- Did You Know -
Like most cities in Italy, the birth of Venice is still surrounded by medieval myths and tales. History has it that the inhabitants of Aquileia in the 5th century A.D. laid the foundations for the unique city it is today. Because of its mysterious origins and atypical location, Venice offers many interesting anecdotes that make the city even more intriguing.
1. Venice has the shape of a fish
People coming to Venice for the first time typically wonder how monumental buildings such as the Campanile di San Marco or the Basilica di San Marcocan possibly hold on. Since the beginning, construction in Venice had to tackle water, salty air, mud and sand. By creating a smart system of building stilts and by preventing water leaks with mud, bricks and waste material, Venetians managed to build a cemented ground that’s been holding on for decades.
2. Visit one of the narrowest streets in the world
Calletta (as in “small street”) Varisco is located near Campo San Canciano in Venice and it is one of the narrowest streets in the world. It only measures 53 cm in width! Streets in Venice are usually quite narrow, as in the past the real way of reaching houses and buildings was by a canal. Streets naturally arose to move between houses but were not originally conceived for traffic. That’s why the main gates of most old buildings in Venice are still facing the canals and can be reached by boat!
3. It’s not that easy to become a gondolier
The Gondola is one of the most recognizable symbols of Venice and a popular attraction for tourists. However, not many people know that becoming a licensed gondola rider, or “gondolièr” is actually quite hard! These narrowboats have been used for over 10 centuries to navigate across the canals because of their odd shape, but they can only be led by skilled oarsmen, who need to go through intense training and pass a final exam. Hundreds of young men apply each year, but only 3 to 4 people manage to get the license!
4. Beware of the cats
In olden times, cats arrived in Venice from the Middle East and became immediately precious to Venetian people. They served to solve a great issue at the time: a mouse infestation. In Venice, the cat population has kept growing until today, but not many cats are stray! Most of them reside in designed facilities or live with Venetian families and the traditional “gattare“, cat ladies. Rumour has it that one of the most popular Doges of Venice, Francesco Morosini, was so fond of his cat that he brought her with him to war!
5. The origin of the word “Ciao”
Ciao is definitely the most recognized Italian greeting in the world, but truth is, it actually finds its origins in Venice! In particular, it comes from a typical Venetian greeting, “s-ciavo vostro”, that translates into “your slave”. With time, the greeting became “s-ciavo“, until it simply got to “ciao“, the word we all use today!
venice: THE QUEEN OF THE ADRIATIC.
Once a powerful and commanding Republic, Venice is one of the most celebrated cities in Italy. It is built on 118 small islands linked by canals and bridges and remains largely as it was in medieval times. Venice is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its ostentatious churches and palaces housing medieval masterpieces, its tiny backstreet chapels home to priceless artworks. Venice's high culture is famous for its pioneering ideas and espousing a healthy disregard for convention.
St Mark’s Square and Basilica
San Marco is the historic core of Venice and at its heart is Piazza San Marco, or St Mark’s Square, the focal point of this striking city. Surrounded by Venice's oldest cafes and imperial apartments, the imposing basilica dedicated to St Mark. According to legend, St Mark was destined to rest within the basilica. So when he died in Alexandria in 828, Venetian authorities secretly brought him home. Now the basilica is one of the grandest in Italy and is adorned with spectacular mosaics as well as showcasing some extraordinary Romanesque architecture.
The Doge’s Palace
The seat of the Venetian government and official home of the Doge is a remarkable Gothic palace that is located at the very heart of the city's political, judiciary and administrative life. The intricate exterior with its geometrical patterns and marble colonnades has been described as Islamicized Gothic, whereas the internal courts and apartments are much more traditionally Venetian in style.
Murano Island and glass blowing experience
Glass has been made on Murano since the 13th century when the city's glassmakers retreated to the island to reduce the risk of fire to the main city. The hand-blown glass made here is famous across the world. The high quality and intricate detail of the patterns made from mixing minute portions of the glass create a stunning one of a kind piece of art. A tour of Murano not only showcases the glassblowers at work but a visit the Museo del Vetro educates visitors to the long history of glassmaking on the island.
Designed in the 16th century specifically for navigating the narrow Venetian waterways, the gondola is Venice's most romantic mode of transport. A trip along the canals by gondola is a quintessential Venice experience and offers the opportunity to see the city as it was intended, from the water. Each gondola is traditionally passed down from father to son and most boats have remained within the same family for generations. During a 30 minute ride, the gondolier will meander down a number of scenic canals, allowing visitors to see some of Venice’s hidden waterways as well as venturing out onto the magnificent Grand Canal for unparalleled views.
Rialto Bridge and Market
With its curved arches and grand central portico, the Rialto Bridge is one of Venice's most famous sights. Until the 1850s it was the only bridge crossing the Grand Canal and was an important commercial hub and a vital thoroughfare linking the San Marco and San Polo districts. The bridge is lined with shops and leads to the Rialto Market, where traders have plied their wares since 1097.
Venice’s opera house is appropriately named ‘the Phoenix’ since the building has bounced back from three fires. It occupies a canalside position just west of Saint Mark’s Square. A classical-style building dating from 1792, Venice’s oldest opera venue came into its own during the 19th century when great Italian composers such as Verdi and Rossini premiered their latest works here.
Venice’s art galleries
The Accademia, a gallery occupying three former religious buildings, houses Venice’s largest collection of art. Napoleon gathered most of the works of art in 1807. Its maze of galleries contains Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces, including Tintoretto’s Stealing of Saint Mark. A guided tour is preferable as signage and captioning are poor.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection with its leafy rooms full of bold modern art will surprise and delight you. Here you’ll find pieces by Max Ernst, Picasso, Magritte, Kandinsky, Miró, and Pollock.
Finally, there’s Ca’Rezzonico, a Baroque palace on the Grand Canal. Not strictly an art gallery, it preserves the 18th-century golden age of Venetian living. It includes a restored ballroom and 18th-century frescoes, paintings and, more unusually, puppets which were used a theatre.
During the ten days running up to the beginning of Lent, Venice comes alive in the most spectacular fashion with its annual carnival. The carnival dates back to the 11th century but reached its heyday in the 18th century when festivities were sometimes known to last over two months. Under the cover of their disguises, rich and poor were able to engage in illicit liaisons and social transgressions in a great celebration of excess. Today, the carnival's balls, music and pageants are just as exuberant and you'll encounter masked revellers, bedecked head to toe in the most elaborate costumes, thronging the streets creating a wonderful, celebratory atmosphere.
Venice, it's temples and palaces did seem like fabrics of enchantment piled to Heaven.
The Italian cuisine rated one of the finest and most popular cuisines in the world is an ever so tempting array of delights appreciated by both the simple and the refined palates. The richness of this cuisine, which, if truth be told, does not come down to the ever-present and overwhelming range of pizzas, pasta and rice, for instance, derives from the wholesome ingredients used: olive oil and olives, tomatoes, garlic, herbs (basil in particular), eggplants and zucchini, potatoes and peppers, fish and seafood, as well as all sorts of meats.
Venetian cuisine has local nuances, such as seafood and fish-based dishes that are part of the cuisine of the Venetian Lagoon. Thus, one of the most typical dishes refers to moleche, a dish made of small fried crabs. This unpretentious dish can be accompanied by all sorts of dips and side dishes, including tomato sauce, potatoes or polenta.
Risotto Nero is a special type of risotto cooked with cuttlefish. The ink of the cuttlefish darkens the rice adding a touch of uniqueness to the strange, and yet tasty risotto nerro, also referred to as risotto alla sepie.
Rixoto de go
Rixoto de go is yet another fantastic combination of rice and fish. This dish combines the gifts of the land with the gifts of the sea into a single plate, such that the rice borrows the marine flavours of the go, as the goby is called in Venetian, and the fish gains the delicate texture of the rice.
While baicoli is not a desert, it remains one of the typical products of Venice and a temptation for people with an inquisitive sweet tooth. This dry biscuit can be consumed with coffee, or can complement other creamy deserts.
Eating out in Venice
Venice has a multitude of eateries from first-hand restaurants to cheap eateries where the food is not only tasty but hearty too. However, in order to enjoy a fully Venetian vacation, aim at sampling the local traditional cuisine. Get to know the secret corners and less known areas where true Venetian meals are served. All sorts of pizzerias, luxury restaurants or cafes well stocked with mounds of sandwiches cater for all sorts of clients, irrespective of tastes and pockets.
Vanitian canals not only define the city of Venice but provide the main form of transportation for residents and tourists alike through the city.
With more than 150 waterways meandering through the city and traversed by over 400 bridges. The Grand Canal stretches around 2 miles (3 kilometers) through the city. The Grand Canal serves as a major artery for commuter traffic and is lined with many of Venice’s most impressive architectural landmarks. Smaller canals crisscross the city a provide access to buildings that are not located on the Grand Canal.
Buildings were initially constructed on pilings set into the layers of sand and clay and over time were fortified with stone and brick to create more permanent dwellings. The canals were gradually deepened and widened, being lined with stone to allow for commercial traffic as the city’s population grew, and the result is the maze of canals that make up the city today.
Of course, the most well-known watercraft in Venice are the gondolas. Anyone passing the canals becomes used to the cries of the gondoliers trying to attract business. Although, it’s not only charming gondolas that ply the waters of the Venetian canals but also freight barges, garbage boats, and ambulances, as well as Vaporetto water taxis for local commuters getting from A to B.
Exploring Venice along its canals offers a unique perspective on the city and is a highlight of any visit. No matter how you navigate throughout the city, the Venetian canals remain one of Italy’s most captivating features.
excursions & tours
Venice Marco Polo Airport Private
Duration: 30 minutes
Start your stay in Venice the easy and stylish way with a private water taxi transfer from Marco Polo Airport to your Venice hotel. A representative will greet you at the airport arrival terminal and escort you to a waiting private motorboat. Then, sit back and relax as you speed past the spectacular scenery of the Venetian Lagoon and canals in your comfortable, private ride.
Venice: Basilica San Marco, Doges
Palace, and Gondola Ride
Duration: 7 hours 30 minutes
First time in Venice? Maximize your time in the city with a full-day itinerary that ticks off all the most memorable attractions. Stroll across the Rialto Bridge and browse the lively Rialto fish market, then hop aboard a traditional gondola for a romantic cruise along the Grand Canal. Next, access St. Mark’s Basilica and gaze down over the city from the cathedral’s rooftop terrace. Finally, enjoy skip-the-line entrance to the grandiose Doge’s Palace. This small-group tour is limited to 15 people ensuring a personalized experience.
Musica a Palazzo 'Traveling Opera'
Performance in Venice
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
Experience an evening of opera in Venice, surrounded by the historical elegance of a 15th-century palace. The singers and musicians of the Musica a Palazzo ensemble perform classics of Italian opera within the ornate salons of Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto. Move from room to room along with the performers and soak up the drama of epics like 'La Traviata' and 'Rigoletto' in a truly intimate environment.
Venice Doge's Palace, Golden Basilica Tour plus Gondola Ride
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
Soak up the best of Venice by land and by water in one convenient half-day package. Tour inside the splendid Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica with a guide, discover the ancient art of glassblowing with a live demonstration and glide through the city’s famous canals on a romantic gondola ride. Later, continue exploring at your own pace with an included ticket to the Procuratie museums of St. Mark’s Square and a self-guided tour using a special smartphone app to navigate through the city’s maze-like heart.
Musici Veneziani Concert: Vivaldi Four Seasons
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Hear Antonio Vivaldi’s magnificent ‘Four Seasons’ performed by Venice’s acclaimed I Musici Veneziani. The 1.5-hour show will whisk you back to 18th-century Venice, with performers dressed in traditional Venetian costumes and a spectacular setting in the exclusive Salone Capitolare at the Scuola Grande di San Teodoro.
Venice Canals Gondola Ride and Serenade with Lunch or Dinner
Duration: 2 hours
Feel the romance of a classic Venetian experience with a serenaded gondola ride through Venice’s famed canals, capped off by dinner or lunch at a renowned local eatery. Settle into a traditional gondola boat for a 35-minute ride through the Grand Canal and some of the city’s smaller waterways, while onboard musicians provide a passionate soundtrack of Italian ballads. Savour an authentic Venetian meal at the top-rated Hostaria Ai Coristi Restaurant to conclude your enchanted evening or afternoon tour.