Venice: Lagoon City

Venice viewed from the Campanile di San Marco

The city at night

 

Gondola's floating down one of Venice's canals

Venice is easily one of the most touristed cities in Europe, especially once you consider its relatively small size.  The typical tourist fare from gondolas to the Piazza San Marco exists just as presented in guidebooks.  As a visitor it is hard to be disappointed by the city.  It draws nearly 10 million tourists a year for a reason.

Being on a lagoon, the city feels like it violates common sense for siting a human community.  This is part of its magnetism and thankfully it does exist to be visited.  You would be hard pressed to find another city that offers everything you find in Venice.

In keeping with a trend of other cities I've visited, Venice has appeared in three James Bond movies, making it one of the most frequented locales in the franchise.  From Russia With Love, Moonrakerand Casino Royale all contain scenes in Venice.  For what it's worth, my personal favorite is probably Moonraker's boat chase.

Despite all the museums, galleries, and churches in Venice, the best activity is exploring the city on foot and getting lost along its canals.  The walkways are a labyrinth with seemingly endless permutations for getting from one location to another.  For backpacker with limited means, getting lost is the most budget friendly activity in pricey Venice.

Exploring the city on foot can lead to some pleasantly surprising discoveries.  Not all parts of the city are consumed with masses of people.  It's also possible to find some green spaces.  The Giardini Pubblici is the largest of these.  The greenhouse along this park area is great spot to enjoy some wine and some shade.

Statue at the edge of the Giardini Pubblici

A tranquil street devoid of both canals and crowds

 

Piazza San Marco during a relatively quiet moment

The Piazza San Marco is the buzzing hive of tourist activity.  Here can be found the Basilica di San Marco, the Palazzo Ducale, and more cafes and restaurants than can be counted.

The Clock Tower in the Piazza di San Marco

At one time Venice was a true power.  Just in my travels I have seen where this little city built fortresses in Montenegro and fought the Turks in Athens.  Even though tourists flock to Venice today, the city’s glory has actually been on the decline for centuries.  These days Venice is no longer a powerful republic in its own right, but another city in big Italy.  The decline in power is not all that bad of thing though.  As a visitor one of the benefits of this is the ability to visit the grand buildings from the height of Venetian prestige.  

Palazzo Ducale courtyard

The most noteworthy civic building is the Palazzo Ducale.  The palace, tucked next to Basilica di San Marco was home to the rulers of Venice (doges) starting in the 9th century.  It also housed numerous government chambers and a jail.  Inside and out, Palazzo Ducale is appropriately ornate.  Statues, paintings, and all measure of small details are to be observed.  Permanent exhibits provide an overview of the goings on of the Venetian government when the palace still served its original function.  A temporary exhibition on the role the Guardia di Finanza, Italy’s financial police, during World War I was on display during my visit and was fascinating.

Il Paradiso by Tintoretto is the focal point of the Great Council Chamber and the largest canvas painting in the world

The Palazzo also includes a prison that once housed Giacomo Casanova

My travel companion Adam reliving moments from the Charlie Company armory

The Golden Staircase leading to the upper floors of the palace

Display from the exhibit on the Guardia di Finanza during World War I

 

Basilica di San Marco

Basilica di San Marco is one the symbols of Venice.  The Byzantine architecture is eye catching and stands out from other Italian cathedrals.  Construction of the church began at the end of the 11th century.  The centerpiece of the interior is the altar containing the relics of Mark the Evangelist.  Photography is not permitted inside so you will have to settle for a shot of the exterior.  Photos of the inside can be viewed here.

The Venetian Arsenal was once a major source of the city's power