7 Things You Need to Do in Venice

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Venice is actually in a way responsible for my Italian trip, because hadn't there been for a conference everybody from my master's program attended, I'm not sure I would have decided to do it. I didn't know what to expect, because I know a lot of people who visited it and didn't really like it very much, so I was impatient to see it myself. Long story short - I loved it! I found it extremely charming (one would perhaps say 'romantic'), I loved the architecture, the cute bridges and alleys, and, oh, the water! Maybe it has to do with the fact that my hometown doesn't have a river, a lake, anything (just a canal... not a very interesting one); in Venice (and around Venice) I realized not only how much I love the sea, but that I love water in towns in general. I remembered how much I liked Saint Petersburg and its canals; or Berlin; or, after all, the town I now live in (Netherlands = canals). So it really didn't come as a surprise that I absolutely enjoyed my hours in Venice. They were few - we did attend the talks and poster presentations after all - but they were enough to wonder why on Earth somebody wouldn't like this place.

1. See it from the water
Hello, my name is Captain Obvious. In Venice you have to use boats - either vaporettos, so called water buses, or water taxis. That's how the public transport works here! Sometimes you need it just to get to the other side of the Grand Canal. Depending on how many days you're staying, there are different tourist travel cards, and of course the more days you purchase, the cheaper it is - check the prices here.

Of course, when in Venice, you shouldn't miss the gondola ride! I did. Like with museums in Florence, that's just a reason to come back. :)

2. Walk aimlessly
Once you get off the boat (or the gondola, in which case I envy you!), there are just so so many narrow streets and alleys to explore! Most bloggers whose posts on Venice I read said to 'get lost'. Which is the exact thing that will happen! Yep, even if you use the map - trust me! But if you're not in a hurry, and why should you be, just enjoy the calm stroll and let it take you to deserted streets and little squares with only kids running around; to a lively farmers' market; or to a dead end. The latter can be a bit frustrating if you actually know what you're looking for, but hey - at least it's a pretty city. :)

3. Visit Piazza San Marco
This is supposed to be one of the most beautiful squares in... Italy, Europe? Well, I'll be honest and say that it didn't leave that impression on me, but it's the main square in Venice and should be visited. Just so you find the beauty in it that I failed to do, or agree with me. While there, you can visit Basilica di San Marco, or climb up St. Mark's Campanile. Unlike seeing anything from above in Florence, here you can use an elevator! Yay! BUT remember that it's only opened from 9 AM to 4:30 PM, and, well, I got there around 5. (This is why you should plan at least some things ahead.)

Another sight is close by: Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs). It got its name because it connected two sides of a prison, so the sight through the little windows would be the last one of Venice prisoners would see when being taken to their cells. There's also a legend that says lovers riding in a gondola and kissing under the Bridge during sunset will be granted eternal love. Hmmm. 

4. Admire Santa Maria della Salute
Now I have to tell you a story. This church was built in the 17th century with wood brought from Dalmatia (sea region in Croatia). One Serbian poet, Laza Kostić, didn't really like that fact; but when he got to Venice for the first time and saw the church, he was swept away by its beauty and wrote (many years later actually) a poem called Santa Maria della Salute. The poem is considered one of the most beautiful in Serbian poetry; it is about how amazed he was by the church, but also about his lasting love for a girl that he was never with, and that had died young. The poet spent some of his years in my hometown, and when I saw the church myself, I had goosebumps. I told the story to my friend Chaya, and having seen the church, she said "Wow, I can feel the poet!" It really is that beautiful.

5. Cross Ponte di Rialto
But take your time - you would want to take photos from the bridge, especially if you find yourself there towards sunset! Did you know that it's the oldest bridge in Venice? It dates all the way back to the 16th century. It's also one of only four bridges that span the Grand Canal.

6. Get yourself a Venetian mask
Hadn't my sister bought me a really beautiful one few years ago, I would have definitely done this. They make such nice souvenirs! Hm, speaking about masks, you might want to schedule your trip to Venice for the carnival - but only if you don't mind the crowds, because around 3 million people come to Venice for the carnival every year.

7. Eat tiramisu
Actually I wanted to say pasta, but I think I mentioned the word enough already, and believe me, I will be mentioning it a lot once I finally start writing about Rome. However, the tiramisu Chaya and I had was sooo delicious, I think it's a reason good enough to include this into my to do list. :)

If you've been to Venice, I'm really curious to hear your opinion - where do you stand, next to me or the others who don't like it? And if you haven't, do you plan to... before it sinks? :)

Have a lovely day! Tihana

P.S. More photos of Venice, and the cutest place in Europe that happens to be just nearby.

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