Venice remains a city of mystery. Labyrinthine streets create an urban playground to get lost in, fogs silently make marble palaces disappear and the solid structures of the city fabric suddenly turns into waterways. At carnival time the everyday becomes grotesque and the city streets a surreal masked dream. The esoteric is nowhere stronger than at the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute or the awe-inspiring altarpiece of the Assunta designed by Titian. Take a gondola ride, enjoy the art and lose yourself time and time again.
Areas & Neighbourhoods of Venice
The 118 islands of Venice are divided into six districts (sestieri). The main thoroughfare is the Canal Grande which divides the city neatly in half.
San Marco - This is where the Venice of the popular imagination can be found: swanky shops and all the best-known sights can be found in this rectangle that is not much larger than a village green. The Piazza San Marco is the place to take it all in from inone of the cafes that fringes the square. Check out the exotic Basilica, the art-filled Palazzo Ducale, the churches and the museums.
Dorsoduro - Some of the finest architecture in Venice can be found here, along with there being more grandiose art collections to admire.
San Polo - Lovers of modern art can escape the surfeit of medieval and Renaissance masterpieces at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna whilst shopaholics should explore around Campo San Polo and the Crosera San Pantalon for designer boutiques and trendy bars and cafes.
Cannaregio - The area that once encompassed the overcrowded Jewish Ghetto is now home also to one of the most tranquil and peaceful parts of Venice in the food shops and trattorias that make up the pretty area around the church of Sant’Alvise.
Castello - Here you can find the most impressive open space in Venice at the Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Beautiful facades, fine Renaissance monuments and elegant churches create a square that is picture perfect.
Things to See in Venice
The dramatic structures of the mosaic-clad Basilica di San Marco and the Gothic Palazzo Ducale are defining sights in Venice but every church in the city has its own historic appeal, architectural grace and harbours a classic piece of artwork inside its atmospheric interior. Within the scuole you will be able to view Renaissance art to your heart’s content whilst in the Academia there are Venetian masterpieces from just about every era. Yet Venice’s sights are not that easy to capture: much of its beauty consists of just discovering labyrinthine streets or lesser-known squares or being surprised by the effect of the light on the waterways. Do just wander and let your feet take you out to the northern and southern islands where the tourists diminish and the wonder of Venice can truly hit you.
Things to Do in Venice
For the romantics out there a dinner cruise on board a galleon will certainly appeal but a trip out on the canals on a gondola or water bus is a must for all. Events such as the Voga Longa (an aquatic marathon), the Regata ‘Storica (procession of historic boats), the international film festival and, of course, the carnival keep Venice on its toes throughout the year. Shopping, whether for carnival mask souvenirs or designer clothing, is a pleasure in Venice and in Murano you can see Venetian glass being blown. Gastronomes can take a cooking class or sample the lavish spreads of cicheti (Venetian tapas). Best of all, though, grab a seat at a cafe in an elegant square and just marvel at all that is around you.
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