Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, as this photographic slideshow by Glenda Kapsalis attests. Step in to Piazza San Marco—the only piazza in Venice—and it’s impossible not to be immediately awed by the spired facade of the Basilica di San Marco and the impossibly beautiful view out over the lagoon. Since you’ve come all this way, why not treat yourself to a cappuccino at a table in one of the cafés that sprawl under the sun.
If you’re on the hunt for picturesque scenes then look no farther than a walk around Venice’s charming streets, especially the ones that jog along canals then cross them on quaint and dainty bridges. We couldn’t think of a better day spent than getting lost in Venice, stopping for a pasta, getting lost again, stopping for a pastry, then getting lost again.
With so many wonderfully monuments of architecture and art though, if you’re in Venice, you can’t get lost for that long without running into a palace or two. The most impressive palace by far is the Palazzo Ducale, back in the Piazza San Marco. The Palazzo Ducale was ground-zero of operations for the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia (the Most Serene Republic of Venice). The guy who was in charge was called a doge, and the Palazzo Ducale is also known as the Doge’s Palace. He lived here, and all of the most important decisions that involved the maritime power were made here. The palazzo is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the world.
Many of the other palaces that housed Venice’s rich and famous are located around the Canal Grande that winds through the city and separates it in two. Their facades are facing the canal and any visitor would do well to equip themselves with a brief run down of the twenty-two palaces to be seen.
Of course there aren’t only palaces in Venice. There are also bridges! The best known bridge is the Rialto Bridge. That’s the one you see in all the photos with a gondolier dressed in a striped shirt gently using his long stick to push the gondola under. The Rialto was constructed in 1524 and replaced the much less illustrious wooden bridges that had served passage over the Canal Grande until then.
For the art lover, Venice can be a brimming wonderland of masterpieces. It was during the Renaissance that the Venetian School of painting made its great name with painters such as Titian, Giorgione, and Tintoretto. These geniuses endowed their paintings with brilliant pigments, which is what the Venetian School is known for. There are several paintings by Tintoretto in the Palazzo Ducale, but if you want to see rooms and rooms of paintings it’s best to head to the Galleria dell’Accademia and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
The Accademia alone is one of the best collections of specialist art and traces the history of Venetian painting from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The rooms unroll in chronological order, so it’s best not to get off track. Just the room that shelters the paintings of the High Renaissance boasts the names of Tintoretto, Titian, and Lorenzo Lotto. Also on display are paintings by Giovanni Bellini, Mantegna, and don’t miss Giorgione’s much lauded Tempest.
If you’re too full of art and crowds, then head over the Venetian Ghetto, arguably the first ghetto in the world—the word itself comes from the Venetian dialect. Each wave of Jewish immigrants built a synagogue and four of the decorative can be visited on an hourly tour of the area run by the Jewish Museum.
And of course, it’s impossible to evoke Venice without mentioning its Carnevale festivities that take place in the ten days before Lent, finishing on Shrove Tuesday. We’re sure you’ve seen the pictures of masked and costumed people posing before the lagoons. But being in Venice for Carnevale is an experience not to be missed. The whole city turns into a parade and masked balls are held in the Piazza San Marco and in many, much finer palaces.
Mask wearing in Venice has a peculiar history until it was outlawed by Napoleon, therefore stopping Carnevale. It’s true that masks were worn throughout the city at all times of year to ensure an anonymity for rich and poor alike, but that’s no reason to spoil the fun for one time of the year. Lucky for us, in 1979 Carnevale was reinstated by Venice’s art council and now boasts itself as one of Venice’s best times of the year.
Have you been to Venice? Do you have any experiences of that wonderful city to share?