While organising my upcoming trip to Milan I realised my last holiday in Italy was all the way back in 2012! I can’t believe I’ve left almost three years in between visits.
I wanted to take a look back at my previous trips to Italy and share some of the highlights on my blog, starting with Venice which was was the first Italian city I ever visited. My first visit was back in 2007 and I returned for a second time in 2012. It’s such an incredible place and still remains one of my favourite cities in the world.
Here are some of the things I got up to while I was in Venice, I’d recommend all of these to anyone travelling there for the first time.
Normally I prefer not to travel without carrying a map and knowing exactly where I am at all times, but Venice is the perfect city to ditch the map and just get lost in the maze of winding streets. It’s a great way to escape the crowds and you’re guaranteed to stumble across some charming streets and canals. You don’t have to worry about getting too lost - it’s actually pretty easy to find your way back as there are plenty of signs pointing you in the direction of the Rialto Bridge or St Mark’s Square.
Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal
The Rialto Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in Venice and one of four bridges spanning the Grand Canal. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Venice so it’s always crowded with tourists but it’s definitely worth a visit for the gorgeous views.
St Mark’s Square
St Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco, is the main public square and probably the most famous site in Venice. It’s named after the Basilica San Marco (St Mark’s Basilica) that sits on the east end of the square. Entry to the Basilica is free but it’s best to go as early as possible to avoid the queues (especially if you are visiting in the peak of summer). It’s worth the wait once you get in to see the beautiful gold mosaics. Unfortunately, they don’t let you take photos inside.
Another unmissable site of St Mark’s Square is St Mark’s Campanile (the bell tower). The tower is 98.6 metres tall and you can take an elevator to the top for breathtaking views over Venice, although it’s very loud if you happen to be at the top when the bells start ringing.
Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs
Adjacent to St Mark’s Basilica is Doge’s Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, where the Doges ruled the Venetian Empire until 1797. The government offices and the prisons of Venice were also housed in this building.
The Bridge of Sighs served as a link between the Old Prisons, in the Doge’s Palace, and the New Prisons, situated beyond the Palazzo River. The name of the bridge comes from the suggestion that you could hear the sighs of the condemned as they took one last look at Venice through the windows while they were being led to prison.
Gondola ride / boat tour
The best way to see Venice is by boat and no trip would be complete without a ride on one of the city’s iconic gondolas. These can be expensive though so it’s best if you do this with a group - gondolas can fit up to six people. The rides last around 40 minutes.
Excursion to Burano
Burano is an island of Venice, famous for its bright pastel-coloured houses. Unfortunately I don’t have many photos from my visit to Burano but if you have some extra time in Venice I definitely recommend a trip to the island. The ferry to Burano from Venice takes around 45 minutes. It’s a lot less touristy than Venice so it’s a great place to escape the crowds for a few hours.