Venice has 'captured' the heart, mind and imagination of so many writers, poets, artists and historians. Venice is one of my favourite subjects in art, literature and history, and I am always eager to learn more and look more at this unique and special place. This Venice blog is my way of collecting the wealth of images, poems, prose and impressions of Venice.

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Your first visit to Venice – a suggested itinerary Part 2

Part 2/ Day 2 - TUESDAY

Open your eyes as early as you possibly can.  You’re in Venice; you don’t want to miss a minute of this magic lolling about in the dark of a hotel room (unless it’s a particularly beautiful hotel room, or you have a wonderful view, in which case, who am I to argue?).

Get out in the city, smell the freshness of the morning and enjoy a moment in Venice before the rush of day-trippers storm the city. 

Find somewhere for a fresh, warm pastry straight from the warmer and an excellent, stirring cup of coffee. 

Today is your day to orient yourself to Venice, so let’s start from the beginning and head straight to the Piazza San Marco. 

The weekend and long-weekend visitors will have departed, so this is your best day to experience the sights in the Piazza San Marco.

Campanile and Palazzo Ducale of Piazza San Marco capturingvenice.blogspot.com
The Campanile and Palazzo Ducale seen from the water 
Be one of the first to queue for the ascent in the campanile.  A lift will take you directly to the summit.  You have as much time as you wish to take in the view to the south across the Grand Canal to San Giorgio Maggiore and north looking across the sestiere of Castello.  To the north-west is the sestiere of Cannareggio and to the east you will see the eastern Castello and in the distance, that engine room of Venetian power and trade, the Arsenale.

Palazzo Ducale
Next, go to the Palazzo Ducale.  Allow at least two hours to see this magnificent place, built to impress and intimidate visitors and citizens of the Republic of Venice. 

Palazzo Ducale Venice capturingvenice.blogspot.com
Palazzo Ducale 
Please don’t miss the prisons underneath the building.  I also highly recommend the ‘Secret Itineraries’ tour which you have to pre-book and which will allow you to access the ‘piombi’ (lead) prisons under the roof of the building, from which Casanova famously made his escape.

There is an excellent souvenir shop as you exit the building, with a great range of Venice-related books and attractive souvenirs.

Museo Correr
You must surely be parched and hungry (as well as a bit footsore) by now.  If you can, please keep walking just a little bit further, straight across the Piazza to the Museo Correr.

Here, you can enjoy the quiet café overlooking the Piazza San Marco, with rich decorations in the Empire style and comfy armchairs. 

Fortified?  Excellent.  Let’s continue.

Allow at least an hour to look around the vast Museo Correr with its recently restored Royal Apartments, gallery of sculptures by Canova, picture gallery including Jacopo de’Barbari’s astonishing aerial view of Venice engraved in 1500 (and displayed with the original wood blocks) as well as Carpaccio’s famous painting that was once known as The Courtesans, the civic archaeology collection and the main hall of the Libereria Sansoviniana.

You might need another pit stop for a break and refreshment when you leave the Museo Correr.  You might want to return to Caffe Florian, or, alternately, you can try Caffe Quadri (it’s older than Caffe Florian but it isn’t as pretty) or the Café Lavena. 

Basilica di San Marco
Hopefully by now the queue to enter the Basilica di San Marco is lessening, so jump in there. 
The first time that I ever stepped inside the Basilica, I was astonished and humbled by the magnificence of the sombre, ancient interior.  I encourage you to pay the admission fee to view the Pala d’Oro, the treasury and the  Loggia dei Cavalli, where you can see the original, famous bronze ‘Horses of Saint Mark’s’, an ancient quadriga that was looted from Constantinople by the Venetians in 1204.  Then you can step outside onto the balcony to see the replica horses which now stand in their place and take in the view over the Piazza.

By this time, the monuments and museums of Venice are probably closing and the next thing that I encourage you to do is to take a gondola ride.

The Horses of Basilica di san Marco Venice capturingvenice.blogspot.com
The Horses of San Marco - seen from the outside of the basilica (these are the replica horeses)

Gondola ride
You heard me correctly, TAKE A GONDOLA RIDE!  Don’t leave Venice without doing this!  But make sure that you ask your gondolier to take you around the quieter parts of Venice – if you’re just going to experience the gondola on the Grand Canal, you may as well take a vaporetto!

It’s easy to forget that since the late 19th century/ early 20th century, Venice has been extensively pedestrianized.  The main pedestrian thoroughfares, the Via Garibaldi and Strade Nuova were created in the early 19th century by filling in canals.  Every time you see the sign ‘Rio Terra xxx”, you are walking on a former canal.

The buildings of Venice were built to be seen from the water, and even the tiniest amount of navigating the city from a gondola will give you a sense of the city as it was meant to be traversed – by water. 

As well, you’ll be able to observe at close quarters the skill and experience of Venice’s gondoliers – it’s extraordinary to watch their graceful, powerful movements as they steer and move their elegant gondolas around heavy traffic, parked boats and around tight corners and under low bridges.  Please don’t miss this experience.

Click here to read Your first visit to Venice - Part 3/ Day 3


  1. It was fun to walk along with your suggested itinerary! At first I thought "Wouldn't it be nice to be going there for the first time". But then I thought that it just gets better and better as we gain a deeper appreciation of all the many facets of this city.

    When are you going back?


  2. Thanks Yvonne, I'm glad you enjoyed the 'trip'! Hope to be back there in 2015...earlier if I can swing it...!