Venice! One of the Most Fascinating Cities In The World!
I've always held a special fascination for Venice, Italy. With it's gondolas and streets of water, carnival masks and beautiful and amazing architecture, Venice has long mesmerized and enchanted me. In June of 2008, my family had the adventure of a lifetime: a trip to Europe. Included in that trip, was a visit to Venice.
Come along, and I'll tell you about our trip to Venice. Along the way, I'll share information about Venice as well as some of the photographs we took there.
I hope you enjoy this virtual journey to Venice: one of the most fascinating cities in the world!
A City Built On Water
Venice, Italy: A City Built On Water!
A City On Water
Venice is a city built on water! Venice has:
- 416 bridges
- 200 canals
- 118 islands
The Grand Canal - An S shaped canal that snakes through Venice
The Grand Canal and How Venice is Divided
Speaking of the Grand Canal, what is it, exactly? Well, it's a large canal that snakes through Venice, dividing it into two. Venetians call it the Canalazzo.
Venice is actually divided into six sections or districts: Castello, San Marco, Cannaregio, Dorosduro, San Polo, and Santa Croce. Each section is called a sestiere. Three of these sestieri (plural for sestiere) are located above one side of the giant S shaped canal, and the other three are below it.
If we are going to say that Italy is in the shape of a boot, we have to also admit that Venice is in the shape of a fish. The Grand Canal winds only through the head of the fish.
There are four bridges crossing the Grand Canal.
1. The Ponte dell' Academia was originally built in the 1800's out of iron, and later rebuilt in wood. It's located a little behind where the mouth of the fish would be.
The Ponte di Rialto
2. The Ponte di Rialto, the oldest bridge crossing the Grand Canal, on the other hand was originally built out of wood and then rebuilt out of stone in the late 1500's! This bridge is located near the back of the fish's head.
3. The Ponte degli Scalzi is located about where the eye of the fish would be. Scalzi means barefoot in Italian. This bridge gets it's name from a nearby church (The Church of the Scalzi) which was built by friars who wore sandals with no socks even in the winter!
4. The Ponte di Calatrava connects Venice with the train station. It's the most recent bridge to be built over the Grand Canal. You can see a picture of it in the section above entitled, "Venice: A City Built On Water."
Gondalas and Gondaliers - Some photos we took on our vacation to Venice.Click thumbnail to view full-size
It may be built on water, but there are some streets too.
Cars no. Streets yes.
Life In Venice
Having no cars does change things a bit!
There are no cars, no trucks, no motorcycles, and basically no bikes. What would life be like if you had to walk most places?
In the part of the US where I live, most people drive their cars to the store or to work. If we pass someone in a car that we know, we might beep the horn and wave, but then we have to move on or risk irritating the traffic behind us! But in Venice, there are no cars to get in the way. Venetians walking home with a loaf of bread or a small cart of groceries often come face to face with the people they know. It's much easier for them to stop and chat a few minutes, rather than driving on past with just a quick wave as a greeting!
I won't say Venice is alone in this friendly and relaxed way of life though! Many small villages all over Europe have outdoor markets that spring up in the morning and then are gone by lunch. Cars aren't usually allowed in these areas, which means that once again everyone walks, often taking time to stop and chat with those they know.
There are no huge malls or superstores in Venice either. Don't expect to find a Walmart or Target there!
Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square)
Piazza San Marco
The Piazzo San Marco is a large paved area located near the mouth of the Grand Canal. The Piazzo San Marco is also sometimes called St. Mark's Square.
The Bell Tower of St Mark's Basilica in St. Mark's Square
During our trip to Venice, there were pigeons EVERYWHERE in the Piazza San Marco! Don't believe me? Check out the photo below!
St. Mark's Square
The Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) is surrounded by many buildings, including the Basilica di San Marco (a church).
Winged Lions, Open or Closed Books, St. Mark, and the First Digital Clock
Winged Lions - The Symbol of Venice
Symbols: Winged Lions and Books
Winged Lions are the symbol of Venice and represent St. Mark the Evangelist. Although St. Theodore was originally the patron saint of Venice, St. Mark was later chosen by the people of Venice as a protector for their city.
Many of the winged Lions have a book beside them. The book carries symbolism as well. If the book in the lion's front paws is open, peace reigned over Venice at the time that lion statue was made. If, on the other hand, the book was closed, that means Venice was at war then.
Children often love to make a game out of searching for the winged lions!
How many lions can you find on this page?
How many statues of winged lions can you find?
Winged lions can be found all over Venice. Quite a number of them exist in the Piazzo San Marco. St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice, can be found with the lion. This is, of course, the same St. Mark that Piazzo San Marco (St. Mark's Square) and the Basilica-di-San-Marco are named after.
World's First Digital Clock
In the photo below, you can see a winged lion on St. Mark's Clock Tower. Below the lion is the "World's First Digital Clock." This 24 hour clock also provides the current lunar phase and zodiac sign.
Torre dell'Orologio - St. Mark's Clock Tower
How many winged lions can you spot on this page?
Hotels in Venice
Places to Stay in Venice
- Hilton Molino Stucky
The Hilton Molino Stucky Venice hotel, located on Guidecca Island, features the city's largest ballroom & spa. A complimentary shuttle boat takes you back and forth across the water. Don't forget about the rooftop pool overlooking Venice!
- Hotel Do Pozzi
The Hotel Do Pozzi is more moderately priced and is located not far from the Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal.
- Hotel Concordia
4 star hotel in Venice in Piazza San Marco. The Concordia has rooms overlooking St. Mark's Square.
- The Gritti Palace
The Concordia is located along the Grand Canal. Very Expensive.
- Hotel Antica Locanda Montin
The Antica Locanda Montin, an old fashioned Venetian Inn, is located on a quiet street beside a canal. Don't try to stay there without a reservation.
Where we stayed
The Hilton Molino Stucky
We stayed at a Hilton Hotel in Venice: The Hilton Molino Stucky. You can see it across the water in the photo above. The shuttle bus that carried us back and forth from the small island where our hotel was to the main part of Venice can be seen in the foreground.
See the tiny arched bridge that crosses a small canal right before the hotel? As we were coming down those steps, a couple of us even bumping our suitcases down the stairs - as gently as we could mind you, a bellboy from the hotel came out to meet us and help us with our bags. Believe me, this was greatly appreciated, as Venice was one of our very last stops during a three week trip to Europe, and we were getting pretty tired of lugging those suitcases around by then! Even though much (but not all) of our luggage had wheels, there are tons and tons of steps to go up and down for those who ride the Eurail around Europe and carrying suitcases up and down all those steps can get old in a hurry!
The View From Our Hotel Room
The view from the Hilton Molino Stucky
Above you can see the view from our hotel across the water to the main part of Venice.
On top of our hotel, right on the roof, was a swimming pool. The walls above the roof (that surrounded the pool) were clear, so as we swam we could look out on Venice. It felt so amazing to be there, swimming in the water, while looking out at Venice!
Rick Steve's Travel Books
Our family used several of Rick Steve's travel books and DVD's while making our plans for Europe. RIck Steve's gives lots of tips on not only the best places to stay, eat, and visit, but also the best times of day to visit certain locations as well as a variety of other tips too!
Once in Europe, we found that Rick Steve's was highly accurate in all the tips he gave! Since our trip, we've been highly recommending Rick Steve's guides to all our Europe-going friends.
Carnival In Venice
A Brief History Of Carnival in Venice
Carnival used to last for almost six months out of every year! A big part of Carnival was wearing masks and disguises which allowed the Venetians a chance to interact with others of every social class without being identified. Large stages were set up in Piazza San Marco and other places around Venice, and entertainment abounded, from balls to parties, theater shows to carnival games, fireworks to mimes, acrobats, jugglers, and musicians!
But that came to the end in the late 1700's by the rule of Napoleon.
In 1979, Carnival was brought back to Venice. Instead of almost six months, it now lasts about 11 or 12 days, taking place during February and sometimes the beginning of March. But entertainment, along with costumes and masks, is still the emphasis!
Carnival Masks and CostumesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Outdoor Shops In Venice
There were lots of stands around selling everything from Venetian gondolier shirts, to miniature carnival masks, to teddy bears wearing gondolier shirts, to decorated bags sporting images of Venice, even marionette puppets.
Carnival Masks for Sale in Venice
I bought very little in Europe (feeling we were spending enough just on food and trains and hotels!), but we did buy a few souvenirs of Venice, since we all loved Venice so dearly! You can see some of what we bought farther down this page, but for now I'll tell you that one thing both of my kids purchased was a white carnival mask, which they later painted once we were home.
Here are a few Venitian masks I found on Amazon.
Things to See and Do
The best things to see and do in Venice
Rick Steve's DVD
As mentioned above, we're big fans of Rick Steve's travel guides, both in book form and in DVD. This RIck Steve's DVD, "Italy's Cities," includes episodes on things to see and do in Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Pompeii. There are a total of 7 half hour shows on this DVD. If you're like us, you will want to watch his travel DVD's both before and after your trip! It was 2008 when we went to Europe, and how much we enjoy watching DVD's of the places we went, seeing the sights again, and reliving those wonderful memories!
Map of Venice
More Photos Of Venice - Please click the thumbnails to view.Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is a small book that you can slip in your pocket and take with you on your trip. Don't wait until you get to Italy to use the book though! Start soon after you get it so you'll be at least a little more familiar with how to say the basics. In all honesty, we didn't have much trouble in getting people to understand us in Venice, but there were a few other places in Italy that we did.
Map showing where in Italy Venice is
Our Venice Souvenirs
As mentioned above, we didn't buy too many souvenirs in Europe (but we made up for that in taking pictures!!!), yet we did buy several things from Venice.
My kids each bought a plain white mask, which they decorated with paints once they got home. I purchased a Needle Point bag with Mark's Square on it. My husband purchased a black and white striped gondolier's shirt.
The fire mask, made by my son, is not quite done yet.
The music mask was made by my daughter.
The needlepoint on this bag is of St. Mark's Square.
A gondola charm might be a souvenir you'll enjoy for years to remind you of your trip!
This gondola charm can be ordered in white-gold, yellow-gold, yellow-gold-plated-silver, or rhodium-plated-silver.
Papa Piccolo - A Delightful Children's Story That Takes Place In Venice
Papa Piccolo - A GREAT book about Venice to read to your kids!
Papa Piccolo: What a delightful story! You know how some books you read once and put away, and others you read over and over and over again? Papa Piccolo was a suggested book in my son's homeschool curriculum when he was about 8. But instead of reading it once and then putting it away, Papa Picciol became a wonderful and much loved favorite!
When we first began reading it together, we had no idea that one day we'd be going to Venice. But once we were there, we discovered that the beautiful paintings in the book really were representative of Venice. Also, much real information about Venice was quite naturally woven into the storyline. Having read and reread the book so many times before our trip most definitely enriched our experience in Venice! I very highly recommend this book for kids from about 4 to 10...and for their parents and grandparents too!
Other Articles I've Written About Places In Europe
- Rothenburg: A Charming Medieval German Village!
The delightful town of Rothenburg, Germany dates back to the middle ages! Would you like to find out more about Rothenburg, the fantastic night watchman tour, the stone wall surrounding the village, or the charming German architecture? I've included
- Manarola, Italy: A Beautiful Village On The Mediterranean
Manarola was one of our top favorite places we went our our 3 week tour of Europe! We really loved the delightful charm of the town, as well as the sense of peace, calmness, and relaxation! We swam in the Mediterranean, hiked along a trail above it
Have you ever been to Venice?
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© 2009 JanieceTobey