Venice is made up of hundreds of individual islands, but they’re divided into six neighborhoods called “sestieri.” The largest of these is the Castello sestiere, which makes up the tail of the fish-shaped city.
Many people who visit Italy spend time in the big three destinations – Venice, Rome, and Florence. If you’re doing things a little differently, you might not be able to fit a few days in each of those cities. Luckily, with Italy’s excellent high-speed rail network, you can squeeze in a quick visit to a place you might otherwise have to skip. You could, for instance, take a day trip to Florence from Venice.
We all know that Venice is the canal city, and you’re probably familiar with the Grand Canal – the main artery twisting through the middle of the islands. But with hundreds of islands making up the city of Venice, there are bound to be canals that most people never see. You could explore some of them with a motorboat tour of Venice’s secret canals.
Visiting Venice means being surrounded by water, but if those legendary canals aren’t enough to satisfy your longing for wide open stretches of water, then head into the mountains to see Lake Misurina.
The Jewish Ghetto in Venice is the historic area where Jews were forced to live starting in the early 16th century, and it’s from the Venetian word “gheto” that we got the word “ghetto.” The neighborhood remains a center of Jewish culture in the city, although you’d be hard-pressed to identify any of the five historic synagogues – they’re hidden from view, and have been since they were built.
One of history’s most famous explorers, Marco Polo, was born in the city of Venice. His family allegedly lived in a house that still stands in the city, but that is extremely easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Here are some tips to finding Marco Polo’s house in Venice.
The only way to truly experience Venice is aboard a gondola. We cruised the narrow canals of the city as part of our Venice gondola ride and serenade with dinner tour. The voyage departed from the Grand Canal and then wound around the smaller and quaint passages. Our skilled gondolier guided us under the beautiful bridges and along the tall buildings. I felt myself getting lost in the moment wondering what must have been like in even one hundred years ago.
The high Dolomite mountains to the north of Venice are maybe more often associated with ski trips during the winter – and those offer excellent skiing and snowboarding – but if you’re visiting during the summer you can also enjoy the mountain scenery with a hiking trip in the Dolomites. You can get a taste of the Dolomites on a day trip from Venice.
The Doge’s Palace dominates the view on one end of the Grand Canal. The imposing structure sitting next to St. Mark’s Basilica may be regarded as beautiful now, but when it also housed Venice’s notorious prisons it was not exactly a welcome sight.
I meet my tour group just off San Marco’s Square in the royal gardens, having negotiated my way through the notoriously tricky streets of Venice with the helping hand of a couple of locals along the way. I am not yet aware of the spectacle that is about to follow: an intricate palace framed by the wonderful details our Venetian guide shares with us at every turn on a skip-the-line tour of the Doge’s Palace.