The foundations of the Venice were built on pillars, which have slowly sunk into the water.
The city of Venice has a rich history and offers plenty to do and see. Venice is located at the bottom of the Adriatic; it lies in the middle of a lagoon, on an archipelago of 118 small islands separated by 177 canals and 584 bridges. It is about 4 km away from the mainland connected by a rail and road bridge.
Venice is best known for its canals and gondolas. Whether for a week, a weekend or a stopover in Venice, it's good to know a bit about what there is to see and do. Where are the most beautiful places in Venice and where can one find them?
If time is short, here are some places worth seeing:
St. Mark's Square
This is the most emblematic place of the city and the main square in Venice, a central meeting point for locals, but mostly tourists. It is absolutely packed with tourists so I will recommend to visit and enjoy its beautiful architecture by night!
Saint Mark's Basilica
Saint Mark's Basilica is the third of the three churches built on the Piazza San Marco. It was built in 1063. The golden winged lion represents St. Mark, the symbol of Venice. The basilica has many mosaics, statues, domes, and an altar, which is believed to contain the remains of St. Mark. The inside church is covered by mosaic from floors to ceilings. There is no entry fee and if you want to avoid the long queue, you can book a 'skip the line' ticket online beforehand. It is also possible to go on the roof and admire St. Mark's Square or head right in front of the Campanile.
This is the first Campanile in the ninth century built as a watchtower for the lagoon. Destroyed and rebuilt, enlarged and altered over the centuries its final appearance is from the sixteenth century. You could also enjoy a panoramic view from the top of the Campanile.
La Fenice Theatre
Did you hear about this bird from the Greek mythology that has the power to rise from ashes after being consumed due to its own heat? Fenice means phoenix in Italian and you'll understand how this name is appropriate to the famous theater. The theater was built between 1790 and 1792 to replace the San Benedetto Theatre, which had been burnt.
So Fenice opened its doors in 1792 and was destroyed by fire in December 1836 and rebuilt in 1996. Then in 2003 the theater burnt again due to a criminal act to rise once more from ashes like the mythical bird. It was rebuilt in the 19th century style. You can do a guided tour of the theatre to learn about its history.
Cannaregio is only district that is still not too touristic. This is where the residents live. Accommodations are usually one third cheaper than in the historic center. The district is defined by narrow paved streets, little artisan shops and kept a real popular soul. It has its architectural treasures such as the gorgeous Ca 'd'Oro, a beautiful Venetian house from the fifteenth century.
For a walk or some shopping, I suggest the Strada Nuova. The street was built between several houses in 1872 to allow a direct way to the station of Santa Lucia. This is a very good place to buy handicrafts and souvenirs. This pedestrian street is particularly popular with Venetians.
In Cannaregio you will find the Church of the Madonna dell'Orto. It takes its name from the statue of the Virgin found in 1377, which apparently has miraculous properties statue. Cannaregio is also the place of the Ghetto, created in the sixteenth century for the Jewish community. Nowadays it is home of only 300 Jews, the others are scattered throughout the city. If you want a culinary experience go to Gam Gam Kosher, a Venetian restaurant. It is located at the entrance of the Jewish ghetto and it is 5 minutes from the railway terminus.
The area is also a central point for many of Venice's ghost stories, if you're fascinated with the unknown then join a guided ghost tour in Cannaregio.
Islands of the lagoon
The three islands of the lagoon are distinguished by the size of their industries. Murano is visited primarily for the art of its glass internationally renowned, its glass museum and many important shops in the adjacent tunnels. Burano gets its originality from its colorful houses, its scenery postcards and small shops. Burano has the larger industry.
As for Torcello, it was the largest of the three islands and is home of the oldest church in the lagoon. First city of the lagoon, it reached its peak in the tenth century and became depopulated slowly to become a gost city.
Famous bridges of Venice
The Bridge of Sighs is known worldwide. It is actually a bridge that belonged to a former prison complex. There are 540 bridges including the Rialto Bridge, which is worth to visit. Back to the 1500s, the Rialto was the first bridge to cross the Grand Canal, today there are four. Very colorful, it offers three crosswalks, one to the center between two rows of shops set in arches.
Punta della Dogana (Punta della Dogana)
Perfectly triangular, the Punta della Dogana building is located at the end of Dorsoduro and separates the Grand Canal from the Giudecca Canal. It's like Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, you can admire one of the best views of the entire basin of San Marco. It is in the fifteenth century that the customs offices came to live. In 1677 a tower, topped by a statue, made by Bernardo Falcone, representing two kneeling Atlantis carrying a golden globe that runs the wind statue of Fortuna, is added. The building was used as a warehouse, was converted into a museum and it opened to the public in June 2009. François Pinault Foundation, chosen by the city of Venice, is the administer of the site.
Tours worth joining and activities worth doing
While the magic of Venice is getting lost while wandering through the canals, if you're short on time the last thing you want to do is wind up getting lost and having no idea where you are.
There are some really amazing tours that you can join while in Venice that will ensure that you get a good glimpse of the city and all it has to offer. You can do a guided walking tour, street food tour with a local, a sunset cruise, Hop-on Hop-off boat sightseeing tour, a wine tasting tour, and course a romantic gondola experience is a must for any firsttimer in Venice.