Introducing Venice (Venezia)

Built upon a marshy lagoon, the impossibly beautiful city of Venice (Venezia), is unique. With a total population of about 1.6 million, it draws twice that number of visitors annually.

Venice, for over a millennium, was referred to as La Serenissima, literally meaning 'the most serene'. Those who fall under the spell of its magnificent crumbling beauty, the narrow canals and tiny hump-backed bridges are never quite the same again.

Make sure you don't miss:

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 St Mark's Basilica and Square (San Marco Piazza)

Fast Facts:

  • The basilica was built in the 13th century. Its facade is as beautiful as an Eastern icon, gilded and ornate.
  • The 95-metre Campanile (bell-tower) is a reconstruction, as the original fell down unexpectedly in 1902. There is an elevator to the top for a panoramic view of the city.
  • St Mark's Square floods several times a year and large boards are put down so that people may still move about.
  • The pigeons that appear in every tourist shot of the square were only introduced about 100 years ago and there are signs in restaurants not to feed them. Nevertheless, they still seem to eat very well on all the scraps!

Eat nearby at: Harry's Bar, if price is no object and you want to have a peach Bellini at the place where it was created. Otherwise head off the main tourist drag for one of the many hole-in-the-wall establishments.

Caffe Florian established in 1720, and Gran Caffe Quadri (1638) on the Piazza San Marco are atmospheric ancient establishments and a beautiful way to touch base with old and new Venice.

Extra time: Get away from the crowds to discover tiny laneways, bars and squares and beautiful churches.

Trivia: Everyone equates coffee with Italy, but it arrived via the Muslim world, coming first to Venice via traders in other goods. Unsurprisingly the clerics thought something this good had to be bad and banned it for a while.

More information: Wikipedia St Mark's.

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The Places of Culture

Fast Facts:

  • There is probably more art and cultured clustered on these tiny islands than anywhere else of the same size in the world.
  • The Doges Palace (Dukes' Palace) or Palazzo Ducale, founded in the 9th-century and adjacent to St Mark's, was the seat of the rulers of Venice for almost a thousand years. It is built from pink Veronese marble, and contains a torture chamber in addition to priceless art and artefacts.
  • The Bridge of Sighs links the palace to the prison and was so-named because it provided prisoners with their last glimpse of daylight before the dungeon, and possibly death. For family, it was their last sight of the prisoner.
  • Accademia, (Gallerie dell'Accademia) founded in 1750, has a vast collection of Venetian art from many eras until the 18th century.
  • The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is housed in a palace that was once nicknamed Palazzo Nonfinito (the unfinished palace). It was restored and finished by the US millionnairess and collector and contains an unrivalled collection of 20th-century modern art.

Eat nearby at: Taverna San Trovaso, Dorsoduro. 

Extra time: Visit the oldest part of Venice, quiet Torcello, with its canals and Attila's marble throne thought to date from the 5th century.

Trivia: No street in Venice can be used by any wheeled vehicle other than a pushcart, a pram or a bicycle, but the many bridges makes even using these difficult.

More information: Wikipedia

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Day to Day Venice - canals, bridges, shops

Fast Facts:

  • Venice is spread over 118 islands and is only accessible via the laneways, canals and around 400 steep, narrow bridges.
  • If a Venetian tells you to 'get lost' it's meant in the nicest way. Getting lost and wandering the hundreds of tiny winding lanes is part of the charm of this city. Because St Mark's is the most well-know space and is a hub to the city, you will often find small signs on walls pointing to it.
  • There are 150 canals in Venice. The largest, the S-shaped, four-kilometre long Grand Canal almost bisects the city and is lined with aging palaces presenting faded facades from the Renaissance-era.
  • There are several types of water transport: Vaporetto, like a public waterbus, a gondola for comfortable seating for just a few passengers. It's a romantic way to see the back-canals of Venice and hugely popular with tourists. A traghetto, is the simplest form of crossing the Grand Canal - a small gondola-shaped boat on which up to a dozen people may stand or sit. Water taxis are more expensive and also make airport transfers.
  • Venice has many craftsmen - true Merchants of Venice making glass souvenirs and jewellery, exquisite masks, marbled paper, and lace or leathergoods. The maritime republics of Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi became leaders in the food fashions of the time and it was in these places that fine glassware and tableware was first seen.

Eat nearby at: small bars, caffes, trattorie and ristorantes which are tucked away in back streets. Enjoy discovering places you may never be able to locate again!

Extra time: Take a vaporetto and visit some other islands such as colourful Burano, or Murano, known for its glassblowing artisans and showrooms.

Trivia: A lane where you can walk is called a calle - the Venetian word for street with two sides. A campiello is a small square. Ruga, used only in Venice, indicates a street with shops.

More information: Wikipedia - Venice

Venetian Food:

  • Carpaccio of raw beef, or an antipasto of seafood is a popular first course. A truly basic dish risi e bisi - just rice and peas is popular. Veal and chicken are popular in main dishes, but seafood - often caught fresh that morning from the lagoon, and sold at the market on the Grand Canal - is king on most menus. Zuppa di cozze features mussels cooked in white wine. Look for fish soups in season and also local sardines.
  • There are many versions of risotto (including alle seppie, a black version made with cuttlefish ink) and polenta, taking the carbohydrate place of pasta which appears more further south.
  • Tiramisi originated in Treviso just a few decades ago, and fugasse is a rich pastry-like cake.
  • Cichetti, are typical Venetian bar snacks - the tapas of Venice. Ideal with a glass or two of local white wine such as a moscato or Soave.
  • Try them at:
  • Osteria da Alberto, Venezia, Calle Giacinto Gallina Cannaregio.
  • Trattoria All' Arco San Polo, Rialto
  • Al Bacareto, Campo San Samuele-San Marco
  • Cavatappi, Campo de la Guerra, San Marco
  • Osteria da Codroma, Ponte del Soccorso


  • The fertile area around Venice sees many foods grown and raised - vineyards and olives, cherries, apples and pears, chestnuts, strawberries, melons, nectarines and kiwi fruit as well as peaches and honey.
  • Vegetables include red chicory (radicchio), asparagus, potatoes and garlic.
  • Cheeses of the region include asagio, piave, and schiz.
  • Pigs and dairy cattle are raised, and there's fish from the Adriatic Sea as well as eels, bass and mussels from the lagoon, and freshwater fish from rivers. Bacali, salt cod, is also popular
  • Cured meats of the region include prosciutto Veneto and sopressa vicentina.
  • Pasta, apart from thick bigoli, is not as common as polenta or rice.


The Veneto region produces around twenty percent of Italy's DOC wines, mainly in the vicinity of Verona. Look for sparkling Prosecco, Amarone, a fine red, and Bardolino.


Many frequent travellers to Venice recommend Ristorante Corte Sconta, Calle del Pestrin is the best fish restaurant in Venice.

L'Alcova Restaurant on the Grand Canal, Ca' Sagredo Hotel e Palazzo, Ca' D'Oro.


Hotel Daniele, near San Marco Piazza.

Ca'Sagredo Hotel and Palazzo, overlooking the Grand Canal at Ca' D'Oro.



Carnevale may translate as 'taking meat away', but in Venice it is the excuse for a weeks-long uninhibited knees-up of eating and drinking before many observe fasting during Lent.

Venice's patron saint is San Marco, and the city hosts a festival of risi and bisi (literally rice and peas, a local dish) each April in his honour.

The fish markets on the Grand Canal just down from the Rialto Bridge daily sell sparkling fresh produce, especially the lagoon fish and seafood. Watch boats, instead of trucks, transporting goods to and from the market.



Insider's Tip: Venetian Class

More Information on Venice.


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