TAT Travel Mag vol.3 no.6 pp 52-59
see the mag HERE
Venice is one of those cities everyone one day plans to visit. Entirely unique in its geographical structure, the city is built upon a floating web of 118 submerged islands and wooden platforms in the Northern end of the Adriatic Sea.
Welcoming approximately 21.9 million visitors a year the UNESCO World Heritage Site is a tourism mecca. Piazza San Marco is packed to the brim with camera-toting tourists on a daily basis, stopping here and there to snap a photo of St Marks Basilica or Doges Palace. The congestion spreads right to the edge of the city until the water is lapping mere centimetres from your feet, and simply turning your head to decline an offer of gelato from a street vendor may result in a none-too-dry topple into the ocean.
Venice is a romantic and confusing place with narrow streets and towering buildings, a maze-like city that’s magic to get lost in.Take a wrong turn and you have an equal chance of ending up in cosmetic giant Sephora as you do stumbling into an outdoor confectionary market selling traditional Italian sweets. The open air Rialto Market is full to the brim with fresh produce, seafood and local stall-holders selling everything from handmade knick-knacks and souvenirs to Murano Glass, and Venetian masks. Souvenir shops seem to stretch endlessly in every direction, however if you look closely, stuffed between the cheap leather handbags, Murano glass and key rings are genuinely unique boutiques selling handmade toys, beautifully crafted Italian leather boots and hidden away around Piazza San Marco you will find the likes of Prada, Valentino and La Perla.
However, when travelling to Venice its important to remember a few key facts, such as the entire island is surrounded by and built upon water. As such, there is no direct access to the Venezia by anything on wheels, so be sure to invest in a detailed map of the city and mark the route to your hotel from the closest point of vehicular access, Piazzale Roma.
Piazzale Roma is a square at the entrance to Venice and is the closest point to the city accessible by ground vehicles, it acts as the main bus station where links to both Treviso and Marco Polo airports run all day until late. Tickets for buses can be purchased from the stalls in the square, while the main train station – Santa Lucia – is also nearby. Piazzale Roma is linked to the island of Venezia by the large, unmissably modern Ponte Della Constituzione footbridge which runs over the western end of the Grand Canal – the huge identifiable S-shaped waterway you’ll be using to navigate the city.
Home to 400 footbridges and over 150 canals entwined among painfully thin alleys, random piazzettas, shops, restaurants and street vendors, another thing to remember is comfortable footwear appropriate for walking, as this will be your only form of transport during your stay.
The first place to get your fill of sights is Piazza San Marco, here you will find the hypnotic Italo-Byzantine facade of St. Marks Basilica – Venice’s best known church, Doges Palace and the Bridge of Sighs all while taking in the architectural beauty of the square itself and the dream-like scenery of the ocean lapping at a city’s edge, Gondolas lined up in front of cafes, hotels and gelato stands, looking over aqua blue water to the other islands. Venice is reasonably well signed, so when making your way through the rabbit-warren of streets, pay attention to the signs attached to the corners of buildings and follow the pointers in the direction of your desired destination.
The second location you can expect to fill your quota of tourist hot-spots is the Rialto Bridge. The oldest structure spanning the Grand Canal and originally the marker between the districts of San Marco and San Polo, the Rialto Bridge is home to the famous market and bustling boutiques located on the actual bridge. Should you visit the bridge on a less busy day, it’s has the perfect vantage point for amazing photos of the Grand Canal, framed by gondolas and restaurants, bright and colourful.
To get amongst this bustle yourself, take a walk down either side of the Grand Canal from the foot of the bridge. Here you can enjoy lunch on the water front, and watch locals pass by on their boats along the waterways.
Finally, if you missed it on your way into the city, sitting at the entrance of the Grand Canal is the baroque Santa Maria Della Salute, a church built in response to Venice being hit by the plague and dedicated to Our Lady of Health.