Venice…the magical city once called home by the womaniser Casanova and the talented painters Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, is either loved or hated by its visitors. I happen to adore it.
I fell in love with Venice the first time I visited the Italian city in 2001. For 8 hours, I meandered through the cosy streets, ate delicious gelatos and joined a not so romantic but still lovely gondola ride with 5 other people. I was 15 years old at the time, and completely enthralled by the city. I would visit the city 3 more times after my initial encounter and each visit made me fall even deeper in love.
The photos in this essay are from my last visit in July. For three days I explored corners of Venice I had never been to before in the scorching summer heat.
The most famous and busiest canal in Venice is Canal Grande. The wide canal snakes through the city and is the main thoroughfare for tourists who are making their way from the train station to Piazza San Marco. The 3km long Canal Grande is a busy hub used daily by water taxis (motoscafi), water buses (vaporetto), ambulances, workboats and gondolas. Apart from the iconic canal, Venice boasts over 150 canals and 400 bridges.
It’s such a beautiful sight, watching the gondoliers manoeuvring their gondolas through the shallow canals with the old buildings towering over them. By day, it looks like a busy nest. It’s an art to behold the way the gondoliers deftly make their way around each gondola, with no hint of panic or anger. By night, the canals are less crowded, which makes for a more romantic and less stressful experience.
We traversed many of the cute bridges all around Venice and decided on a private evening gondola tour. The price is a little more expensive (100 instead of 80 Euros), but so worth it. Apart from the canals being less busy, a major plus was that the heat was more bearable. Our gondolier was incredibly friendly, even though we more than likely inundated him with the typical questions he must receive all the time: “Where do you live?”,”How do you become a gondolier?”, “How many canals are in Venice?”, “Do you like your job?”, “Where did Casanova live?”, and of course the most important question: “Can you sing O Sole Mio?”, which unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), he did not.
Venice has a distinct architectural style called Venetian Gothic. The style, a mix between Gothic, Byzantine and Moorish architecture shows a graceful structure with beautifully decorated window arches and intricate details.
The Venetian mask has a long tradition going back for centuries. While the mask is now usually worn during Carnival, the wearing of the beautifully adorned masks used to be a very common aspect of life in Venice. The mask was usually used to hide one’s identity allowing the wearer to act more freely.
Venetian masks are such a famous symbol of Venice, it is near impossible to miss them while you’re visiting the city. From cheap versions in the usual tourist shops to high quality masks in dedicated Venetian masquerade shops.
We visited a few shops a little outside the center. We were allowed to try a few on, but the more precious masks were off limits. A few shops also offered costume rentals, which made me want to come back during Carnevale, dress up and join a couple of masquerade balls.
Lost In Venice
Leave the hustle and bustle of San Marco Piazza, and get lost in the narrow cosy streets all around Venice.
Leave your map behind and let the streets guide you. It’s easy to get lost and easy to stumble upon an impressive site you otherwise would have missed.
While venturing further away from San Marco Piazza, we left the usual tourist fuss behind and were welcomed by the familiar sounds of home cooking. Pots and pans clanking around and a whiff of a delicious tomato based pasta dish with garlic and basil notes reached us. We suddenly found ourselves alone in the streets of Venice, which I never thought possible. Tourists were far away, and the locals knew better than to step outside around the hottest time of the day.
It was great fun to find our way back through the maze.
An Evening In Venice
Once the temperature has dwindled, locals and tourists alike flock the streets of Venice. With music and entertainment at San Marco Piazza, and cosy terraces next to the Canal Grande, there is plenty to enjoy in the evening.
There is nothing more romantic (or cosy, or enjoyable) watching the sunset while sipping your wine next to the canal. A few gondolas are still passing by, and the lights lit up one by one along the water. The food can be expensive but the quality is good.
After dinner we would walk walk around San Marco Piazza, enjoying the atmosphere and live music with our fifth gelato in our hand.
Venice can be expensive and overcrowded, but it doesn’t have to be. I would always suggest to avoid Venice during summer: It’s too crowded and too hot. Visit the main sites, but explore a little further as well and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.