Cruising From Venice
Venice is one of those very special destinations where you can’t go wrong. No matter how much or how little time you have and wherever you choose to go, you’ll find it fascinating.
A vaporetto ride up the Grand Canal is absolutely required. The Venetian canals must not be missed, even if they are somewhat pungent. But that’s to be expected in a city that was built on mudflats and sandbanks. Ignore the myths that the canals are open sewers; the scent is from algae and silt, not sewage.
You could spend a week in the magnificent St. Mark’s Square and Basilica, which also provides access to the noteworthy Accademia art museum. A public space for people, the Piazza San Marco is a special work of architectural art that retains its magnificence even as large crowds move through.
There’s a little Trattoria just off Piazza S. Marco named Ai Leoncini. It’s not overly fancy but it does serve 15 kinds of pizza (thin crust of course) and 16 kinds of pasta. The beer is deliciously cold. Antipasti and Insalate are delicious. Service is friendly and efficient. Best of all, prices are reasonable. It’s also a great place to take a break while visiting one of the great cities of the world: La Bella Venezia.
Venice has to be one of the most special cities I have ever been to, certainly the most unique in terms of its physical layout. With its 118 islands, some 150 canals (well, technically, only two are officially canals, the others are called rios), and over 400 bridges), it’s a setting that defies description. To get the best overview of Venice, one has to take the elevator ride to the top of the modern Campanile in the heart of St. Mark’s Square (get there early in the day; it opens at 9AM daily). The 360-degree views provide a terrific look at the entire area. The original tower was built over 1000 years ago. It collapsed in 1912.
Here are my suggestions:
Get up early and walk. Before the crowds start forming, you can really enjoy the architecture, particularly of the buildings around St. Mark’s. Go to the fruit, vegetable and fish market on the north side of the Rialto Bridge before noon. There’s a great cheese and prosciutto store right there as well.
The walk from the Ponte dell’Accademia to St. Mark’s is lined with some of the best shops for local crafts including Giorgi Nason at Campo S. Gregorio D.D. 167 for jewelry and Il Prato for great paper goods at San Marco 2456.
Get off the main paths as you see fit. Part of the fun of Venice is winding up in a blind alley or coming out at the edge of a canal and having to make a u-turn. It’s a strolling city so give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going.
Before and after virtually anything you do, have a gelato. Or two. Or three.
The main canal, Canal Grande, winds itself all through the main part of the city. For a great overview of the buildings on both sides, buy a ticket on the vaporetto (the public water transportation). It’s only a couple of bucks and you can ride it from one end to the other in less than an hour. You’ll see everything along the way and really feel like a local.
The boat trip out to Murano Island to see glass being made is fine but it’s not worth the time unless you have lots of it. Rather there are lots of stores all around that sell Murano glass. Make sure the items you buy (if they are of the expensive sort) are signed by a “Master” and that you get a certificate to prove it. If you want to take an island trip, go to Burano, where they make beautiful lace. The streets and canals here are lined with brightly colored houses.
Take a gondola ride (come on, you know you want to) but don’t do it during the heat of the day or at night when you cannot see anything. Take it late in the afternoon or at dusk. It’s cooler then and you can see things. Don’t get in the gondola until you have confirmed the prices. Go to one of the smaller locations and negotiate. Be pleasant and not hard-nosed about it.
For dinner, there are so many places to go. For me, it’s back to the smaller, less formal type. For example, Al Theatro, right near the soon-to-be-reopened Theatro Venezia, where a full meal, dining alfresco, is lovely, reasonable, and wine, from Tuscany, delicious.
After dinner, go back to St. Mark’s Square. Again, the big crowds have gone. Magically, so have most of the pigeons. There will be two or three cafes open with small orchestras playing. Pick the one that strikes your fancy and sit for an hour or so. Have a beverage and relax. My favorite is Caffe Florian. It’s been there since 1720. I think some of the waiters have been as well. A delightful way to end a day in a truly romantic city.
Avid Cruiser contributor Art Sbarsky originally wrote this article for Vacation Agent Magazine
Made In Venice
Cultural and Shopping Guide
Index of Articles
- The Merchants Of Venice
- Venetian Fabrics
- Molino Stucky Hilton
- Murano Glass
- Burano: The Island Of Lace
- Venetian Masks & Costumes
- The Art Of Venetian Paper, Silver & Glass
- Video: A Cruise Passenger’s Guide To Exploring Venice
Tips For Getting The Most From Your Visit
Some of the shops featured in this guide are open to visitors by appointment only. Some are open only to groups. Call ahead to be safe or check the respective websites. Also, even Venetians sometimes get lost in Venice, so plan extra time to find your way.
Special thank you to CONFARTIGIANATO and PROMOVETRO.
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