Welcome to Venice
Some places have been depicted so often that they become simply a vague image in the collective imagination. Venice means the classic Canaletto view over the Grand Canal, striped poles, gondolas and carnival masks. But to arrive there in reality is to watch a well-loved old book unfold into life, its characters demonstrating minds of their own, its ancient buildings rising from the flat page to touch the shimmering, watercolour sky. Yes, the main tourist areas- San Marco, The Doge's Palace, the Accademia and the Rialto Bridge- heave with visitors, and the waterfront around the main Vaporetto station can resemble a football crowd streaming past, all pausing to photograph the familiar dove-grey silhouetted domes and bobbing gondolas. But unlike any other city this famous, it's easy to find peace. Just a few minutes from the waves of tourists, all frantically absorbing Art under the glittering afternoon sun, is the other Venice.
This is where the citizens live in their apartments, eat at their cafes, and shop at their grocery stores, untroubled by the worshipful hordes. The main streets swiftly give way to the residential areas, where alleys as narrow as animal tracks lead to forgotten canals of still, seaglass-jade water, floating markets and tiny osterias- neighbourhood bars, where local-born gondoliers with eyes the colour of sunlit rivers gather.
Venice is uniquely wonderful - but if you try to do too much, as Truman Capote said, it can be "like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go." Venice needs to be understood and uncovered gradually- by slow seduction, rather than in the heat of passion. Don't try to see seven museums and eight galleries- you will only find the true city by walking and looking. The weather will change constantly; fog will creep through the streets, rain will make the marble steps more hazardous than black ice, then sun will gild the spires and domes again, and the happiest visitors will emerge from some small, hidden bar, abandoning their wine glasses and coffee cups, and continue to wander. It is the best and only way to become a part of this haughty, ancient and exquisite city.
St. Mark's Square
Ostaria a la Campana
Bar da Gino
Molino Stucky Hilton
Liassidi Palace Hotel
Serenissima - Erica Jong
Venice- Jan Morris
Death at La Fenice- Donna Leon
The City Of Falling Angels- John Berendt
Don't Look Now
Death In Venice
The Thief Lord
Ultimate Vivaldi- The Essential Masterpieces
Luchino Visconti Presents The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack From The Film Death In Venice
Evening In Venice - Emile Pandolfi
Gondola rides are the pinnacle of the Venice tourist experience- but they are not cheap, and in busy areas, gondoliers can seem less like glorious symbols of the city and more like ticket touts harassing passers-by. Expect to pay up to €120, and negotiate the length of the ride in advance.
Wear very comfortable shoes; with some grip. Boring but essential, as great tracts of Venice consist of slippery cobbles, rain-slicked marble and crumbling canal sides. High heels or smooth soles could swiftly land you in A&E.
Do not over-plan. In Summer, sunlight reflects from the water, and the city swelters in a fug of heat. Two key destinations a day are enough, regularly interspersed with cool bars and shady cafes.
While private water taxis are speedy, the swell from other boats on the Grand Canal can make the ride uncomfortably bouncy. Vaporetti are the slower-moving cattle to their skittering deer, and provide a far more comfortable, and cheaper, ride.
The Rialto Bridge is highly overrated- it's a beautiful structure, now smothered in graffiti, souvenir shops and miserable, ragged beggars. Though it offers a view of the Grand Canal, there are other, better views which are far less stressful to admire.
The Tourist Information office in St Mark's Square would be better suited to a small industrial town in the Midlands. Endless queues, harassed staff and peculiarly limited opening hours make it an ordeal rather than an aid to your visit. Go to the office at The Basilica instead, or plan your trip in advance, and invest in a good map and a Venice card for discounts. (www.venicecard.it)
Replacing regular taxis are Venetian vaporetti – public water taxis. Private water taxis tend to be expensive, and gondolas are generally intended for scenic, slower journeys. For an efficient scenic ride, a vaporetto is the wisest choice.
A single journey is around €6.50, while travel cards can be purchased to give discounted fares; a 12 hour card is €18, a day is €20, and a week costs €50. A Venice card – which has a junior equivalent - offers access to the city’s various attractions.
Obviously, you can’t drive in Venice – although, there are parking lots and garages on the outskirts where you can leave a car, should you be driving through Italy. Due to the rarity of cars in Venice, parking is expensive, but if you follow signs from the A4 to the Piazzale Roma, the AZM Venezia Car Park can house your car as you explore for €24 a day. This is the closest car park to Central Venice.
Tourist Info Venice
Province of Venezia APTN 15
Tourist Board of Venice 041-5298711