Venice: Part Two – Famous Landmarks

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.

Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge

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.

Gondola

Gondola factory
Gondola factory

“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.

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Traffic jams are part of everyday living on the canals

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.

Ca' d'oro-1
Ca’ d’Oro

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.

Campanile-1
Campanile
Basilica revised
St. Mark’s Basilica was based on a Greek cross plan with 5 big domes adorned with mosaics. It was a showcase for the wealth that was accumulated when Venice was a military power.

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.

Doge's Palace
The Doge’s Palace -with its pale pink facade is a showcase for the Venetian Gothic style- was the center of power back when the Doge was the authority and is now a museum. The corners are decorated with 14th century sculptures.

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.

Bridge of Sighs
Bridge of Sighs

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.

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Piazzetta at St. Mark’s Square

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!

San Giorgio Maggiore
Church of San Giorgio Maggiore is a 16th-century Benedictine church designed by Andrea Palladio built between 1566 and 1620 with its Neoclassic bell tower. Classical Renaissance style in white marble.

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Views from the Bell Tower
La Salute-1
La Salute Church

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!

 

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