Venice is a city you cannot miss, if you are visiting Italy. It is strongly recommended that you try to spare a few days to see this beautiful and unique city. Here is a short 3 day trip to not to miss anything important!
The climate is mild Mediterranean. Due to the high humidity of the air and the Sirocco, it is very warm and damp in summer. In winter, it is often chilly and wet.
Healthcare is free for EU citizens with a European Health Insurance Card. For other nationals the emergency (ER) treatments are free, so it is best to have travel insurance which covers all the healthcare costs.
The official currency is Euro. There are lots of cashpoints (ATM) and currency exchanges (cambio) available in the city. All major credit and debit cards are accepted.
Most of the embassies are located in Rome.
Electricity: 220V with the usual European 2 pin socket.
Internet is free around St Mark’s Square with a valid museum entry ticket. Some cafes offer free internet as well. Mobile phone signal should be good all over Venice.
Venice is a safe city, recorded crime rate is very low.
Tip is included in the service, but the usual 10% is accepted and welcomed everywhere.
History of Venice
It is the only city in the world which is built entirely on water. According to the legend, it was founded in the 25th of April 421 AD. This date is also the celebration of the city’s guardian saint; St Mark. Venice was founded by those who fled from the mainland to the safety of the lagoon. The people who lived on the islands and in the lagoon have become talented merchants. Today’s Venice was built when the population moved to the Rialto. It is famous from its markets and the Rialto Bridge across the Grand Canal.
After 800 AD they started connecting the islands with bridges, they used millions of piles in the muddy seabed. Venice lies on a 7.5 km2 area, it has got 3000 streets, 100 squares and more than 400 bridges. Fortunately, it can all be seen today.
Venice has got 6 districts, they all have a special purpose. For example the Isola di San Michele is a burial island to this day, Murano is the home of the glassmakers, the famous Venetian glass and Burano is known for its brightly painted houses and lacemaking. You can get to these major islands with public transport (vaporetto – water bus) easily.
Venice’s most famous person is Casanova. He was born in 1725. He is known as the seducer of women an adventurer and a spy. His well-known memoirs were published in many languages it is a fascinating read from his exploits and adventures in the 18th century Europe.
You should spend this day on St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) and the surrounding area. It is the main public square of Venice in the heart of the city, there are lots of things to see and visit.
- St Mark’s Basilica – Basilica di San Marco
It is the most beautiful and most peculiar building in Venice, it has got a crucial role during the Carnival as well. (See our blog post: Venice Carnival.) It is on the eastern side of St Mark’s Square, it is interesting to know that this was the most important church in Venice. It was operating as a forum, as a centre of public life, not just as a religious institute.
- St Mark’s Campanile – Campanile di San Marco
It is the bell tower of the St Mark’s Basilica. It has been rebuilt in the 20th century, almost a 100m tall, one of the symbols of the city. It stands in the corner of St Mark’s Square opposite the entrance of the Basilica.
- Loggetta del Sansovio
The building stands at the foot of the Campanile. It was built by Jacopo Sansovino from 1537 to 1546; a famous architect and sculptor from Florence, who worked and lived in Venice. He was appointed chief architect of Venice and superintendent of properties.
They are 3 connected buildings on St Mark’s Square. Originally, they were connected to the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace as well. The oldest building is the Procuratie Vecchie. The façade was built from white Istrian limestone, similar to the Doge’s Palace. It is located on the north side of the square, it used to be the office and apartment of the Procurator of San Marco. It was the second most prestigious post, in the time of the Republic of Venice, after the Doge. Nowadays the two newer building the Procuratie Nuove and the Napoleonic Wing house the Correr Museum – Museo Correr. It has got an extensive collection of artwork and also covers the history of Venice.
- Bridge of Sighs – Ponte dei Sospiri
It is an 8m long bridge made of Istrian limestone. It connects the New Prison to the Doge’s Palace. It was designed by Antonio Contino and named by Lord Byron after he translated its Italian name. The legend says that the convicts would sigh, as the last view they saw was the spectacular view of Venice, before they were taken down to their cells.
- Doge’s Palace – Palazzo Ducale
The Palace stands on St Mark’s Square. It is one of the most popular attractions in Venice. It was established in 1340. It was the residence of the ruler of Venice, the Doge. It has got an important role in the Venice Carnival. This is where the carnival started as the Doge granted permission to the start the celebrations. Today, it operates as a museum.
It is a rectangular shaped square lies between the Doge’s Palace and the Biblioteca Marciana (Sansovino’s Library). It is technically the part of St Mark’s Square as it forms an L shape with the Piazza. It was a port in the 12th century and the Campanile was a watchtower on the shore.
- Biblioteca Marciana – National Library of St Mark’s
It is one of the earliest surviving libraries in Italy. It has got some of the best classical text collections in the world. It was designed by Jacopo Sansovino in Renaissance style.
- St Mark’s Clocktower
It lies on the north side of St Mark’s Square. The building has got a tower which contains a clock, they originate from the 15th century, however the clock’s mechanism has been altered many times over the years. As of today it houses a museum.
This island is one of the favourites among the tourists visiting Venice. It is known from its brightly painted houses, the colours of the houses are regulated by the government, so it is not randomly selected by their owners. The legend says, the fisherman of the island started painting their houses to bright colours, so they can find their way home with no trouble in foggy weather.
It lies northeast of Venice about 7 km away. You can get there with public transport; the vaporetto – water bus. The journey takes about 40 minutes. The population is about 3000 people, it has got 5 islands separated by canals linked by bridges. Burano is linked to Mazzorbo (another island) with a 60m long wooden bridge. Mazzorbo is bigger than Burano, although the population is only 350. It used to be an important trading centre, now days there are lots of orchards and allotments on the island.
It is one of the earliest inhabited island in the Venice lagoon together with Mazzorbo and Torcello. Burano was first settled by the Romans, later in the 6th century it was occupied by the people from Altino who were fleeing the mainland from Attila the Hun. The people from Altino named the nearby islands from the six gates of their former city: Murano, Mazzorbo, Burano, Torcello, Ammiana and Constanziaco.
At first Burano was governed from Torcello, it did not have any privileges, like Murano, although it had a thriving economy with a population of 8000. The men on the island made their living from fishing and boat building. The women were lace makers from the 16th century. The lace from Burano has become a popular commodity around Europe. Lacemaking by hand and needle slowly declined in the 18th – 19th century, as it is a very hard and time consuming work. Lacemaking was revived in 1872 when the first school of lacemaking was opened. By this time there was only one woman (Francesca Memo – to pass her knowledge) alive who knew the traditional technique of making lace by needle. There are a few people who make lace using the traditional way nowadays. If you are curious how it is made, visit the Scuola del Merletto – School of Lacemaking on Galuppi Square. It was operating as a school until the end of the 1960s, it is a museum today, but if you are lucky you can catch a lacemaking course.
Another attraction on the island, apart from its colourful houses is the Church of San Martino. The church has got a leaning bell tower, it can be seen from the neighbouring islands as well. It lies on the main square opposite the School of Lacemaking. Its main pride is the painting (Crucifixion of Jesus) by Giambattista Tiepolo.
Murano is not as romantic as Venice, not even as spectacular as Burano, but its world famous glass making is inviting people from all over the world.
Murano is a series of 7 islands linked by bridges, separated by canals. It lies northeast of Venice about 1.5 km away. The population is about 5000 people, most of them make a living from glassmaking. Water buses run frequently to the island.
Murano’s early history is similar to Burano. It was occupied by the Romans first, then the people from Altino were settled here. Until the 11th century the island was a thriving trading community. Its salt production and fishing were the most profitable. In the next centuries the island slowly started to decline as many people migrated to Venice, although it kept its privileges it had its own Grand Council and it could mint its own coins. In 1291 all the glassmakers were banned from Venice due to the risk of fire. They all moved to Murano, this resulted a boom in its economy. In the next centuries 13th – 16th it has become famous from its glassmaking, exporting goods all over Europe. At its peak, there were 37 glassmaking factories on the island. The craftsmen had privileges like no other commons. They could choose a wife from a noble house, but they were not allowed to leave the Republic of Venice to keep the secret of glassmaking on the islands. They could try at their own peril, as if they were caught the penalty was death.
The decline of the glassmaking started when the Habsburg Empire conquered the Republic of Venice (1814). The Habsburgs supported the Czech glassmaking instead of the Venetian one. From its 37 factories only 13 remained open. Business picked up again, when they introduced glass mosaics and exported them outside the Habsburg Empire.
The glassmakers of Murano invented and developed many glass making technologies resulting the following: imitation gemstones made of glass, optically clear glass, glass with threads or gold (aventurine), enamelled glass (smalto), milk glass (lattimo) and multi-coloured glass (millefiori).
Places to see:
Murano Glass Museum, located in the Palazzo Giustinian. It is a perfect example of a late Venetian Gothic building.
There are 3 temples left on Murano, as most of them were destroyed during the French and Austrian occupation. Two of them are open to visitors. Church of Santa Maria e San Donato. This church is the home of the ashes of Saint Donatus it is also famous from its Byzantine mosaic pavement. San Pietro Martire Church houses the artworks of Bellini, Veronese and Tintoretto.
Two more attractions are the 35m tall lighthouse and the bell tower on Campo Santo Stefano.