The jewel of the ancient City of the Doges, the Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s square, still draws the crowds. This enormous esplanade is a tourist landmark and features some of the loveliest buildings in the city.
A mix of styles, part Byzantine, part Renaissance, the Basilica di San Marco, located on the Piazza San Marco, dates back to the 11th century. It is home to the exquisite Pala d’Oro, an altarpiece inlayed with gold and gemstones.
The Gothic rooms of the Palazzo Ducale, or the Doge’s palace, located on the Piazzetta San Marco, were decorated by Tintoretto and Veronese. Tintoretto’s Paradise, one of the largest paintings in the world, hangs in the Grand Council chamber.
The Museo Correr, which is housed in the Procuratie Nuove in the Napoleon wing of St. Mark’s square, is devoted to the history of Venice. A visit to the Museo Correr also offers access to an archaeological museum and the Libreria Marciana.
The Grand Canal that crosses the city can be explored on board a vaporetto, a sort of water bus that used to run on steam, hence the name (today they run on diesel). The comings and goings of the vaporetti and other taxi acquei (water taxis) is spectacle in its own right.
The mythical Rialto bridge, built in the 16th century, connects the two shores of the Grand Canal. Other beautiful bridges followed, such as the Accademia bridge.
The Palazzo Grassi, which sits on the shore of the Grand Canal, was restored in 1986. Today it is one of Venice’s most prestigious exhibition spaces.
One of Venice’s largest museums, the Galleria dell’Accademia features masterpieces of Venetian art from the 16th to 18th centuries. Works by masters such as Veronese, Giorgione and Giovanni Bellini are on display.
Exhibited in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, the Peggy Guggenheim collection retraces the art movements of the 20th century, through the paintings and sculptures of its most important representatives.
A perfect example of the Venetian Gothic style, the Chiesa di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari was built in the 14th and 15th centuries. This church is home to Titian’s famous Assumption of the Virgin.
The Ca’Rezzonico palace is one of the best examples of the splendour of Venetian homes. Its museum features paintings by Longhi and Tiepolo.
Built in the 16th century, the Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore is one of the most imposing monuments of Venice. The bell-tower of the church offers an impregnable view of the city.
An international tourist attraction, the Carnival of Venice is in full swing for the 12 days before Mardi Gras in February or March. Venetians congregate at the St. Mark’s square to carry on a 10th century tradition.
The Venice Biennale is held from the beginning of June to the end of November. It brings together the Biennale Dance for contemporary dance, the Mostra (the Venice International Film Festival, held on the island of Lido), the Biennale Architecture, the Biennale Music for contemporary music, the Biennale Theatre and the Biennale Art.
Venetian pubs, wine cellars, nightclubs, brasseries and gelato and pastry counters are legion throughout the city. Whether for an aperitif, a nice meal or a little break, Venice’s establishments are very welcoming.
Located in the San Marco quarter, the Teatro La Fenice is a mecca for opera, a distinction it shares with the Scala de Milan and the Teatro San Carlo de Naples. It was the birth site of the most beautiful operas by such composers as Verdi, Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini and Donizetti. Since opening its doors in the 18th century, it has been razed to the ground twice by fire, in 1832 and 1996. A faithful reconstruction, the “third” Teatro La Fenice (appropriately named because Fenice means “the ‘phoenix,’ which rises from the ashes”) was inaugurated November 12, 2003 with Verdi’s La Traviata.
Where on earth
Capital of the Venetian Republic from 1001 to 1797 and now capital of the Veneto region, Venice (Venezia in Italian) is ideally located on the Gulf of Venice, in the northern Adriatic Sea. Located in northeastern Italy, the Comune of Venizia, which covers a territory of 457km2, 267km2 of it lagoon, has a population of around 270,000. Its 118 islands are criss-crossed by 177 canals and 400 bridges. The historical centre, which covers an area of only 7.6km2, is a pedestrian haven. The city enjoys both a Mediterranean and a continental climate.