Venice is like nowhere else in the world.

Lose yourself in the maze of narrow streets and canals....

Venice is a dream that can come true.

I have been to Venice three times, and each time I walked alone in the city and each time I happily got lost. The first time was in the summer of 2003 and part of a bus tour of Italy. On the lovely evening at sunset when we arrived we were taken on gondolas through the main canal and the smaller streets, with the gondoliers singing "O Sole Mio" - and the marvelous  sound echoing off the ancient buildings. The next morning we came to St. Mark's Square early (see the picture at the top), and I declined a glass blowing tour to go off by myself. I was soon totally lost in the charm of the city, and perhaps an hour later went into a small corner store and picked up a map. After purchasing it, I opened it out on the counter and said, "Where am I?" The elderly man behind the counter smiled and pointed his finger to the map - and I was nowhere near where I thought I was.. This was a delightful introduction to Venice! I encourage you to wander, and enjoy the wonders around every corner.

Entering the city, and St. Mark's

I  am putting a few maps into the Venice walking tour, but you will likely ignore them - or find it difficult to follow them with the twisting small streets! A little information on the different things to see is helpful, though. 

You will likely be taken by tourist boat from the cruise port at the west end of the islands, up the main channel past St. Mark's Square {Piazza San Marco). When off the boat, walk to your left - or simply follow the crowds! You will walk over a bridge on a small canal. To your right you will see the Bridge of Sighs (below), which joins the Doge's Palace on the left and the New Prison on the right. Prisoners walked over the bridge, heading for a dark cell or execution. The tiny windows on the bridge were often the last view of Venice.

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Following the crowds, turn into the entrance of St. Mark's Square. Ahead is St Mark's Campanile, the bell tower of St Mark's Basilica. You can take an elevator to the top (for a fee), although there may be line-ups. I was disappointed in the view, but it was a dull day - from the top you are not able to see any of the smaller canals winding through the city. Below is the tower as you walk towards the square, and a picture on my dull day from the top. From this angle you can almost see the cruise ship at the port, left of center against the clouds.

As you walk towards the square, to your right is the Doge palace, the home of the leader of Venice in previous centuries. I would suggest you get a tour if you want to see this building. 

 

The gem of the piazza is the Basilica of San Marco, of course. For many years the façade has been cleaned so there has been scaffolding on one part or another, but this should be completed now.

Above the main entrance are four horses. They were placed there in 1204. They may have been made in the 2nd or 3rd century - either of Roman or Greek origins. They have remained on the facade since, except for when Napoleon took them to Paris for a few years.  Actually these horses are copies, and the real ones are inside the Basilica. St. Mark's is very ornate, decorated with mosiacs and gold.

In and around the bell tower and St. Mark's you may see what look like tables, dozens of them. As our oceans rise the square and the entry to the square are often under water. These tables are set out for tourists to walk on when water is high.

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Something that some tourists miss are the Giardini Reali - the Royal Gardens. We tend to go into the heart of the winding streets and canals and miss this little gem. To find them, instead of turning into St. Mark's Square, continue to walk along the wide canal. These gardens were laid out by Napoleon when the city was under French rule, and updated by the Venetians. There are sometimes small tourist gift shops, and to the right of this area are formal gardens with a wrought iron walkway, and at the far end a glass pavilion. This is a more peaceful area and a pleasant place to rest with lots of benches.

The expensive shops off the far end of St. Mark's Square we will come back to later.

To the Rialto Bridge

As you head into the small streets, have a look at where the sun is in the sky to give you some directional help. If you have a GPS on your phone, you can use it for directions, of course, but you may miss the ambience of the area by looking down instead of looking up.  The majority of foot traffic from St. Mark's Square will head to the Rialto Bridge, so it is easy to follow them. Above the streets are arrows on the corners of buildings to help you find your way.

The path begins with a white rounded entrance that is about even with the front of St. Mark's Basilica. The first three turns come at dead ends and are to your right,  and when you turn to the right, take the first street to your left. Perhaps if you look at the map beside, that will make sense! After the third right turn walk until you come to a rectangular piazza, and you will see a statue. Here you take the first right and continue until you reach another piazza and turn to the left at the first street. Ahead is the Rialto Bridge,

If you are there in the summer or early fall, go across the bridge, take the first street to your right, then follow the canal until you come to the outdoor market. This is a wonderful place! People yelling as bargains are made, wonderful seafood and vegetables for sale. Markets are often closed after 1:00 p.m. 

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The Rialto Bridge has shops on the inside, and one favourite used to be a sort of writers' shop, with books to write in, diaries, pens and paper of all sorts. On my first trip I bought a letter opener with a Murano glass handle in this odd shop. I was sad when it broke so on another trip I replaced it. It doesn't open many envelopes now, but it is treasured,

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Near the bridge are shops that sell masks and costumes in the old Venetian style. These window displays are wonderful! Can you imagine a glittering candle-lit ballroom and everyone dressed in this style?

Below are views from the Rialto Bridge of the Grand Canal.....

Below is a summer picture on my first trip, and the second is the same view on an icy day in mid-November. 

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To the North East

Walk the streets to the north east of the path to the Rialto Bridge. There are lots of scenic  little bridges over the canals and this part of Venice seems to be quieter and more peaceful. Here are a few of my pictures of this area - I have no idea exactly where they are.....

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Try the walk beside! There are lots of views of little bridges and canals, and two lovely churches. The walk to the first church is easy, and the second one more tricky!

Begin the walk as you would go to the Rialto Bridge, and at the first dead end and you turn to the right - ahead you will see a small church. Here is where the route changes. Walk around this church, and at the center back of it take the street that is at 90 degrees.. Follow this street straight until you cross a bridge to the first church and an open piazza.

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This is the Church of  Santa Maria Formosa. The interior is large but not exceptional, although there are art works to admire. The bell tower is especially fine! The humanish gargoyle is above the door of the bell tower, to keep out evil spirits....

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Now walk to the corner of the piazza kitty-corner to where you entered it. At the far end is a large building, and you can admire the flag of the Republic of Venice - red and gold with a winged lion. Take the alley to the right of this building, cross a bridge and walk (almost) straight until you enter another piazza - Campo Santa Marina - turn right and walk along the side of the square and into a small alley and you will see a bridge ahead. 

Now you are crossing one of the wider canals in the city, Rio Santa Marina.  Walk along the "sidewalk"and take pictures of one of my favourite views of bridges (below) - and turn to your left from the sidewalk at the only alley, quite narrow. The alley turns a corner, and you are in front of a beautiful church,  Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

Santa Maria de Miracoli is also know as 'The Marble Church' as it is faced, outside and inside with lovely marble.  On the altar there is a famous Madonna and Child, considered miraculous, the work of Zanino di Pietro in the15th century. 

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To the Accademia Bridge

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The Accademia Bridge is to the west of St. Mark's, and a bit farther than the walk to the Rialto Bridge. There are two astoundingly lovely churches with Baroque facades to admire, and while the Accademia Bridge is not attractive in itself, the views are good. Of course the narrow streets are interesting as you go.

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Walking west from St. Mark's, on your left of the square is a portico with stores, and at the end of the square the portico leads you to a short tunnel leading to the streets beyond. Continue straight down the street ahead of the tunnel, and admire all the high priced items in the famous stores - Chanel, Dior - and lots more. At the end of a couple of blocks you will come to a small square, and the Church of San Moise - the Old Testament prophets were considered saints so this church is dedicated to Saint Moses. The facade is Baroque, wonderfully ornate, and there is a delight over the altar - a combination of a painting and sculpture that meshes together marvellously.

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Cross the little bridge in front of San Moise, and follow the street - it will come to a couple of turns, but continue across a bridge and go straight.  You will come to the other lovely Baroque church - there is a very narrow open area in front of it, so pictures are difficult. This is the Church of Santa Maria dei Giglio.

Walk along the left side of the church, and take the bridge that goes 90 degrees rom the back of the church. You will cross another bridge and in another block, enter another square. This square has interesting palaces facing it, and ahead a building that was a church, but I think it is being used for music..... Walk into the square and past the front of this 'church' and down the path to the left of its facade.

 

In two short blocks you are in a large square, with a sculpture on a pedestal. Walk left in this square, go around a church and a treed area and the Accademia Bridge is ahead of you.

Below is the view from the bridge.

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My last view of Venice, circling from the airport on the mainland.

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