Campi, Calle and Canale, Venice
Take your time and walk along the canals through the city. Also visit the alleys and canals outside the tourist area alone.
Start at San Marco and just take right and left turns without looking on the map and be surprised. After every corner a new splendid view, a tranquil atmosphere, a busy canal, loads of tourists, nobody but you, laundry hanging out to dry, a deserted Campo or Piazza.
All to see just around the corner without your map. Lost? Want to go back? Take your map or follow the famous signs that lead you back to Rialto or San Marco.
Get lost at a certain point of your trip in Venice. Soon you will find some nice spots.
My favourite spots in Venice are made of a canal and a bridge or more. There are over 150 canals crossed by over 400 bridges in this city!
Punta della Dogana, named after the old Custom of the Venice Republic, stretches out into St. Mark's Basin, separating the Canal Grande from the Canal Guidecca. It is where the Baroque Chiesa della Madonna della Salute is situated, one of the most beautiful churches of Venice.
Venetians call it Dogana da Mar, it was built in 1677 by Benoni when The Republic of Venice was a major commercial center in the Mediterranean basin and Europe aswell. Dogana da Mar controlled access to the Canal Grande and the San Marco doks.
Fondest memory: On the top of the gateway to the Dogana is a golden ball with the weather vane, representing Fortune.
Nowadays Punta della Dogana houses the Francois Pinault Collection, after the interiors has been redesigned by Tadao Ando.
Fondest memory: At some point during the trip, as we were having lunch watching boats go by on a busy canal, Sylvain and realized exactly what it was we enjoyed so much about Venice: there are no cars in the city! Had we been anywhere else in the world, instead of the canal there would have been a busy street full of cars and trucks. The fact that there are no roads in Venice makes for such a soothing atmosphere, sometimes you don't even realize how peaceful it is until you go back home (or in our case, arrive in Florence!). I truly missed the feeling of being surrounded by water during the rest of our trip - next time, I'll make sure to save Venice for last!
From the huge car parking buildings on Tronchetto or Piazzale Roma you can reach Piazza San Marco taking the vaporetto Nr. 2 express line, which runs through the wide Giudecca Canal, water access to Venice for the large cruise ships, to San Zaccaria on Riva degli Schiavoni.
But you do not need to wait for San Marco only. On the way you will have a wonderful view of both side of the canal, Dorsoduro and Giudecca.
The most intriguing waterfront promenade is the Zattere lined by a series of notable buildings and monuments, running the entire southern shore of Dorsoduro.
Fondest memory: The marvellous Casa Dei Tre Oci by the painter and architect Mario De Maria, a nice re-interpretation, midway between Gothic Revival and Art Nouveau styles, of the Venetian gothic palace. It stands on the island of Giudecca. Along the years it was home, apart from De Maria and his family, for architect Renzo Piano and for Peggy Guggenheim's daughter.
Ristorante Riviera on Dorsoduro side, locatated around the Maritime station at the end of Zattere opposite Mulino Stucky. It is, what used to be a rarity in Venice, a restaurant that offers really good cooking. Pricey, but worth it.
Andrea Palladio's Church of the Redentore, a large, white building with a dome crowned by a statue of the Redeemer is sited on the island Giudecca. From the distance, the temple front facade stands as the front layer, behind which the higher roofs of the nave culminate in the dome and its lantern.
Every year in the past, the doge and senators walked across a specially constructed pontoon bridge from the Zattere to Giudecca to attend Mass.
Mulino Stucky, the former Flourmill, now Hotel Hilton seems to be in a rather remote location, on the far west end of the island, where there is not too much activity in comparison to Venice. Staying there would be a little like going to the Ball, but having to stand outside and watch through a window as the orchestra plays.
After getting off at San Zaccaria and walking along Riva degli Schiavoni, the high-rent strip of hotels facing the lagoon, to San Marco you can admire the most celebrated hotels in Venice. Double rooms cost upwards of €300 (low season) or €700 (high season), but the hotels have a loyal following among guests who can afford luxury. The Danieli is especially popular with wealthy Americans; I once was told by a friend, he saw a dapper guest in a Western suit, Stetson hat, and cowboy boots emerge from the Danieli.
My favorite thing is Venice's personality. One of the best features is that there are no cars! Both the tourists and the numerous dogs have no fear of being hit by a motorized vehicle or even a bicycle, being bombarded by noise from cars, or having to wait for lights when crossing streets. And you quickly get used to the peace and quiet after dark - the loudest noises come from the church bells several times a day and the footfalls of people walking to the commercial areas or vaporetto (boat buses) stops. Walking is a real pleasure - just try to avoid the busiest areas during peak tourist season (June - October) and times of day (after 9AM and up to 9PM. Feel free to explore all the narrow calles (alleyways) and many campos (squares) and find lovely little restaurants the locals frequent, historic architecture, resident families being themselves (kids are kids everywhere, except in Venice they are polite) and even to get lost as many streets dead-end at canals and there is often no direct route to where you are headed. Get a good map at your hotel or at a kiosk, and let the fun begin. Locals will help you if you are unsure or lost, but half the fun is just exploring. The streets are very safe, certainly in most of the city (I can't speak for the Giudecca as I didn't go there after reading that it's reputation is checkered). Crime against people is almost non-existent - just be as prudent as you would be in touring in any urban area in the US or abroad, and keep your money and passport in a slim money belt under your shirt at all times when outdoors. I personally never carry a pocketbook when traveling - just a tote bag for water and maps and my lipstick. If you take an expensive camera, try to keep it hung on your neck so you don't lay it down and forget it somewhere. Everything else can be left at the hotel locked in your suitcase. If you like to shop, there is every kind of store from expensive Italian and French designer clothes and jewelry to local family-run shops to African street sellers. Buy the museum package tickets to save a little money and time. Expect crowds everywhere, so minimize the inconvenience by starting your day early (e.g., 8-8:30AM) as many museums open by 9AM (check your guide book for each place, as well as for which ones are closed on which days). Don't embarrass your countrymen by 1) throwing food wrappers on streets or bringing food into museums or stores, 2) talking too loud and disturbing the locals, or 3) wearing inappropriate clothing such as shorts and tank tops (in churches, you'll either be refused admittance or asked to pay for a shawl to cover your shoulders; in restaurants Venetians, like most Europeans, dress up rather than down when eating out and walking around the city, so blend in and you'll be welcomed everywhere.)
Fondest memory: Everything! The way the rising and setting sun makes the buildings look gold and pink, the aqua color of the laguna and Grande Canal on sunny days and the sound of water lapping everywhere, the wide variety of places to eat from the smallest neighborhood pizza shop to the 5-star restaurants (most places are around 3-star and not overly expensive. Do what we did and have breakfast in your hotel if it's included free, and either skip lunch or get a cheap sandwich or pizza, then splurge a little on dinner. Many places have a price fixe dinner that is well worth it, and the wine is great and inexpensive for 1/2 liter). Venice's museums are numerous and other buildings are historic and fascinating as well - just the idea that most were several hundred years old left us weak-kneed. The churches are lovely (some with high bell towers from which you can see for miles). the public gardens are nice - the Giardini stop [after the Arsenale] on the vaporetto brings you not only to the gardens but to other neighborhoods with more restaurants and other sites to see. If you can, spend more than a day or two and get to know the city. We spent 5 days and didn't regret it. I would definitely go back there.
Favorite thing: Sestiere Santa Croce is probably the most unknown part of Venice. It is situated next to the Piazzale Roma and therefore inevitable to those who start their exploring of Venice by foot. Nevertheless, most of the visitors turn left taking direction to Piazza San Rocco or along Canal Grande. I suggest you to turn right, deep into sestiere, and your effort will be awarded by some beautiful sights and, above all, quiet and uncrowded Venice.
Actually, San Marco is the smallest sestiere of the six into which the city of Venice is divided. Even though, it contains both the political and religious heart of the town. In fact, it is the only square in whole the city which concentrates more then fifteen centuries of history and art.
Piazzeta San Marco was the main door, the first sight of Venice that the travellers of long ago set eyes on. The two columns were the ideal door posts with, on their capitals, the patron saints of the city, Theodore and the lion of Saint Mark, which is the new patron.
Wander around and take in the wonderful sights. If you try to use a map you will drive yourself crazy. Remember- you are on an island. How lost can you get?
Fondest memory: The beauty of the place is what I miss. Photos can only capture so much.
Venice is not your average city with a nicely layed out (rectangular) city plan. Venice has only a few very staright streets, if streets at all.
The alleys are almost randomly winding around canals and houses. So it is pretty hard to navigate your way through those alleys.
My piece of advice: check out the city map and learn ie where P Roma, Rialto, Accademia, S Marco and the Park is and how they are situated in respect to each other, so you can grasp the city in a larger scale - during day time look for the sun and how the shadows fall, this helps you to remember where roughly is north, south, east and west... and the spot you are heading to
Fondest memory: going to a piazza off the VERY centre (S Marco), spinning around with eyes closed, then trying to get to a certain place without a map...
Favorite thing: This was the bottom of my street in Venice, San Vio. Relatively wide, it starts near the Accademia, passes my hotel (Hotel American) and continues to the south of Dorsoduoro, through a mainly residential area.
It's so wonderful to walk around in the old citycentre of Venice. Everywhere you look, you will find another lovely canal, from the huge and wide Canal Grande to the small ones.
Fondest memory: Dorsoduro was one of my favourites areas. Everyday from or to our hotel I choosed another route to discover new parts of the city and lovely tiny canals like this.
Venice... I have heard so many different opinions on this city, some love it, and some don't. And I have to admit that I have always been sceptical about this city.... I felt it was like a tourist trap, and that I wouldn't like it at all.... hmmm, but not anymore! I surrender..... Venice is magical!
I've visited Italy several times, making a roundtrip in most cases, but never did go to Venice itself. Yes, it appealed to me somehow to go here, but on the other hand.... it just wasn't 'it'... hahaha, well, that was what I thought! But in November 2001 I got another chance to visit Italy, because I was going to the VT-meeting in Bergamo. But going to Italy for just one weekend didn't seem right. Hahaha, so I extended into a full week, including Venice in my trip. And I don't regret that for one minute!
We had limited time in Venice - so to make the most of it, we walked around the city. Starting from the Piazza San Marco, we crossed the Grand Canale over Ponte Rialto. Then walked towards the Ponte dell Academia passing through numerous charming campos and canals... And completed the tour by reaching Piazza San Marco again.
It's quite easy to navigate through Venice once you figure out all the important venue names. There are signs all over the city, follow them if it's your first time. Otherwise, it's easy to find yourself in a maze :)
Fondest memory: Taking this picture of Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs). The gondols moving along quietly... After a long day of exploring Venice, it was telling me - 'here, life goes on as it is... no matter how many tourists come along...'
Favorite thing: The Venetian Calli have unusual names that are usually either taken from the city's history or from an event that took place right on the very spot, or from the jobs of the people who lived in that lane or square. The names of the streets are written on small white squares that are placed on the outside of the buildings and that are called "nizioleti" (tissues).