Venice, Italy

Guide for the rail traveller

Information

CurrencyEuro
Local languageItalian
Country Italy

Introduction

Venice is swarming with tourists, the canals are polluted, many of the buildings are slowly crumbing and to top it all off, the city is sinking! However don’t let this deter you as a visit to Venice lives up to all expectations and any romantic notions you may hold. This collection of almost one hundred and twenty islands connected by over four hundred bridges is unlike any other you have ever been to. Situated in northeastern Italy on the Adriatic Sea, Venice became part of the kingdom of Italy in eighteen sixty-six.

Your first sight of Venice will take your breath away, the stunning architecture, an extensive network of lagoons on which the gondolas float and a palatable mix of East and West. Once a land of inconceivable wealth and power today the rich history and cultural past are still very noticeable. In the summer months the heat can get unbearable making an out of season visit very advisable. If you come during Spring or Autumn you will be able to make the most of your stay. Similarly a winter break makes the city all the more romantic! Apart from the obvious top attractions, exploring the less publicized labyrinth of narrow streets and waterways will also not disappoint.

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Things to do

There is much to take in on your first visit to Venice and a boat tour along the Grand Canal is a very revealing introduction to discover what this celebrated city has to offer.

Undoubtedly the top attraction is the Bisilica di San Marco (St Mark’s Basilica) situated on St Mark’s Square. One of Europe’s most unusual churches the interior boasts many of Venice’s treasures including a golden mosaic and the Pala d’Oro a golden screen behind the altar, which is decked with jewels. Take the elevator to the top of Venice’s famous brick bell tower, Campanile di San Marco, for spectacular views. The vast paved square itself is one of the most beautiful in the world, lined with elegant porticoed cafes. Next to the Basilica di san Marco is the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), a merging of Islamic and Gothic styles and residence of the Doges of Venice since the ninth century.

Rialto Bridge, covered with many vendors, tourist shops and goldsmiths this was the setting for Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Until the mid-nineteenth century it was the only point to cross the Grand Canal by foot, and now still offers the best views of the canal.

Venice’s most important art gallery is the Accademia located in a former church; take Vaporetto 1 or 82 to reach it. Meanwhile the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is the most eminent modern art collection in Italy, representing a wide variety of artists including Picasso, Pollock and Dali as well as a wonderful sculpture garden with views over the Grand Canal.

Once you have ticked the most obvious tourist sites off your ‘must-see’ list take time to wander through this remarkable city, soaking up the atmosphere and discover your own favorite corners. Apart from the tourist center there are a further thirty or so islands in the lagoon to explore including Burano and Torcello as well as Murano where you may observe the world-famous glass blowers at work and can purchase their magnificent glass products.

Local transport

Getting around Venice can be quite difficult simply because you can’t hop on a normal bus and the layout of the city is somewhat confusing. Therefore make sure you purchase a good quality map showing all the street names and water-bus routes. Your options for getting around Venice include the Gondola, Traghetto, Vaporetto or simply by foot! Twenty-four hour, three and seven-day tickets are available on the Vaporetto, also convenient is the booklet of tickets called blocchetto. The Traghetto (public ferry) is one of the cheapest ways to get around Venice and is often used by locals to get across the Grand Canal. Lastly, the Gondola is a treat that not every visitor will be able to afford but known as the Venetian equivalent to a limousine it makes for a unique experience.

Day trips

For an excursion outside of Venice there are several options. In under two hours by train from Santa Lucia you can be taken to the famous setting for Romeo and Juliet’s love story. Verona also hosts Italy’s most amazing opera season set in the spectacular Arena, one of the best conserved amphitheatres in the world (www.tourism.verona.it). Alternatively, one and a half hours by train takes you to Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna economically one of strongest regions in Italy and also famed as Italy’s gastronomic capital. It boasts some exclusive restaurants where you can enjoy a variety of delicacies. Historically and architecturally Bologna is just as impressive, laying claim to Europe’s oldest University.

Also worth considering are some of the many island in Venice, a day excursion that wont involve as much traveling but nonetheless very rewarding.

Recommended places and events to visit in Venice

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