An Expert Travel Guide to Venice

Venice is one of the most picturesque and romantic cities in the world. Dotted across 117 mini-islands which sit within the shallow waters of the Venetian Lagoon, Venice is a treasure chest of history, cultures and discoveries.

While Venetian Carnival is a must here, there are so many other events and places to explore. Let’s start with some of the most amazing places you absolutely must visit when in Venice.

Saint Mark's Basilica

No travel guide in Venice can avoid mentioning Saint Mark’s Basilica of course. Not only this is a stunning piece of art and an important historical sight, this is also a quirky place of contemplation about our past. The first St. Mark’s Basilica was built on this spot in the 9th century to house very sacred relics- relics that had been stolen! Yes, that’s right, it was stolen. In 828, merchants from Venice stole the body of St. Mark the Evangelist, one of the Apostles, from Alexandria, Egypt. According to the legend, they snuck them past the guards by hiding them under layers of pork in barrels. The entire story is pictured on the 13th century mosaic above the left door as you enter the basilica. By the way, there’s enough mosaic here to cover one and a half football fields. What a grand storytelling effort!

Considered one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world, the Basilica di San Marco is known for its opulent design. In fact, it was nicknamed as “Church of Gold”. Its design is a mixture of Eastern and Western architecture styles. There is a lot to explore and learn about both the exterior and the interior of this stunning building including its history of course.

There’s no charge to enter the church and wander around the roped-off central circuit, although you’ll need to dress modestly (ie knees and shoulders covered) and leave large bags around the corner at the Ateneo San Basso Left Luggage Office.

Stunning Venice is the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region. This fairytale like city is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals – including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces.

Absolutely gorgeous Venice has a colourful history too. People fled their homes on the mainland when barbarian conquerors were ravaging Italy in the 5th century A.D. Fleeing Italians used the marshy lagoon for protection and found refuge among the poor fishermen living there. More and more people joined them expanding the island’s welcoming capacity. The settlers pounded thousands of wooden piles into the mud to ensure foundations for their homes. Many buildings are still standing on 1000 year old piles of wood.

Venice is a fascinating part of Italy. There are so many things to do and see here. Venice also changes from season to season allowing you to experience it in many different variations. With so many islands to explore, history to uncover and sights to see, we decided to put together a travel expert guide to help you plan your visit to Venice.

Glass Blowing In Murano

When exploring Venice be sure to plan for its fascinating neighbour Murano, which consists of seven small islands linked by bridges. Murano is slower, quieter and far less crowded than Venice no matter what season you visit it. One of the most interesting things to do here is watch local artisans blow glass, watch it take elegant form from a blob of liquid jumble.

Glass-blowing used to be done in Venice until 1291. This artful work was then moved to Murano. Only a few artisans were allowed to remain in Venice and continue their work. Soon their work became a sought after product holding them in high esteem.

What is particularly interesting about glass blowing here is that in the 15th century, glass blowing began to reach its popularity peak when Angelo Barovier discovered how to produce clear glass – mirrors. This, in turn, led to Murano glassmakers being the only producers of mirrors in Europe.

It’s a fascinating sight to watch a craftsman creating a piece of gorgeous glass by heating it up, blowing, cooling it down and heating it up, blowing and cooling it down. The glass is being bent and twisted, shape shifted and merged with other liquid glass. It’s mesmerizing to watch!

If you need help booking a Murano glass blowing tour, just get in touch – we’ll be happy to help you find the best provider.

Venetian Doge's Palace

Once done with glass blowing, jump into a water taxi and swiftly come back to the island of Venice for a bunch of exciting things to do.

Seemingly almost touching the water, Doge’s Palace was built around a courtyard and richly decorated, was the meeting place of the governing councils and ministries of the republic. The first palace was built in 814. It has burnt down and been rebuilt multiple times. The building is now composed of layers of history with elements and ornamentation also from its 14th and 15th century modifications. Although it served as a government building for so many centuries It’s been now a museum since 1923.

You absolutely have to visit the building that appears on so many Venetian post cards. This isn’t just a pretty façade. Many exhibitions and art showcases are now taking places here. It’s a vibrant place of gathering and it encompasses so many years of history here, in Venice – it’s like taking a trip in a time machine. For example, the Canaletto and Venice exhibition, held until 9 June 2019, takes you back to the eighteenth-century Venice introducing a new artistic form, which broke the bonds with the rigour of classicism and with the theatricality of the baroque, while colour began to take precedence over line.

Lido di Venezia

After a long and invigorating day at the Palace, one deserves a relaxing walk along the Venetian beach.

The Lido, or Venice Lido, is an 11-kilometre-long sandbar in Venice. This island is home to about 20,000 residents. This town has its own history and a nature reserve, it is also a jet-setters’ paradise, with luxury hotels and exclusive villas. In September, it becomes the world capital of cinema. Together with Cannes and Berlin, the film festival in Venice is one of the big three film festivals in Europe.

The word Lido actually means beach. This holiday paradise is a separate island from Venice – a 12km stretch of sand, strategically positioned between the Lagoon and the open sea – only connected to the city and dry land by ‘vaporetti’ or ferry boats. The clear difference between the Lido and Venice is that the Lido has ‘real’ streets, which means you can get around by car or a bicycle. In fact, there are regular cycling tours you could join on Lido.

Stroll the streets, visit the local churches and the ancient Jewish cemetery. For more serenity, don’t forget to enjoy the Oasis of Alberoni – a protected natural reserve, located on the south end of Lido island. The oasis is composed of a pine forest and a complex dune system, immortalised for its beauty in the poetry of Byron and Goethe.

Row Your Own Gondola

Of all the differing watercrafts in Venice, the gondola is the most well-known. It is an ancient row boat, evolving over the last 1,000 years to become the sleek, graceful shape you see today. Its unique, asymmetrical design allows just one oarsman to navigate the narrow Venetian waterways using a single oar.

You should definitely get a slow ride in a gondola down the romantic Venetian canals imagining Casanova climbing into the windows of gorgeous local women.

However, it can be even more fun to learn how to row the gondola. A Venetian rowing school Row Venice can really enrich your experience here with a rowing lesson. The offer 90-min private lesson in a tradition Venetian hand-crafted all-wood water craft lesson, a foodie special type of rowing class where you can also sample food and wine and evening rowing grand canal experience.

Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice. It’s crossing over the narrowest point of the Grand Canal. Before 1588, there was no standing structure to use as crossing, water crafts were used to get across. In 1181 though, the Bridge was a pontoon bridge built on ships.

This Bridge isn’t just a bridge. It consists of a single stone-arch span that supports a broad rectangular deck carrying two arcades of shops fronting on three roadways.

Due to frequent collapses, the Rialto Bridge was eventually built in stone and a competition was held for its design. Many famous artists and architects, including Michelangelo, submitted their suggestions. Ultimately though, the commission was awarded to Swiss engineer Antonio da Ponte.

The Bridge is features on many paintings and post cards and now of course selfies. This is a stunning sight to visit and cross over one or twice. Make sure you checkthe Bridge out during a gorgeous sunset here.

If you want help picking your best Italian experience, just give our team a call on 1800 242 353.