Venice is a city built on one hundred and seventeen tiny islands. These islands are man-made, for underneath Venice are hundreds and thousands of wood piles holding them up. Venice is a truly unique city that is an absolute must-see when traveling to Italy or Europe in general.
St. Mark’s Square is the heart of Venice. It has numerous important buildings, all in one centralized location. Take note of the fourteen different winged lions along the square. They are the symbol of Venice.
The square has St. Mark’s Basilica, which is almost one thousand years old. It was built in 1063 at the site of another church, which burned down. It is spectacular, with four thousand square feet of mosaics. The most spectacular of which is found in the arch towards the nave called the Arch of the Passion. It details the life of Jesus Christ. It embodies many artistic styles, such as Byzantine, Gothic, and Eastern. Inside, you can see the famous four bronze horses and the Golden Altarpiece.
The Doges’ Palace housed the government. It was built between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries over a pre-existing castle. It is architecturally interesting because all of the delicate latticework is at the bottom, supporting the massive structure above it.
The Bridge of Sighs is the most famous bridge amongst the many throughout Venice. It connects the Doges’ Palace (where the courtrooms were located) to the prisons. It has its name because of criminals “sighing” during their last brief moment of freedom.
The Marcian Library is one of the most important libraries in Italy, with over a million books and many nautical maps and miniatures. It was built in the sixteenth century and was originally a private collection of books.
The Clock Tower was built in the fifteenth century. In addition to the clock is the Lion of St. Mark and the “Moors” who ring the bells at designated times. The Bell Tower has a spectacular view of the city, being ninety-seven meters high. It was rebuilt in 1902 after it collapsed.
Some other important sites to see around Venice are the Basilica Della Salute, the Church of Santa Maria del Rosario, the Basilica dei Frari, and the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
Those interested in touring museums can choose between the Academy Galleries, the School of Saint George, the Ca’Rezzonico (the Museum of the Venetian Settecento), or the Correr Museum.
And last, but certainly not least, are the canals. If you are in Venice, it is absolutely necessary that you hire a gondola and cruise the canals. They are what Venice is famous for (and contrary to popular belief, the canals of Venice do not smell).
If you have the opportunity, you should take a taxi (in Venice’s case, a boat) for a cruise along the Grand Canal – this is where you can see numerous old buildings, and it is absolutely beautiful. Taxis need special permission to do this, so if you can arrange this, it is a must! You will not be able to see those buildings from the land.
Don’t forget to pick up a Venetian mask as a souvenir!