The last stop for the Norwegian Jade’s Adriatic journey in May 2013 was Venice. Also called the Bride of the Sea and the Queen of the Adriatic, Venice is known worldwide for its canals, its glass, and for the grand masked extravaganza of Carnevale.
How to Get Around Venice
Of course, canals are part and parcel of the Venetian way of life. There are hardly any cars in the old city; everyone gets around on bicycles and on foot and, of course, on boats. It’s fascinating actually to see everything you’d expect to see on a city road: buses, private vehicles, even ambulances and police vehicles, except that they are all boats and the roads are waterways.
The main buses are called vaporetti, run by the company ACTV. They have designated routes and the floating platforms have clear yellow and white signs and numbers. There’s a route map and schedule as well as prices on ACTV’s site, but you should know that vaporetto prices are very expensive (EUR7 for most a one-way ticket, EUR4 for a limited ticket that only lets you board at certain stops). The good news is that you shouldn’t need to use the vaporetti a lot; Venice isn’t a huge city by any means, and walking can be the quickest way to get somewhere. In fact, we only boarded it twice: from the cruise terminal upon arrival in Venice, and to the airport as we were leaving. If you find that you need to use it more often, take advantage of the tourist cards (EUR20 for one day, 30 for two, 40 for three, 60 for seven) and plan your travel through the city to take the most advantage.
Things to See in Venice
With only one day, you can get a taste of the classical Venetian city. The most famous landmarks are St. Mark’s Basilica, Piazza San Marco, the Grand Canal, and the Rialto Bridge.
Piazza San Marco
The Piazza San Marco really contains the heart of Venice: the Basilica is at one end, and it is lined with arcades that have cafes and shops along the bottom, offices on higher floors. During the day, the Piazza is busy with tourists lined up for either the Basilica or the Campanile, dining at the restaurants, or heading to and from the rest of the city. At night, the Piazza’s arcades are beautifully lit and many of the cafes have live music. We spent our one evening leisurely strolling the Piazza and stopping near one or another cafe to enjoy the music and people watching.
The Campanile is St. Mark’s free-standing bell tower. Climbing it will give you an amazing view of the city as well as some of the surrounding islands. Entrance to the Campanile is EUR8; hours are variable but it usually opens at 9:00.
St. Mark’s Basilica
St. Mark’s Basilica is a grand Byzantine church. Its facade is pretty amazing, with its multiple domes and turrets, and the elaborate art and mosaics. The interior is no less amazing (I dare you to find a church that uses more gold leaf). There’s something to catch your eye at every direction. Entrance is free and access is usually from 9:45 to 16:00.
The Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge
The Grand Canal is one of Venice’s most major waterways, and the Rialto is the oldest and most famous of the bridges that cross the Grand Canal. The area around the Rialto could be considered a tourist trap, so be warned: there is a large concentration of restaurants, but most if not all are overpriced. There’s also a lot of shopping around the bridge, and the area in general is very busy both for foot and water traffic.
We actually found a spot at the foot of the bridge and just watched everything for a while. There’s a lot to see. People hurrying along the banks of the Canal, or browsing the restaurants. Private speedboats shooting along the Canal. Vaporetti and gondolas skilfully jockeying for space and somehow not hitting each other despite the apparent lack of lanes in the water.
What Else in Venice?
Like the rest of Italy, food is delightful in Venice. Pizza and gelato are mainstays and you can’t go wrong. By virtue of its location in the Adriatic, Venice also boasts an excellent array of seafood dishes, so definitely try some things that you might be unfamiliar with.
With more time, you can also pay a visit to some of the islands around old Venice. The most famous of these are San Giorgio Maggiore, with its church and belltower; Murano and its glassmakers, Burano and its lace; and peaceful Torcello. You can also head to the Lido di Venezia, a 7-mile long beach (actually a sandbar).
There’s much to see in Venice and a day will only give you a taste of its beauty and unique culture.