Of course, we had to talk about a trip to Venice. It is one of the most iconic cities, not just in Italy, but in the world. The floating city is often a prime choice for couples looking for a getaway ; as gondolas, canals and the famous carnival make it an idyllic destination. Surprisingly, it is also a great place to come as a family and enjoy a week long holiday living among the locals. Within its web of islands lies centuries of history, beautiful sights and of course delicious food that will please explorers of all ages.
Making your way to Venice is no more complicated than any other place and it does offer some beautiful views If you are flying in. The area is served by an international airport that offers direct flights from a lot of major hubs in Europe, North America and the Middle East. Avoid flying to surrounding airports like Treviso, Bologna or Verona as it requires additional, and often pricey, transportation. If you really want to make a grand entrance, you can catch the famous Orient Express train in Paris and ride it over two days across the Alps, down to Venice. Once you arrive at Marco Polo Airport, Venice or any of its surrounding islands are just a quick waterbus or private water taxi ride away. That is an experience on its own and a great opportunity to get a wide view of the city. You should buy the Venezia Unica Pass, which gives the right to use the vaporetto network ( waterbus by ACTV ) for 7 days and includes as well entrances to museums throughout the Venetian lagoons. Don’t forget to retrieve and activate the card once in Venice. For this itinerary, I highly recommend staying on the Island of Murano which is connected to the airport by the Alilaguna waterbus company ( not included in the Unica pass ). It runs two lines, the blue and the red, that go directly between the airport and the island. . It is a great area to have easy access to all the other islands, but also to enjoy quieter evenings. Prices of accommodations are also better. There, I highly recommend staying at the very nice and newly renovated apartment, Murano Place, off a quiet street along a canal. It offers great amenities for couples and families and is located on a top floor with a charming view of the water. Also, With a grocery store less than 5 minutes away, you will be able to enjoy meals in your own home, like the locals, if you don’t want to eat out all the time. Depending on the arrival time, this first afternoon and evening can be used to get a quick nap in, some groceries, and a walk around the island. A diner at the local pizzeria is a great way to seal that busy day of traveling and start your vacation before a good night’s sleep.
Spend this first day exploring the island of Murano and learn about its history while strolling along canals and small alleyways. It went from being a small fishing community to becoming a world renowned center for glass making factories and talented glass blowers. In the 13th century, Venice ordered all furnaces to be moved out of the main island fearing damaging fires to the aging wooden buildings. They eventually settled in Murano and the rest is history, with Venetian and Murano Glass being synonymous with luxury. First walk to one of the oldest church around the lagoon, The Church of Santa Maria e San Donato, to admire its amazing mosaic floor dating from the 12th century. Afterward, walk to the nearby glass museum. The “Museo del Vetro”. Located inside a traditional Venetian building, you will be able to travel thru time thanks to a collection of antique glass art to more modern pieces. While it does not fully tap into its potential, it is a good introduction to your Murano glass blowing journey. Next, after lunch, make your way to the Glass Cathedral of Santa Chiara. At night, it is an amazing event venue, but during the day you can tour the church, learn more about the local culture and arts, and of course also see a glass blowing demonstration. The afternoon tour starts at 3pm and lasts an hour. You can spend the rest of the afternoon backtracking your steps along the canal and visit all the shops. By that time, the narrow streets are less crowded and Easier to navigate.
On the second day around the Venetian Lagoon, head to the UNESCO world heritage site that is the island of Venice. It takes about 30 minutes by waterbus to go from Murano to the St Mark square stop ( San Zaccaria ), along the grand canal. On the way, you will sail by cemetery island, the Venetian arsenal, Lido Island and the Church of St Giorgio Maggiore among many other beautiful sights. Once on the shore, follow the promenade, toward the famous St Mark square. As you cross one of the smaller canal, don’t forget to look at the bridge of sighs. It was built in the 17th century and was used primarily to transfer prisoners from the palace to the prison. Naturally and conveniently, the first visit should be of the Doge’s Palace. It sits at the entrance of the square. The Gothic palace was the seat of the Venetian state, which had a lot of power in the region. Through centuries of constructions and modifications due to numerous cultural evolutions and political changes ; as well as three fires, the palace as existed for more than a thousand years in one form or another. It is a great way to further your journey through the past and learn about Venice from medieval times to the renaissance and beyond. Numerous famous people have walked inside the building including Casanova, who was a prisoner there. Make sure to also see one of the world largest oil painting, “paradise” by Tintoretto. Once outside, it is only a few more steps to the center of the square and the campanile, but also to the next visit, St Mark‘s Basilica. Built from Italian and Byzantine influences, the outside and inside are equally magnificent with the bronze horses, the mosaics, and the gold and marble work. Afterward, spend the rest of the afternoon and evening walking around the small streets of the island and discover all the little stores. Perhaps even try some local pastries from a bakery or café.
Before spending another day on the island of Venice, head to the quieter island of Burano. It is about a 40 minute boat ride from Murano. It was a less prominent island of the lagoon for centuries, until about 500 years ago, when it became a lace center with its quality products exported around the world. Leonardo Da Vinci was a customer at one time, purchasing a handmade cloth for Milan’s Cathedral. Once off the boat, it doesn’t take long to understand the appeal of Burano. Away from the busier Islands of the Venetian lagoon, It offers the opportunity of a peaceful life among incredibly charming colorful houses. You can spend an hour walking along the small canals dreaming about a simpler life. Nowadays, a lot of houses are owned by artists who have their studios or stores on the first floor, where visitors can browse and purchase handmade souvenirs. Eventually, make your way to the main square where the Museo del Merletto, museum of Lace, awaits. It Is located in a building that housed for a century the lace school. It offers an history of this traditional art of lace making while showcasing amazing pieces. It is worth mentioning that, just like the glass museum in Murano, you might be left with more questions than answers as you will be on your own for the tour. Next on the list should be to visit the world famous Lace store of Emilia Burano, just a short walk around the corner from the museum. This family has been in the business for generations. The friendly ladies of the establishment will be more than happy to show you around the upstairs family museum and talk about their high quality products such as linens. Perhaps you will leave the store with a unique table runner, as my family and I did. Later, before heading back to Murano, take the waterbus to the island of Torcello. It is a quick 10 minute hop across the water. One of the first island inhabited by locals looking to move away from barbarian persecutions, most notably from Atilla and the Huns. While it is said to have had a population exceeding 10000, today only a dozen people call Torcello their home. Ernest Hemingway spent some time there during the later years of his life. Just an hour here is necessary to visit the area and its main landmark. The Santa Maria Assunta Basilica is one of the oldest religious monument of the Veneto region. People visit it for the classic mosaics, especially one of the last judgment located on the west wall. Finally, it is time to catch the waterbus and head back to Murano.
Today, head back to Venice for a second day on the island. It is best to start early as the first stop is the world famous Rialto Market, in the district of San Polo. Open everyday except Sunday, since the 12th century, there, you can find local seasonal produces next to the fresh morning catch. A lot of restaurants are customers of the market. It is a very lively event and well worth the experience especially if planning on cooking for lunch, at the apartment. It has become so popular that guides offer their services to tour the market. Next, it is a great time to walk to the Rialto bridge. While a very busy tourist attraction, it remains a must see in Venice. It has had a long trouble history, suffering fires and collapses but eventually the current stone bridge as we can see it today, has managed to stand the test of time for the last 500 hundred years. Along its sides are numerous shops that more often than not, are selling overpriced items. After lunch, walk along the small alleyways to the magnificent opera house that is La Fenice. While the outside is of a modest neo-classical appearance, the inside will win you ten times over. This building also suffered three different fires thru the years but was always rebuilt based on the available archives to closely resemble the original. Thanks to the comprehensive audio tour, walking around the theatre brings the experience to life. From the history of the royal box where Napoleon had a seat, to the long list of classic singers that have grace the stage such as the talented soprano Maria Callas ; It is an unforgettable journey. Continue your afternoon with a gondola ride to the Royal Gardens, at the foot of St Mark Square or simply walk the street and discover some hidden unique buildings such as the palace Contarini Del Bovolo.
Once again, the time has come to say good bye, and leave the great city of Venice behind. If leaving by plane in the morning, I highly recommend either leaving the night before for a hotel close to the airport (Crowne Plaza), on the mainland ; or booking a water taxi for the morning as the Alilaguna ferry schedule might not work for an early flight. This itinerary can also be extended by another two or three days spent around Padua, Verona and Lake Garda with a rental car.
“As it was, where it was” is the motto of the reconstruction of the theatre La Fenice. It seems as if this motto could apply to the entire city and its lagoon. The Venetian region is working hard to preserve all of its origins as if time stood still for centuries, making it an amazing destination for any fan of history.
Expert tourist, I love visiting new places, discovering new cultures and meeting new people. With this blog, and my business "Itinerary of a passport", I want to share my passion, ideas and experience.