Veni, Vidi…Venice

{“What news on the Rialto?” – Solanio, Merchant of Venice (Act I, Scene III)}

A winged-lion roars from stone carvings on the archways to Doge’s Palace, in alleyways, and from the red flag. With a patron emblem so unique as the Lion of Saint Mark, it’s no surprise that the city of Venezia is just as magical.

Lion of St Mark better
The newly elected Doge swears allegiance to the Lion of Saint Mark, who holds the Gospel in his paw (PC: Enthusiastical)

Connected by the interlacing of 400 bridges, Venice is comprised of 118 Italian islands. That said, Venice is relatively small. While your trip to Italy would be incomplete without visiting this architectural gem, you’ll only need about a day or two to finish your sight-seeing. Here are some of the highlights for the city built on water!

venice touchedup
Early morning in Venice just as the fog was lifting

THE UNSKIPPABLES

  1. Saint Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marcos) – start your trip at Piazza San Marcos (St. Mark’s Square) as you’ll be able to see quite a few interesting places from this main square. Once called the “drawing room of Europe” by Napoleon, the Piazza is a great photo spot. You can see St. Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile bell-tower, and Doge’s Palace along the perimeter, while various vendors sell trinkets like magnets, mulled wine, and very fabulous fuzzy hats (I went to Venice in foggy October).

    piazza sanmarco daytime
    A glimpse Piazza San Marcos. It’s a huge square so it’s tough to get the full concept here! (PC: AskIdeas)
  2. St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica Cattedrale di San Marcos) – Nicknamed “Chiesa d’Oro” or “the church of gold,”  in the 11th century, this gilded gothic basilica was a statement to the wealth and power of Venice, as a financial and trade capital of the world, especially during the Renaissance. Inside, the basilica is covered with intricate mosaics and 10th century Byzantine gold. Definitely worth a trip!

    St-Marks-Basilica TravelDigg
    Can you tell why it’s nicknamed the “Church of Gold”? This is what the inside of Saint Mark’s Basilica looks like! (PC: Travel Digg)
  3. Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) – I wasn’t familiar with the title “Doge” and here’s what I found! The Doge was the highest-level official elected-for-life by the Venetian aristocracy to lead the governance of Venice. Referred to as “His Serenity” or “Serene Prince,” the Doge was considered the shrewdest man in Venice. From 1923 onwards, the palace was converted to a museum. (The Bridge of Sighs connects the dungeon’s below the palace to the court).
    12308790_10153636473785907_4805741589835045834_n
    Outside the Doge’s Palace

    doge palace
    Inside Doge’s Palace (PC: Flickr Phil King)

BRIDGING THE GAP

  1. Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) – The Shakespeare “Merchant of Venice” nerd that I am, I was probably most excited to see the Rialto Bridge. Honestly, you can’t miss it. It’s the grandest bridge over the Grand Canal, and it leads to a quirky bustling market that reminded me of crowded Indian bazaars. Since I can’t pass up a good Instagram pic – and neither should you – the best spot to get a pic with the entire bridge is this spot in the corner of a café on the non-bazaar side of the Rialto.

    rialto bridge
    “What news on the Rialto?” (PC: HoWhizz)
  2. The Grand Canal (Canal Grande) – is the lifeline of Venice. Noble Venetian families from the 13th to 17th century spent a lot of money to display their status by building beautiful palazzos on the banks of this river. Today 170 building line the Grand Canal, which is busied by numerous water-buses, tourist gondolas, and private water-taxis. Until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge was the only bridge across the Grand Canal, as people preferred traveling by water in Venice. That’s why the nobles spent on the façades facing the Grand Canal rather than the streets.
    GrandCanal at Night EncyclopaediaBritannica
    The Grand Canal at Night (PC: Encyclopedia Britannica)

    12289763_10153636500135907_8159933621352029107_n
    The Grand Canal by day is lined by restaurants. It’s worth getting a table near by water so that you can enjoy the action on the river!
  3. Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) – the story behind the Bridge of Sighs was a lot less romantic than I had assumed! Translated to English by Lord Byron, the Bridge of Sighs connects the dungeons under Doge’s Palace to the newer prison near court. Legend had it that the prisoners about to serve a life-sentence sighed while crossing this bridge, as it gave them their last glimpse of Venice before being locked away. I was pretty pleased to discover that at the time that this bridge was built, few life sentences were issued, so it’s more likely they were inmates just for a couple weeks.

    Bridge of Souls TimSackton
    The Bridge of Sighs…and all its legends (PC: Flickr Tim Sackton)

DEFINITELY DO …

  1. A Gondola Ride – most likely the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Venice!
  2. Go to a Paper-mâche Mask Store – the store that we poked our heads into was actually making them right there, which was pretty cool to watch! These masks are beautiful, ornate, and the stuff of all your masquerade dreams.
  3. Stroll around Venice – there is so much to discover across each tiny bridge and little alleyway! You’ll find everything from luxury Italian brands like Fendi to cute trinket stores the deeper in you go. And even if you end up at a dead-end, it’ll probably still be artsy enough for fun photos!

    12308819_10153636500500907_7111191383433732980_n
    Strolling through Venice!

FOR THE FOODIES

  1. You’re in Italy! The food is wonderful so I’m not even going to bother picking one place to suggest! Venice gains much of its income from tourists though, so unless you’re feeling particularly generous, check the price tag before going to a restaurant. I guarantee there’s a cheaper place along the Grand Canal that still has a beautiful view.
    12308819_10153636500435907_1872290279824286385_n
    View from a restaurant by the Grand Canal we munched at for lunch! They even gave us free prosecco 🙂

    11227758_10153636500405907_8559274717753585162_n
    Hungry yet? This lobster pasta accompanied our gorgeous Grand Canal view 🙂
  2. Vin Brulé – this delicious hot mulled wine was one of the best finds during the thick October fog in Venice. Various restaurants and little cafés in the tiny alleys sold this beverage that’ll warm up your soul.

    vin brule
    Warm your soul with vin brulé ❤  (PC: Venezia Eventi)

WHERE TO STAY

My friends and I stayed in a hostel called The Generator, which had a really modern and eclectic vibe. Most people were fellow travelers in their 20s. The sleeping arrangements were 6 sets of bunkbeds to a room, if I remember correctly. My favorite part, without a doubt, was the hot chocolate bar! They had a full menu of all these different variations of hot chocolate that you could try like hazelnut or raspberry or dark chocolate. Needless to say, I was in hostel heaven.

Generator Hostel Venice
Fun hostel experience at The Generator, Venice!

All in all, Venice is absolutely wonderful and there’s lots to discover. It’s a rather mysterious and exciting place – you never know what you’ll find across a bridge! That’s probably the reason Venice has been a favorite story set for entertainers ranging from Shakespeare’s “Othello” & “Merchant of Venice,” Voltaire’s “Candide,” and even to the James Bond film “Casino Royale.” With its rich history of trade, secrecy, mafia, and nobility Venezia has a lot of influence on European culture. Definitely keep a few days for this unique city when planning your Italy travels!

11048265_10153636500270907_8856685944005816948_n
One of the coolest signboards I saw all trip! 😀 #nikitalyfe
12308703_10153636500630907_1042895736602244664_n
#nikitalyfe in Venezia, Italia (Nov 2015) Yes this is one of those fuzzy hats they sell in St. Mark’s Square that I was gushing about! 🙂

Author: Nikita Taimni

A Dubai-based blogger, I write about travel, theatre and lifestyle in the cities I explore around the world. Follow me on Instagram @nikitalyfe and follow via email if you enjoy reading my posts!

4 thoughts

    1. Thank you so much Sandy! 🙂 I hope that you get to go to Venice sometime too – it’s quite a cool place. Also, if you haven’t already, please sign up via email for my blog!

      1. Scroll to the base of the blog
      2. Enter your email
      3. Click “confirm” in the email sent to your inbox
      Thank you so much for reading!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s