the Lagoon.
There is much to explore in Venice and it is almost too much to cover in one blog so I will try to highlight the city for you.
The city has a rich architectural history prominently Gothic in style which became known as Venetian Gothic Architecture i.e. Doge’s Palace and Ca’ d’Oro. Venetian Gothic mixes the traditional Gothic pointed arches and round medallions and a four leaf clover with Byzantine styles showcasing the tall, narrow arches atop thin columns with Islamic frills.
The Piazza- St.Mark’s Square is dominated by St. Mark’s Basilica which is older than most of Europe’s churches, the 325′ Campanile and the Doge’s Palace. Walking here you are literally transported to another time. The Basilica has a little bit of every type of architecture. You see Byzantine mosaics, Gothic pinnacles, Muslim shaped onion domes and Roman arches over the doorways. Also in the Piazza are the 15th century Clock Tower and the Campanile, the highest structure in the city built in the 9th century and rebuilt several times. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks and has a great view over the Lagoon and Venice.
St. Mark’s square is one of the lowest areas in Venice and the only public square. Flooding is often an issue from October – March during high tide cycles and causes the square to flood. (“acqua alta”) Planks are placed around to allow people passage through these areas. It is not uncommon for the lower floor of homes to be unusable due to high water. The city continues sinking at a rate of 1-2 mm per year.
Connected to the Doge’s Palace is the Bridge of Sighs, so named by Lord Byron the poet. It is said the people being sent to the prison on the other side “sighed” as they glimpsed their last look at the beautiful city of Venice.
The Piazzetta faces the lagoon and has the Doge’s Palace on one side and the library on the other and houses the San Marco column and the San Theodore column.
Across the lagoon is the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore and the most amazing views back to St. Mark’s and all of downtown Venice, the lagoon and the La Salute Church. Take in Palladio’s architecture and Tintoretto’s “Last Supper”. Take the time to go to the top of the bell tower (there is an elevator- hold on!) the views are breathtaking!
When in Venice leave plenty of time to wander, explore, get lost. You can’t get lost, after all you are on an island! It is truly magical!
On to Tuscany! This trip was a bucket list item for me as I have been planning it for 10 years. We walked almost 70 miles in 2 weeks touring Florence first and then made our base at Villa Bordoni in Greve in Chianti. From there we visited the Val d’Orcia region- Siena, San Gimignano, Montepulciano, Monticchiello, Pienza, Montalcino and Arezzo. Then bidding “arrivederci” to our new friends from Villa Bordoni we left for Pisa and finally Lucca.
Next up: Florence. Stay tuned! Did you miss Venice: Part One? Here you go! Do you prefer the Amalfi Coast? Here is link to that series! Transport yourself to another place even if only for a few minutes! Make sure to sign up to follow my blogs!