After stumbling across a great deal on Wowcher’s WOW Go! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to fly to Venice. Yeah, I’d heard it smelt and I’d been warned the Gondola rides are a bit of a rip off…but when you have two feet and a bellyful of pasta, who needs to take the waterways?!
No need for a Gondola…take a leisurely stroll around the city!
You could walk around Venice in a day, it isn’t particularly big. Which is perfect really, as it allows you to soak up all the city has to offer in just two days. Whilst you can easily get lost discovering all the nooks and crannies, there are a couple of historical hotspots that you simply shouldn’t miss!
The Piazza San Marco, or St Marks Square, is the main hub of Venice. This beautiful square is surrounded by a wealth of historical monuments and museums, such as St Marks Campanile and the Doge’s Palace. However, it is Saint Mark’s Basilica that is the breathtaking main focal point; a monument made unique by its wealth of history and the magnificence of its façade and interior.
You think it’s stunning from the outside…wait until you see the interior of this beautiful church. The four horses guarding the entrance, on the balcony, are reproductions from the original four statues that were brought to Venice in 1240. The original horses stand inside the church.
The basilica is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. It costs only €5 to go inside, and when you do venture through the doors…be prepared to be amazed.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), it is prohibited to take photographs of the interior of the church. However, there is a great gift shop inside where you can buy postcards of the be-dazzling mosaic architecture.
A freebie, and off the beaten track, the Vivaldi Museum pays homage to the great composer, Antonia Vivaldi, who was born in Venice.
Born 1678, Antonio Vivaldi is recognised as one of the greatest Baroque music composers, and is best known for his violin concerto The Four Seasons. The museum chronicles the history of the ‘Ospedale della Pieta’, the orphanage where Vivaldi worked from 1703-40 as the chorus master and violin teacher to the orphans.
The Vivaldi Museum pays homage to Antonio Vivaldi, the Baroque composer. The museum houses hundreds of beautiful instruments played by members of the orphanage where Vivaldi taught.
Here, he composed much of his music for the church orchestra. The museum displays original documents and the musical instruments used by the women of the choir, the students of the orphanage, and by Vivaldi himself.
Best of all…this museum is free!
The Rialto Bridge, or the Ponte di Rialto, is one of the four main bridges spanning the Grand Canal. It is the oldest bridge across the canal, and was the dividing line for the districts of San Marco and San Polo.
The beautiful Rialto Bridge in all it’s glory. The bridge is a treasure trove of little shops and a great viewpoint for photographs.
The present bridge, designed by Antonio da Ponte, was completed in 1591, and is similar to the wooden bridge it succeeded. On either side of the bridge, there are rows of shops selling everything from jewellery and masquerade masks, to the famous Venice calligraphy pens.
The stunning painted ceiling of the Doge’s Palace could almost put Chatsworth Houses’ painted hall to shame…almost!
The Doge’s Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, is a palace built in the Venetian Gothic style, and is one of Venice’s main landmarks. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice. Established in 1340, the palace has been open to the public as a museum since 1923.
Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs, or the Ponte dei Sospiri, is an enclosed bridge with windows of stone bars. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. It was designed by Antoni Contino and was built in 1602.
A local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St Marks Campanile toll.
The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name, given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. In reality, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals. In addition, little could be seen from inside the Bridge due to the stone grills covering the windows.
The Ca’ d’Oro, or the Palazzo Santa Sofia as it is also known, is a palace situated on the Grand Canal. It is one of the older palaces in the city and was built between the years 1428-30 for the Contarini family, who provided Venice with eight Doges over the course of history.
The Ca’ D’Oro, or the ‘Golden House’.
During the 19th Century, whilst under the ownership of the ballet dancer Marie Taglion, the Gothic stairway from the inner courtyard was removed and ornate balconies overlooking the court were also destroyed. In 1894, Baron Georgio Franchetti took over the palace and throughout his lifetime, he amassed an important art collection and personally oversaw its extensive restoration, including the reconstruction of the stairway and the Cosmatesque courtyard with ancient marbles.
In 1916, Franchetti bequeathed the Ca’ d’Oro to the Italian State. It is now open to the public as a gallery. The name Ca’ d’Oro, or the “golden house”, derives from the gilt and and polychrome external decorations which once adorned its walls.