24 hours in Venice
Written by Chloe Hambidge
HOW TO SPEND 24 HOURS IN VENICE
A city steeped in history and embellished in Renaissance-era glory, prepare to be transported. As if a fairy-tale kingdom of marble decorated with secret gardens floating amongst shimmering lagoons, Venice is the Italian gift that keeps on giving. With a never ending fountain of culture and architecture at every corner designed to make your heart flutter, it will be a trip to remember.
I visited this delightful city in the start of October last year and it’s a trip that will always hold a special place in my heart. Simply from just wandering through these Venetian cobble stone streets I was charmed from the get go, with laundry hung between every building and squares opening as if falling from the heavens, decorated with ice cream shops and restaurants equipped with chairs exploding onto their very own slice of pavilion. Packed with couples talking animatedly and families laughing over freshly prepared pizzas- it’s as you’re on a movie set for a quaint village. An onlooker into something special. Branching off from the hidden back streets is where the greatness happens, there seems to be something to be blown away at with every turn of your head.
With a jampacked day ahead of you, this is how to make the most on this enlightening trip. I started my ventures at Venice’s bustling bus station Piazzale Roma which is perfectly located just a short walk from all the long awaited attractions, this allows you the chance to stroll through the underrated perfection of the back streets. With an excitable day ahead, I commenced through Santa Croc which holds pastel coloured apartments adorned with rustic iron balconies and tumbling greenery from vibrant potted plants, decorating your walk away into sun dappled streets. Admire charming restaurants with mouth-watering smells chasing after you and souvenir shops plastered with all sorts of Venetian memorabilia, longing to be taken home. Authentic stone streets wind like a maze into Dorsoduro and Rio di Ca Foscari with graffiti and art leading the way, everything in this city appears to be eager to impress, these picturesque walkways truly being a treat for the eyes. Slowly stumble upon the world of waterways as mahogany boats sail by in a world of their own as bridge glory awaits you. Just from this 20 minute walk into Venice’s hub of activity you will have a pleasant pep in your step after being greeted by beautiful flowers budding from shutter clad bay windows to the back track of lulling water splashing below your feet.
After a few twist and turns, heading towards the South end of the canal where you will have the honour of stumbling across the Ponte deli ’Accademia- one of only four bridges spanning across the Grand Canal. With views paying homage to those of your imagination, watch as Venice’s best kept secrets span before you. With traditional gondolas sailing wobbly over tidal waves from water taxis, stare in awe at the hive of activity bustling in the water world below. This restored wooden bridge is widely known to resemble the arch of a black cats back, but put all that superstition behind as this beloved bridge is embraced by a variety of mouth-watering restaurants filled with fresh local cuisine and a tempting panoramic view of the marvellous grand canal. I indulged in an authentically prepared bolognaise tagliatelle in a quaint bistro restaurant tucked right by the bridges friendly pavilion, the flavours are an explosion of Italian charm and paired with a rustic red wine to set the tone for the days adventures- it was a rejuvenating first stop for my adventures.
After half an hour or two of soaking up that irresistible Venetian sun, give in to temptation and wander down the Grande Canal. Join in on the water dance as you follow its flow to the grand attraction of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute which could be one of the most recognisable sights in Venice’s warm and medieval skyline. Italian architecture is highly regarded for its ‘Venustas’; meaning beauty, this being something which this heavenly church holds in bucketloads. With its regal domed roof, the building is designed to stand out and be a piton of sophistication and faith amongst the spiralling canal.
These notable features are what sets Italian architectural marvel apart, highlighting appreciation for these strong standing buildings and their aesthetically pleasing demeanour. Seeming to sneak into every photo snapped along the grand canal, its hard not to fully soak in the immense beauty of this church, from its blinding white stones gleaming spectacularly under the sun to its embellished columns standing high amongst this exuberant sanctuary. When strolling into the basilica’s interiors be blown away by floods of light, beams of light trickling from every crevice with discs of pale tinted glass shadowing a kaleidoscope of sun across the pews. Alters dominate the floor beneath the implausibly high dome, its easy to feel miniscule in comparison to this elaborate hub of holy faith. The carved baroque high alter stands proud, surrounded by shrines of Titan masterpieces including moody ceiling frescoes, vivid self-portraits and canvases of multicultural musicians and wine induced celebrations. I was engulfed by authentic Italian faith and the beauty that comes along with it, with art flung on every corner you can’t help but revel in the silence of being part of such a masterpiece.
From here I fed my inner child and jumped on a gondola. This is a right of passage when having the honour to visit Venice, if seasickness gets the better of you then skip the romantic staple of voyaging the endless watery maze and hop on one just for a canal crossing. I embarked on this journey at Santa Maria, with the water just at my fingertips and the iconic church sinking in the distance, I felt like a VIP being chauffeured into the secret hideaways of the city. I touched down on the other side of the river where the world of St Mark’s Square opened before me.
To continue your journey, this is where the rave of Venice’s prize possessions come to light. With the back track of elegant violinists and charming saxophonists, allow the sweet melody of these musicians drag you into the action. For me, Piazzo San Marco really sets the scene of what Venice is really about, with regal arches lit with warm lights like a landing strip of grand cafes and extravagant architecture spanning across every corner. Here you will find Basilica di San Marco which truly is a canvas in itself, adorned with luminous mosaics shimmering as if of a life of their own, prepare to be blown away by this unique cosmopolitan statue of Venetian glory. After recently undergoing renovation, this refreshing masterpiece is just another jewel on Venice’s architectural crown, and the decorated exterior of the cathedral pays homage to that with the oldest mosaic on the building dating back to 1270; and it’s still just as resplendent as it was before! This unforgettable basilica is an enchanting layer cake of marble columns, royalistic domes and ornate edges, it’s a gold encrusted masterpiece. Included amongst the four walls of this square is Palazzo Ducale, this stands proud on the waterfront and is a symmetric work of art, perched as if dropped out of the heavens. With beauty enhanced at sunset, watch as sun trickles between its diamond shaped archways and spiked roof, offering a daunting façade in contrast to its coral pink marble and white Istrian stone appearance. Decorated as a pretty Gothic confection, it’s impossible not to ogle at, offering a perfect juxtaposing combination of Italian class and hierarchy with sharp eccentric detailing.
If you thought the delights of San Marco stopped there, you will be pleasantly surprised. This honey pot of sights is also home to the Campanile Tower which stands high amongst the hustle and bustle of the square. This Bell Tower is a key to seeing a whole other side of Venice, with an exciting rooftop pavilion which is home to one of the best vantage points in the city. Extend in godlike advantage over the city skyline and take in the maze of this medieval masterpiece built up from the Adriatic sea. Be greeted by a collection of orange tiled roofs shining in the mid- day sun, I loved this side quest as it almost transports you to a quaint village in the middle of Europe that feels like your own little secret, be swept away from busy cobbled streets and embrace Venice and it all its beauty is one jampacked glance.
After taking in many of Venice’s reclaimed sights, I don’t know about you, but I have more adventure seeking within me. Whether you want to take a glimpse at the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ which glows in white stone amongst the canal or you want a slow wander through Venices back streets packed with whimsical vintage shops and olde-worlde churches begging a peak inside at their unique extravagance. If you fancy a sit down in a small square of your every own natural greenery, then take a deep breath at Giardini Reali with a variety of benches tucked around vines of glowing vegetation and sweet smelling flowers. This garden feels like a mirage in the middle of this stone dominated fortress, and is the perfect place to soak up the sun. I sat and watched the world go by and thought it was a this little pitstop was definitely worth it, just for a few moments to gather your thoughts with views of the grande canal and luminous plants to feel like I’m living my own fairy-tale dream.
To finish of your day take a final meander down the grande canal to the iconic Realto Bridge. Watch as the sun dips behind the horizon and light up the wide sweep of the waters wake reflecting up at you. As purples and pink paint the skyline enjoy the magnificence of this bridge, with marble steps leading you to the centre of its glory. Holding the hierarchal position of being the oldest bridge to span across Venice’s main waterway it has had to be restored 3 times since its original construction in 1181. With shops hidden amongst its stretch from handmade jewellery, glass blown ornaments of luxury authentic clothes shops; it’s a goldmine of Italian lavish living. And it truly is a beauty amongst itself. To top of the day, have a well deserved sit down at a restaurant along the canal from pizza to pasta, what more could you ask for after a day full of wanderlust?