I had never really given a lot of thought to making a trip to Venice, Italy. My mother made many trips to Europe when I was younger, and I even have been to Europe a number of times mostly for business. But Venice was not really a place that I knew much about (well of course I knew it was a city of canals), or cared that much to make the effort to visit.
But recently a confluence of factors allowed me to visit this beautiful city with my family. I was making a business trip to Basel, Switzerland, which is less than a 6-hour drive to Venice, and I had accumulated enough frequent flyer miles to bring my wife and son along to extend the business trip into a mini-vacation as well. Since we weren't flying directly into Venice we needed to drive from the Zurich airport through the Swiss Alps (beautiful in themselves), and then east from Milan to the east coast of Italy.
Before we arrived in Venice we planned a stop in the historic city (and which city in Italy is not historic) of Verona. Well-known for the setting of the fictional Romeo and Juliet story, this city offers many museums, churches, and other unique landmarks to visit and experience. The central landmark is the nearly 2000-year old Arena, a large stone-constructed outdoor performance facility that is still in use today. This building exemplifies how much of the history of Italy is appreciated and preserved. Verona is a beautiful city and is certainly a great side-destination for those planning to visit Venice.
Venice itself is a wonderfully unique place. You don't just visit Venice, you live it. Whether you make use of the "vaporetto" (water bus) through and around the island, or make your way on foot through the labyrinth of streets crossing frequently over canals that are the arteries of this city, you become one with the way of life here. Commercial deliveries are all made by boat and then to their final destinations by hand-carts. The buildings have a patina that shows their age - regular re-painting of exteriors does not seem to be done here too often.
Commerce is bustling here. Many streets, even ones far from the busier waterfronts, are lined with shops and restaurants. It is easy, and fun, to get lost in Venice and find "hidden" gems where you can buy unique artwork or souvenirs, or grab a fresh panini or glass of wine.
Venice is an island that has access from the mainland by car, bus, train, etc. But once you've arrived the only two ways to get around are by foot and by boat. And in reality Venice can be seen as multiple islands. The main island is technically two islands separated by the Grand Canal. Plus there are various islands surrounding Venice with their own unique qualities, including the beautiful glass-making island of Murano, and the quaint and quiet painted-house island of Burano, all accessible by the vaporetto water bus system.
Most tourists visit the main landmarks here, such as St. Marks Cathedral (quite a dark cathedral in my opinion, but full of antiquity), St. Marks Square, and the Doge's palace. A great many also take a gondola ride down the canals. In addition there are plenty of other museums with art from many Italian master artists. Some people spend a lot of time looking for photo opportunities (like myself), and still others just like to stroll and soak it all in.
You can easily spend a nice sum of money in Venice, especially if you stay in a hotel directly on the island (note: we did not), or treat yourself to some Murano glass, but once you accept this reality you will greatly enjoy your visit. This is one of the most unique places in the world, and you want to make the most of it when you finally get there.
If you have a specific memory from Venice you'd like to share or if you have any questions please do so in the comments.
I have included a number of photos from our visit in this travelogue, and some are also listed on my Etsy site.
More travel and local photos at Photography by Matt Schrier