Arriving in Venice is half the fun of the trip. Yes, you could take a bus or car taxi from the Marco Polo airport to the bus station at Piazzale Roma and then a vaporetto or water taxi to your destination, but it’s worth splurging on a water taxi directly from the airport to experience the unparalleled view of the city as you race along the lagoon.
As there are no cars in Venice, walking is the best way to explore the city. There are water buses or vaporetti that traverse the Grand Canal and outer waterways and a second type of water craft, a motoscafo provides transportation to the outer islands. It’s advisable to purchase an ACTV pass for the public transportation options; passes are available for varying lengths of time from 12 hours to 1 week. You must validate your ticket before boarding the boat. Gone are the old yellow machines that used to stamp your ticket: now you must swipe it in front of a screen on the very modern machine located on the dock.
There is so much to see in Venice, that it’s difficult to identify just a few top sites, but here are twelve of the recommended highlights.
- Basilica di San Marco: Parts of the present structure date back to 1094. Both the exterior and interior are sights to behold. Admission is free, but there is a fee to see the altarpiece, treasury, and museum. Arrive early to avoid long lines.
- Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace): Located on St. Mark’s Square adjacent to the basilica, this former residence of the Venetian doges (chief magistrates ) was built in the 1300s and is connected to the prison by the Bridge of Sighs. There are two options for touring: purchase a Museum Card which also includes the clock tower, Correr Museum, and some lesser museums. My preference instead is for the ‘Secret Itineraries Tour’, a guided tour through areas not included in the general admission, including the jail cell from which Casanova escaped in 1775. After the tour, wander about the palace on your own. Reservations are required for the Secret Tour.
- Museo Correr: The civic museum of Venice, the Correr and its accompanying archeological museum and library house not only works of art, but also weapons and artifacts of everyday life in Venice.
- Gallerie dell’ Accademia: Artistic masterpieces are found throughout Venice, in large and small museums and churches. At the Accademia, there are 24 rooms filled with the best of Venetian art including works by Titian, Bellini, Tintoretto, and Tiepolo. During high tourist season, it is a good idea to reserve your tickets in advance.
- Ca’ Rezzonico: A palazzo on the Canal Grande that dates back to the 1600s, it now recreates the grandeur of an 18th century palace while also housing Venetian art of that time.
- San Giorgio Maggiore: This church, across the lagoon from St. Mark’s Square, is worth a trip not so much for the art which features Tintoretto, but for the view from the campanile. Take an elevator to the top for a panoramic view of Venice. To get there take Vapretto #2 from San Zaccaria. There are at least three different vaporetto stops at the Zaccaria. You need the one that is over the Bridge of Sighs and past the big statue.
- Scuola Grande di San Rocco: This scuola (a religious confraternity) was established in the 1400s. It features an impressive cycle of 54 paintings by Tintoretto.
- Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: Founded in the 1200s, this gothic basilica is in the San Palo district. Titian is interred here, as well as a number of doges, and the heart of Venetian sculptor Canova ensconced in a marble pyramid. Works by Titian, Bellini, and Donatelli grace the interior. Included in the Chorus Pass (see #9) and located near Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
- Chorus Pass: This pass allows entry to 16 churches throughout Venice. If you are going to be in the city for a few days, it is worth it to purchase this pass and visit each church at your leisure when you are in the neighborhood.
- La Fenice: If you know the story of the fire in 1996 and subsequent rebuilding of this magnificent opera house, it is worth a visit. Located not far from San Marco.
- Grand Canal: Enjoy the splendor of the city by taking a vaporetto (either #1 or 82) from the bus or train station all the way to San Marco. There are outside seats in the front and rear of the boats. #1 takes about 45 minutes, number 82 about 25.
- Lagoon tour: Take a boat to one of the ‘out’ islands; free with a vaporetto pass. San Michele is the cemetery island where Igor Stravinsky and Ezra Pound are buried. Where the first inhabitants of Venice settled and once a bustling locale, Torcello now has a population of less than 100. Stroll the quiet lanes and visit the Byzantine Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. The Lido bustles with car traffic, large hotels, a casino, and the beach. Murano is home to glassblowers, banished there from Venice in the 13th Century because of fear of fire. Visit the glass workshops, but beware of high pressure sales pitches. There are two main vaporetto stops on the island and the streets that connect them are lined with shops. Much of the glass for sale is not from Murano; true Murano glass will have a label that says “Vetro Artistico Murano”. There is a glass museum on the island. Burano is known for lace and brightly colored houses. Tourists flock there during the day; consider a trip later in the day when the streets are quieter. Wander off the main canal to enjoy this delightful island.
Easy day trips that can be made from Venice by train include Padua (40 minutes), Treviso (40 minutes), Vicenza (80 minutes), and Verona (90 minutes). Longer day trips include Lake Garda, Bologna, and Milan.
Vickie Kelber is familiar to many as an ex-City councillor as well as one who has served in many volunteer positions including work with Christmas Island Style, the Marco Island Film Festival, Citizens for a Safer Marco, the Marco Island Historical Society, and the Collier County Environmental Services Turtle Monitoring Program. Before establishing permanent residence in Marco Island with her husband George in 1999, for 25 years she was School Psychologist and Director of Special Services for the New Jersey Department of Education.
Vickie currently enjoys travel, photography, and as you can see, is an avid fan of films.