Sunday, July 02, 2006



Built on 117 small islands, has some 150 canals and 409 bridges. The historic centre is divided into six sestieri: San Marco, Dorsoduro, San Polo, Santa Croce, Cannaregio and Castello, and covers only 7.6 sq km. Walking from Cannaregio to Dorsoduro (northwest to south) takes only 30 minutes, provided that you don't get lost... Anyhow, there is no similar experience!

"PONTE SCALZI - Near the railway station. One of the three bridges, which cross the Gran Canale, the city's main «street». A convenient start of your tour!"

"RIALTO - is the most famous bridge in Venice, and it is the actual heart of the city. The first dry crossing of the Grand Canal was a pontoon bridge built in 1181 by Nicolò Barattieri. It was called the Ponte della Moneta, presumably because of the mint that stood near its eastern entrance. The structure of the Rialto was built on 12,000 wooden pilings that still support the bridge today, and it was finished in 1591. The engineering of the bridge was considered so audacious that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted future ruin. However, you can still cross it today..."

"RIALTO - Looking out from the Rialto Bridge you get a glimpse of history: the hustle and bustle of daily life taking place for over 900 years"

"THE GRAN CANALE meanders more than 3,5 km through the six districts of the historic centre, looking like a giant S from the air. Only three bridges cross the Gran Canale, but the best way to enjoy the views is a trip with the «vaporetto» number 1 from the train station to Piazza San Marco"

"SALUTE - At the end of the Gran Canale, after passing the third bridge - Accademia - and before reaching San Marco, you'll find the impressive structure of Santa Maria della Salute. In October of 1630, after nearly a third of Venice's citizens had been killed by plague, the Senate made an offer to God: «Stop the plague, and we'll build a church to honor the Virgin Mary». By some reason the plague was stopped, the Venetian authorities honored their promise, and an unknown architect named Baldassare Longhena won the competition for a church design. He proposed something he described as "strange, worthy, and the shape of a round 'machine' such as had never been seen, or invented either in its whole or in part from any other church in the city. That's what you can see today!"

"SAN GIORGIO - Before leaving the vaporetto, take a look to your right-hand side. The waters of St. Mark's Basin mirror the splendour of the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore. Situated directly opposite the Palazzo Ducale, it survived every sort of trial and tribulation. The monastery spans the entire history of Venice. It began with Venice and ended with her. Foggy and quite, it's sheer magic"

"PIAZZETA - Piazzeta San Marco was the main door, the first sight of Venice that the travellers of long ago set eyes on. That's where you should leave the vaporetto to join the "drawing-room of Europe", to quote Napoleon (or Musset). Actually, Napoleon Bonaparte was responsible for the end of the independent la Serenissima, after 1070 years. He conquered Venice on May 12, 1797, bringing to an end the most fascinating century of Venice's history - the «Settecento», when Venice became the most elegant and refined city in Europe"

"PALAZO DUCALE - The current palace was constructed from 1309 to 1424 on 9th century origins. The palace was the residence of the Doge and contained the offices of a number of political institutions. The most spectacular room is the Grand Council chamber, originally the meeting place for the legislature. This huge space is lined, walls and ceiling, with paintings, one of which, Tintoretto's vast Paradise, is reportedly the world's largest painting on canvas"

"BRIDGE OF SIGHTS - At the rear of the palace, connecting to the prison. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. The bridge was built in the 16th century and given the name Bridge of Sighs in the 19th century, by Lord Byron"

"BASILICA SAN MARCO - The first St Mark's was a temporary building in the Doge’s Palace, constructed in 828, when Venetian merchants acquired the supposed relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria. This was replaced by a new church on its present site in 832. The new church was burned in a rebellion in 976, rebuilt in 978 and again to form the basis of the present basilica in 1063, which is based on a Greek cross floorplan, like on the Hagia Sophia, in present day Istanbul. A marvelous building, in any case"

"SAN MARCO - Piazza San Marco, is the town square of Venice. The Piazza is the only urban space big enough to be called a piazza in Venice: the rest are campi. It is the only great urban space in an European city where the sound is of human voices talking...
Since, you'll be thirsty and hungry, drop in at the Harry's Bar for a Bellini, and a Carpaccio. But don't forget that the sound of the mobile greatly disturbs the preparation of the risotto..."

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