Sightseeing in Venice



Sights in Venice

Venice is one of those "you've got to see it to believe it" and at the same time, "you'll love it or hate it" cities.  Venice is a beautiful, almost dream-like city that is so easy to enjoy that you'll fall in love with it.  But in summer months it can be very hot and crowded.  So if you don't enjoy Venice, it's probably because your visit was at the wrong time.  We suggest Spring and Fall as the best time to visit Venice.  And be ready to do a lot of walking!  


Venice was born over 1,500 years ago when Italy's ancestors were fleeing the barbarians.  They headed into a marsh land to avoid being killed, and they decided to stay!  Literally millions of wood pylons have been forced down into the marsh so that buildings could be constructed on them.  Amazingly these pylons petrified instead of rotting, and today they still serve as the foundations of Venice.


Venice was the chief East-West trade port and over time became the richest city in the world, a true super power.  This continued for more than 400 years, declining only with the discovery of the Americas.  In its glory, Venice held over 200,000 residents.  Today that number has dwindled to about 70,000.


Venice is composed of about 100 islands, 400 bridges and 2,000 alleys.  A great flood in 1966 brought international attention to the fact that Venice is slowly sinking.  The lowest point of the island is St. Marks Square.  The rainy season is from November to March, and the city floods an average of 60 times each year.  During the floods wood planks are set up for people to walk on, and finer hotels offer boots to their guests.


Today there are strict laws to keep Venice the best preserved city in all of Europe.  These laws range from boat speed limits to building regulations.  There are also financial incentives to keep residents living inside the old city.



Transfer from the airport- From the airport there is a motoscafo (shuttle boat) to Piazza San Marco.  The journey takes a little over an hour and costs about $15.00 per person.  For a more romantic journey, hire a private taxi for about $200.00.  The least expensive option is a bus to Piazzale Roma (Venice’s car terminal located on the mainland) and then take a public boat from there. 


Walking-  This is the best way to see Venice, but you’ll need to do a lot of it to get a good grasp of this historical city.  The best things that you can have with you are a comfortable pair of shoes and a good walking map.  Maps can be purchased in advance, or are available at most newsstands, bookstores and souvenir shops in Venice. 


Walking in Venice is delightful and safe. Even during the evening, when many tourist have left for hotels on the mainland, you can safely explore the city.  Keep in mind that you are on an island, so you shouldn’t be afraid of getting lost.  The worst that can happen is you discover a part of Venice without tourists - there really aren’t bad neighborhoods.  If you can’t seem to figure out where you are, ask a local, follow signs to Piazza San Marco, or stop in a hotel and ask for their brochure because almost every hotel's brochure includes a map with a “you are here” point of reference.  Your biggest security concern is pick-pockets in crowds or short change artists, so count your change and watch your wallet. 


Vaporetto- is the name of the busses in Venice.  They are something between a ferry and a barge and are an excellent way to see the city.  The 2.5 miles of the Grand Canal is served by the #1 route (taking about 45 minutes to go the length of the canal, stopping at each stop, and the #82 (taking about 20 minutes and only stopping at major sites).  The cost of tickets is not cheap for tourists.  A single journey is about $3.50, more for longer journeys to other islands.  You can purchase a passes that are valid for 1, 3 or 7 days.  


Traghetto- This looks very similar to a gondola, except that there are two rowers instead of one. Since there are only 3 bridges crossing the 2.5 miles of the Grand Canal, these boats are located at intervals along the canal to get you from one side to the next.  Just look for a wooden dock with a sign that says “traghetto,” go to the dock and wait for the next one to arrive.  Once on board, you can stand like the locals or sit like the tourists.  These only operate in the morning and early afternoon, and the trip across the canal takes about 5 minutes.  The cost is minimal.


Gondola- Gondolas are for tourists, but they are hard to resist.  There once were more than 10,000 gondolas in Venice, but today there are only about 450.  The cost of a ride is about $100.00 for up to 6 people on a 45 minute ride.  The price can double after 6:00 PM, when more people want to take a romantic ride.  Be sure to agree upon the price before getting into a gondola.  Although the government controls the rate, the gondolieri (rower) say they would be underpaid if they follow these rates.  The gondolieri will tell you about the city and chat with you as he guides you through the canals (some may even sing), so if you can, talk to a couple of gondolieri before deciding which offer to accept.  Many times the gondolieri's personality will be what makes the experience worth while.


Taxi Acquei- A water taxi is very expensive, but is good if you are traveling with luggage.   The cost is about $20.00 for the first seven minutes and then about $2.00 for each minute after that.  Most can handle a party of four.  Plan on a ride within the main island costing $40-$60.  It is best to negotiate a price before getting into a taxi.

Travels with Friends: Learn more about other European destinations and tips for traveling within Europe.

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