With its canals, gondolas, and its beautiful architecture, Venice is known to be one of the most romantic cities in the world. It’s also the only pedestrian city in the world, meaning there are no motorized bikes or cars allowed, with boats of course being the only exception. Most people get dropped off in a large parking area on the outside of the city. From there you’ll enter Venice from one of several large bridges like this one above.
The best time to visit Venice would be during the famous carnival that begins around mid February and ends in early March on Fat Tuesday. The history of the carnival goes way back to 1162 when the Republic of Venice, also known as Serenissima, won a battle against Ulrich II of Aquileia. In a nutshell, Ulrich II supported the German King who was also the Holy Roman Emperor at the time. The emperor had wanted to conquer Venice, and initially succeeded at capturing the mainland and Venice itself. Resisting the German invasion, the Republic of Venice sent a powerful army and almost immediately took back their cities and captured the invading army. This victory was celebrated by a carnival which still continues to this day. The carnival originally included sacrificing animals in a public ceremony, which faded away over time. The most distinct part of the tradition that is still popular today is the wearing of elegant clothing along with Venetian masks photographed above and below. Initially the masks were simple but as the centuries came on, the masks evolved to become more and more elegant and beautiful. They are extremely popular in Venice today, and it’s difficult to pass by a few blocks without seeing some for sale.
While I didn’t make it to the carnival, I did happen to be in Italy over St Patricks day. The city overall didn’t do anything special for the holiday, but I saw a few flyers and events and all the Irish bars were definitely a fun place to go to. I went to this bar above with a friend and we each had a few green beers. They had some specials going on where for each pint of beer you drink you get some award. It started off with a keychain with the top prize being the silly hat the bartender is wearing above.
Something else famous to do in Venice is ride the gondola. Since both trips to Venice was always with friends, I didn’t feel the need to do the romantic ride with them through Venice. On my second trip to Venice I actually learned how insanely expensive they are; prepare to pay about $100 for a gondola ride! I’ve also heard that for those tourists who believe they are all travel savvy and end up knocking the price down only hurt themselves. Supposedly if you negotiate and lower the price the gondola guy will only be annoyed and specifically take you to areas that aren’t very amusing and purposely avoid all the highlights. So even though I’ve yet to ride a gondola myself, my understanding is that if you plan to do it, accept that you have to pay a high price and enjoy the ride. The gondola’s are seen up and down Venice’s small canals as well as the large channels. The boats are definitely luxurious as you can see in the details on the right hand photo.
One of the most famous and commonly seen buildings in Venice is the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. I seemed to see it often on both of my trips to Venice. As a matter of fact, I hardly took photos when I originally traveled, but of the six that I took in Venice one of them captured the basilica. The basilica was completed in 1681 after taking 50 years to build. Actually the decision to create the basilica came one year after a devastating outbreak of the plague in 1630 killed up to a third of the republic’s population. For this reason the basilica was built and dedicated to the Virgin Mary who was seen as a symbol of protection for the republic. The photos above both show the basilica. The left hand photo was taken on my first trip to Venice, 11 years prior to the photo on the right.
These surrounding photos just show the beauty of the city and its canals. I actually took these two photos above on my most recent trip, while the two photos below were taken 10 years earlier! When I returned to Venice the second time around I was just as amazed and taken back by the city. I have one friend who visited and didn’t like it because she felt it was too touristy. I suppose that’s true, that there are parts of the city tha are overcrowded with tourists who are bombarded with souvenirs, but there are plenty of quieter real neighborhoods as well.
Above are two other photos taken 10 years apart of the island called San Giorgio Maggiore. San Giorgio Maggiore is pretty small, and the Cini Art Center seen in the center nearly occupies the entire island. I’ve not made it to the art center, but I think it sounds like something fun to do if my find myself in Venice another time around!
Above is a shot of the San Giorgio dei Greci which was right by where I was staying. This Greek church was built over nearly 500 years ago in 1548! I often walked along this canal and used the Greek church as a reference to get back to my room at night. Of course the canals dominate Venice, but you’ll find a few streets in the city center away from water such as this photograph on the upper right.
If you’d like to organize your trip, there are many festivals and events that take place throughout the year and an endless amount of tours I’m sure. For the funnest part of Venice was just exploring the city on foot. One night I came across this crazy orange moon came out as well as this mime doing tricks in the streets.
Some of the less crowded parts I came across are photographed above. I believe this area to be normal apartments for citizens of Venice. The photograph on the right shows the entrance to an apartment or maybe even a private home that has its own bridge to the front door!