Venice, Classic or Undiscovered
After an early breakfast we take the drive to Venice, unique, caught in a time warp and as culturally rich as any city can be. We will take a walking tour during which we will see St Mark’s Square and its Basilica, the Campanile, Doge’s Palace together with countless other places of interest.
Venice first came to prominence in the 10th century and grew in wealth and power on gaining its independence from Byzantium, reaching its zenith during the 15th century. It was then that many of the fantastic buildings you see today were built. Venice at the time was the greatest power in the Mediterranean with an empire encompassing Crete, parts of Turkey and a huge portion of Northern Italy and it soon created a capital to match. Situated between east and west, trading quickly grew and innumerable merchants made fortunes manifesting this new found wealth, just as people do today, in the arts and property, private and municipal. St. Mark’s Basilica is a must: built to house the relics of St. Mark himself, it is Europe’s most exotic cathedral with the decoration inside certainly being very opulent. The statistics are staggering – there are over 40,000 square feet of detailed mosaics of every colour of the rainbow covering the entire interior. The blend of coloured marble columns, gold and red painting, and bas-reliefs combine to create one of the world’s most beautiful buildings.
Adjacent is the Doge’s Palace, home of the most powerful man in Venice who, incidentally, was elected for life. The Palace was also the seat of government councils and courts, as well as the prisons. Obviously the government of a great power had to be accommodated appropriately and so, as a visit will reveal, it houses the most amazing wood carvings and one room alone has four Tintorettos in it. The floor is a revelation too, inlaid with exotic woods from all over the known world from as far afield as Japan. The walls and ceilings are exquisitely decorated with paintings, frescoes and gold leaf.
St. Mark’s Square is a must too, and the focal point of the city since its foundation. Today though,visitors have replaced merchants, and to sip a coffee in one of the pavement cafés and absorb the beauty around you must rank as one of life’s great pleasures.
To see it all at once, why not take a trip up the Campanile, the imposing tower, originally built as a lighthouse and where Galileo demonstrated his telescope to a sceptical public. For art lovers there is Accademia, housing one of the finest collections in the world with superb examples of Renaissance work, or there is the Guggenheim with exhibits by Miro, Picasso, Chagall and Léger among others. One thing that really strikes you about Venice is that it is not nearly as expensive as you might believe. Away from St. Mark’s Square, small restaurants offer three course meals at reasonable prices. But Venice is not just art and monuments – fantastic though they are the city really needs to be seen from the water too, and what better than by taking a trip on a gondola. These beautifully made boats are crafted from 300 individual pieces of wood. A short ride on one of them is a lovely and peaceful way to explore the backwaters of the city. You will have sore feet when you return to the hotel but everyone at least once in their lives should visit this wondrous city.
If you’ve been to Venice before and are looking to discover something new, perhaps take our tour into the Jewish Quarter. Away from the bustle of the main tourist sights lies an atmospheric corner, where washing is stretched across narrow canals between picturesque old buildings, locals chat in characterful bars, and local shops are tucked away down tiny streets. You’ll see the original ‘ghetto’, now wonderfully restored, the house of Tintoretto and where Marco Polo used to live, plus much more. Your guide will enhance the tour with anecdotes and stories about this humbler side of Venetian life before ending at the traditional Rialto market