1. Piazza San Marco
Probably one of the most famous public squares known to men and it forms the social, religious and political centre of Venice. Here you will find St. Mark’s Basilica, the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), Campanile, the Torre dell’Orologio (Clock tower), Museo Correr and Museo del Risorgimento. It is Venice’s only “piazza”- the rest are called “campo”. When you walk here during the day be prepared to be completely surrounded by tourists and to see long lines at every entrance. And on top of that, you can’t be afraid of pigeons, cause they are literally everywhere. So it’s safe to say wearing a hat is a smart move. If your wish is to visit any of these landmarks make sure to book a tour in advance, you can do so at the front desk of your hotel. If you only wish to admire them from outside, wake up early in the morning and watch entire Venice wake up around you. I would advise you to arrive at the Piazza around 8 in the morning. This way you can actually enjoy the surroundings and also take some really nice photos.
2. Scala Contarini del Bovolo
Hidden in a maze of streets and canals, very close to Campo Manin, you will find an architectural gem called Scala Contarini del Bovolo. It’s not that well known by many tourists so if you are there when it opens at 10 you will be among one of the first ones to visit. The spiral staircase leads all the way up to the top and offers one of the best views Venice has to offer. The name Bovolo is a referral to the particular shape of the staircase, a snail shell, which in Venetian is said precisely bovolo.
3. Libreria Acqua Alta
Another well hidden gem Venice has to offer is this wonderful bookstore. It’s one of the most original ones I have ever seen to date. Not only do they have an enormous selection of new and old books, they are also stored in the most unconventional way. Think true Venice style: in a gondola in the middle of the shop. In the backyard you will find an enormous amount of old encyclopaedias that they formed into a staircase overlooking the wall.
4. Ponte Chiodo
This one can be found in the Cannaregio area of Venice. It’s the only bridge left in Venice without banisters. Originally a lot more of Venice’s bridges looked like this but of course this wasn’t very safe. Imagine now with all those tourists? My guess is a lot of people would end up in one of the canals. This one was able to keep it’s original appearance since it leads to a private residence.
We stayed at the Boscolo Hotel which is located in this area and it was the best decision I could have made. The city is much quieter here and it actually forces you to explore Venice outside of the standard San Marco. You will find locals eating bruschetta’s and drinking wine at little terraces and you’ll actually catch a glimpse of how they spend their day in their very own city. Cause honestly, it must be very tough living in a place that is actually overwhelmed by it’s own popularity.
6. Explore Venice by night
After all the day tourists and cruise ship passengers have left the city tends to quiet down a little. This is the time to enjoy a stroll alongside the Canale Grande or cross the Rialto Bridge. Cross over to San Polo where you can walk for hours exploring the little streets. If you have ever seen the movie “Eyes wide shut” you should definitely check out the store were the masks for this movie were created. It’s right across the bridge directly north of Campo San Barbara.
7. Go for a ride in a Gondola
If you wish to do this go for one of the gondola’s that starts in the smaller canals. This way you can avoid the business of the Canale Grande, hello big and ugly Vaporetto’s everywhere! The city of Venice sets official rates for gondola rides, which started at €80 for 40 minutes. Additional 20-minute increments are €40. After 7 p.m., the base rate climbs to €100, with €50 for an additional 20 minutes. Up to six people can share a gondola. So if you want to split the costs you can always try to share one with some other people. Don’t try to negotiate on the price, if the gondolier accepts your lower offer he will just take time off from the 40 minute ride.
8. Pay a visit to Dorsoduro
Dorsoduro is the more cultural part of the city. Here you will find an endless amount of museums such as the Guggenheim and a taste of the real life in Venice. Just hop over to the other side through the Accademia bridge. You don’t need to go far in Venice to beat the crowds, but you do need to get out of San Marco if you wish to have this experience. The place is crawling with little restaurants and wine bars for you to sit down and relax and just take in the entire atmosphere that Venice also has to offer. And did I mention this place actually offers you the best view over San Marco? Just step into the direction of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and enjoy the view of Venice’s most famous square from across the canal.
9. Enjoy Venice during Carnivale
Every year the city of Venice transforms into one big festival where literally almost everyone dresses up to the nines and hides their faces behind a mask. You can choose to just buy a mask in one of the local shops (don’t buy one from those street carts) and just walk around like that or if you are staying in a hotel you should definitely ask when you are making your reservation if they are hosting a masked ball.
10. Tintoretto’s house in Cannaregio
In the Cannaregio district in Venice stands the house of the famous painter Jacopo Robusti, known as ‘Tintoretto’ (1519-1594). His paintings can be admired all over Venice and this house even has it’s own legend.
On the facade of the building you can see a small relief of Hercules leaning on a club… Legend has it that Marietta, Tintoretto’s daughter, was approached by an old woman as she was on her way to the nearby Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto to attend Mass. The old woman gave her some Communion bread telling her that she should eat one every day in order to become like Madonna, but without sharing a word with a living soul.
Marietta agreed, but every morning, instead of swallowing it, she hid the particle in a box in the garden, buried beside a drinking trough. The animals began to kneel down in front of the drinking tough and no one could get them to move away! Marietta, alarmed, confessed the encounter with the old woman to her father: Tintoretto immediately realised that the old woman was a witch who had tried to steal his daughter’s soul with this wicked trick.
He then worked out a plan… First he brought the Communion wafers into the church and left them at the altar, then he told his daughter to lean out from her house’s balcony and invite the old woman inside. Meanwhile, Tintoretto had hidden behind the front door; as soon as the woman walked through the doorway, he hit her with a big club.
As soon as she realised that she had been trapped, the witch let out a scream and, wrapped in a cloud of smoke, escaped through the wall leaving a large hole. To cover the hole, and to guard the house, Tintoretto placed Hercules with a club – symbol of strength and masculinity – in front of it… The witch never turned up again!
Next time I will take you on a trip with me to the most colourful city in the world: Burano.
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