Venice is the capital of the Veneto region and has a population of approximately 272,000 inhabitants. It lies in the marshy Venetian Lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, located to the northeast of Italy, between the mouths of two rivers: the Po and the Piave. The city stretches over an archipelago of 118 islands; it has around 150 canals and is connected by around 400 bridges. The strategic location made the Venetian Republic an important sea power and major commercial center, especially in the spice trade. It was of major importance as a center for the arts during the Rennaisance.
Venice was constructed on wood piles driven into the lagoon floor. The wood has been here for centuries and has not decayed due to lack of oxygen in the water. In the 20th century the city started sinking. This was due to artificially installed artesian wells needed for local industry. Now various plans are being carried out in order to protect this charming city.
The historic center is divided into six quarters called sestieri. The city’s main transportation vein is the Grand Canal which extends from the railway station to San Marco square. The only transportation within the old city relies only on boating or walking. This makes it the largest car-free area in Europe. Venice offers visitors numerous architectural and artistic delights. Its Carnival is known all over the world. Its top attractions are a synonym of timeless beauty. The canals and bridges make it one of the most charming cities in the world. The only drawback is the immense numbers of tourists who flock here from all over the world.
Venice has very high humidity. The hottest months are July and August when temperatures reach 30°C - 33°C. Winters are cold; the coldest month being January, with temperatures from 0 °C - 3°C. The heaviest rainfall occurs in November. However thunderstorms occur throughout spring and autumn. Between autumn and spring flooding occurs. It is called ‘aqua alta’ or high water. The high tides flood parts of the city for a couple of hours. It rarely snows in Venice – however it does have strong winds: the bora in the winter and the sirocco in the summer.
January average temperature 1.6 deg Celsius, 58.4 mm rainfall February average temperature 4 deg Celsius, 53.3 mm rainfall March average temperature 6.6 deg Celsius, 58.4 mm rainfall April average temperature 11.6 deg Celsius, 63.5 mm rainfall May average temperature 15.5 deg Celsius, 68.6 mm rainfall June average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 76.2 mm rainfall July average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 63.5 mm rainfall August average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 83.8 mm rainfall September average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 66.0 mm rainfall October average temperature 13 deg Celsius, 68.6 mm rainfall November average temperature 7 deg Celsius, 86.4 mm rainfall December average temperature 3 deg Celsius, 53.3 mm rainfall
Trains to Venice stop at the Santa Lucia train station, located to the west of the city. To get from the station to the city you can use water buses or water taxis. Train travel in Italy is efficient with frequent services between major cities. Tickets must be bought in advance, as it is not possible to obtain them from the conductor, and have to be validated in a yellow box at the station before boarding.
The closest airport is Marco Polo. Located 12 km from Venice, it handles the majority of visitors.
San Giuseppe Airport is located at Treviso, 40 km from Venice. It is very small and mainly handles charter flights.
Both airports have good connections to the city's Piazzale Roma.
From Marco Polo you can take a shuttle bus or a 10 minute walk to the dock where you can take one of the boats to the city center. A hydrofoil boat ride takes one hour. Water taxis are more expensive but will get you there in 25 minutes. There are also blue ATVO buses available. The ride takes 20 minutes and it is cheap but there are only two services per hour. Taxis are, of course, more expensive but also more comfortable than the bus.
From San Giuseppe airport you can reach Venice by Eurobus line. The ride takes 1 hour and will take you to Treviso train station. Then take a taxi to Piazzale Roma, which is rather pricy but still a better option than renting your own car – parking in Venice is a problem.
Venice can be reached by car from various directions; however you should be aware that it is not possible to drive into the city. You must park at Piazzale Rome car park, which is really expensive. A less expensive option is to park on the mainland and catch a vaporetto (water bus) or an ordinary bus to Venice. A clever idea is to park at Santa Lucia train station and catch a train to the city.
Venice is a pedestrian city and quite manageable on foot.
VAPORETTO – WATER BUS
The best way to get around, and the most scenic, is through the Grand Canal. If you plan to stay for a couple of days it is cheaper to buy a pass rather than single tickets.
WATER TAXI – MOTOR BOAT
Private water taxis are more expensive than the water buses.
The gondola is an icon of Venice and is the ultimate romantic boat ride but it’s not a very useful mode of transport around the city.
They cross the Grand Canal and are essentially old gondolas. There are seven points where you can get across. A ride only costs a few cents and is mainly used by the commuters, so the services mainly run in peak hours.
Services run from Piazzale Roma to Mestre, however it is the least picturesque way of getting around the city.
Parking is a huge problem in Venice so renting a car here will bring you more trouble than not. Parking in Piazzale Roma is extremely expensive, so public transport is recommended instead.
It is prohibited to ride a bicycle in Venice. It makes sense, though. The walkways are very narrow and the city has numerous bridges.
The most beautiful canal in Venice and the best way of seeing it is from a vaporetto. These are inexpensive water buses. The trip is especially picturesque right before sunset.
Gondolas are flat bottomed wooden boats 11 meters long, that were once regularly used by the upper class Venetians. Today only about 500 remain of the 10,000 gondolas that were in use a couple of hundred years ago. Settle the price before you leave, and try to bargain the with the gondolier because it is not going to be cheap. The minimum rates are fixed by the city of Venice. A standard fare is 40 minutes and if you negotiate the price, you will get a shorter ride. It is a pricy but a very ‘Venice’ thing to do. Not to mention romantic!
The island of Murano is famous for glassware products. You can see free glass-making demonstrations in many of the workshops. You can visit the Museo Vetrario and admire beautiful Venetian glass pieces.
The Piazza San Marco is the city’s most famous square. It is surrounded by spectacular buildings like the Basilica di San Marco and Palazo Ducale, lined with designer shops and elegant cafes and always full of tourists – and pigeons.
BASILICA SAN MARCO
Address: Piazza San Marco Open: April - October: Monday - Saturday 9:45 am - 5:00 pm, Sunday 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm; November – March: 9:30 am - 4:00 pm
St Mark's Basilica is a truly remarkable chapel bearing testimony to the former maritime and commercial glory of the Venetian Republic. Its most notable feature is the golden mosaics above the doors and on the inside domes. Among its many treasures are a golden altarpiece, spectacular jewels, and the Treasury with riches looted from Constantinople.
Address: Piazza San Marco 2 Web: www.museiciviciveneziani.it Open: April - October 9:00 am - 7:00 pm, November - March 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
The Doge’s Palace is a gothic masterpiece and was the seat of Venetian government from the 9 th century until the fall of the Venetian republic in 1797. The façade is made of white Istrian stone and pink Veronese marble. The interior includes magnificent apartments and state rooms all adorned by works of famous artists such as Titian and Tintoretto. The highpoint is the amazing Sala del Maggiore that houses Tintorettos ‘Paradiso’ which is one of the world’s largest oil paintings.
THE GRAND CANAL
The Grand Canal is the city's main artery dividing the city in half and is encircled by elegant facades of palaces. It is best seen from a vaporetto. Among the most notable buildings are Ca d'Ora, also known as the 'Gold House', Ca Rezzonico, Ca 'Pesaro and the Guggenheim museum.
Address: Grand Canal
This used to be the only bridge across the Grand Canal and at the same time, the commercial heart of the city. The original bridge was wooden, but collapsed. The Rialto was built between 1554 and 1591 and designed by Antonio Ponte. Today the bridge is a lively place always full of tourists. There are numerous shops on the bridge, selling souvenirs. You will find bustling fruit, vegetable and fish markets along the neighboring streets.
GALLERIA DELL’ ACCADEMIA
Address: Campo della Carità, Dorsoduro n.1050 Web: www.gallerieaccademia.org Phone: 041.5222247 Open: Monday: 9:00 am – 2:00 pm; Tuesday – Sunday: 8:15 am – 7:45 pm Access: vaporetto ACTV LINE 1, 82 (Accademia)
The Galleria dell Academia houses Venice’s most important collection of art. The works displayed are by Venetian painters from the 14 th to 18 th centuries. You will see works by such artists as Tintoretto, Titian, Canaletto, Paolo Veneziano and Carpaccio. The building itself is an old school which was built in the 14 th century. It has 24 rooms where works of art are arranged chronologically.
Venice cuisine is primarily fish based accompanied by vegetables. There is a wide range of restaurants, ranging from international fast food to places serving the highest quality Italian specialties. For a light meal visit an ‘osteria’ and have a sandwich, they are usually delicious. Near Rialto market you can find many places offering fresh food.
The area of Campo Santa Margherita near Piazzale Roma has the most affordable prices. Here you will mostly find pubs, pizzerias and ice cream parlors. It is also the only area where bars stay open until late in summer.
Venice ’s top quality restaurants can be found around Piazza San Marco.
The Carnival of Venice, held during Lent, is one of the world’s most famous festivals and originates from the 12 th century. On this day the city fills up with musicians, clowns, and performers in beautiful masks and costumes. People come from around the world to enjoy the parades and the music, dance and theatre performances throughout the city.
The Cinema Biennale is one of the most prestigious film events in the world and focuses primarily on artistic films. The film screenings are held at Palazzo del Cinema. The Golden Lions for best film are handed out here. The festival brings numerous celebrities into town. There are also open-air cinemas during the festival where films can be watched in beautiful Venetian squares.
The art show is held on odd years and is shown in various locations, including the Giardini gardens, Teatro Piccolo, Arsenale and other.
Date: first Sunday in September Time: 3:00 pm Location: The Grand Canal Web: http://english.comune.venezia.it/turismo/feste/homepage
The Historical Regatta – Regata Storica is one of the most spectacular Venetian events. It is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. First a procession is held in honor of Caterina Coronaro, wife of King of Cyprus, who renounced her throne in favor of Venice in 1489 and is followed by a gondola race.
FESTA DEL REDENTORE
Date: third Sunday in July Location: Giudecca Canal and St. Mark's Basin
One of the most important festivals in Venice commemorates the end of the plague in the 16th century, which killed one third of the city's population. At sunset the canals are filled with light-decorated boats, while on the shores people dance and have fun. At midnight a magnificent fireworks display is held. The event is accompanied by numerous activities, including regattas, and rowing competitions.
The lagoon of today’s Venice was probably settled in the 5th and 6th centuries when Veneto people sought refuge from the invading Barbarians. They built villages on wooden poles driven into the marshy soil. There is no historical evidence to support this, though. According to a legend, the foundation date of Venice is March 25, 421. The new community elected their first Doge, a magistrate, in 697. In 811 the already established city moved to Rivoalto, today’s Rialto. The remnants of Saint Marco were brought from Alexandria to the city in 828 to a new basilica built for this purpose and the Basilica San Marco was consecrated in 1094. From the 9th through 12th centuries Venice developed into a city state. Its strategic position at the head of Adriatic made Venice a major naval and commercial center. At the end of the 11 th century the Republic of Venice was born. It was also a time when trade between Western Europe and the rest of the world was thriving, especially with the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world.
During that period Venice started spreading its commercial boundaries. In 1000 its fleet defeated the pirates of Adriatic Sea. In 1095 Venice joined in the First Crusade. The crusades were firstly aimed at freeing Jerusalem but turned out to be a lucrative business and expansion opportunity. The loot included numerous works of art such as the four bronze horses of St Mark, the altarpiece at Pala d’Oro, and marble statues that now decorate St Mark’s Basilica. After the 4 th century the political and military power of Venice grew until it controlled a large part of the Mediterranean. Rivalry with Genoa culminated in a series of four wars. A truce was finally reached in 1381 after the Battle of Chiogga won by Venice. Recognizing the need for mainland bases, Venice started expanding towards Padua, Vicenza, Verona and Bergamo. The city expanded and became even wealthier, gaining the name Serenissima. Busy with development, though, they failed to notice Turkey increase in power and eventually the Turks overran Byzantium and several cities on the Greek and Albanian coast.
In 1508 the League of Cambrai, formed by the majority of European cities against Venice, was founded. War followed and after seven years Venice succeeded to maintain some land but lost its monopoly over the Mediterranean. The 17th century saw Serenissima give up Crete and the entire Peloponnesus to the Turkish Empire. The period that followed saw Venice’s political powers decrease but culturally the city was thriving. Art and literature were produced by the like of Tiepolo, Pietro Longhi, Casanova and Carlo Goldoni. In 1797 Napoleon conquered the Veneto region and the last doge of Venice surrendered the Republic of Venice to the conqueror. A short time later the city was handed to Austria, however Austrian rule was never accepted by the Venetians and in 1848 a group led by Daniele Manin drove the Austrians out of the city and the second Republic of Venice was proclaimed. However, the republic did not last long as Venice was annexed to the newly formed Kingdom of Italy in 1866.
In the last decades of the 19 th century a railway bridge was built connecting Venice with the mainland, there was an increase in port traffic, which brought about industrial growth. Canals were enlarged and pedestrian zones were established. This paved the way for tourism.
MODERN (20 TH CENTURY)
Under Mussolini a road bridge was built along the existing railway bridge. Venice further expanded onto the mainland, with industry and business in Mestre and Marghera. During WW II the city was bombed by the allies but thankfully not much damage occurred. After the war petrol, chemical, plastic and metallurgical industries moved to Marghera. This brought many new jobs to the region, but also quite a lot of problems.
The second part of the 20th century was marked by environmental issues as pollution from cars and industry sped up the deterioration of the buildings. In 1966 Venice was hit by disastrous floods which brought the world’s attention to this problem. UNESCO started looking for a solution. Finally a mechanical barge was engineered that could be raised in the event of high water. The population of the city has decreased due to pollution, high cost of living, lack of employment and inconvenient transport.
Venice is still sinking and its restoration seems unceasing. In 2003 the MOSE project was inaugurated, using mobile flood barriers to protect the city from further damage. However, not everyone is optimistic about the outcome. In spite of its problems the city remains an immensely popular destination and one of the most charming cities in the world.
Many churches in Italy contain significant works of art, however, they are still places of worship and care should be taken with appropriate dress and behavior. Short pants, skirts, sleeveless shirts, etc are taboo in many churches throughout Italy. When touring churches, especially in the summer when you are not wearing long sleeves, it is advisable to carry a sweater or a scarf to cover bare skin while inside. Do not eat or drink in a church. Do not go in if a service is in progress and if you have a cellular phone, turn it off before entering.
Venice is a small city with an aging population, which makes it one of the safest cities in Europe.
Violent crime is extremely rare; however, the usual precautions should be taken. Keep your valuables in a secure pocket or bag. Pick-pockets prevail in all tourist destinations and are especially active in crowded areas - and Venice can get pretty crowded.
It happens rarely but, nevertheless, you should keep your eyes open for ‘helpful’ citizens who want to carry your bags, escort you to your hotel or find you a water taxi. Usually they want money in return for their favors and can be very persistent.
The best time to visit Venice is during spring (late March and May) and early autumn (September). Spring period from March to June is the busiest. Summers are too hot and crowded. September has nice weather but October is less crowded. In November and December flooding is frequent and the weather is usually quite cold.