Day 1 - Walking on water
Venice is one of those cities in the world that no matter how many times you read about it, or no matter how many photos you see, you will be totally taken aback when you first arrive. It is built on a grand total of 118 islands so, as you can imagine, there is water absolutely everywhere. When you first arrive get out and about so you get to know the city and how to get around the different bridges and canals. You will need it as for the duration of your stay it is all you are going to see.
When you are walking around the city you will notice (well it’s hard not to) that the different islands are connected by a number of bridges. Some of these are better known than others, namely the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) and Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto). The first was built back in 1600 and got its name from the prisoners who sighed as they had to use it (it was connected to a jail). The latter is the city’s oldest bridge and, at one stage, was the only point of crossing over the Grand Canal (the city’s flagship canal). The Rialto Bridge is particularly special as it has been built a total of seven times!
Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square, the city’s only true square) is where you are bound to go on your first night in Venice. It is the city’s main tourist haunt and full of cafés which frequently have bands playing. In comparison to other European cities, and in particular other Italian cities, going ons after dark in Venice are a little tamer. Rather than landing yourself on the nearest bar stool and tanking up on the bar’s selection of beers and spirits, instead you could find yourself in the cafés. This isn’t too bad, though, as they usually serve alcohol late, just like a pub.
Day 2 - Wine tasting
In the most eastern part of the Veneto, the region where Venice is situated is the Lison Pramaggiore DOC wine area. Vines have been growing here for over 3,000 years and the land in the region pretty much guarantees constant growth thanks to the sediment in the soil. This results in vines always flourishing.
The region produces a vast selection of wines, the most notable being Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. 25 years ago the vineyards were converted to specialised culture strengthening its importance of the vineyards both agriculturally and also in regards to tourism in the region. Thousands visit them every year and tours only take approximately half a day, ensuring you don’t spend too much of the day sampling the local wine leaving you too tipsy to do anything that night.
Unfortunately La Fenice, the home to Venetian opera theatre, was badly damaged by a fire in 1996. While it might have been the epicentre of the performing arts in this aquatic city, a temporary replacement known as the PalaFenice is where most operas visiting Venice are staged. Tickets cost €20 approximately and it is a nice way to spend an evening if you can afford the ticket. Other venues in the city which hold operas include Frari Church and Scuola di San Rocca.
There are a handful of theatres around the city, although with many of the theatres staging plays in the country’s native tongue, it can be a tiresome event. But if you do feel like trying to figure out what the actors are saying, Teatro Goldoni on Calle Goldoni, San Marco is the place to go.
Day 3 - Splendour at Venice’s Beauty
Piazza San Marco is also a great place to burn a few hours is during the day time. Once described by Napoleon as “the finest drawing room in Europe”, it is different to other squares in the world as it hasn’t been invaded by cars. Instead the completely pedestrianised area is regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Europe to sit down for a couple of hours and gather your thoughts. There are many cafés on the square, namely the
If you’re not content with your jaw hitting the floor just once in the one morning, Basilica San Marco (St Mark’s Cathedral), which was built in 1094, will really take your breath away – and that is just from the outside. Once you walk inside your senses (particularly eyesight) will be working overtime as there are so many mosaics and statues to stare at.
The words art and Italy go hand in hand. It would be criminal to visit Venice and not go to a gallery. This is where Galleria dell’Accademia on Campo della Carita comes into play. Containing an incredible collection of Venetian art including Paolo Veronese’s Christ in the House of Levi (originally known as The Last Supper), most of the works in the original gallery were taken from churches and convents that were under attack. Entrance to the gallery is limited to 300 at a time so lunch time is a good time to visit.
Heaving with students who have been set free in summer months, Campo Santa Margherita is always full of life when the sun goes down. Along with these scholars are a nice mix of locals and tourists. There are various types of establishments to pass the night away, such as restaurants, cafés and bars.
Day 4 - Verona
‘Verona, Verona, where art thou Verona?’ Well thankfully it’s not that far from Venice (only one hour on a train). There is a lot to see here boasting many fine medieval buildings, churches and, of course, that balcony.
The Arena in Verona is considered to be Italy’s most magnificent amphitheatre after the Roman Colosseum. Then you have San Zeno which is one of the areas most magnificent churches.
As with its neighbouring city of Venice, Verona is also one of Italy’s most romantic cities. This is largely thanks to Casa di Giulettea, better known as Juliet’s House where Romeo famously cried out to his lover who was looking listening to him from her balcony. Along with all the churches and attractions to visit, Verona also has some beautiful squares (like most Italian cities) which have cafés galore.
If you decide to stay in Verona that night you will be spoiled for choice in regards to eateries, bars and nightclubs. There are large handfuls of all three and you simply have to make the choice of where to go. But if you decide to stay in Venice getting back, isn’t that painful with good train connections.
Day 5 - Churches and Canals
Whether you are a saint or a sinner, you have to visit some of the city’s churches. While they can’t match the beauty of the basilica in St Mark’s Square, they still have their unique qualities, they just mightn’t be as spectacular. The gothic Chiesa Di Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari (St. Mary’s Church, also known as the Frari) is probably the most magnificent and is where the ‘Assumption of the Virgin’ (painting by Titian) is housed. There are too many churches in Venice to mention them all, just make sure and try and see as many as possible.
Now they are quite expensive, but you can’t leave the city built on water embarking on some sort of water transport. The most famous are, of course, the Gondolas. Travelling around the canals on one is the only way to get a feel of the city. If you don’t want to splash out on a gondola (pardon the pun) you can always get canal cruises or water taxis. Just keep in mind that the price of Gondolas can usually be haggled.
Another street aligned with bars cafés and restaurants is the Strada Nova. What’s most appealing about this street is that is virtually tourist free and here you will feel like a true Venetian. The street is extremely picturesque, so once you don’t drink too many beers and you can still focus, you will enjoy looking at the buildings and architecture.