First up, Venice!
Talk about bellisimo, or beautiful! Venice is Europe's best-preserved large city. It was established 1500 years ago by the Venetians fleeing attacks from barbarians. The city is comprised of 100 islands connected by bridges and canals. Cars are not allowed. All travel is done by water. That includes the police, garbage pick-up, and food deliveries. To get around, you either walk, take a vaporetto (water bus), a water taxi, or the romantic gondola (see below for more on that).
|The Grand Canal, Venice's main travel artery|
Sadly, the city is also sinking due to the buildings being constructed on muddy sediment. Scientists estimate it's sunk some two feet and continues to go under a few millimeters a year. Many of the buildings, especially the towers, are visibly leaning, and you can see where the water has slowly risen on the older buildings, covering once-majestic staircases.
We visited on the Fourth of July weekend (very weird not being in America for the traditional fireworks). It was extremely hot and crowded, but we managed to hit the major tourist spots, starting with St. Mark's Square.
The Doge's Place was the seat of the Venetian government and its ruling duke, or doge, for 400 years. It was built primarily to show-off the area's power and wealth. Our tour included a look at majestic artwork, the prisons, and and the infamous "Bridge of Sighs" where prisoners being lead away to jail would take one last look at Venice from the bridge and sigh.
Next to the palace is St. Mark's Basilica. The goal of this 11th century church was to house the body of St. Mark, stolen by several Venetians from the "infidels". It was Venice's attempt to get the world's attention and show it was a true player on the world stage, and it worked! The church, itself, is beyond words. So elaborate and detailed. Pictures just don't do it justice.
Going to the top of the Campanile, a dramatic bell tower, was very cool! We rode 325 feet to the top and saw the most incredible views!
We also went to a few museums, ate a some decent places (Venice is not known for its food despite its reputation AND you have to pay just to sit down), and wandered around. However, for me, the gondola ride was the best! (My husband and his wallet will sharply disagree.) It is technically a rip-off (about 100 Euros for 30 minutes), but you can't go to Venice without doing it at least once! Very romantic.
Finally, despite our maps, GPSs, and best-made plans, we got lost... a lot. It's impossible to go to Venice and not get lost. And you know what? That's the most fun. Venice is at its best when you're wandering around some long-lost alley and discover some incredible shop or beautiful corner. Until next time, I leave you with some of my favorite shots!