Published On: Sun, Aug 12th, 2018

3 Magical Days in Venice, Italy


Intriguing, beguiling, and exhilarating. These are just some of the words describing Venice, Italy’s magical floating city of canals.

American novelist Henry James once said, “A visit to Venice is a perpetual love affair.” It’s not hard to see why after our recent visit. Few cities offer such a wealth of beauty, charm and history. It’s truly a unique place quite unlike any other.

Made up of 118 islands, Venice is separated by 177 canals and linked by 355 bridges. Transportation is by boat or on foot, as cars are banned within the city proper.

Until you see it, it’s hard to imagine. Streets have been replaced by shimmering canals and meandering pedestrian alleys. No matter how many times you’ve seen Venice in photos or movies, there’s nothing like experiencing it in real life.

The city sat at the heart of the Republic of Venice, a major maritime power and trading empire during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This made Venice fabulously wealthy throughout most of its history and these riches are celebrated in the art and architecture that exist to this day.

History surrounded us—among its magnificent canals, charming narrow alleyways, and stunning piazzas. The real key to falling in love with Venice is to unlock its magic by knowing where to go and what to see.

Staying in Venice

Location is everything here. Staying on the canal is a must.

Hotel Santa Chiara is located in Piazza Roma facing the Grand Canal. Because the piazza is the only part of the historic city that can be reached by car or bus, transportation from the airport to the hotel was super convenient.

The older section of the hotel is located in a historic monastery. We stayed in the newer adjacent annex with Venetian style flooring, Murano glass chandeliers, and Venetian art adorning the walls. A marvelous breakfast buffet was included in the stay and service at the hotel was outstanding.

Getting Around Venice

Like many Italian cities, Venice is easily walkable, though winding cobblestone passageways can make navigating a bit of a challenge. Our favorite way—and the simplest —of traversing the city is by vaporetto, or water bus.

Being just steps from our hotel to the Piazza Vaporetto station made all the difference in our ease of getting around. This is Venice’s public transportation through the canals, and it’s a lot of fun. Main vaporetto lines and stops are listed on each of the water bus station. Tariffs range from one-hour tickets to 24-hour or longer passes.

All the top sites are accessible by vaporetto including the following:

The Grand Canal

We found one of the best introductions to Venice was hopping on either vaporetto 1 or 2 as both run the entire length of the Grand Canal. Often referred to as Venice’s main street, this two-mile aquatic thoroughfare is lined with hundreds of prestigious Gothic and Byzantine houses and palaces. The Grand Canal practically crosses the entire city passing under multiple bridges including the famous iconic Rialto.

Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)

Formerly the residence of the Doge, elected ruler of Venice, the Doge’s Palace served as the seat of the Venetian government. This masterpiece of Gothic architecture, located in Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), is one of the most stunning landmarks of the city. Purchasing tickets ahead and getting there early is a must to avoid long lines.

Tours through the magnificent palace take visitors past massive statues of Neptune and Mars, into the doge’s private rooms and administrative chambers filled with famous paintings and superb tapestries from great artists like Tintoretto and Veronese.

The world-renowned limestone-constructed Bridge of Sighs passes over the palace connecting to prisons built in the late 16th century. Legend has it prisoners on their way to their austere Dungeness cells or the execution chamber would sigh as they caught their last glimpse of freedom through its tiny windows.

St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilico di San Marco)

Also located in St. Mark’s Square, the basilica was originally built as the final resting place of St. Mark, whose body was smuggled out of Alexandria by two Venetian merchants in 828. His remains are interred under the high altar.

Unlike most Italian Catholic cathedrals, St. Mark’s reflects a distinctive Byzantine flavor with almost mosque-like features. Dating back to the 11th century, the basilica is richly embellished with gold glass mosaic walls, marble mosaic floors, and stiff stark images reminiscent of the Eastern Roman empire.

The Pala d’Oro located behind the altar is comprised of more than 2,000 precious stones and ornate panels and is one of the basilica’s greatest treasures. Like many Roman Catholic churches throughout Italy, women must have their shoulders covered and short shorts for men and women are not permissible. Although this appears to be subjectively enforced, we didn’t take chances.

Ride a Gondola

No visitor should leave Venice without a gondola ride. These boats are unique to Venice because they were actually constructed centuries ago as a way to navigate the water-filled city.

It’s romantic, relaxing, and the perfect way to glide gracefully through an enchanting web of more than 150 sleepy side canals. The gondoliers don’t sing, but it’s like watching art in motion as the black and white stripe-shirted, straw-hatted, red-scarved professionals expertly maneuver their way through the busy canals.

Rialto Market

Strolling through the lively canal-side Rialto Market made us feel like kids in a candy store.

The expansive daily market is filled with stall after stall of fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables, and local goods. The seafood market is a sight to behold—with fresh daily catches selling almost as fast as they arrive. Though we’ve experienced fish markets around the world, some of the exotic creatures here didn’t resemble anything we’d seen before. The variety of fruits and vegetables were so incredible, we couldn’t leave the market empty-handed.

Island of Murano

Murano glass is famous all over the world and for good reason. The magnificent colorful glassware has been made on the Venetian island of Murano for centuries. It’s well worth a side trip to explore this incredible place.

Arriving by boat, we headed straight to the Vetreria Murano Arte glass factory for a fascinating demonstration of traditional glassmaking and blowing. Afterward, we toured the factory’s showroom filled with a dazzling array of everything from jewelry and vases to magnificent chandeliers.

The island itself is so fascinating, we could have spent an entire day browsing its glass museum and charming boutique shops.

Dining in Venice

Venice has hundreds of restaurants and bars. So, we tapped into a local who recommended a few places that turned out to be splendid choices—mainly because they’re not your typical “tourist” trap eateries, and they’re family owned and operated.

Just a stone’s throw from Piazza San Marco, but away from the bustling crowds, our favorite was Ristorante Kori; serving up splendid traditional Italian dishes like Spaghetti alle vongole (clams) and Spaghetti al nero di sepia (squid ink pasta).

Kori has a magnificent selection of wines, top-notch service with a smile, and surprisingly reasonable prices for the quality of food.

Osteria Ae Cravate was a charming eatery located off the beaten path in a residential side street near the canals.

House wine was unbelievably inexpensive. The menu changes daily and is listed on a blackboard outside the restaurant. Our group of eight friends all raved about our fresh-catch seafood entrees.

To quote Truman Capote “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”

But just like chocolate, it’s addicting. We can’t wait to go back.



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