My writing includes my personal travel experiences, destination, history, and cultural information.
A Brief History of Venice
Officially, there are no records of how Venice was established. There is substantial speculation, which is backed up by some evidence, that the original settlers had fled German and Hun invasions. These people are thought to have been from Rome and other countryside villages. This influx of settlers is thought to be around 410 AD.
It wasn't until the 18th century that Venice came to be the city we know and love today. Even during this century, Venice lost and regained its independence a few times over. Fortunately, during the Second World War, the city was relatively spared from invasions and bombings and remained intact.
Rome Wasn't Built in a Day, Was Venice?
With a beginning somewhere around 421 AD, Venice finally gained its independence in 1869. The opening of the Suez Canal put a damper on the maritime trade, and Venice struggled.
Overcoming the obstacles of invasion and loss of maritime competitiveness, Venice finally emerged as one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. Historically, the city has had a huge impact on music, art, architecture, and literature and continues this pattern today.
So, no, Venice wasn't built in a day but has seen numerous changes since its inception.
Fun Fact: Doesn't water rot out wood?
Venice is built on about 118 islands which are separated by canals and some 400 bridges; it's literally a floating city. The buildings are built on wood pilings. Seasonal high waters have created numerous flooding issues as far back as recorded history. But doesn't water rot out wood? Normally, yes.
The pilings are spaced very closely to each other, but the wood used is made from the trunks of alder trees, which are known for their ability to resist water. The pilings are driven deep into the mud and silt, resting on the limestone plates below the surface.
I learned this fact several years ago and found it to be very interesting; I hope you do as well.
My Trip to Venice—Why You Should Visit
The few days I spent in Venice were unseasonably warm. It was early April, and what a remarkable city! Walking the narrow, crisscrossing streets and alleys, it's easy to lose your way. Around each corner, it seems there is a hidden gem. The ambiance is almost overwhelming. And although I know the city is actually a series of islands, it doesn't seem that way even as you are crossing bridge after bridge.
I read about Murano island and wanted to get there to purchase something, anything, made from the handblown Murano glass, but with the heat, that didn't happen. I did, however, get my beautiful Murano glass vase at a shop off San Marco Square.
Basilica di San Marco
Basilica San Marco is located within the square. Yes, another Italian church—but they are all gorgeous! And St. Marks (as it's said in English) is exceptional and is a must-see. It's not the oldest church in the city (that honor belongs to San Giacomo di Rialto) but arguably, the most famous and most visited.
Inside you will find gilded bronze horses, Greek sculptures, and countless other priceless antiquities. Unfortunately, the world-renowned Baptistry and Zen Chapel are usually closed to the public. You won't need a lot of time in the basilica, but I'm told the lines to get in can be daunting. I was fortunate because the day I was there, I got right in. Appropriate dress is required for entrance.
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Entrance to the Basilica was free when I visited, but the museum upstairs does have a fee attached to enter.
The Rialto Market and Bridge
During my day in the city, I think all the crowds were in this area and possibly had already visited San Marco. Coupled with the unseasonable heat, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds made it difficult to walk and enjoy.
The bridge is over 800 years old, dating back to 1591. Remember those alder trees I discussed earlier? It took 6000 tree trunks to build the foundation of the Rialto Bridge!
Shopping and restaurants are everywhere in this area. By the time, I reached the bridge and market, the farmer's market was already closed for the day. A bit disappointing but honestly, I was heading back to a cruise ship, so what would I have done with purchases from the farmers' market?
Don’t Forget the Ever-Popular Gondolas
The gondolas have an amazingly interesting history! For the longest time, they were the sole source of transportation for the Venetians through the grand canal and in and out of the lesser canals. Due to their flat bottom and size, they remain ideal for the canals of Venice.
A few gondolas are still in practical use, but for the most part, riding in a gondola is a touristy thing. It might be for the tourists, it might be considered expensive and cliche, but it's a must-do activity! Because of the stifling heat during my visit, I have to be honest and say it wasn't that fun, and I wish I had waited until the evening. I think it might have been a better and more picturesque experience.
Fun Fact: Gondolas are 11 m long and 1.6 m wide and weigh 350 kg. They are comprised of 280 hand-made pieces of eight types of wood (lime, oak, mahogany, walnut, cherry, fir, larch, and elm) and take about two months to make.
The approximate cost to purchase one is about 46,000 Euros! No wonder the cost to ride on one is so expensive!
Other Modes of Transport
As I discussed earlier in the article, Venice is pedestrian-only. There are, however, alternative methods of getting around.
The traghetto is basically a municipal ferry and there are several locations to embark and disembark.
A "Vaporetto," or water bus, is a bit pricey and sails up and down the Grand Canal as a sightseeing alternative.
Water taxis are just that—a taxi on the water to take you from point A to point B. Negotiate your price before agreeing to the ride.
Shopping in Venice
If you have read any of my other articles, you know by now that I am the consummate shopper! I'm coming to believe that it really is an illness, though one that I happily live with! I'm just the "someone" to bear the burden!
Venice is full of small single-owner shops. Shakespeare didn't name the play "Merchant of Venice" without a good reason.
You should beware and be cognisant that many items labeled "Made in Venice" are actually made in China. It's a big deal! For example, the Murano glass vase I bought was very expensive and came with a certificate of authenticity. Similar vases in other shops were a quarter of the price but not authentic.
Marbled paper and carnival masks are hugely popular gifts and/or souvenirs. Again, be careful when you make your purchase. If you are looking for authenticity, then be prepared to pay the price. If it's a souvenir you're after, you will definitely have many choices. It is not customary to try and bargain the price.
There are many reasons to visit Venice. Maybe it's part of a cruise or land travel itinerary; maybe you are attracted to the experience of riding in a gondola. It's a great city, so perhaps the history is what intrigues you. Whatever the reason, I know Venice will leave you with memories to treasure for a lifetime!
Thank you for experiencing Venice with me! Please leave comments in the comments section. I do respond to them.
Until next time, friends, remember, "To Travel is to Live!"
© 2022 Dee Nicolou Serkin