Venice is Venice. It is impossible to combine the infinite faces of a unique city in the world. A city that has been able to keep up with the times and maintain its originality over the centuries. From the splendour of the Serenissima Republic of Venice to the present day, this city has been able to attract millions of people from all over the world, coming into contact with different cultures without ever letting themselves be changed. Time seems to have stopped, in Venice, keeping its identity intact.
The beauty of this city has overwhelmed visitors for centuries. Arriving in Venice, entering the San Marco basin and walking along the Giudecca Canal is a delight for eyes. Walking in St. Mark's Square, passing by the Campanile, and visit St. Mark's Basilica will make you feel like you are in a film. And this feeling will also accompany you along the Venetian alleys or in the Jewish Ghetto. Not to mention the moment when you are about to climb up the Rialto Bridge, dominating the Grand Canal. Cinema has brought a bit of Venice to all over the world, but only by going there in person can you really begin to understand a place where it is advisable to get lost to get to know it even better.
Venice has always inspired artists but also hosted art and today more than ever has treasures of painting or sculpture in its palaces. From the Carrer Museum to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum you can admire the works of the greatest artists of all time.
Even islands like the Lido, Murano or Burano share the magnetism that Venice has always exerted on its visitors, giving unique experiences with their peculiarities
What should you visit, then, in the city where the most beautiful carnival in Italy is celebrated, where Giacomo Casanova enjoyed making conquests, and where everything is art? Venice will enter your heart.
15 things to see in Venice
- St. Mark's Basilica and bell tower
- St. Mark's Square and Caffe’ Florian
- Clock Tower
- Doges Palace
- Bridge of Sighs
- Rialto Bridge
- Academy Museum
- Correr Museum
- Giudecca Canal
- Palazzo Grassi
- Lido Island
- Murano Island
- Burano Island
- Jewish ghetto
- Peggy Guggenheim Museum
St. Mark's Basilica and bell tower
St. Mark's Basilica is the seat of the patriarchy of Venice and is one of the symbols of the city. Its history starts from 828 when the Doge Giustiniano Partecipazio requested a church to house the relics of St. Mark that two Venetian merchants had stolen from Alexandria in Egypt. From then on it was a succession of renovations or reconstructions. In the city that rises on the water it was fire that devastated the basilica twice, which was immediately rebuilt, and was each time more beautiful.
Inside, St. Mark's Basilica is lined with mosaics with a golden background that depicts stories from the Bible. St. Mark's is full of sculptures, designed for different contexts that have integrated with each other. This miscellany of styles and artistic languages gives the basilica its bewitching originality.
At 99 metres high, the Bell Tower of St. Mark's Basilica has been the beacon for sailors for years. Like the Basilica, its history is a succession of constructions and reconstructions which produced its final form between 1511 and 1514. But in 1902 the bell tower collapsed. The news spread all over the world and the City Council ordered the reconstruction faithful to the previous. It was inaugurated in 1912 with its statue of the Archangel Gabriel in copper.
St. Mark's Square and Caffe’ Florian Coffee
How many squares does Venice have? One: St Mark's Square. All others are called a "field". Even St. Mark's Square was in the past simply the garden of the Duke's Palace, which was a fortified castle. The arrival of the remains of St. Mark and the need for a basilica in which to guard them marked the birth of what has become Venice's ‘sitting room’.
It may seem incredible today, looking at this square, packed with tourists, to imagine it as the site of executions or a place where laws and decrees were announced. Easier to imagine Casanova, intent to reach some lady, who awaited him at the Cafe’ Florian.
Cafe’ Florian is the first Italian coffee shop, inaugurated in 1720 as "Alla Venezia Trionfante" by Floriano Francesconi. Venetian high society loved it from the start. It was in 1797 that the founder's grandson changed the name to Café Florian, the name with which it was commonly referred to. Its themed halls have always hosted works of art and since 1988 they have been hosting contemporary art. Cafe’ Florian has always taken care of its more or less illustrious guests and still offers a musical accompaniment to those who are drinking at its tables in St Mark's Square.
In St. Mark's Square, Venice also houses a Renaissance-style building: the clock tower. A central tower, to which two side wings were added, houses the large gold and enamel blue dial. Not only the hours, this watch also marks the day, the phases of the moon and the zodiac.
On the day of Epiphany and on Ascension Day, a music box mechanism is activated that allows a carousel of statues depicting the nativity and the Three Kings to come out. But the surprises are not over: above the tower, intent on beating the bell with clubs, there are the Two Moors. Made of bronze, they are two shepherds, who only differ by a beard. One of them has it, and is called the old man, and the other is without, and is called young.
The Moors of Venice They mark the hours with their chimes but the old man beats them two minutes in advance to point out the past time, while the young man does it two minutes later, waiting for the time that is yet to come.
Arriving in Venice, in the heart of Venice, in St Mark's Square, it is impossible not to be charmed by the Doges Palace, an extraordinary example of Gothic art.
Currently open to the public as part of Venice's civic museum system, the palace could tell the story and the evolutions of the entire square. Since the stable settlement of the first Doges in Venice after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, to the construction of a first building around 810, the palace changed a thousand faces. Built, reinforced, swept away by flames and rebuilt, expanded and renovated, used as a prison or administrative centre, over the centuries it has always maintained a prominent role in city life.
A visit to the Duke's Palace, in addition to the active exhibitions, will allow you to walk in the decision-making heart of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, and to follow its achievements through the many pictorial works that adorn many of its halls.
Bridge of Sighs
Of all the bridges in Venice, Bridge of Sighs is amongst the most famous in the world but to see it you have to especially look for it. Unlike the other bridges, it is not a bridge over which you normally pass. You can access it, even today, only if accompanied while visiting the Palazzo Ducale. The Bridge of Sighs can only be seen otherwise from two points: from the bridge of the Canonica or from that of the Paglia.
A different bridge from the others, therefore, made of Istria stone and in Baroque style, wanted by the Doge Marino Grimani to create a connection between the Doge's Palace and the New Prisons. There are several hypotheses about the origin of name, but it is commonly thought that when prisoners crossed it they sighed, having the opportunity to see the outside world for the last time.
Another legend has it that lovers who kiss while passing under the bridge, in a Gondola, can count on eternal love and happiness. For this reason, the Bridge of Sighs is also referred to as the Bridge of Lovers.
Of the countless bridges connecting Venice, only four cross the Grand Canal and one of them, considered one of the symbols of the city, is definitely the Rialto Bridge. Like everything that has been built in Venice, this bridge has a history of destruction and renovation. In 1554 the call was made for the construction of a stone bridge, to replace the existing wooden one, and the architects’ competition also saw Michelangelo, Palladio and Sansovino take part. A Venetian had the upper hand, Antonio Da Ponte, who designed a bridge with a single archway that since 1592 has crossed the Grand Canal and which is one of the most frequented and photographed places of the lagoon.
Rialto Bridge has always played a well-defined role. The idea of the bridge is derived from the need, still in 1172, to join the two banks of the Grand Canal to allow access to the Rialto market, a vocation linked to trade, therefore, which it still retains, with two rows of shops flanking tourists on two of the three ramps.
A visit to the Rialto Bridge also becomes an opportunity to try the famous Cicchetti that are prepared by all the bars in Venice.
In Venice, art has been at home for centuries. It is therefore easy to be amazed at the works that continue to make Venice one of the most interesting centres not only for enthusiasts but also for artists who have always found glimpses and colours that are perfect sources of inspiration in this city on the water. But art in Venice is not only created, it is preserved and restored.
For this purpose the Academy was created in 1750. When in 1807 the Academics were granted the spaces that included the convent complex of the Lateran Canons,the Great School of St. Mary of Charity and St Mary's Church of Charity, they were initially confused, but later, with the renovation of the structures, a perfect museum space was created.
A visit to the Academy Museum is an opportunity for see a collection of Venetian and Veneto art between the 14th and 18th centuries. Among others you can find works by Paolo and Lorenzo Veneziano, Piero della Francesca, Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini. Vittore Carpaccio, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo and to admire The Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci.
Venice is a dream city and even today realises the dreams of some of its illustrious inhabitants. The Correr museum, for example, arises from the desire of Theodore Correr, a noble art enthusiast who had managed to collect many works during his lifetime. On his death in 1830, he donated not only the works but also the family palace to the city so that a Museum could be created.
A precious collection which became even more impressive with subsequent donations, and which in 1887 was moved to the Fondaco dei Turchi, before finding a new and definitive location, in 1922 in St Mark's Square, at the Ala Napoleonica and the Procuratie Nuove. In the current building, during the Habsburg domination, changes were made at the request of the court, in particular Empress Elizabeth, Sissi, who stayed there when she came to Venice.
The visit to the Correr Museum allows you to immerse yourself in the Neoclassical rooms with the collection by Canova, to admire examples of Venetian painting, to visit Sissi’s apartments, to reach the Quadreria, which displays paintings from Theodore Correr's collection, including Vittore Carpaccio, Giovanni Bellini and Antonello da Messina.
Watching Venice from different perspectives is always wonderful. The Giudecca canal stands out as one of the largest channels that leads to St. Mark's Basin. On the one hand, it touches Giudecca Island, while on the other hand there is the Sestriere di Dorsoduro. Its width and the total lack of bridges connecting the two islands, makes it navigable even by larger boats.
The Giudecca canal offers a privileged view of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, just after the Punta della Dogana, as well as of San Marco. A walk along Fondamenta delle Zattere can offer the opportunity to get to know a side of Venice where you can enjoy the view of the Giudecca canal but also the typical Venetian buildings in peace and quiet. And it is a very romantic walk. Along the Giudecca Canal you can still find the Saloni, of the very large buildings that served as a storage warehouse for the salt made from the salt marshes in the Lagoon.
Palazzo Grassi is a building that overlooks the Grand Canal from the sestriere (this is the name given to the "neighbourhoods" of Venice) of San Marco that hosts it. The palace is another example of the foresight and entrepreneurial capacity of the Venetians of the past. The Grassi family began an operation from 1732 to purchase several buildings in the area for an area that stretched from the Grand Canal to Campo San Samuele and Calle Lin, and that would allow them to count on an imposing facade on the canal.
The palace was sold by the Grassi family as early as 1840 to another family, and in the ensuing centuries it often changed ownership and underwent numerous renovations. Since 2005 it has been owned by the French entrepreneur Francois Pinault, who has chosen to exhibit his private collection inside. Contemporary and modern art they can therefore be visited in a palace that has been refurbished by Tadao Ando, a famous Japanese architect.
The Pinault collection has, amongst others, works of Donald Judd, Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Lucio Fontana, Takashi Murakami. Great artists for Palazzo Grassi, which keeps its charm intact even in the new millennium.
The Venice Lido is an island that stands between the Venice lagoon and the Adriatic Sea. Reached from the city by steamer boats, it is world famous for hosting the Venice Film Festival. Its history is particularly fascinating. It was initially used as a gathering place and encampment by the Crusaders, before their departure. Its position made it perfect for the settlement of the defence fort of the Lagoon of Venice and for military exercises.
Towards the end of the 19th century, aristocrats began to frequent the Lido island beaches, on which luxurious hotels and villas were built to accommodate them. The Lido of Venice has therefore welcomed on its beaches illustrious names, crowned heads and even a meeting between Hitler and Mussolini. But the Lido of Venice was, according to gossip, also the place where Aristotle Onassis invited Maria Callas to breakfast, at the beginning of their love story.
On the shoreline you can find the walls, a defence structure that dates back to the 18th century, while the buildings of the island are mainly in the Liberty or 19th century style. St. Nicholas Church which houses works by Palma the Elder and Palma the Younger, founded in 1044, is worth a visit.
Murano Island owes its fame to blown glass. Precious objects with eye-catching shapes and colours that are then exported all over the world. Would you like to see with your own eyes how they take shape? In Murano you can!
Murano, from as far back as 1295, by decree of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, is the manufacturing centre of blown glass. A decision certainly aimed at protecting the city of Venice, taking into account that all the buildings were then made of wood and the proximity with a furnace was particularly risky, but not only that. On the other side was the desire to isolate the glassmakers and prevent them from divulging information about their art. Despite the control to which many were subjected they managed to escape, but the production of Murano glass continues to this day, as can be seen in the Glass Museum.
A visit to the island of Murano is like a visit to a miniature Venice. The island consists of nine small islands joined together by bridges. Of the 18 churches it housed before the advent of Napoleon Bonaparte, there are only three left: the Basilica of Saints Mary and Donato, St. Mary of the Angels and St. Peter the Martyr.
The colourful houses of the Isle of Burano are one of the hallmarks of an island where you live in an atmosphere far beyond time. A fisherman’s island, legend has it that here the houses were coloured to emphasise the boundaries of the properties. Others say that they served fishermen instead, to recognise them even during the many hours they spent at sea.
But Burano is also famous for something else. The ladies who inhabit the island devote themselves to theart of embroidery keeping a centuries-old tradition alive. They are, in fact, the producers of the Buranello lace. Now in Burano there is also a lace museum.
Burano is rich in traditions, its very foundation are traced back to the barbarian invasions that would have forced the inhabitants of Altino to seek refuge on the island. Initially the inhabitants lived on stilts that then gave way to the colourful buildings, mainly on three floors, which are located there today. Inside the church of St. Martin the Bishop you can admire a canvas by Gian Battista Tiepolo, but Burano will also conquer you by enticing you with its typical sweet treats like the Bussolà or the Esse.
Venice has always been a centre of trade. And Venice began to be populated with people of the Jewish faith as early as the 11th century. In 1516m the Republic of Venice however, given the continuous increase in settlements, forced the Jews to reside in a single neighbourhood, in Cannaregio, where the foundries were located, known in Venetian as 'geti'.
The Jewish ghetto was closed at night with gates and Jews were forced to carry signs of identification and to manage their pawnbrokers’ stalls by practising rates set by the Serenissima, but in return they could count on freedom of worship and protection in the event of war.
In Venice’s Jewish Ghetto you can visit the Synagogues, three of which are within the Jewish Museum of Venice. Two others are located inside the old ghetto. Walking through the ghetto, it is not always easy to locate them, because they were created inside the buildings, on the top floor. It is easier to identify the buildings that housed the community, because the continuous increase in arrivals in the city forced the population to create buildings that are always taller, easily recognisable in the midst of those typical of Venice.
Peggy Guggenheim Museum
In Venice, on the Grand Canal, art seems to have found its perfect location. There are many palaces that house collections of great artists and amongst them the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which houses the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.
It is not the usual museum that finds its perfect location in a historic palace and that is then named after an artist or an aristocrat. In this case the story is very different. From 1949, the house really belonged to the American heiress Peggy Guggenheim and as she loved to share the beauty of the works she collected, she arranged for a part of the house to be opened for free once a week. The American patron who had spent her life amongst the artists and their works, arranged for the palace and its collection to be entrusted to the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation that runs the Museum.
Masterpieces of American Modernism, Cubism, Surrealism as well as Italian Futurism are therefore visible in Venice. Artists such as Picasso, Dali, Pollock, Magritte, Fontana, along with many others, await visitors who are greeted by The Angel of the City, a bronze sculpture by Marino Marini, positioned at the entrance of the museum.
Discover Venice with Costa Cruises
Venice is art, history and beauty. If your Costa cruise takes you to this city don't miss the opportunity to visit it. In every season of the year, Venice is always beautiful, because it knows how to welcome its visitors with all its treasures. A visit to St Mark's Square will take you into the sitting room of the city, but it will also allow you to discover the interior of the Doges Palace St. Mark's Basilica or the Correr Museum. Don't miss the opportunity to cross the Rialto Bridge or to visit its islands of Murano, Burano or the Lido.