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Things To Do And See In Venice Italy
Built on water and marshland, Venice is not just an amazing city, it is also a feat of engineering and determination. The city's famous canals serve as its main streets, traveled by a variety of boats, including the famous gondolas. The largest canal is the Grand Canal that snakes it's way trough Venice.
Venice is a walking city. There really isn't any other way to get around. The only time you won't be walking is when you take the vaporetto (water bus) between the train station and Piazza San Marco, go on long hauls to outlying islands, or shell out big bucks for a private taxi acquei (water taxi).
Because there is only one driving way into Venice a lot of people take the train. The train drops you off right on the Grand Canal and from there you can get on a Water Taxi or just walk to your favorite places.
Every time we went to Venice we drove. When you are driving over the bridge, as you get closer to Venice, you can see the Tronchetto parking garage. We enjoyed this parking garage because it's safe, it's not in the center of the tourists, it's right next to the cruise ships coming and going, there are Water Taxi's here and I thought it was a reasonable price for an all day parking spot. It cost 21 Euro for 6 to 24 hours. It was well worth it and knowing our vehicle wouldn't get towed or anything was a huge relief too!
The parking garage for Venice Italy. Excellent place to park your car while you explore Venice.
Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica)
No church in Europe is more lavishly decorated, more exquisitely mosaicked, more glittering with gold then Venice's San Marco. Dating back to the 11th century, the originally Byzantine architecture and decoration now includes Romanesque and Gothic touches, too.
A few basic do's and don'ts when visiting St. Mark's
- Dress appropriately - that means no bare shoulders or knees (no shorts, short skirts, or tank tops)
- Keep silent (it is a church)
- No photography is permitted inside the church. However, outside photography is highly recommended!
There is over 40,000 square feet of gold-backed mosaics crafted between the 12th and 17th centuries that cover the church's atrium, ceilings, walls, and multiple domes. The oldest were created by Eastern masters, and later ones were based on works by Tintoretto, Veronese, and Titian. The floor carries on a mosaic feel with its wonderfully spiraling marble tiles.
The only disappointing aspect of this wonderful area is it's immense popularity. You could be pushed through the whole church in as little as 20 minutes! But no matter how much time you spend on the inside of the church it will be an amazing and unforgettable experience.
Right outside the Basilica is a huge piazza where the tourists love to hang out. There are open air restaurants and souvenir places all over. They also set up a lot of concerts in this area and when Carnival is going on this is where it all happens! The easiest way to describe Piazza San Marco is a gathering place filled to the brim with milling visitors, swarms of hungry pigeons, locals enjoying espresso at outdoor cafes, and couples dancing on the cobblestones to the strains of live piano music.
My favorite part about the piazza is the pigeons! We learned after our first time there that you can't go to the piazza without some sort of bread. Even if you go to the cafe and keep a piece or two for the pigeons, it's totally worth it! In the video to the right is my dad Ron feeding the pigeons. It really is amazing how they will just flock to you and all over you without a bit of hesitation!
Hard Rock Cafe
The first couple times we went to Venice we just packed a picnic lunch and put it in the stroller. It wasn't until my Mom and Dad came to visit that we found the Hard Rock Cafe. To get to it from the square there are many different ways, mainly because all the streets are connected in one way or another, but our favorite way to get there was right to the front door.
There is a small alley way before you go into the San Marco Piazza. All you have to do is that that small, kinda creepy, alley way and you come out right at the front door! The seating inside is cool. You can sit downstairs at the bar area or upstairs at the table. I don't think that it is big enough because every time we have been there it has been at least a 20 minute wait! But waiting isn't all that bad when you have one of the biggest Gondola "parking spots" right out front. There is also the gift shop where you can buy souvenirs (which are a bit pricey but well worth it).
The food is incredible (it was nice to have a good American meal after 2 1/2 years in Italy) and the staff was very friendly. We even had an American waitress. When you are in Venice, at least stop in and check the place out.
Besides the water canals and incredible sights, Venice is also known for the Gondolas. You know, those super skinny boats you see in movies, where the couple is all in love and adorable and the Gondileer (guy rowing the boat) in the stripped shirt is standing on the end of the boat, rowing, and singing some incredible Italian love song.
Well, this isn't always how it works out. We did get our Gondileer to sing a little bit to us (but we gave him a larger tip too). He told us that his father had been a Gondileer for 35 years and he sang to all his passengers. So I guess it all depends on who you get.
To take one of these amazing trips down the canals in Venice, it does cost you a hefty price. We paid a total of 120 Euro for a 30 minute ride! He took us around a few of the back canals and out on the Grand Canal and under the Rialto Bridge. Being on the Grand Canal with all those boats (even though there is a speed limit and such) was a bit scary but it was well worth the money for the four of us to enjoy something we will never get to do again. They do only take cash (or Euro rather) so make sure you have some to spare when you go.
If you have a specific time you want to see Venice and are looking forward to spending time with the tourists and seeing the "little bit crazier side" of Venice, then might I recommend going to the Venice Carnival!
This has to be the most amazing costume party in the world! It always takes place during the ten days leading up to Shrove Tuesday. It starts around two weeks before Ash Wednesday. In 2013 Carnival starts on February 2nd. You can book your vacation at the Venice Carnival 2013 website. This website includes hotels, tours, photo galleries, etc. If nothing else, stop by and check out their amazing photos!
I was never able to make it to Carnival because I didn't think it would be a good place for my three small kids and finding a babysitter when I wanted to go was almost impossible. But even though I didn't get to make it to Carnival doesn't mean I didn't buy myself some masks! I'm not sure how many masks I have but I do know it's several thousand Euro worth (it was a small obsession of mine).
Other things to do in Venice
There are many things you can do in Venice. The above mentioned were my all time favorite things but here are some others that are top sights when visiting the city.
- Accademia - The museum covers the biggies in Venetian painting, from Paolo Veneziano's 14th centry Coronation of the Virgin altarpiece to Giorgione's strange The Tempest and Giovanni Bellini's numerous Madonna and Childs.
- Collezione Peggy Guggenheim - This is Peggy Guggenheim's former residence in Venice and is now one of the world's top modern art museums. The uncompleted 18th centry Palazzo Venier dei Leoni sits on the Grand Canal and is filled with the late and great art collector's personal favorites.
- Murano - This is an island outside of Venice and has several age-old glass factories. You can go here and watch them blow glass and can even get some of the glass blowers to make you your own one of a kind creations. Most can create original items, espically trinkets, for you on the spot.
Whenever things start to feel a little too touristy, just walk a block or so away from the action. Put your map in your pocket, purse, or backpack and just walk the streets. You will get to see the different water levels on the buildings as you walk by. There are shops around almost every corner that you can buy that perfect gift or souvenir at. You also find the best cafes that are not crowded at all and it doesn't take you an hour or more to get your food. It is even neat to see the huge cruise ships that dock right here in Venice to load and unload passengers. We took a cruise to Greece from here and it was AMAZING!