Hey all! At the time of posting, Hurricane Florence is headed toward the East Coast (USA), possibly followed by more. The peak of hurricane season was yesterday and it’s rumbling through making its’ presence known.
I’m hoping if anyone from the East Coast is reading this that you’re out of harms way and are safe. Positive thoughts and positive vibes being sent to anyone still there or will be returning after.
LET’S TRAVEL TO: Venice, Italy
I spent two days in Venice in July 2017. I was there with my brother and my mom and it was our last stop in Italy before we headed to Switzerland. I know there are mixed reviews for Venice. You either love it or you don’t.
|| RELATED: Spending a Weekend in
Montepulciano (Tuscany), Italy ||
We were there in peak tourist season, so it was crowded AF, hot, and smelly. I can honestly say I’m the half that just doesn’t love Venice, but that’s OK. You don’t have to love every destination in order to be grateful for the experience.
Here’s what you’re going to get from this post: fun facts about Venice, the usual and the unusual sites to check out, and then a quick bit about my time in Venice. Enjoy!
13 Fun Facts About Venice
So those facts were actually really fun to learn and I wish I would have known them before the trip. But you live and you learn, yeah?
Usual & Unusual Sites to See While in Venice
As you can tell by the name, it’s a big canal. 🙂 It is one of the major water-traffic ways in the city. One end of the canal leads into the lagoon near the Santa Lucia railway station. The other leads into the bay at San Marco. Along this canal, you’ll find over 170 buildings. If you find yourself here the first Sunday in September, you’ll get to see the competition between Venetian boats, preceded by a historical procession of gondoliers in costumes sailing in 16th century boats (remembering the entrance of the Queen of Cyprus Catherine Cornaro after abdication in 1489).
Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge)
Until the 19th century, this is the only bridge that crossed the Canal Grande, making it the oldest of the four bridges that cross the Canal. Rialto Bridge has been rebuilt several times and is now a wide-known tourist attraction. The bridge that is standing now was completed in 1591.
(Palaso Dogal) Doge’s Palace
The Palace you see today was built mostly in the 14th century. Today, the Palace is a museum, but the paintings within were created to decorate the Palace and not added later. The rooms on the second floor of the east wing are small apartments that each Doge furnished himself. If you want to check out the prisons, you’ll have to search for a private tour group because it is not included in regular public admission. Even if you don’t go in, check out the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri). This bridge connects Doge’s Palace with the first floor of the prison.
Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark’s Basilica)
Saint Mark’s Basilica is the cathedral church of the roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. It is the most famous church and best known church in Venice and is connected to the Doge’s Palace. There have been several Saint Mark’s since about 828. The first church was burned in a rebellion in 976, but was rebuilt in 978. Around 1063, the current basilica was built. In 1106, the church was damaged by a fire, but the main pieces that were damaged were mosaics. Since 1106, several additions have been made, but the basic structured has not been altered much. The inside of the basilica is magnificent, filled with marble floors, larger-than-life domes, and handcrafted mosaics dating back to as early as 1070.
Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square)
This is the only “square” in Venice, despite typical understanding of what a square is everywhere else. All other “squares” are known as campi.
Teatro La Fenice
If you enjoy theater and arts, you should check out this opera house. It is known to be one of the most famous landmarks in the history of Italian theater. I really don’t want to get any history wrong here, so I’m not going to throw any facts out. I don’t trust my researching skills at this moment!
Campanile di San Marco (St Mark’s Campanile)
This is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica – one of the most distinguished symbols of Venice. The tower stands at 323 feet tall near the front of the basilica. The tower that stands now was reconstructed in 1912 after it initially collapsed in 1902. The initial construction began in the 9th century and was finished in the 12th century. There are several replicas of this tower located all over the world. There are five bells of the tower and each had a specific purpose. One bell announced executions, one proclaimed a session of the Senate, one sounded midday, one called the members of the Maggior Consiglio to council meetings, and the largest bell rang to mark the beginning and ending of a working day.
Jewish Ghetto (Ghetto Ebraico di Venezia)
I make it a point now to visit the Jewish Ghetto in any city that I can. I didn’t on this trip and I’m still bummed about it. The Ghetto in Venice is split into the “New Ghetto” and “Old Ghetto.” Their names are deceiving, however. The Ghetto Nuovo (new) is older than the Ghetto Vecchio (old). The Ghetto was connected to the rest of Venice by two bridges that were only open during the day. Today, the Ghetto is still very active and a center for Jewish life in Venice.
Libreria Acqua Alta
Who doesn’t love a good bookstore? This bookstore is close to St. Mark’s square and is translated to “bookstore of high water.” This shop is no exception to the floods that creep into the city. In order to keep his shop and his books dry, the owner put the books into waterproof bins, bathtubs, gondolas, and other unique cases. It’s tiny and it’s stuffed inside, but the contents inside have something for everyone. You can even find a staircase made of encyclopedias to view a nearby canal.
The Mad Colored Houses of Burano
Burano is four small islands attached by bridges. The islands have a common theme that includes colorfully painted buildings and homes. The homes are repainted every two years and are able to maintain their bright aesthetic and every house is painted a different color. Fun fact: if you want to paint your home, you must get approval from the local community government first. While you’re here, you can check out the Museum of Lace, as Burano is known for it’s high quality lacework. Venice can be a little dreary, although architecturally magnificent. Pop over to Burano to get your fill of bright colors and Insta-worthy shots. It will take about 40 minutes by water bus, but it’s also not as flocked with tourists as the main sites.
San Servolo Insane Asylum Museum
The asylum opened in 1725 accepting only men. In 1798, the asylum began accepting women, too. Over 200,000 admitted patients later, in 1978 the asylum was closed due to a change in Italian law. It wasn’t until 2006 that the aslyum was re-opened, but as a museum dedicated to its’ history. The museum contains original equipment from the asylum, photo albums of patients, and a park that houses rare plants and trees which supplied the pharmacy.
The Flooded Crypt of San Zaccaria
The basement of this 15th century church acts as a burial basement for the initial doges. There is standing water in the basement that reflects and accents the columns and vaulted ceilings.
My Time in Venice
We stayed on the Isle of Guidecca. This was a nice little residential island that was about a 15-20 minute water bus ride away from San Marco. I am incredibly glad that we stayed here because it allowed us to get away from the insane mobs of tourists that flock San Marco and surrounding areas.
Once we navigated the train Venezia-Mestre train station, we got on a train and rode into Venice. From there, we were able to take a water bus to our Airbnb. We got a single ride pass first because we just wanted to get to our home and eat. But I suggest getting the multiple day pass right off the bat, it’s worth the money. If you don’t do it at the main station, you can go into tobacco shops that have the bus symbol outside and buy them.
Most people want to take a gondola while in Venice. While I don’t discourage it, I will say that it’s expensive (~$80+ per gondola). If you’re feeling it and you are solo or in a couple, try to find another couple to split the cost with. Also, as a heads up, the canals smell a bit. The cost and the smell were deterrents for us, so we just opted to ride the water boats around and see our sites that way.
We made it to our apartment and set out for food. The streets on the island we stayed on were fairly easy to navigate because it was small. We chose a restaurant right off the water bus stop. I wanted to try something different, so I went with a Venetian beer and cuttlefish. Cuttlefish is a relative to the squid and was served in its’ own ink as a sauce. I definitely got something different and the whole time I was eating it, my stomach was yelling no. It definitely wasn’t for me. But we did finally find polenta!!
The next day, we ventured off to the main island and fought the mobs of people. About 11, I caved and bought a Bellini and walked around proudly while it helped fight off tourists. Honestly, I felt like I was just on a conveyor belt going from place to place with everyone else. My advice is to go early or late and avoid mid-day and avoid “rush hour.”
We ended the day with dinner by the canal. We were feeling adventurous so ordered dessert. HOLY SMOKES – talk about amazing tiramisu. Literally to die for and the best I’ve had.
I wish I had more for you regarding my time in Venice, but I left it vague. I do suggest doing “unusual” site seeing and staying off the main island. Those are my two biggest pieces of advice.
Have you been to Venice? Did you love it or were you like me and just wasn’t impressed?
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