Venice
Venice
A unique city\\\\ in the world

Venice

Venice Guide

Venice, one of the most powerful maritime empires of the Middle Ages, has been for four centuries an important commercial and cultural hub of the Adriatic Sea. Known worldwide for its uniqueness, the city is in terms of architecture and urban planning one of man’s greatest creations. Most of its foundations, built on reclaimed land and stilts (approximately 100,000), are an amazing example of modern engineering, even though the reputation of the city is mainly linked to its history, art and poetic atmosphere. It was founded approximately 600 years ago, when the Venetians diverted all major rivers toward the lagoon for defense purposes, and utilized part of the lagoon to build a city virtually inaccessible from the mainland. Over the centuries the city became one of the great maritime powers of the Italian peninsula and, in addition to being one of the most important commercial hubs in the world, it became an active and popular cultural Mecca, which inspired and welcomed historical figures such as Bellini, Carpaccio, Leonardo, Giorgione, Titian, Goldoni, Vivaldi, Palladio and Marco Polo (to name a few).

With over 400 footbridges, historical palaces, churches, museums, monuments and carefully arranged stones, Venice is like a painting where every glance offers new details of rare beauty. Given the impossibility to drive around the city, the best way to explore it is by walking across the stunning calli and campi embedded in the urban fabric, and inhaling the magical atmosphere that lurks around every corner. The city is divided into 6 neighborhoods or Sestieri spread over 118 small islands in the Adriatic Sea and crossed by the Grand Canal. The climate is relatively mild, given its favorable position on the sea. All major architectural marvels of the city can be easily reached on foot or by waterbus (Vaporetto). The city is besieged by tourists virtually at all times of year, although spring and autumn months are quieter and it is therefore easier to find vacant rooms in hotels during these times.

Main Festivals and events

Venice carnival takes place 40 days before Easter. Famous for its brightly colored masks parading through the streets of the entire city, it is one of the events that attract the largest number of tourists on account of its uniqueness and extravagance. During Carnival visitors can enjoy a wide range of events and celebrations throughout the duration of the festival.
The Festa del Redentore is held in July. Each year, the Historical Regatta along the Grand Canal and the unique Festa del Redentore with the traditional fireworks display at midnight are two events not to be missed. In particular, the latter is possibly Venetians’ most cherished festival, which every year offers an incredibly fascinating show.   
The International Art Exhibition, which is held every other year at the Venice Biennale, is a unique opportunity to admire art masterpieces from around the world, assembled in a single event of significant international magnitude.
The Venice Film Festival, an event dedicated to film lovers, takes place every year in late August. It celebrates the best art movies and provides a unique opportunity to see in person the great actors of International cinema.

Venetian cuisine

Most typical dishes of Venetian cuisine include fish, and are usually served with polenta or rice. Risotto with squid ink and Risi e bisi (rice soup with beans) are among the most popular. As for vegetable side dishes, the famous artichoke bottoms and radicchio di Treviso are served very often.

Not to be missed

Cà Pesaro – Housing the Venice Museum of Modern Art it faces onto the Grand Canal and the Fondaco dei Turchi - also on the Grand Canal housing the Museum of Natural History. 

San Marco sestieri (including San Giorgio Maggiore) - This is the heart of Venice and includes many of the most famous views. The St. Mark’s area has been the heart of Venetian life since the birth of the Republic. Dominated by the Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale (The Doge’s Palace) it is the only real square in Venice as the others are defined as ‘campi’; St. Mark’s was described by Napoleon as “the most elegant drawing room in Europe”. This is the most visited part of Venice (the most expensive. The square is also home to important churches, three theatres (including La Fenice), luxury stores and restaurants. 

St. Mark’s Basilica –It is built in the shape of a Greek cross, with five enormous cupolas, it was consecrated in 832 AD to house the body of St. Mark. It was destroyed twice and rebuilt over the following centuries making it a perfect blend between Eastern and Western architecture. It became the Cathedral of Venice in 1807. Its most striking features are the mosaics on the facade and the famous Horses of St. Mark (replicas of the original golden bronzes which are now kept inside the basilica). Inside, the treasure of the Basilica includes precious spoils from Constantinople and Italian works of art. 

The Doge’s Palace – dates back to the ninth century. It was originally a fortified castle, destroyed by a series of fires and then rebuilt in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is masterpiece of Gothic architecture, both lively and elegant. It is built from marble from Verona over arches of Istrian stone, similar to lacework with a portico supported by columns. Inside the Palace, don’t miss the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, (The Higher Council Hall), Sala del Collegio and the Prisons (connected to the palace by the famous “Bridge of Sighs”. 

The Belltower – The original tower, which was completed in 1173, acted as a lighthouse for sailors on the Lagoon. In the Middle Ages, however, it was used for a torture cage inside which offenders were imprisoned and left to die. It collapsed in 1902, but thanks to large donations in following years, it was rebuilt and inaugurated on 25th April (St. Mark’s Day) 1912. 

Harry’s bar – Founded by Giuseppe Cipriani it is a modern legend that have been host to celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway and Woody Allen. It claims credit for the invention of Bellini and Carpaccio. Classic Venetian dishes are served at prime prices. 

Castello Sestieri (including San Pietro di Castello and Sant'Elena)  - The largest of the sestieri it stretches from St Marks to Canareggion in the west and Sant’Elena in the east. The Arsenale was the largest naval complex in Europe. Napoleon planned the Bienniale Gardens. Boats for Murano and Burano Islands leave from here at the Fondamenta Nove. Riva degli Schiavoni – This “promenade” along the southern quay of Castello takes its name from the merchants of Dalmatia (Schiavonia) who moored their boats there. Works by Canaletto from the 1740s and ‘50s show the area swarming with gondolas, sailing boats and barges and it is still a mooring place for boats today. This lively quay with its stalls thronged with people is the first, fascinating glimpse of city life that greets the eye of those who arrive in Venice via water. It also has a great view of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Important churches in this sestieri include: 

La Pietà – The La Pietà Church dates back to the fifteenth century and was originally an orphanage. It was rebuilt between 1745 and 1760 by Giorgio Massari. The Church had a famous choir, for which Vivaldi wrote oratorios, cantatas and vocal arrangements. 

San Zaccaria – This church, situated in a quiet square not far from Riva degli Schiavoni, features resplendent Gothic and classical Renaissance architecture. It was founded in the ninth century and completely restored between 1444 and 1515. A masterpiece can be found inside -- Virgin Enthroned with Child and Saints by Giovanni Bellini. The underground crypt houses the remains of eight of the city’s doges. 
Also San Giorgio dei Greci and Basilica di San Giovanni e Paolo.

Shopping in Venice

Wander along the famous shopping street of Le Mercerie.

Venice is a city where the merchandise tries to out do the fabulous art and architecture. You can indulge in high quality fashion, antiques, leather, jewelry, marbled paper, elegant silk, printed velvet and sumptuous brocades.

The brightly lit and well-stocked store windows cannot fail to capture your attention as you stroll through the narrow streets of Venice. Since the Middle Ages, Le Mercerie, which links St. Mark's Square to the Rialto, has been the main shopping street. It is made up of a maze of noisy, narrow streets with small workshops and boutiques and, to the west of St. Mark's, it is full of interesting and unusual shops. From the Square to the Ponte dell'Accademia (Bridge of the Academy) there are high quality stores, while souvenirs and presents can be bought north of Campo Santo Stefano. Less expensive shops are located towards Campo San Paolo, beyond the Grand Canal.

The city boasts a wide variety of products and a strong tradition of glass and lace craftsmanship. It also offers high quality fashion, antiques, leather goods, jewellery and marbled paper.

The leading names in fashion can all to be found near St. Mark's Square: Armani, Laura Biagiotti, Missoni and Valentino all have boutiques near the square. Venice is also famous for its elegant silk, printed velvet and sumptuous brocades. Some of the most admired fabrics are the fine pleated silks invented by Fortuny. There are a wealth of elegant shops specialising in modern furnishings and household items along the large boulevard viale of the Lido. The most beautiful jewellery shops are under the colonnade of St. Mark's Square.
Via Baldassarre Galuppi is the main street of the Island of Burano where you can take a break to sample some fresh fish outdoors, as well as shopping for lace and linens. On the island of Murano you can buy blown glass directly from the workshops with furnaces and showrooms.

The symbol of Venice, the mask, is sold all over the city. There are cheap, mass-produced masks, but also real craftsman-made masterpieces. You'll find some delightful examples in Castello at the Laboratorio Artigianale Maschere (Artisan Mask-Making Workshop).

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