Venice Travel Guide

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Venice is the capital city of Venetia, situated in northeastern Italy on the Adriatic Sea.  It is a port city with a naval base and one of the most unique, beautiful and romantic destinations in the world. 

Venice is built atop 117 small islets in a saltwater lagoon of the Gulf of Venice.  The city is sheltered from the Adriatic Sea by the Lido and other islands and strips of land. It connects with the mainland by a bridge that can be crossed by road or rail and is approx. 2.5 miles (4km) long (this is the way most visitors will be introduced to Venice as the city appears like a mirage in the distance). 


Venice has about 150 canals connected by over 400 bridges. Only three of those bridges cross the Grand Canal (the Rialto, Accademia and Scalzi).  Although Venice is often unbearably crowded in the main tourist areas, especially around Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), it is a place where you can stroll down back streets and explore the calles (alleyways) and campos (squares). 


Venice is divided into seven sections (sestiere):  Cannaregio, S.Croce, Dorsoduro, S Polo, S Marco, Castello, and Giudecca. 


The much-photographed Grand Canal snakes through the city and serves as the main street. A trip by vaporetto (water bus) provides entrancing scenes as you glide past the many Gothic-style palaces (palazzo) and under the famous bridges. The Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) is over 400 years old and one of the top-ten sights of Venice. 


St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) is the focal centre and main square of Venice and the place that most visitors set out to see first.  Its sides are lined with expensive shops and cafes.  The 11th century cathedral of St. Mark’s (Basilica di San Marco) is a spectacle and open for tours (get used to queuing).  St. Mark’s Square is very lively and something every visitor must experience, with its many street vendors, flocks of pigeons and hoards of camera-wielding tourists.   A lift takes visitors to the top of the 300’ high (98m) Campanile (bell tower), which was rebuilt in 1912 and provides fantastic views over the city.  The 15th century Moors’ clock tower (Torre dell’Orologio) is also situated in St. Mark’s Square.
The 14th/15th century Gothic Doge’s Palace (Duke’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale) is also situated on the Square. The palace is connected to the old prisons via the much-photographed Bridge of Sighs - which the tour guides will inform you was the place where condemned prisoners took their last glimpse of freedom.  


The Florian and Quadri cafes are just two of the famous and historic cafes situated in St. Mark’s Square.  They are certainly not inexpensive but worth the money just for the experience. The historic Cafe Florian has been a favourite of poets, writers, artists and celebrities with names like Dickens, Hemmingway and Casanova.  It is still a favourite with celebrities.


Venice is a fantasyland for art lovers and not just during the Biennale.  It has a dizzying collection of works by greats from the Venetian School of artists, such as Titian, Bellini, Carpaccio, Veronese, Mantegna, Giorgione, and Tintoretto.  Famous works can be found at various locations in the city, including the Accademia Museum (Galleria dell’Accademia), which has an amazing collection of works.  The Peggy Guggenheim gallery is a must for lovers of modern and contemporary art.  The collection is located on the Grand Canal in a historic 17th century Customs House.


The famous Harry’s Bar in Venice is close to St. Mark’s Square and a place that Ernest Hemingway frequented. The Bellini cocktail was invented there (white peach juice and sparkling Prosecco). 

Across the lagoon from St. Mark’s you can admire the 16th century Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, designed by Renaissance artist Andrea Palladio, and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute. 


The Venice Carnival (Carnivale di Venezia) is a festival held annually at the end of February and one of the liveliest and most colourful celebrations in Italy.  Donning festive outfits and masks, the Venetians basically have a street party that lasts for almost two weeks.  Events are held in St. Mark’s Square, various palaces and the surrounding areas and include costume and masquerade balls, galas, concerts and firework displays.


Venice is bordered and protected from the sea by the islands of Lido and Pellestrina and there are sandy beaches to be found at both Sottomarina and Cavallino. The fashionable Lido Island has sandy beaches, including San Nicolo Beach, as well as impressive beachside hotels – all a short vaporetto or ferry trip away from Venice.   Lido Island is the venue for the Venice Film Festival.


The Vaporetti (water buses) are the most popular way to get around in Venice, other than by foot. The Grand Canal can be crossed in some places via Traghetto - a standing gondola, for a modest fee. This can be a scary experience the first time – and is probably not a good idea if you have just left Harry’s Bar! 


Everyone has to go on a gondola ride at least once.  Haggle for the best price.  It won’t be cheap, but is well worth it.  Water taxis are also available but expect to pay dearly for them. 


There are two main airports for Venice.  Marco Polo is the more central airport, while Treviso requires a longer bus ride, but it gets you there just the same. 



European Health Insurance Card


Visitors with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are entitled to free emergency medical care, but this should never be used in place of comprehensive travel insurance.  For example, the EHIC does not cover travel problems such as lost or stolen luggage or property, cancellation and curtailment, and expensive matters like personal liability, legal costs, ongoing or non-urgent medical care, air ambulance and medical repatriation.



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