According to tradition, Venice was founded in 421 AD. At that time Celtic people called the Veneti lived along the coast of what is now Northeast Italy. Since 49 BC they had been Roman citizens. In 453 Attila the Hun invaded Italy and in response some Veneti residents fled to islands in the lagoon and built a village there. They soon formed a loose federation. In 568 AD the Lombards invaded the mainland and many Veneti fled to the islands swelling the population.
At first Venice was controlled by the Byzantine Empire, the Eastern half of the Roman Empire, which survived the fall of Rome. However, in 726 the Venetians partly gained their independence and elected Orso Ipato as doge (their word for Duke).
In 810 the Franks tried but failed to conquer the Venetians. Meanwhile, Venice flourished as a trading center and ships sailed to and from its ports. Its population grew steadily. In 828 the body of St Mark was smuggled from Egypt to Venice. St Mark then became the patron saint of the city.
In the Middle Ages Venice continued to flourish as a port and trading center. Meanwhile, in 1199 a fourth crusade was proposed. The Venetians agreed to build a fleet of ships to ferry the Crusaders. However, when the Crusader army assembled they were unable to pay for the ships, so the Venetians persuaded them to join an expedition to raid Constantinople. Venetians and Crusaders captured the city in 1204 and looted it.
Venice was also involved in other wars at that time. The Italian city of Genoa was a powerful rival to Venice and during the 13th and 14th centuries the Genoese and Venetians fought 5 wars.
Furthermore in 1348 the Black Death plague devastated the population of Venice. In 1403 Venice introduced quarantine. Ships arriving from infected areas had to stop at an island called Lazaretto and the passengers had to wait for 40 days before they were permitted to enter the city.
In the 15th century Venice faced a new threat, the Turks. In 1453 they captured Constantinople and afterward they advanced into Southeast Europe. In 1489 Venice came to rule Cyprus. However, in 1571 the Turks conquered the island.
Furthermore, in 1508 several European countries formed the League of Cambrai and went to war against Venice. However, after 8 years of war, the map was largely unchanged.
More serious for Venice was the discovery of North and South America. The result was that trade shifted away from the Mediterranean. Furthermore in 1630 Venice was struck by another plague.
During the 17th century, Venice gradually lost power and influence. In the 18th century, Venice was politically not as important although the arts such as opera flourished. In 1797, Napoleon dissolved the Republic of Venice. However, after his fall in 1815, Venice was handed to Austria.
The railway reached Venice in 1846. However, Venice did not prosper under Austrian rule. In 1848 revolutions swept through Europe and Venice rose in rebellion against the Austrians. For a short period, Daniele Manin became president of an independent Venice. However Austrian forces bombarded the city and Venice was forced to surrender in August 1849. Yet in 1866 the Austrians were defeated by the Prussians and Venice was allowed to join the new nation of Italy.
In the late 19th century Venice flourished as a port and as a manufacturing center. Then in 1933 Mussolini built a road from the mainland to Venice. During the Second World War, Venice was undamaged by fighting but the Jewish population was deported.
In 1966 Venice suffered a severe flood but the city soon recovered. Today tourism is the mainstay of Venice. However, the population of Venice has fallen sharply since the mid 19th century. Today the population of Venice is 264,000.
The romantic city of Venice is located in the Veneto region of Italy, one of the northernmost states. This ancient and historically important city was originally built on 100 small islands in the Adriatic Sea. Instead of roads, Venice relies on a series of waterways and canals. One of the most famous areas of the city is the world renowned Grand Canal thoroughfare, which was a major centre of the Renaissance. Another unmistakable area is the central square in Venice, called the Piazza San Marco. This is where you will find a range of Byzantine mosaics, the Campanile bell and, of course, the stunning St. Mark’s Basilica.
Venezia is situated across a group of 118 small islands that are seperated by canals and linked by bridges, of which there are 400. The islands are located in the shallow Venetian lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. The lagoon and part of the city are listed as a World Heritage Site.
It has developed a romantic reputation built upon by countless movies, and thanks to one startling horror film has also evolved a darker atmosphere. The city has a history dating from the sixth century, and once wasn't just a city in a larger state: Venice was once one of the greatest trading powers in European history. Venice was the European end of the Silk Road trade route which moved goods all the way from China, and consequently was a cosmopolitan city, a true melting pot.
Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
Bridge of Sighs
Ride a Gondola: from Bacino Orseolo
The Grand Canal
1. Bridge of Sighs
Built in 1600, the Bridge of Sights connects the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to the New Prison across the Rio di Palazzo. According to one theory the name of the bridge comes from the suggestion that prisoners would “sigh” at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window on their way to the executioner.
Bridge of Sighs
2. Doge's Palace
During the prosperous centuries of the Venetian Republic, the city’s magistrates, or doges, ruled the city like royalty. The Palazzo Ducale was not only the residence of the doge but the city’s center of power and its administrative hub as well. Visitors who take the Secret Itineraries tour can also walk through hidden passageways to view the private council rooms, torture chambers and the prison cell from which Giacomo Casanova made his escape in 1756.
3. Saint Mark's Basilica
Situated in St. Mark’s Square, the soaring 30 story Campanile and the massive basilica behind it are two of the most popular tourist attractions in Venice. Both date to the 9th century but have been rebuilt and embellished extensively over the centuries. San Marco Basilica serves as a showcase for the wealth that Venice accumulated as a military power. Behind the tomb believed to hold the remains of Saint Mark stands the altarpiece Pala d’Oro, a jewel adorned screen of gold that is considered one of the finest works of Byzantine craftsmanship in the world.
Saint Mark's Basilica
4. Saint Mark's Camanile
One of the most recognizable landmarks in the whole of Venice, il Campanile is located on the famous Piazza San Marco and is the tallest building in the city. Towering to a height of 99 meters, the bell tower was completed in 912, although the building we see before us today was built in 1912 after it suddenly collapsed. An elevator brings visitors straight to the top of the campanile, where they have a great view over Venice and the lagoon.
Saint Mark's Camanile
5. Saint Mark's Clocktower
Located on one side of Piazza San Marco, the Torre dell ’Orologio is a lovely Renaissance building. It is an important historical and architectural site in the city, as its facade is home to a delightful astrological clock. St. Mark’s Clocktower sports two bronze figures on its roof that strike out the hour on a bell. Lots of other lovely little designs and figures litter its facade. A statue of the Lion of St. Mark is present, as are the Virgin and Child and the beautifully decorated clock face itself. When in Piazza San Marco, make sure to visit the Torre dell ’Orologio on the hour or even go inside the building to get a glimpse of how the machinery works.
Saint Mark's Clocktower
6. Piazza San Marco
As the only public square in Venice, the Piazza San Marco has been the city’s main gathering place for centuries. Surrounded by open-air cafés and landmark attractions, including San Marco Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale (formerly the Doge's residence and seat of Venetian government, the Palace is the very symbol of venice and a masterpiece of Gothic architecture), it’s the natural epicenter for any visit to the City of Canals. The square is actually laid out in a trapezoid shape that widens as it approaches the basilica.
Piazza San Marco
7. Ride a Gondola
I recommend catching a ride on a Gondola from Bacino Orselo. From this location you will ride through some of the small canals into the Grand Canal
(EUR 40 pp - 30 minute ride)
8. Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge is one of the 4 bridges spanning the Grand Canal. For nearly three hundred years, it was the only way to cross the Grand Canal on foot. The stone bridge, a single span designed by Antonio da Ponte, was completed in 1591 and was used to replace a wooden bridge that collapsed in 1524. The engineering of the bridge was considered so audacious that some architects predicted a future collapse. The bridge has defied its critics to become one of the architectural icons of Venice.
Originally known as the Palazzo Santa Sofia but now commonly known as the Ca’ d’Oro, this 15th century palazzo was designed by architect Giovanni Bon and his son Bartolomeo. Although the facade of this splendid structure no longer features the ornamentation that earned the place its “house of gold” nickname, the now pink and white building is a treasure trove of art. Located on the Grand Canal.
10. Santa Maria della Salute
Commonly called La Salute, this 17th century church stands at the point where the Grand Canal meets the Venetian Lagoon. The white stone edifice with its massive dome was constructed as a shrine to the Virgin Mary for saving the city from a plague that killed one third of its population. In addition to the altar sculpture that depicts the “Madonna of Health” driving the demon Plague from Venice, there’s an extensive collection of works by Titian on display, including ceiling paintings of scenes from the Old Testament.
Santa Maria della Salute
11. Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
Best known as the home of the 16th century church of the same name, San Giorgio Maggiore. It is a small island located across the lagoon from St. Mark’s Square. The church features a facade clad in gleaming white marble and an open and airy interior that is refreshingly bare of over-ornamentation. The main alter is graced by 2 of Tintoretto’s best paintings, the “Last Supper” and “The Fall of Manna.” Visitors can ride an elevator to the top of the church’s Neoclassic bell tower to enjoy a spectacular view of Venice.
Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
12. Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
Beautiful to behold, the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari more commonly goes by the name of Frari and is one of the most important religious buildings in Venice. Built out of red brick, the church is constructed in the Gothic architectural style. Although the outside is quite plain, the interior is sumptuous to gaze upon and is home to some wonderful pieces of art which includes Titian’s Pesaro Madonna.
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
13. Gallerie dell’Accademia
Located opposite the Ponte dell’Accademia on the Grande Canal, this museum hosts a fine collection of pre-19th century art and features works by artists such as Bellini, Canaletto and Titian. The building that the gallery is housed was formerly a convent an was converted to the museum in the mid to late 1700’s. For those who love Renaissance art and iconic masterpieces, this gallery delivers. Possibly its best known piece is the Vitruvian Man by Da Vinci which shows the ideal proportions of man. Other notable works include the Resurrection by Tintoretto, Virgin and the Child by Titian, and the Battle of Lepanto by Veronese.
Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
A day in Venice and Burano
Famous for its long history of handblown glassmaking, Murano sits just a few minutes' ferry ride offshore in the Venetian Lagoon. Murano is a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon. It lies about 1.5 kilometres north of Venice and measures about 1.5 km across with a population of just over 5,000. It was once an independent comune, but is now a frazione of the comune of Venice. The main attraction is the Glass Museum (Museo del Vetro), which recounts the history of glass through the centuries, with the largest focus on important pieces of Murano glass produced between the 15th and 20th centuries. You can also join a guided tour and catch a glassmaking demonstration here.
When finished, do a bit of shopping for locally produced glass at some of the boutique shops. Also check out the Romanesque-style Church of Santa Maria and San Donato, which may or may not house the bones of a slain dragon under its boldly hued mosaic floor.
The cheapest and the most convenient way to travel between Venice and Murano is by using the water bus called the Vaporetti. There are 7 stations on Murano, each one next to important points on the Island:
Murano Colonna – The first station accessible from Venice at the Southern end of Murano.
Murano Faro – Next to Faro, the charming lighthouse still in operation.
Murano Navagero – On the Eastern side of Murano. Murano Museo – Take this stop if you want to visit the Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum).
Murano Da Mula – The stop next to the Palazzo Da Mula. Murano Venier – The landing to discover the North side of Murano.
Murano Serenella – The Western station of Murano.
The price for a ticket is 7.50€ for adults and children over six. Children under six years old ride for free.
There are package deals to take advantage of if you know you will be utilizing the public transit: 20€ for 1 day, 30€ for 2 days, 40€ for 3 days and 60€ a week.
The best lines to reach Murano from Venice are the 3 / 4.1 / 4.2 / 12 / 13 year round and the 7 during summer.
The island of Burano makes a fantastic day or half-day trip from Venice. If you have time to spare in Venice, here is why you should add Burano to your list! Burano is a photo lover’s paradise Ever seen those photos of Venice that show brightly painted buildings and flowerpots? Those aren’t from the main island of Venice, but Burano. Families used to paint their homes in bright colors to designate where their family’s quarters ended and a neighbor’s began, as well as to make their homes more visible from the sea. The tradition has stuck. Today, Burano is a rainbow of fun, bright colors and the perfect place for that great Venice photo-up.
Burano is 7 kilometres from Venice, a 45 minute trip from St. Mark's Square by vaporetto, a Venetian water bus. All visitors of Burano are intrigued by the many colours and the colorful houses that are reflected into the green waters of channels.
Back in the 16th century, the women of Burano started stitching lace. The work was extremely exacting in fact, each woman specialized in a single stitch, and since there are seven stitches in total, each piece would have to be passed from woman to woman to finish. That is why one handmade lace centerpiece for a tablecloth takes about a month to do! Because of that amount of work and how expensive it necessarily makes handmade lace, much of the lace you see being sold in Burano’s stores today is made by machine. But if you want a glimpse of what lace was like in the time when it was all done by hand, you’ve still got some options.
La Perla, a lace shop on the main street, where handmade products range from tablecloths and doilies to Venetian masks and babies’ booties. Women often are stationed inside, stitching away, so you can even see how it is done. (La Perla is located on Via Galuppi 376, the main road in town). If you are especially fascinated by lace and textiles, stop at the Museo del Merletto, a museum with some excellent examples of 16th and 17th century lace, along with the beautiful, lace-trimmed gown worn by Queen Margherita, the Jackie Kennedy of late 19th century Italy. (The Museo del Merletto is located on Burano’s main piazza of Baldassare Galuppi).
Although lacemaking in Burano is the main craftsmanship attraction, enchanting is also the lume glass working: a technique born in the nearby island of Murano, processing.
Most savvy travelers head to the nearby islands, such as Burano. With fewer crowds and a more genuine feel, this historical fishing village offers another side of life on the Venetian Lagoon. Today, Burano is still a quiet village with about 2,000 full-time residents and its main industry is tourism, with day trippers from Venice coming to buy lace and photograph the colorful and picturesque canals. It is much quieter and more laid back than the big city, and while the small town can definitely feel crowded on a busy summer day, it is nowhere near as popular as Venice.
Burano is a true fisherman’s island While there are touristy parts, much of it still has the working island feel that can be hard to find on Venice. Fishing boats come in at the end of the day with their catch and local women peer over their flower boxes at the tourists wandering below.
You will eat better on Burano than almost anywhere in Venice because Burano is a working fisherman’s island, you can get super fresh seafood here for a fraction of the price it would be over the lagoon on Venice. One of my favorite restaurants is Al Gatto Nero da Ruggero. All of the pastas and desserts are made in-house and the fish is so fresh and delicious, even Jamie Oliver has recommended Al Gatto Nero on his television show.
If you can, hold out for an outside table, where you can enjoy a great view over the canal. For the quality of the food, the value is excellent; 3 courses, not including wine, will set you back about €40. That is a good deal cheaper than any 3 course fish meal of the same quality you would find in Venice.
(Al Gatto Nero is located at Fondamente della Giudecca 88; call +39 041 730120 for reservations, which are recommended).
If you want to experience the magic of the canals and the picturesque buildings in a much more relaxed atmosphere, Burano is the place for you.
Bit of History
Although earlier Roman remains have been found on Burano, the island was permanently settled in the sixth century by people fleeing hostile invaders on the mainland. Burano is still an active fishing village and its residents have always relied on the lagoon for sustenance. Although the neighboring island of Torcello was politically and strategically more important, it was abandoned and Burano rose to prominence in the 16th century because of the high demand for its lace. Women in Burano have always made the lace by hand and although lacemaking waned in the 18th century, it was later revived once again.
Ferry transportation from Venice to Murano and Burano:
One vaporetto line runs from Venice to Burano: line 12. The large, express ferry runs from Fondamente Nove ferry station to Murano and Burano. It takes about 30-45 minutes and costs €7.50 per person one way. Alternatively, buy a day ticket for €20. A water taxi will set you back much more, around €130 each way.
Lido di Venezia
Lido is a barrier island that separates the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. By vaporetto or public water bus, it is only a few minutes from Venice's historic center, which makes it popular as a dormitory suburb of Venice and a summer resort for tourists.
The Lido is an 11 km long sandbar, home to about 20,000 residents. The Venice Film Festival takes place at the Lido every September. The island is home to three settlements. The Lido itself, in the north, is home to the Film Festival, the Grand Hotel des Bains, the Venice Casino and the Grand Hotel Excelsior. Malamocco, in the centre, is the first and, for a long time, the only settlement. It was at one time home to the Doge of Venice. Alberoni at the southern end is home to the golf course.
Sheltering the city from the sea, Lido offers award winning beaches and spectacular views on Venice. It is undoubtedly most known for hosting Venice Film Festival, but it is usually avoided by the mass of tourists coming to visit its famous neighbor.
There is a shopping mall with food court and a few restaurants in close vicinity. Restaurants include Bavaria and Tiramisu directly across from the hotel. I can definitely recommend Tiramisu for their delicious pizzas and good selection of international beers.
Take the Antony Palace Hotel Shuttle bus to Venice Piazzale Roma (bus terminal).
EUR 6 pp one way.
Alternatively, catch the Trenitalia Regionale train from Gaggio Porta EST (Macron) to Venezia S. Lucia train station. Then catch the return Portogruaro Line (platform 1) from Venezia S. Lucia and get off at the 4th stop (Gaggio Porto EST)
EUR 2.75 pp one way.
(24 minute trip duration)
Catch the Vaporetti (water bus), Line 1, from Venice Piazzale Roma (Venice's gateway for bus and land taxis), past the Venezia Santa Lucia Railroad Station, the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco and finally to San Zaccaria. (Which is the end of the Grand canal, which faces the Piazza San Marco). Jump off here, as this line will continue to the Lido di Venezia. (Venice's beach resort on the Adriatic)
Venice is a compact and walkable city, and you shouldn't need to use the vaporetto often unless you have trouble walking, are pressed for time, or are going to an island (such as the Lido or Murano) outside the historic center. My advice: Walk when you can, and organize your schedule to make the most efficient use of a tourist travel card.
ACTV, Venice's public-transportation authority, has installed multilingual ticket vending machines at many waterbus stops. Some of the machines are replacing manned ticket booths, while others are being used to supplement human ticket vendors. From a traveler's point of view, the new ticket machines have two benefits: • They provide an alternative to standing in line at a crowded ticket window. • They operate 24 hours a day.
The Tourist Travel Cards can be a good value if you are planning excursions, but within the city center, it's often faster to walk than to take a vaporetto.
Strolling along the narrow sidewalks off the beaten tourist path, I was not sure if we were lost until we came across a quiet little square where we found Ostaria Boccadoro. This exquisite restaurant called Ostaria Boccadoro, is located a few narrow sidewalks off the Grand Canal. The name Boccadoro, translated as “golden mouth” from Italian, suits this place divinely.
The fanciful and refined restaurant specializes in offering the freshest and most incredible seafood. Their menu is highly dependent on what is available that day at the Rialto market.
Did you know… coffee originally came to Europe through Venice?
During the 17th century, Venetian merchants took this powder back with them from Istanbul and brought it back to the city, with much excitement. Unsure what to make of the strange concoction, it was at first sold as a medicinal elixir, used to cure everything from ‘head maladies’ to smallpox. Soon however, it was marketed as an ‘exotic’ new beverage and the merchants began selling it exclusively to wealthy citizens. Coffee became a much prized commodity among the upper class but as its popularity grew, word spread about its stimulating effect.
Suspicions about the new drink began to arise. The Venetian clergy condemned it as ‘the bitter drink of Satan’ but when Pope Clement VIII tasted it, he had a different opinion. He declared; “this devil’s drink is so delicious, we should cheat the devil by baptising it”. Allegedly he even baptised some coffee beans! Whether this is fact or exaggeration, coffee was officially legitimised for Catholics around the world.
The drink spread rapidly throughout Italy and Europe as a result. It became a particularly popular breakfast drink and people soon found starting their day with caffeine rather than alcohol made them a whole lot more alert, and productive and so the fuel of the modern workplace was born!
Caffè del Doge
Located near the Rialto Bridge down a sleepy lane, Caffè del Doge is a spot you definitely do not want to miss if you are a coffee fan. Founded in the 1950s, this unassuming cafe packs a real punch. Using artisan roasted beans, it offers up a selection of brews bound to tickle even the most refined tastebuds. Browse their extensive menu or try one of their richly roasted espressos. You won’t be disappointed!
For a slice of coffee history, visit Caffe Florian. It was the first cafe to open in Europe and knows a thing or two when it comes to making coffee. Founded in 1720, this is a true slice of Venetian history. The coffee is certainly on the pricier side, but going to Caffè Florian isn’t simply about getting your caffeine fix. It is about enjoying the experience and soaking up the vibrant atmosphere within these storied walls. Notable for its famous past patrons, including the likes of Charles Dickens and Lord Byron, you will be in good company inside this elegant cafe. It was also one of the only cafes during the 18th century that would serve women.
In the Cannaregio district of Venice, Torrefazione Cannaregio is a coffee lover’s dream. Neatly tucked into mahogany shelves behind the counter are a vast array of coffees, just waiting to be tried. The awning outside makes this cafe easy to spot, and you will be glad you stopped by once you see the range of delicious roasts on offer.
Founded in 1870 by Andrea Rosa, Rosa Salva began life as a mobile catering service, delivering freshly made fare to Venetian villas along the Brenta River. Today, they have cafes dotted in various locations throughout the city. Whichever you choose, it will make for a great spot to soak up Venice’s rich atmosphere and watch life go by, especially if you are an espresso fan.