General Information About Venice
Venice, Italian Venezia, city, major seaport, and capital of both the provincia (province) of Venezia and the regione (region) of Veneto, northern Italy. An island city, it was once the centre of a maritime republic. It was the greatest seaport in late medieval Europe and the continent’s commercial and cultural link with Asia. Venice is unique environmentally, architecturally, and historically, and in its days as a republic the city was styled la serenissima (“the most serene” or “sublime”). It remains a major Italian port in the northern Adriatic Sea and is one of the world’s oldest tourist and cultural centres.
Since the fall of the Venetian republic in 1797, the city has held an unrivaled place in the Western imagination and has been endlessly described in prose and verse. The luminous spectacle of ornate marbled and frescoed palaces, bell towers, and domes reflected in the sparkling waters of the lagoon under a blue Adriatic sky has been painted, photographed, and filmed to such an extent that it is difficult to distinguish the real city from its romantic representations. The visitor arriving in Venice is still transported into another world, one whose atmosphere and beauty remain incomparable.
Today Venice is recognized as part of the artistic and architectural patrimony of all humanity, a fitting role for a city whose thousand-year economic and political independence was sustained by its role in global trading. The situation of the city on islands has limited modern suburban spread beyond the historic centre; its framework of canals and narrow streets has prevented the intrusion of automobiles; and its unmatched wealth of fine buildings and monuments dating from the period of commercial dominance has ensured a keen and almost universal desire for sensitive conservation. This concern for conservation is now extended not just to the city’s monuments but to the very city itself, as rising water levels and subsidence of the land upon which Venice is built threaten the continued existence of the city in its present form.
- Location and population
Venice is a city found in Veneto, Italy. It is located 45.44 latitude and 12.33 longitudes and it is situated at elevation 5 meters above sea level.
Venice has a population of 51,298 making it the 6th biggest city in Veneto. It operates on the CEST time zone, which means that it follows the same time zone as Verona.
This route, from Venice, takes visitors into the Dolomites. You travel through tunnels, emerging with astounding views of incredible canyons and valleys, arriving at Cortina, the so called "Pearl of Dolomites", the lake Misurina and the pretty lake of Auronzo. On the way back to Venice, you will make a last stop at Longarone, to admire the view of the Vajont Valley.
The climate in Venice is Mediterranean, but rather wet throughout the year. The most pleasant periods are spring and from mid-September.
Winter is cold, with frequent fogs and sometimes some freezing in January.
Summer - July and August - is often very hot and wet with high points which exceeds 35 degrees and violent storms possible.
In 2012 1.739.501 passengers stepped on board a cruise ship in Venice. In the same year, Venice ranked as one of the first homeport in the Mediterranean.
Venice is not only an ideal an unique setting for a cruise for its natural environment and cultural heritage, it is also a major port equipped with the most modern facilities needed to welcome all kinds of ship and their passengers.
- History of the city
Venice was founded on 25 March in the year 413 when the Venetians set the first stone on the Rialto. At the time it was a much different Venice as it was little more than a humble collection of refugee villages scattered across the muddy islets comprising the delta.
History shows that the formation of the canals started with the de-silting of waterways in the delta to allow vessels to pass. Each canal evolved to its present state over centuries as the carnival city of Venice grew up around them.
In 697 an early democracy was started with the election of the city-state's first Doge to a lifetime term. In 828 the Venetians cleverly smuggled the bones of St. Mark, coveted religious relics, out of Egypt bringing them back to Venice. With the relics came power and religious stature. The city prospered in the centuries that followed as East-West trade expanded and the Venetians developed their merchant fleet.
The eastern Byzantine influence, easily recognizable by the student of Italian History, can still be readily observed in the enduring architecture of the city.
The history of Venice was not always fortunate. The 1300's brought trials and difficulties to the political structure as the Doge's power and efficacy as a ruler were eroded by an ever growing number of governing councils. To further shroud this century in darkness, the Black Death ravaged the population killing 600 Venetians a day at the peak of the epidemic. Half the population was lost in a single year - 1347.
In 1797 Napoleon invaded the city with little resistance ending the 1,100 year independence of Venice.
In 1815 Venice fell into Austrian hands. The rail link to the mainland was completed shortly after.
Venice escaped damage during WWI and WWII despite the heavy fighting nearby.
Now, this city of more than 100 islets is part of Italy and is one of the most beautiful and romantic destinations in the world. Venice has something to offer everyone from the student of history to the casual tourist.
Explore the pages that follow for a small sampling of the offerings of this fascinating city. But remember, a visit to Venice is much like a tour of any other Italian city - to fully understand and appreciate the local peculiarities and culture, one must prepare by taking the time to study the history of the place.
- City of many names
Venice is known as the “City of Canals,” the “City of Masks,” and “La Dominante,” among many other titles. Each name is derived from a cultural or historical tradition still present in the city, and most have roots in early Venetian history.
- Italy’s biggest Opera house
Teatro La Fenice - Venice Literally translated as “The Phoenix”, the opera house is known for its resilience after surviving 2 fires. In 1996, Woody Allen and many other influential celebrities and politicians came together in order to restore the theater that was home to musicians including Beethoven and Wagner and preserve its rich culture after its second devastating fire. More gorgeous than ever before, La Fenice attracts music lovers from all over the world for its acclaimed New Year’s Eve concert.
Those that get here mid-week during the first week might wonder what all the fuss is about: besides the skating rink in Campo San Polo and a handful of low-grade events in out-of-the-way corners, there’s not a lot to keep you busy. If it’s excitement you want, aim for the weekends, and the final weekend in particular.
The Volo dell’Angelo ("flight of the angel"), when a beauty pageant winner gets to ride a zipwire from the campanile in St Mark’s square, takes place on January 31.
The search for the year’s best costume is the chance to strut your finery on the stage erected in St Mark’s square. A day’s best and a festival finest competition run side-by-side, with twice-a-day heats; the grand finale for the festival best takes place on February 9.
Key Carnival events will also take place inside the Arsenale, Venice’s magnificent if under-used historic shipyard. In a half-way-house between a son e lumière and a strobe-swept disco, the huge spaces will play host to water-borne pageants, re-enactments, street artists and bands. It will also host events for the the Kids' Carnival.
Venice Carnival parties and masked balls
If hoi-polloi stick to the campi, the elite frequent parties, where tickets (see the Carnival website for details) start at around €760 (£547) per person. One of the most extravagant is the Valentine's Grand Masquerade Ball - held on February 6 at the Palazzo Flangini.
Where to go to see the Carnival
St Mark’s Square is the fulcrum of Carnival activities, and that’s where you’ll find the most extraordinary costumes - many hoping for a chance in the best costume competition, some aiming to be photographed, and others just enjoying themselves. You’ll find bemasked odalisques posing in any scenic spot of which, of course, there’s no shortage in Venice.
- Venice Opera
official partner for many great operas
Immerse yourself in the culture of the fabulous city of Venice with a night of opera. Whether intimate or grand, choose from the list of performances below. Buy tickets for Venice opera events today with Classic tic, official ticket partner for 20,000 performances yearly.
Venice is not a big city and the best way to visit it is walking through its streets and alleys looking at the beautiful canals and the little bridges. The most cheap way of getting around it using a transportation system is to use the “Vaporetto” (water bus) that it’s an experience that we suggest to do during your stay in Venice. Water taxi is also available, it’s extremely expensive, but very fast and able to drive you everywhere you want providing an alternative view of the city.
The traditional Venetian boat, the Gondola, is hardly the best way to move in the city but is very romantic and it will be an unforgettable experience to do. If you desire to have a taste of it we suggest to try crossing the Canal Grande by a traghetto you won’t regret it!
Tickets can be purchased at the water bus major stops or inside the vehicle paying an extra charge. The most convenient way to move around Venice by vaporetto is to buy a card or a pass with unlimited travels. Moving around this city might seem difficult at the first sight but looking attentively you’ll find that is very easy. Be careful that for each stop water buses go in opposite directions, so we recommend to check attentively the boat signage.
Water taxi ride is with no doubt an expensive transportation in Venice, but is extremely convenient. It can be arranged by your hotel or bed & breakfast, but you’ll have to make your request in advance at the reception.
You can ask drivers to share the taxi with other guests if you want to pay less. Price are usually very high and we suggest to negotiated always in advance to avoid surprises.
Venice on foot
The best way of getting around Venice is on foot. One of the greatest pleasures in this city is to walk around without worrying about smog and traffic, looking at the many shops and restaurants with no hurry.
In Venice the streets are clearly labeled and you’ll easily find the right direction for the major tourist attractions. Alleys can be very narrow and not well illuminated in the night but there is no danger, Venice is considered a safe city.
Gondola and Traghetto
Probably the non plus ultra of the romantic experiences is a ride in gondola that offers you the possibility to get around little canals inaccessible to other vehicles. The ride’s cost is very high and become higher if you want a singing gondolier. We suggest confirming the price in advance and being sure to travel only on official gondola whose stands are clearly marked.
The traghetto represents the best alternative to gondola. The ride lasts about two minutes and goes from a point to another of the Canal Grande. The fare is cheap but there are no seats so you’ll have to stand during the crossing.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
Famous through the world this unique city is one of the most visited by tourists and is rich of spectacular landmarks and monuments. Thanks to an accurate restoration these ancient buildings are still in good condition and can be admired by the many visitors that every day comes to Venice.
Piazza San Marco
One of the finest piazzas in the world San Marco square is surrounded by the Procuratie Nuove, Procuratie Vecchie and Ala Napoleonica that are located on three sides. On the fourth side takes place the outstanding Basilica di San Marco and few steps away the 15th century Clock tower (Torre dell’orologio) that rises above the Mercerie.
The square is one of the lowest areas in Venice and especially from October to March its access might be prevented by the high tide (acqua alta) that for tourists will probably be a remarkable experience.
Basilica di San Marco
This stunning church is one of the major attractions in Venice. It was erected on a Greek cross plan and has five big domes adorned with kilometers of fine mosaics. The cathedral houses many treasures such as the Pala d’oro, made of gold, statues, amazing glasses and carving and was constructed during the 9th century as St. Mark’s shrine. We suggest visitors to use the elevator and enjoy the spectacular panoramic view over the lagoon. It will the best sight in Venice and it’s heartily recommended.
Built in the 15th century this splendid gothic palace is rich of many fine sculptures and ornaments. The façade was once covered by gold and for this reason the name of this building is Golden House, Ca’ D’Oro.
The palace now houses a fine collection of Byzantine art with paintings, sculptures and bronzes. Don’t forget to take a look from the many balconies and admire the well built in 1427 and the beautiful mosaics on the ground floor.
Located right on the Canal Grande Ca’ Rezzonico is a huge 17th century building in baroque style now house of the Museo del Settecento Veneziano. The palace was erected in 1660 by Baldassarre Longhena and completed in 1750 by Giorgio Massari. During the centuries Ca’Rezzonico has been the home of very outstanding figures such as the English poet Robert Browing.
Ponte di Rialto
The Rialto bridge was built in late 16th century as result of a competition held in Venice to replace the older version on the Canal Grande.
Many illustrious architects such as Palladio, Sansovino and Vignola, tried to win the competition but was Antonio da Ponte to be chosen.
The bridge now houses several jeweler and Murano glass shops reflecting the commercial atmosphere that you can breathe in this area.
The Venice Ghetto refers to the district where the Venetian republic segregates the Jews to placate the Roman Catholic Church. This enclosed neighborhood did not have a negative meaning in fact Venice had a separate living quarters also for Turkish and German merchants.
You can visit the ghetto going to Ponte delle Guglie by foot or taking a waterbus. You can visit the Ghetto Nuovo, Ghetto Vecchio and the Jewish community museum.
Santa Maria della Salute
The church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built in 1630 when the plague that killed about a third of Venetian people was definitively gone. The Salute is a very huge structure built on a octagonal plan and full of Saint Mary’s reference marks.
Inside the church there are many valuable paintings by Tiziano such as “Doctors of the Church and the Evangelists”, “David and Goliath, Abraham and Isaac”, “Petecost” and many others.
Amongst the beautiful monuments in Venice there is also the Palazzo Mocenigo. This stunning palace was built to house one of the most illustrious families in Venice. Walking through the building will give you the possibility to imagine the old Venetian lifestyle looking at the paintings, the amazing floor, furniture and traditional clothes displayed.
Campanile di San Marco
The St. Mark bell tower is the highest structure of the city. From its 97 m you can enjoy a breathtaking view over the whole city and the St. Mark cathedral’s dome.
The tower was built in the 9th century and then rebuilt several times in the following centuries.
Unexpectedly it crashed to the ground in 1902 fortunately hurting nobody and rebuilt following the original structure rescuing also the ancient bells.
Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs)
This famous bridge connects the Palazzo delle Prigioni and Palazzo Ducale. It is called bridge of sighs because in old times convicts, after their trial, were forced to enter the prison through this bridge.
According to the legend giving the last glimpse to Venice they would let out a sigh.
Venice is one of the trickiest cities to visit in Italy due to prices and crowds, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. If you enjoy this guide check out our blog on the secrets of visiting Venice without breaking the bank and our expert guided tours for art and history lovers visiting the city.
If you’re deciding which sestiere of Venice to stay in, it helps to know the differences between them! From quiet Cannaregio to bustling San Marco, here’s our guide to Venice’s six main quarters-and which one is best for you.
One of the loveliest and most authentic neighborhoods in Venice, Cannaregio is home to Venice’s Jewish Ghetto, the train station of Santa Lucia… and to the majority of Venice’s actual residents. They also have some of the most beautiful Hanukkah celebrations in Europe.
At one point or another, every traveler to Venice winds up in San Marco. This small sestiere boasts many of Venice’s main sights-which means that, while beautiful, it’s also now one of the most crowded, touristic, and expensive neighborhoods in Venice.
The top sights in this sestiere include St. Mark’s Square, and Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, Rialto Bridge, and Harry’s Bar.
Dating back to the 13th century, Castello is the largest of the sestieri, as well as one of the most local and authentic in Venice. Here’s where to see old women gossiping between windows and children kicking soccer balls in piazzas.
Dorsoduro has the best of both worlds: a tranquil daytime atmosphere and one of the most happening nightlife areas, charming back streets and some of the city’s most interesting sights. If you want to stay in the area’s more charming quarter, make sure to stay in the area south of Campo Santa Margherita.
Santa Croce is home to some of Venice’s major transport hubs, including the main port and Piazzale Roma. It’s also the least touristy sestiere in Venice.
Tourist attractions are mostly in the district’s eastern area. They include the Church of San Giacomo dell’Orio, with its paintings by Lorenzo Lotto and Veronese, with its lively piazza, and the Fondaco dei Turchi, a 13th-century palazzo that later became a one-building ghetto for Venice’s Ottoman Turkish population and that, today, houses the Museum of Natural History.
The smallest sestiere in Venice, San Polo is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Today, it’s also one of the liveliest and most touristic districts, thanks both to its central location and to having big-ticket sights like the Rialto Bridge.
The bridge is the biggest attraction in San Polo, but others include the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto (perhaps the oldest church in Venice), the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (home to some of the most important paintings by Titian, as well as the artist’s burial place), the Church of San Rocco (famed for its cycle of paintings by Tintoretto), and the Campo San Polo (the second-largest square in Venice after Piazza San Marco, and once the venue for bullfights and masked balls).
Venice Culture and History
When the Lombards invade Italy, in 568, one of the first cities in their path is Aquileia - a Christian town of long-standing importance, traditionally held to have been founded by St Mark. Many of its inhabitants, alarmed at the prospects of life under the rule of Germanic tribesmen, opt for the uncertain status of refugees. Fleeing southwards, some seek safety on a low-lying offshore island - probably occupied at the time only by a fishing community.
The island is Torcello. And the refugees, seen with the hindsight of history, are the founders of Venice.
Less than twenty years later, in about 584, those parts of the east Italian coast still in Byzantine hands are grouped together as the exarchate of Ravenna - a defensive arrangement against the Lombards. The islanders of Torcello, who have perhaps already spread to neighboring islands in the Venetian lagoon, are included in the exarchate. But with the northern mainland in Lombard hands, and with a considerable distance separating them from the centre of Byzantine government at Ravenna, their survival is largely in their own hands. They become increasingly independent.
In 726 the Venetians for the first time elect their own doge (the equivalent of 'duke', from the Latin dux meaning 'leader').
Orso, the first Venetian doge, comes to power specifically as an opponent of Byzantine rule over the islands of the lagoon. This first bid for independence fails. Byzantine officials continue to govern the islands until the fall of the exarchate of Ravenna in 751. The Venetians, now of necessity on their own though still legally subject to the Byzantine empire, develop skills as middlemen which eventually bring them great wealth and power.
When Pepin, the son of Charlemagne, campaigns in northeast Italy in 809, the Venetian doge makes an alliance with him - a move involving considerable risk, in that it is unlikely to please the Byzantine emperor.
Others might be crushed between the new Carolingian empire to the west and the ancient Byzantine empire in the east. But Venice successfully plays the giants off against each other and thrives. A treaty in 814 between the Franks and the Byzantines establishes that Venice is to remain independent of the Carolingian empire; but no special emphasis is laid on the existing obligation to Constantinople.
As part of both worlds, east and west, perfectly placed between the Mediterranean and the mountain passes up through the Alps into northern Europe, Venice is now poised to make her fortune from trade.
Early in the 9th century the government of the lagoon is transferred to two adjacent islands where the land is a little higher above water level, though in Venice the distinction is a fine one. To either side of the intervening waterway is a rivo alto ('high bank'), from the which the name Rialto derives. The Rialto Bridge subsequently joins these two banks.
The growing town needs status. In the Christian Middle Ages status requires a distinguished patron saint and, if possible, the possession of his relics. St Mark, the patron saint of Aquileia (in effect the parent city), is the obvious candidate. In about 828 Venice comes of age. The city acquires, from Alexandria, some relics of St Mark.
Legend rapidly provides exciting details of how the bones were secured. It is said that two Venetian merchants stole them from the saint's shrine in Alexandria and then smuggled them out of Egypt in a barrel of pork - an unclean meat to Muslims and therefore unlikely to be inspected.
Whatever the actual means (theft of relics is common in the middle Ages, but purchase is equally possible), the arrival of the bones is the occasion for the building of the first St Mark's in Venice. The church, rebuilt in the 11th century and subsequently enlarged and altered, has been ever since the proud centerpiece of the city.
The sack of Constantinople: 1204
The crusaders camp outside Constantinople while Alexius, as emperor, tries to raise his debt to the Venetians by taxing the citizens and confiscating church property. For nine months growing resentment within the city is matched by increasing impatience outside. In April the Venetians persuade the crusaders to storm Constantinople and place a Latin emperor on the throne. For the second time they succeed in breaching the walls.
The doge of Venice and the leading crusaders install themselves in the royal palace. The army is granted three days in which to pillage the city.
The Venetians, from their long links with Constantinople, can appreciate the treasures of Byzantium. They loot rather than destroy. St Mark's in Venice is graced today by many rich possessions brought back in 1204 - parts of the Pala d'Oro, the porphyry figures known as the tetrarchs, and above all the four great bronze horses.
The crusaders, mainly French and Flemish, are less refined in their tastes. They tend to smash what they find. They ride their horses into Santa Sophia, tear down its silken hangings, destroy the icons in the silver iconostasis. A prostitute, placed on the patriarch's throne, obligingly sings a bawdy song in Norman French.
The Italian bran tub: 1499-1512
During the first three decades of the 16th century Italy is the scene of almost ceaseless warfare between local contenders (particularly Venice and the papacy) and foreign claimants (France and Spain), with occasional interventions from north of the Alps by Habsburgs and by armies from the Swiss cantons.
The Italian adventures of the French king Charles VIII are continued by Louis XII, his cousin and successor. To the long-standing French claim to Naples, Louis adds a new demand - he believes himself to be duke of Milan, by descent from his Visconti grandmother.
French armies seize Milan for Louis XII in 1499, and the French occupy part of the kingdom of Naples in 1501. The Spanish soon recover full control of Naples (by 1504), but the presence of the French in Milan causes an ambitious new pope, Julius II, to intervene in the unstable affairs of northern Italy. He marches north and captures Bologna in 1506.
Julius believes Venice and the French to be the two main threats to the papal states of central Italy. With ruthless diplomatic skill he organizes two different alignments of the principal players, to deal with each of his enemies in turn.
The pope forms first the league of Cambrai, in 1508, in which he persuades France, Spain and the Austrian Habsburgs to join him against Venice. The Venetians are defeated at Agnadello in 1509, after which Julius and the Habsburgs appropriate much of Venice's mainland territory.
With this achieved, the pope moves on to his second objective. He organizes the Holy League of 1511. Again there is a single enemy, but this time it is France. Venice, recently humbled, is enrolled with Spain and the Habsburgs on the papal side; and there is useful support from the Swiss, now considered Europe's most formidable fighters. Even Henry VIII of England joins in, at a distance.
In 1512 a joint army of papal, Spanish and Venetian forces weakens the French in a battle near Ravenna, after which the Swiss are able to sweep through Lombardy and drive the intruders from Milan.
At this stage Venice and France are the clear losers. But this has only been round one. In the next bout, the contest becomes much more clearly a clash between Spain and France - and in particular a personal rivalry between two young kings. Francis inherits the throne of France in 1515. Charles, a Habsburg, becomes king of Spain in the following year on the death of Ferdinand II.
Italian realignment: 1508-1540
A series of shifting alliances, often brokered by the papacy and ending in inconclusive battles, redraws the map of Italy during the first decades of the 16th century.
Between the league of Cambrai (1508) and the treaty of Cambrai (1529), the territories of Milan, Venice, the papal states and Naples grow or shrink, and abruptly suffer changes of allegiance, according to the temporary effects of battles such as Agnadello (1509), Marignano (1515), Pavia (1525) and the sack of Rome by imperial troops in 1527.
Among the Italian players in this board game, the Medici are among those who gain - being restored, with Spanish support, to their rule in Florence. Venice, an early loser when alone against all the others in 1508, later recovers most of its territory and retains its independence.
The papacy, responsible for the scheming alliances which foster so much of the conflict, appears to receive its just deserts in the sack of Rome in 1527. But it too emerges much strengthened a decade or two later. Once the Catholic Reformation is under way, Rome and Spain - allies in spiritual severity - are well equipped to exercise strict control over the entire peninsula apart from republican Venice.
Venice, one of the most remarkable and extraordinary cities in Europe, has been a first-class cultural centre from time immemorial. The ‘Queen of the Adriatic’ has given birth to such eminent personalities such as Marco Polo and Giacomo Casanova, who are famous throughout the world. During the epoch of the Renaissance, Venice was among the most important art and cultural centres, with its own style of musical composition and a host of great painters and artists. Today, Venice is still a city of culture, which can be felt everywhere through its unique atmosphere of romance, art and architecture.
The charm of Venetian culture
Is best experienced during the marvelous festivals and carnivals that are the highlight of local cultural life the most attractive event is undoubtedly the Carnival: a splendid celebration that makes both locals and tourists forget everything else within the eight days in January (or February) each year when this colorful event is carried out. The programme consists of a row of concerts, balls, theatre performances and emblematic processions with masked participants. Namely, the rich decorated masks and costumes with magnificent ornaments represent the major appeal of Carnival. Their mass production has become one of the most profitable branches of tourist industry in the city. The Venetian Carnival is the second most renowned and spectacular event of this kind in Europe after the Fasching in Germany. Carnival first appeared as a typical Catholic custom and its origins can be traced back to the 18th Century, when the glorious winter parties took place on the streets of Venice.
Venetian architecture and urban planning are also a characteristic feature of local culture. Splendid imposing palaces, cathedrals and churches reveal the high level of development of Venice’s economy and society during different historical periods, particularly the Renaissance. These cultural monuments of extraordinary significance symbolize Venice worldwide, as the countless canals and waterways are widely recognized as one of the most miraculous facilities in urban planning - ever. They give the ‘City of Water’ its unmatchable romantic and glamorous ambience.
For those who want to gain a more detailed impression of Venice - and its art and history - should by all means drop in at one of the various museums and art galleries that show valuable treasures from all fields of knowledge, science and culture. The best place to start your museum tour is at Doge’s Palace, an amazing building that amalgamates styles from all epochs; and all lords of the city throughout the years have left their own imprint on it. Today it is used as a massive museum with its spectacular interior and precious collections of paintings by great artists like Tintoretto, Veronese and Titian. Other exclusive museums are Marciano, with valuable manuscripts and mosaics on display; Corer, dedicated to the history and art of Venice; and the School of San Rocco, the greatest destination for art lovers in Venice.