All roads lead to Venice
Standing in St Mark’s Square is an unforgettable experience! It may be in the winter when the lines of the surrounding Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Church are softened by the faint mist drifting in from the nearby water and colors are the muted pastels of the David Hamilton portrait photograph.
Or it may be summer, in which case the light is bright, outlines razor sharp and the square is filled to capacity with tourists from every corner of the world.
Above the sounds of flapping pigeon wings you hear the sound of the two “orchestras” which alternate in an ongoing competition to see who can play the opera hits of the 1930s more out of tune for the tourists who patronize those two over-priced open-air cafes.
Around you the hum of voices is reminiscent of a modern day Tower of Babel. Here tour groups from all over the world stand around guides giving vivid descriptions of Venice’s fascinating past. In Venice you can see the famous Piazza San Marco, the sumptuous Rialto bridge or the famous bridge of sighs where even the famous Giacomo Casanova passed.
For here is the best preserved historic city in Europe – one where time seems to have stood still for the last 400 years – from an era when Venice was the most wealthy, feared, admired and cultured nation in the area the super-power of the eastern Mediterranean in its day.
Much of the atmosphere and romance remains and Venice, which has been an essential part of the “grand tour” for cultured Europeans and Americans in the past 200 years, is today more of a magnet for the world’s tourist than ever.
Sadly, this leads to exploitation of the visitors in many cases.
Sadly also, many return home without really knowing the full possibilities of what they have missed in this utterly magnificent city.
Here is a guide to travelling, shopping, dining and hotels in Venice which may help you to avoid many of these traps.
Preparation: Before going to Venice for the first time, the serious tourist will double his or her enjoyment and understanding of this unique city by a little reading on the internet about the history of the Venetian buildings.
Allowing time for Venice is important. Most tour operators are restricted by trans-European itineraries and cannot give their groups more than one full day in Venice. In that short time you cannot get more than just a feel for the city. But if you really want to see the city, allow yourself at least a week. Even then you will find yourself determined to come back, and the more often you go the more you realize that there is still more to see.
Best time to go: The whole year is the right time to go to Venice.
In winter, it is a little cold, but this is made up for by the downturn in tourist numbers which will allow you to get better attention and service everywhere. Spring and autumn are delightful in Venice and the only period I suggest you avoid, if possible, is mid-July to the end of August, when most of Europe is on holidays and Venice becomes a city of wall-to-wall people. At that time, prices escalate, service drops, tempers fray, the city’s facilities become overloaded and Venice shows aspects of commercial-tourist-trapism, with streetside restaurants advertising fish and chips in English and bratwurst, sauerkraut and lager in German. By the end of September, that frenzy mercifully has died down, however, and Venice once again becomes “La Serennisima” – the serene city.
Hotels and accommodation: Hotels in Venice have huge upkeep costs which reflect in the cost structure, especially in season. The cheap tours invariably stay in Maestre, commuting to Venice while pretending that this is the best way to go. I avoid any tour which does this – their hotels in other cities, in all probability, will also be in dormitory suburbs an hour or so out of each town, a practice which robs the trip of both convenience and atmosphere.
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This article has been written by Donna for everycastle.com where you can find some more information, for example, about Doge’s Palace.