Venice, Venice. How many cities/towns out there have claimed to be a second Venice? After all, people often liken some Dutch cities like Amsterdam, Giethoorn or Delft, and Bruges in Belgium as Northern Venice. I find all those ‘watery’ places very, very charming, but really, nowhere can be comparable to the ‘Southern’ Venice. The real Venice. The Italian Venice. The most romantic, melancholic, beautiful city I have ever visited.
My 2 days in Venice felt like a dream, one so tender and lovely that could make you smile during sleep. After Paris, Venice is the second place in which bad weather does not and cannot diminish the city’s beauty by any tiny bit. My first day in Venice the sky was grey, and on the second day all that greyness turned into heavy torrents, partially flooding St. Mark Square. Yet Venice still stood tall; the rain only rendered its bokeh of colorful houses, yellow lights, and green waters ever enchanting.
The best way to discover Venice is to get lost. It is an island, you simply cannot be too lost. After getting the hang of Venice ‘downtown’, that is, St. Mark Square and Rialto Bridge, you can put down the map and start wandering. I myself closed google map and let my feet be the guide. I deliberately walked into smaller, less crowded alleys. They sometimes had a dead end, sometimes led me directly to the waters, but many times brought me to some most quiet and picturesque corners in Venice. There is nothing wrong in venerating the exquisite St. Mark Basilica, or musing at the ever elegant Rialto bridge, but I believe that it is at those secret, tranquil, off the beaten path of Venice, where the locals walk, talk and rest, that you will find the city’s real beauty. Or better yet, you will be willingly let Venice capture your heart, while promising yourself to come back to this place one day.
But let’s take a look at some mandatory sites first, shan’t we? Perhaps every visit to Venice starts at the city’s center: St. Mark Square, where the world-class St Mark’s Basilica, the imposing St Mark’s Campanile, the historical Doge’s Palace, the St Mark’s Clocktower, the Museo Correr are located, to name just a few. After reading terrifying accounts of tourists having to queue to get inside the Basilica, I was quite nervous. But it turned out that as I visited Venice in the low season (January 13), there was very few people present at the square. I was, in fact, the only tourist inside the Basilica for about 5 minutes, before 6-7 other people came in.
St Mark’s Basilica is the most exemplary Italo-Byzantine building of its kind. It has a long and colorful history, with an incredibly opulent design to match. Perhaps it is most famous for its gold ground mosaics on all ceilings and upper walls, as well as the sumptuous gold altarpiece made of rare gems and pearls. After all, the Basilica is known for its fitting nickname, Chiesa d’Oro (Church of gold).
Right next to the basilica is the pink, gentle-looking Doge’s Palace. Don’t mistake its pastel pink exterior for something fluffy and nice. The palace was home to Venice’s Doge–the chief magistrate and leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice for more than a thousand years. There are dark secrets within the palace and you are welcome to find out by taking a tour ;)
The lions–symbol of Venice:
And the fabled Bridge of Sighs, looking even better with a gondola sailing on the waters… It was a passage connecting the interrogation/torture room in the Doge’s Palace to the prison, and the view of Venice from this bridge was the last a prisoner would see. He would, therefore, sigh at the city’s heartbreaking beauty… So imagined Lord Byron when he gave the bridge its now famous name. Proof that you can always sell a heart-rending story, no matter how far it is from facts :P
“Don’t feed the doves, they damage the city”–reads a warning plate near the Basilica… Oh well..
The Clock tower:
The flooded square x(
From the Doge’s Palace, you can choose to walk along the waterfront until the end of the island–if you’d like. I walked the path once in the evening and came across some beautiful places:
Rialto Bridge–the oldest and perhaps best known of 4 bridges spanning across the Grand Canal. Next to it is Rialto Market–the heart and soul of the city. While the bridge looks gorgeous on its own, the view of Venice it offers is breathtaking.
That unbeatable view:
No matter how irresistible the view from Rialto bridge is, make sure to stroll along the Grand Canal for more rewarding sceneries:
Sorry I rushed you through those mandatory places, for I wanted to fast forward to my favorite part of this piece: photos of those hidden, quiet spots of Venice. Some of them are better known than others, but most are quiet where I saw very few people, if none at all. As I said earlier, the best way to see and feel Venice is to get lost. Keep wandering. If you see tourists coming from the left, make a right turn. If you see a bridge, try to find a way to walk on it. If your path leads you to the waterfront, stop and admire the view. You will see a Venice you can never forget.
Now let’s the photos speak for themselves ;)
Photos from my second day, when it was raining and the water level was visibly high:
I remember standing here for a good 20 minutes, mesmerized by the juxtaposition of bricks and waters, of reflective walkway and charming bridges…
It was hard to move on, but I knew that more amazing spots were patiently waiting:
Surreal beauty *v*
These colorful houses were one of my favorite things about Venice:
The rain made the streets especially poetic and romantic, no less than the canals themselves:
Oh and don’t forget the numerous shops selling fancy masks & costumes… Pure magic *.*
Just when I thought that Venice couldn’t get any prettier, a Venice saturated in the twilight hue proved that I can so easily be wronged:
It was a short but glorious moment to watch the sun set from Rialto Bridge, before Venice quietly and gracefully merged into another tender night: