Venice and its lagoon

Venice is a city without equal, rich in history, art and culture, where you can admire breathtaking scenery. There is no tourist in the world who does not know her by reputation and does not want to spend at least one day of his life there.

Venice, known as the “Serenissima”, in the past quickly became one of the most important cities in Europe thanks to its strategic location, representing a key hub within the trade between East and West.

Venice, counted among the most beautiful cities in the world, stands on a lagoon made up of more than 100 islands, some more famous and popular, others more solitary but equally full of charm, most of which were originally a small independent community, with a square for public meetings and one or two churches. The “sestiere” (district) of San Marco is the one that hosts the best known tourist attractions, while the Castello district (to the east) and Cannaregio (to the north) extend to its sides. Giudecca is the largest of the islands of Venice and is close to the historic center. On the other side of the canal is Dorsoduro, the largest “sestiere”, with the Rialto bridge. In Venice it is therefore possible to spend a weekend of excursions on land and on some of these islands, where you can immerse yourself in the history and landscapes of the lagoon.

The cultural offer, which includes museums and buildings of inestimable value, is very rich, but just as satisfying is the food and wine scene, with dozens of taverns and restaurants specializing in typical dishes and wines. The central nucleus of Venice, since its foundation, is the famous San Marco Square, seat of the Doge’s Palace (historic residence of the Doges) and the main church, the wonderful Basilica of San Marco. Over the centuries the latter has developed to become the richest and most magnificent church in the Christian world, while the Doge’s Palace has expanded to accommodate a government whose power lasted longer than that of any other republican regime in Europe. In this square there are also the historic bell tower of San Marco and the Correr Museum, located inside the Procuratie Nuove, as well as the Archaeological Museum. A few minutes’ walk from here, in addition to the immortal Bridge of Sighs, the Renaissance church of San Salvador and the Gothic church of Santo Stefano are also worth seeing, as well as two of the major exhibition spaces in the city: Grassi Palace, home to the most prestigious art exhibitions, and the Fortuny Museum, where temporary exhibitions are also organized.

View of St Mark's Cathedral and St Mark's Square in Venice. Architecture and landmark of Venice. Sunrise cityscape of Venice.

View of St Mark’s Cathedral and St Mark’s Square in Venice. Architecture and landmark of Venice. Sunrise cityscape of Venice.   (foto ©  Shutterstock.com)

Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) and gondolas with gondolieri in Venice, Italy. The bridge "Ponte della Canonica" can be seen in the background.

Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) and gondolas with gondolieri in Venice, Italy.
 (
foto © / Shutterstock.com) 

Crossing the Giudecca Canal you will see the Stucky Mill, which is now a luxury hotel. Of great interest are the church of the Zitelle, the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore and the church of the Redentore, with the architecture by Andrea Palladio, built in the sixteenth century to celebrate the liberation of the city from a horrible plague.

Magnificent examples of residential architecture are concentrated in the Dorsoduro district. The main attraction are the Accademia Galleries, which house masterpieces created in different phases of Venetian painting up to the 18th century, but also the great church of Santa Maria della Salute, a Baroque masterpiece in Venice. In Dorsoduro we also find the Guggenheim Collection, a small museum with many 20th-century works of art collected by Peggy Guggenheim.

The Cannaregio district extends at the northern end of Venice, with its historic Jewish ghetto, the first one in the world to which this name was attributed. Among the buildings not to be missed we also remember the Madonna dell’Orto, which houses some paintings by Tintoretto, San’Alvise and Palazzo Labia, united by the presence of magnificent works by Tiepolo; Ca ‘d’Oro, on the other hand, is a sumptuous palace overlooking the Grand Canal.

To the east of Cannaregio is the Castello district, dominated by the immense Gothic church of Saints John and Paul, while the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli stands a short distance away. As for the museums, in the southern part of Castello there are the Querini-Stampalia art gallery, the Museum of San Giorgio dei Greci and the Diocesan Museum.

Finally, the districts of the Arsenale and the Biennale remain to be seen: art, architecture, dance, cinema, music and theater are the issues addressed every two years in the spaces of the old Arsenale, one of the most evocative places in Venice.

But among the most beautiful things to do in Venice there is also to let yourself be lost in the maze of “calli” (streets) and “campielli” (squares), accompanied by the rustle of the water of the canals, and then arrive in some unknown square.

Venice is also famous for its carnival, the extraordinary “Carnevale di Venezia”. When the carnival begins in Venice, visitors from all over the world come to admire the many beautiful masks and costumes. One of the many highlights of the Carnival of Venice is the flight of angels (Volo dell’angelo) over St. Mark’s Square.

View from the Rialto Bridge to the Grand Canal, Venice, Veneto, Italy

View from the Rialto Bridge to the Grand Canal, Venice, Veneto, Italy.    (foto ©  Shutterstock.com)

The lagoon of Murano, Burano and Torcello, satellite islands of Venice, have maintained their identity and tradition over the centuries. Murano, well known all over the world for the handcrafted production of blown glass and the famous “murrine”, was born from the need of Venice to remove from the city the glassworks that, with the high temperatures of the crucibles, jeopardized the safety of the floating city exposing it to the risk of devastating fires. To welcome you are its beautiful Cathedral, named after Saints Maria and Donato, characterized by some considerable mosaics and of course the Museum of Glass Art, housed inside the Giustiniano Palace. Here you will admire the works of Venetian glass masters, truly unique in their kind. It is a show where you can be amazed by the incandescent molten glass that is transformed into a unique creative object.

 

Over time the island of Burano has become synonymous of lace. In the past it was common to see groups of women sitting at the entrance of the picturesque houses intent on the art of embroidery, an ancient tradition of the lagoon island. Despite this, the charm of the island has remained unchanged, with the narrow streets, the colorful houses, the magic of silence and the tranquility that still pervade the streets of this island. The colorful fishermen’s houses are another symbol of the island: legend has it that they built them so colorful because they were used to find their home in the days of thick fog.

 

Finally we have Torcello, another jewel of the lagoon indicated by historians as the first settlement in the area, founded when some Venetian populations chose the lagoon to escape the raids of the barbarians. It is part of the smaller islands of the Venice Lagoon. Torcello is an island of intense spirituality that collects considerable historical and artistic testimonies and preserves extraordinary monuments, first of all the monumental complex consisting of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, together with the church of Santa Fosca. The interiors are splendid, with the famous Byzantine-Romanesque style mosaics that attract most of the tourists who visit the island.

 

Returning to Venice, you can enjoy the enchanted city again. And when the time of sunset arrives, you can spend time in the “bacari”, the typical popular taverns that rise among the city streets, to sip a typical “cicchetto” or “l’ombra de vin” (a glass of wine). This completes a journey of land and navigation that retraced the history of the “Serenissima” and its beauties, circumnavigating the lagoon archipelago.

Author: Luca

Burano Island, Venice, Veneto, Italy.

Colourful houses on the island of Burano. Colourful buildings on the Fondamenta bank of the narrow water channel with fishing boats and stone bridge, Venice Province, Veneto Region, Italy.    (foto ©  Shutterstock.com) 

Traditional glass in the historical centre of Murano Island, Venice, Italy

Traditional glass in the historical centre of Murano Island, Venice, Italy.   (foto © Natursports / Shutterstock.com) 

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