The Campanile di San Marco is one of the most iconic buildings in Venice. Situated near the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale, it stands at 98.6 meters tall (323 ft) and provides an incredible view of the whole region.
Do not stand too close to the bells when on top of the Campanile. If they happen to ring while you are nearby, you might get your ears hurt.
The History Behind The Campanile
The Magyar invasions from 898 and 899 led to the short occupation of important cities in the region, such as Cittanova, Padova and Treviso. Although the Venetians ultimately defeated the Magyars, the city remained vulnerable to attacks, especially from Slavic pirates who very often attacked Venetian ships on the Adriatic sea.
To solve the problem, Doge Pietro Tribuno ordered the construction of a series of fortifications around the city. One of these structures was to be a huge watch tower on St. Mark’s Square.
The View From the Campanile
From the top of the Campanile you will be able to see many kilometers alway, and as consequence, the whole city of Venice and its adjecent islands.
From the southern side, you can see the rest of Piazza di San Marco, as well as the rooftops of the Museo Correr and the Biblioteca Nazionale Marziana. Up ahead you can see the entrance to the famous Grand Canal, with the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute on the edge of the island.
From the northern side, you can see the Basilica di San Marco and the Torre dell’Orologio, as well as the entirety of the San Marco neighborhood. If you look further behind, you can see up until the continent, which gives you an idea of the reach the tower has.
Visiting the Campanile at Night
In my personal opinion, the best time to visit the campanile is at night. You will not only be able to see how bright the city gets, with the light reflecting on the waves, but also the starry sky. A sky that attracted many throughout the centuries, including Galileo Galilei. A demonstration of his famous telescope was done at the tower and until today, the it holds a sign that says:
Galileo Galilei con il suo cannocchiale
da qui il 21 agosto 1609
allargava gli orizzonti dell’uomo
nel quarto centenario.
A dedicatory written by the city, which translated to English means:
Galileo Galilei with his telescope
from here on August 21, 1609
widened the horizons of man
in the fourth centenary.
Named “the most beautiful bookstore in the whole of Italy“, Libreria Acqua Alta is a must-see when visiting Venice. Why? An intriguing atmosphere with a creative solution for salvaging the books from the threat posed by the constant floodings in Venice: putting the books on gondolas and bathtubs.
Apart from the curious look and atmosphere, Libreria Acqua Alta is the best spot in town to get your hand on local books written in their native language, which will give you genuine insights into Venetian history and culture.
Why The Best Bookstore In Venice
#1 Here You Can Buy Books On A Budget
Along the narrow corridors of Libreria Acqua Alta, you will find many second-hand books that can be as cheap as 3 EUR. Those are not only novels but also treatises on politics, sociology, philosophy, etc. There are no limits to the rabbit-holes that these books will suck you into, opening your field of knowledge to parts of history that are mostly unknown to foreigners.
Note that most of the books here will be written in Italian. But take this as an opportunity to learn the language and dig deeper into the vast culture of Venice and Italy as a whole.
#2 Here You Can Get A Nice Canal View
The fire exit is one of the most famous parts of Libreria Acqua Alta, sou you will always see plenty of people taking pictures here. It gives access to the canal on the back of the bookstore, so you will eventually see boats passing by here.
You will spot it when you see a large green door, with the name of the bookstore written on it with yellow color. If you have the courage, you can climb the ramp and sit on the gondola that is resting outside, but be careful since it is quite unstable.
#3 Here You Can Buy Nice Souvenirs
If you are looking for nice souvenirs and prints to take home, Acqua Alta is the place for you. Together with the Museum shop at the Palazzo Ducale, this is one of my favorite places to get souvenirs in town.
If you are interested in prints, you can get copies of ancient maps of the city and paintings of beautiful sights across Venice done by locals. If you are looking for something more tangible and that you can take with you anywhere, they also have beautiful golden keychains and pins with the Lion of St. Mark.
#4 Here You Can Take Great Photos
Another one of the most famous parts of the Acqua Alta Bookstore is definitely the staircase on the back. It consists of a pile of books that were irreversibly damaged by the floodings of the city, piled together to give access to the view of the canal on the back of the bookstore.
You cannot underestimate how famous this place is. Throughout the whole year, this place with be filled with tourists taking pictures on the top of the staircase. If you wanna have some alone time here, make sure you come early in the morning or right before the closing time. Just make sure you leave in time, so you do not annoy the owners.
#5 Here You Can Pet Cats
A very lovely aspect of this bookstore is the owner’s cats. They are constantly strolling around, moving their hips from left to right on top of the piles of books throughout the bookstore.
If I am not mistaken, there are five in total. They stay in the bookstore the whole day, but depending on when you come, they might be taking a nap, so you might not be able to see all of them at the same time. Either way, they make visiting the bookstore a much cozier experience.
The books shown above are close to the entrance, laying on the gondola that rests inside the bookstore. They all come from the publisher Edizioni Helvetia and offer a very easy read for beginners in Italian, while at the same time telling very curious stories reflecting the history of Venice.
Claudio Dell’Orso – Venezia Arcana This book is for those eager to learn about what Venice has that is most unusual: the evocation of the devil by the courtesan Veronica Franco with the King of France, Edgar Allan Poe’s black agenda found by Baron Corvo, the head that screams in Lista dei Bari, the young Stalin at the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, deposits of human bones in the lagoon islands, the mysterious fall of boulders in Campo San Boldo, haunted houses and UFO sightings.
Espedita Grandesso – Fiol d’un can! Although Venice has a very particular condition, being on the water, the city is not rid of animals. This book tells 17 tales of animals that left their mark on the city’s history: old restaurants perpetually keeping an eye on by dogs ready to take the launch of a bite and run away, the corroded semi-abandoned warehouses where cats hide and fight their eternal war against the brown rats, the dark artisan shops that give onto the streets where sneaky cats from their nook keep the owners company while they work, etc.
Ernesto Maria Sfriso – Serenissima This book describes 56 portraits of Venetian women who represented the spirit of an age or a particular cultural climate with their way of being, starting from the distant foundation of the lagoon to the present day. Not only famous and widely described figures from historiography, such as the Queen of Cyprus Caterina Cornaro and the courtesan Veronica Franco, but also common people that are almost forgotten such as the rower Maria Boscolo, the embroiderers Lucrezia and Vittoria Torre, the impudaressa Elisabetta Lazzari or the tabacchina Maria Teresa Trevisan.
Espedita Grandesso – Fantasmi di Venezia This book describes 17 damned legends illustrated by nineteenth-century prints and accompanied by a brief historical-artistic apparatus that orients the reader to their “crime scenes”. Examples of these legends are the remains of a mysterious skeleton, found in the church of Santo Stefano, the story of a man who pretends to be a beggar to earn alms and gives vent to an abominable vice, and the man in charge of delivering some precious and top-secret documents, stumbling upon the Austrian militia and confessing only at the hands of a not so holy abbot.
To put it short, a Vaporetto (batèlo or vaporino for the locals) is a waterbus that functions as the main public transport vehicle within the city of Venice. They operate not only on the main island but also has connections to Murano, Burano, Giudecca, and Lido.
The Vaporetto is not a necessity when visiting Venice, as most of the city’s attractions are located on the main island. But if you want to make things quicker and also visit other amazing places that can be found in the other Venetian islands, getting a Vaporetto ticket is the way to go.
Vaporetto vs. Gondola
The first and most obvious thing to compare between the Gondolas and the Vaporetti is the price. While a single Vaporetto ride will cost you 7.5 EUR for up to 75 minutes, riding a Gondola will cost you between 80 and 120 EUR for half an hour, depending on the time of the day, the night being more expensive.
The other aspect we should take a look at is privacy. While in the Gondola you will be alone (or together with your significant other), the idea is that in the Vaporetto, given that it is a public means of transport, you will be in a crowded place. That is partially true, but if you know at which time to hop in, as well as which line to take, you will find yourself alone in the front seats, enjoying the best views in town.
Access To The Vaporetto
The first step for riding the Vaporetto is choosing your ticket. ACTV, the company that runs the Vaporetti, has many different types of tickets available, mostly time-based:
Single Ticket (75min) – 7.5 EUR
1-Day Ticket (24h) – 20 EUR
2-Day Ticket (48h) – 30 EUR
3-Day Ticket (72h) – 40 EUR
7-Day Ticket – 60 EUR
Apart from the main ticket, you can ride the Vaporetti at a discount or even for “free” when purchasing specific city cards such as the Rolling Venice or the City Pass. If you are visiting Venice for more than a day, I highly recommend getting the City pass, as it not only gives you unlimited access to the Vaporetti, but also a free pass to all the city’s civic museums, most of the churches and also the Doge’s Palace.
You can purchase your tickets online and get a print version in the machines near the Vaporetto stations, or simply buy your ticket at one of the Venezia Unica kiosks around town. Remember that before every trip, youneed to validate your ticket/card on the machines right in front of the stations, this is mandatory and if not done will lead to very expensive fines.
The Best Vaporetto Route
When it comes to the best Vaporetto line to enjoy the sights Venice has to offer, my definite pick is:
Line 2: S. Zaccaria → P. Roma → San Marco (8:13→15:49 – Daily)
There are many different reasons for this choice: not only this line has many stops across the Grand Canal, but it also has very nice sits right in front of it. If you get it during working hours, and especially during the low season, you will be alone there enjoying the canal just for yourself.
Among the places that you will be able to go through with this line are the Giudecca island, San Tomà, the Accademia gallery, and of course San Marco. Apart from that, this line stops both in the Tronchetto Bus Station and in the Santa Lucia Train Station.
Line 2 at night will be slightly more limited when it comes to stops but is just as amazing. Also, by going at night, you will also have high chances of getting all front seats to yourself.
Nothing better to experience the spirit of La Serenissima than to try the local food, made with fresh ingredients in the best restaurants in town! Here is my personal list of the best restaurants in Venice.
Unlike some people think, Venice does not survive only on fish. The city’s cuisine is really rich and varied, including many different types of pastries, grains, and meats. The idea originated from the fact that the city is rich in fresh fish, but in reality, it also acquires other fresh ingredients from nearby agriculture. To put it short, there are many foods in Venice which are of great quality, not only fish.
When it comes to restaurant formality, there used to be a distinction between a ristorante, trattoria, and osteria, but nowadays these terms have become blurred, as higher-level restaurants also adopted the name of trattoria and osteria.
What to eat in Venice
Eating in Venice is not s complicated or expensive as people think, at least if you are well-informed. Venice follows the meal structure that the rest of Italy uses, which is somehow very similar to the rest of the western world:
Colazione – The equivalent of Breakfast.
Spuntino – A light morning snack.
Pranzo – The equivalent of Lunch.
Merenda – A light afternoon snack.
Cena – The equivalent of Dinner.
What can be slightly overwhelming is their festive meal structure. Of course, Venetians do not follow this structure at every meal, but on special occasions, it might happen. Either way, having a classical festive Venetian meal could be a fun activity when you are visiting Venice. You can try to follow the pattern below:
Aperitivo – It opens a meal, where at a standing gathering, drinks such as wine, prosecco, or spritz are served with little snacks such as olives, crisps, and cheese.
Antipasto – A slightly heavier starter including meat-based snacks such as salami, mortadella, and prosciutto or sandwich-like dishes such as panino and bruschetta.
Primo – The first course of the meal, usually including non-meat dishes, most often risotto or different sorts of pasta.
Secondo – The second course of the meal, including meat-based dishes such as steak, pork or fish. Usually served together with a Contorno (side dish), like a salad.
Dolce – The dessert, after the main courses, is usually served as a sweet treat such as Tiramisu or Panna Cotta.
Digestivo – As the name suggests, it helps with the digestion of a long and heavy meal. It comes in the form of a fruity alcoholic drink such as Grappa or Limoncello.
Note that the structure might vary from restaurant to restaurant. Some restaurants might not have a structure at all, so you will need to find places around your location to complete your meal structure.
Where to eat in Venice
Colazione & Merenda
Location: Fondamenta Sant’Eufemia, 461 | Near Palanca Opening: Mon-Sun 07:00 – 22:00 Reservation: Not Needed
Majer Giudecca is a refined and innovative restaurant with an open kitchen, specialized in grilled dishes. The place has forty seats divided between the inner hall and the external terrace overlooking the Giudecca Canal.
It is important to notice that you will not be able to get here on foot, as Majer is located on the Giudecca island. But the food here is definitely worth the Vaporetto trip, which will last less than two minutes. Also, there are plenty of things to see in Giudecca, so Majer can be your first stop after waking up.
Although Majer is known for its amazing Wagyu meat, a highly prized Japanese beef, I definitely love their sweet snacks. Whenever I go to Majer, its almost always early in the morning, so I can enjoy some muffins and an espresso (or a couple of them), while watching the canal.
Location: Piazza San Marco, 52 | Saint Mark’s Square Opening: Mon-Sun 10:30 – 17:00 Reservation: Not Needed
Since 2013, you can have an amazing breakfast while overlooking the most spectacular view of Saint Mark’s Square, and that thanks to the café at the Correr Museum. Located on the first floor of the Royal Palace of Venice next to the bookshop and the ticket office, the cafeteria is open also to non-visitors of the museum.
With 135 square meters in size and furnishing inspired by the Imperial style, the Correr Café is the perfect place to meet friends before a walk downtown. Apart from the wonderful view, the Museum is at the heart of the city, and within walking distance of other beautiful things to see in Venice.
On a special note, every first and third Sunday of the month you can enjoy a lovely brunch with a selected seat with a view of Saint Mark’s Basilica.
Despite being located in Saint Mark’s Square, this place is not as expensive as you might think. Whenever I am here, I always order a freshly-pressed orange juice with a San Marco, which is a toasted Club Sandwich with bacon, egg, cheese, lettuce, and tomato.
Aperitivo & Antipasto
Location: Crosera San Pantalon 3805 | Dorsoduro Opening: Mon-Fri 11:00 – 02:00, Sat-Sun 19:00 – 00:20 Reservation: Not Needed
Café Noir is a lovely and quiet place downtown near Ca’ Foscari University. It is mostly a meeting point for young people, but you will find all the demographics there. The reason is simple: great and tasty food for cheap, in a very relaxed environment.
The place is not enormous but is definitely cozy. After you make the order on the counter, you can either get a table or sit by the huge window to get a view of the little streets that lead there.
The Café is known for its variety of sandwiches, but I often go there for a light aperitivo, meaning two Spritz Veneziani and a bowl of nachos or chips. It never gets more expensive than 5 EUR, so you are in for a treat.
Bacarando In Corte dell’Orso
Location: San Marco, 5495 | Near the Rialto Bridge Opening: Sun-Fri 12:00 – 00:00, Sat 12:00 – 01:30 Reservation: bacarando.com/
The Bacarando In Corte dell’Orso will a bit difficult to find, since it is located inside a little alley-maze near the Rialto bridge, but is definitely a hidden gem in Venice. The place brags of its huge collection of more than 700 varieties of spirits and 100 wine labels, as well as a menu of carefully created cocktails.
Not only known for snacks, the Bacarando also serves lunch and dinner in a lovely atmosphere on the upper floor. But that is not the main reason why everyone loves this place. They have the best Cicchetti I have ever eaten in my life, so they definitely deserve their name, as “bàcari” stands for a Cicchetti bar.
No need to say that Cicchetti and Spritz Veneziano are a must here. They are so tasty that you actually need to be careful not to eat too many. After all, this is only an entrance before the main course, and you still need to eat pasta and meat after this.
If you want to try traditional Venetian cuisine, Taverna San Trovaso is the place for you. Venetian cuisine stems from the creativity of mixing hinterland ingredients with the fish from the nearby sea, and this place is proud of having mastered cooking traditional local food and elevating it to art.
This tavern, although far away from the major attraction in the city, gets full pretty quickly after opening its doors. Do not let the name Taverna fool you, this is a relatively expensive place with high-quality food, so it is definitely not for the budget travelers.
My favorite thing to eat in this place is the scallops filled with shrimp risotto, covered with porcini mushrooms. Another thing I cannot emphasize enough is that you should get the wine of the house, as it is extremely tasty and harmonizes perfectly with the food you are eating. If you do not know which wine to ask for, the staff will be glad to help. They also speak many major European languages.
Taverna Al Remer
Location: Cannaregio, 5701 | On the other side of Rialto Market Opening: Mon-Sun 12:00 – 23:30 Reservation: alremer.it/
Here is another hidden gem I found in Venice when I was studying there. It is honestly a bit difficult to find your way to Taverna Al Remer, as not only the path is a bit labyrinthic but also your GPS stops working when you get around two blocks close to it. No idea why. But once you are there, you will understand why it is so special.
If you are planning a romantic dinner, this is the place for you. Candle-lit environment, well-dressed and extremely polite staff, great food and wine, and a direct view to the Grand Canal from the outside. Just make sure you get a reservation because the place fills up really fast.
The reason I come here is their Secondo, as they have great seafood. My favorite dish from the place is the grilled prawns and shrimps, tastes amazing with a bit of olive oil and lemon, together with some quality white wine from the house.
Dolce & Digestivo
Al Timon Eno-Ostarie
Location: Fondamenta dei Ormesini, 2754 | Near the Jewish Museum Opening: Mon-Sat 17:00 – 01:00, Sun 11:00 – 01:00 Reservation: altimon.it/
Al Timon is a great steakhouse at the heart of Cannaregio, the 16th-century Jewish Ghetto. This is the perfect location to escape the waves of tourists coming from the city center and enjoy traditional food in a place loved by locals.
They serve their wonderful steaks in decorated meat-boards, and in case you came just for snacks, during summer you can eat your Cicchetti and drink your wine on one of their boats outside on the canal.
Although their food is wonderful, I mostly come here for their Tiramisu and Panna Cotta. I have yet to taste dessert better than the ones they serve here. After the dessert you can, of course, have a drink to help with the digestion of your meal, I would suggest dry Grappa, as theirs is local and excellent.
Location: Castello 5988 | Near the Rialto Bridge Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 19:00 Reservation: Not Needed
VizioVirtù is heaven for chocolate lovers. They not only own this lovely shop but also have their own chocolate factory where they create the most exquisite recipes to satisfy the most demanding palates.
The place offers chocolate workshops where you can cook truffles and mousses with them. You will learn how to temper chocolate and, of course, how to make drinking chocolate. In case you are out of time, you can simply show up and get a small lecture on chocolate history, as well as try the most important flavors.
Whenever I am around Rialto and ready for a quick bite of something sweet, I come here for their chocolate pie and some double/triple/quadruple espresso. You definitely need an energy boost when exploring Venice, so here is the place to get sugar and caffeine, both in a delicious form.
The Doge’s Palace (in Italian: Palazzo Ducale), is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, composed of layers of building elements and ornamentation from its 14th and 15th century original foundations to the Renaissance and Mannerist adjunctions.
In 810, Doge Angelo Partecipazio moved the seat of government from the island of Malamocco to the current Rialto area, when it was decided that the Palazzo Ducale should be built. But no trace exists of that 9th century building. The current Palace dates back to the 10th and 11th centuries. Initially, it was probably an agglomeration of buildings used for different purposes and was then walled for protection.
Little did the first Doge to live in it know, but the Palace would then become a symbol of the massive intellectual, artistic and military power that the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia would exercise not only on the Adriatic sea but in the whole of Europe.
From April to October, the Doge’s Palace opens at 8:30 and closes at 21:00, with prolongated hours from Friday to Sunday, closing at 23:00. From November to March, the Palace opens at 8:30 and closes at 19:00 every day. Remember that the last admission is always half an hour before the current closing hour.
There are many different ways of getting access to the Doge’s Palace, the most popular is the St. Mark’s Square Museum ticket, which includes entrance to the Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and the Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.
Discounts are granted to children from 6 to 14 yeard old, students aged from 15 to 25 years old, holders of the Venice Rolling Card, and holders of the International Student Identity Card.
Free Admission is grated to Venetian citizens and residents: ICOM members, children aged from 0 to 5, disabled people with a helper, and tourist guides enabled in Italy accompanying groups or individual visitors.
You can find further information regarding prices and overall regulation on the official website of the Doge’s Palace.
Inside the Doge’s Palace
Courtyard & The Loggias
As you walk inside the palace through the Porta del Frumento, the oldest side of the building, you will find the Piazetta and the Renaissance wings on the two sides, with the end closed by the conjunction between the Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica, where the Doge’s chapel used to be. On the center of the courtyard, you will find two well-heads dating back from the 16th century.
One of the most amazing sights here is the Giants’ Staircase. Used only on formal occasions, this staircase is guarded by statues of Mars and Neptune, a symbol of Venice’s power both on land and sea.
After the Censors’ Staircase and the famous Gold Staircase, you will be on the Loggias. Two important plaques are to be found here: a Gothic lettering promising favors to those who give donations to the prisoners, and another celebrating the visit of French King Henri III to Venice. Here you have access to the upper floors, where various Government duties were carried on a daily basis.
The Institutional Chambers housed the main organs of the political and judicial administrative functions of the Republic, envied by the major powers of Europe. Why? Not only they kept their democratic tradition for centuries, despite having no written constitution whatsoever, but they managed to maintain a prolongated inner peace and prosperity that no other place in the continent has seen.
As you walk across the many rooms, you will find the places where important institutional bodies met, such as the Great Council, the Senate, the Collegio, the Council of Ten, etc. In all of the rooms, the decoration was chosen and designed to indicate the role the bodies that met within them had in the Republic, as well as celebrate the virtues of the Venetian State.
The Doge’s Apartments were always located between the Rio della Canonica and the Golden Staircase, near the Basilica of Saint Mark where the Ducal Chapel used to be. In the late 15th century, the whole place burned down and was then rebuilt in Renaissance style. The rooms currently found there date back to this renovation.
Until the 17th century, the Doge’s Apartments were used for the Doge’s private life and affairs. Although prestigious, the place was not particularly large or luxurious. Prior to their elections, the Doges usually had a much larger house with more luxurious services than the ones offered by the Republic. Taking office was a clear message that the Doge is not an absolutist king, he is a servant of the people.
Throughout the centuries, the Doge’s Palace took many hits: fires, structural failures, infiltrations, and floodings. To fix these, many rebuilding projects took place. Since the Middle Ages, these restoration and maintenance activities were carried by an office called the Opera, or fabbriceria.
During the mid 19th century, the very survival of the building was questioned, due to a high degree of decay. To prevent collapsing, a major restoration project was started. The work involved rebuilding two facades and the columns belonging to the ground-floor arcade and the upper loggia, 42 in total were in such a bad state that they needed to be completely replaced by copies.
The problem is that these pieces that were removed were masterpieces of Venetian sculpture from the 14th and 15th centuries. You can’t just throw that out on the trash. For that reason, these works of art were kept in a new area of the Palace: the Museo della’Opera.
The rooms of the Armoury contain an impressive historical collection of weapons from many different sources, with its main body being as old as the 14th century.
At the time of the Republic, the Armoury was under the control of the Council of Ten, and stocked weapons which needed to be readily available for the Palace’s guards. On special occasions, the guards were joined by the arsenalotti, an elite-squad of workers from the shipyards of the Arsenale.
The collection of weapons was partially dispersed after the fall of the Republic, but today it still comprises 2000 original pieces. These include incredible 15th and 16th-century suits of armour, swords, halberds, quivers, and crossbows. You will be able to notice that most of the equipment contains the inscription “CX“, which stands the Council of Ten.
One of the most famous constructions from the Palace itself can be found here: the Bridge of Sighs. Lots of couples come to the outside of the Palace to take pictures together in front of this wonderful view, but in reality, the name of the building comes from the fact that prisoners would often sigh as they entered the prison, for that would be the last time they would see the beauty and freedom stemming from Venice. Not that romantic.
Here was the seat of the judiciary branch of the Republic, including the chambers of the magistrates known as the Notte al Criminal. The Doge’s Palace always contained prisons, but in the mid-16th century, a new structure was built on the other side of the canal to house larger and better-lit cells for prisoners. It was connected to the Doge’s Palace by the Bridge of Sighs and contained its own courtyard.
Doge’s Palace Tips & Tricks
Avoid The High Season
I believe there is no need to say that Venice often gets flooded not just by water but also by tourists. But just like the Acqua Alta (high tides), the tourist waves come seasonally.
If you come from October to April, you will have a much better experience visiting the Doge’s Palace. It’s safe to say that if you go early in the morning or late in the evening, you might even find yourself alone in the major chambers of the Palace. An experience like this would be impossible during the summer months.
Save A Little Money
I mentioned before that the most common way of getting access to the Palace is through the combined museum ticket. But there is an even cheaper way of getting inside: the Venezia Unica City Pass.
This pass allows not only for entrance to the Doge’s Palace but also to all other civic museums of the city, major churches as well as a free pass to the city’s transport system for a given period of time. All of this without needing to wait in line.
Ca’ Foscari is of high importance to me personally. Not only it was my gateway to living in Venice, but it has taught me art, philosophy, and management. For those reasons, I am in eternal debt to this brilliant institution.
Founded on the 6th of August 1868, as the “Scuola Superiore di Commercio” (Advanced School for Commerce), it was the first Italian institution to deal with advanced education in Business and Economics.
It is located in the palace of the Foscari family, a Gothic building on the waterfront of the Grand Canal in the Dorsoduro sestiere. The building itself was built for the doge Francesco Foscari in 1453 and designed by the architect Bartolomeo Bon.
One of the most important pieces in the building is right at the entrance, and that is the portal. Made of Istrian stone, it has a rectangular shape in the lower part and an arched lunette inflected in the upper part. The Foscari coat of arms is inside the lunette.
The portal was recently restored, in 2008 to be precise, by some recent graduates of the course of Sciences and Technologies of Restoration, coordinated by Professor Biscontin.
The Casa delle due Torri, where the university building is currently located, was a Byzantine-style classical monument that was known in the city for its position “facing the Canal” and for the two side towers that gave it a very unique appearance. It was demolished to make way for the house of the Foscari family.
The construction of Ca’ Foscari began in 1453. As mentioned before, the building is attributed to Bartolomeo Bon, famous architect who also created the Porta della Carta in the Palazzo Ducale.
Compared to the Casa delle due Torri, substantial modifications were made, including the addition of a second piano nobile; the main courtyard was enlarged, which is now actually the largest belonging to a private house with 940 squared meters, being only smaller to the one in the Palazzo Ducale.
During the fall of the Republic of Venice, when the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Habsburg Austria invaded the city, Ca’ Foscari took a hit.
Until today, the cannonballs used to attack the city are still stuck to the walls of the courtyard, both on the main building and on the staircase.
The Entrance Hall
The entrance hall of the building was reformed by Carlo Scarpa in 1936 when he designed the new glass wall entrance similar to the great hall on the second floor, the benched with the typical t-shape pattern, the handrail of the nineteenth-century stairway, as well as the lamps.
Mario Baratto Hall
On the second floor, you will find the Mario Baratto Hall, named after a famous professor of Italian literature and antifascist. Nowadays the hall is used for conferences, conventions, formal ceremonies, advanced training courses and important events of Ca’ Foscari University.
A great portal introduces the hall, with the Latin phrase “Studia Decus Ornamentumque Vitae” inscribed onto it, which stands for “study honors and equips life”. Several interventions have been also done here by Carlo Scarpa, such as the window, the boiserie, and the footboard.
Located in the Venetian Lagoon, the city of Venice was built over 118 small islands connected by more than 400 bridges. Growing due to medieval commerce, Venice attracted many guilds, artists and merchants, who built a culture and traditions that have lasted for over a thousand years.
Venice holds a special place in my heart, as I have lived and studied in this lovely city for quite some time. In this post, you will find my top picks for the best things to do in Venice.
Admire the St. Mark’s Square
St Mark’s Square is one of the most popular places in Venice, and for good reason. Apart from being an incredible architectural sight, it is surrounded by buildings that are very important to the city, such as the St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, the Bell Tower, etc.
The square is located at the southern entrance of the Grand Canal and is easily accessible both by foot and Vaporetto (water bus). Nearby you can have a nice cup of coffee, but be aware that anything you purchase around the square is going to be expensive and with a high probability of also being overpriced! If you are traveling on a budget, leave the meals and souvenier-buying for other neighborhoods of the city.
The square has a serious problem with pigeons, as they have so far irreversibly destroyed parts of the mosaics from the St. Mark’s Basilica. Recently a law has been passed, prohibiting the feeding of pigeons, so please be aware of the situation and keep food away from them.
Check the time at the Clock Tower
Right on the St. Mark’s Square, there is another interesting sight. An early Renaissance building at the entrance to the Merceria, the Clock Tower shows the time of day, the dominant sign of Zodiac and the current phase of the moon.
In the early 1490s, the city decided that the greatest sea power in the world could not rely on the old clock of Sant’Alipio, which was located on one of the corners of the St. Mark’s basilica. For that reason, the building of a clock that was both accurate and symbolic of the power stemming from Venice was scheduled.
Legend says that the city’s Senate blinded the master mechanics of the tower, so they don’t repeat such work anywhere else. That, of course, is a myth. The original creators lived with their families inside the clock tower, and the following master mechanics kept this tradition alive.
Experience royal life at the Doge’s Palace
Built in Venetian Gothic Style at the St. Mark’s Square, the Palazzo Ducale is without a doubt the main landmark of Venice and one of the most important of the north of Italy.
The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), as the name suggests, was the house of the Doge, the elected lord and chief of state of the former Venetian Republic. It’s architecture and treasures remain as evidence of the power stemming from this small city which ruled the Adriatic sea.
The interior contains an amazing gilded ceiling, which has panels depicting the glories of the Venetian Republic, as well as walls that are painted with portraits of the Doges and frescoes done by artists such as Tintoretto, Veronese, and Bella.
Stroll across the Rialto Bridge
Connecting the districts of San Marco and San Polo, the Rialto bridge is one of the most imponent sights in Venice. It is the oldest of the four bridges which cross the Grand Canal.
It was initially built in 1181 as a floating bridge, but given the increase in commercial traffic coming for the Rialto market on the eastern bank of the canal, it was replaced in 1255 by a wooden bridge. But wood was not sufficient, as the bridge collapsed in 1444 due to the weight of a large crowd that was watching a boat parade, and then again in 1524. Talks of rebuilding the bridge in stone followed, with Michelangelo himself being considered as a potential designer for the new bridge. But eventually, Antonio da Ponte designed the current bridge, which was finished in 1591.
Get a View from the Rooftops
Venice is not really known as “the city of skyscrapers”, as most of the buildings don’t exceed three floors. But there are certain spots in town, which will give you a priceless view of the city. Many buildings around St. Mark’s Square, such as the St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Campanile Tower allow for great views of the Venetian islands, the ocean, and the square itself.
Buy a book at the Libreria Acqua Alta
One of the most interesting bookstores in the whole of Italy, the Libreria Acqua Alta is a must-see spot in Venice for booklovers.
Located in the tiny district of Castello, the Acqua Alta offers a variety of books both in Italian and English stored in very interesting ways, be it on a gondola that is stuck inside the building or inside a bathtub. Apart from that, you will often find the keeper’s cats taking a nap or walking around the place.
On the back, you can climb a staircase made out of old books that have been ruined by the high water, or ‘Acqua Alta’. It can give you a nice view of the canal on the other side of the building.
Investigate the Arsenale di Venezia
The Venetian Arsenal was a complex of medieval shipyards and armories, known as one of the earliest large-scale industrial enterprises in history.
Built in the 12th century, the Arsenale would only find a match in production capacity in the modern Industrial Revolution. With high walls to avoid curious public eyes, this maritime giant was able to produce one ship per day. Their secret: division of labor. Each part of the Arsenal built a different part of a ship such as munitions, rope, and rigging. Afterward, similarly to an assembly line, the pieces were quickly put together, creating the final product.
The Arsenal was such a historically iconic piece, that is was mentioned in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy:
As in the Arsenal of the Venetians
Boils in winter the tenacious pitch
To smear their unsound vessels over again
For sail they cannot; and instead thereof
One makes his vessel new, and one recaulks
The ribs of that which many a voyage has made
One hammers at the prow, one at the stern
This one makes oars and that one cordage twists
Another mends the mainsail and the mizzen…
Take a Gondola ride through the canals
The Gongola rides have become an iconic symbol of the city of Venice and are one of the most frequent items in the bucket list of tourists in town. All this for good reason, the Gondolas are a very traditional mean of transportation, and provide a unique view of the city, one that exists for hundreds of years.
The standards ride usually last for 30-45 minutes and cost between 80-120 euros, getting more expensive during the night. The Gondoliers can be found all around town, mostly close to the Grand Canal.
You cannot negotiate the price of the Gondola rides. However, if you ask for a much longer tour, you will be able to agree on a more accessible price.
Buy Fresh Fish At The Rialto Market
If you wanna have an almost exclusively local experience, you can always shop for fresh sea fruits at the Rialto Market. Here you can find a variety of options, such as squids, octopi, shrimps, salmon, etc.
Although you will not have where to cook it while staying at a hotel, you should definitely give it a try if you are renting an apartment to visit the city.
Visit San Giacomo di Rialto
Legends say that this is the oldest church in the whole of Venice, dating back to 421. Bu truth be told, the first document mentioning the church dates back to 1152. Still, the place is considered an important piece of Venetian history.
It has a large 15th-century clock above the entrance, considered a useful item in the Venetian business district but regarded as a standing joke given its inaccuracy.
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