Venice is the perfect place for couples, groups and solo travelers alike, but to really appreciate it, you have to get out of your comfort zone. Sure, once you’ve ridden in a gondola you’ve ticked off that golden bucket list item, but then what? We all know this is a city on the water. But it is so, so much more than that. It’s all about doing more, seeing more – and of course, since it’s Italy, eating more!
It Starts With Understanding The City
The difference between a tourist and a traveler is often said to be the fact that the traveler goes out of their way to truly understand and immerse themselves in a culture. So many of us go somewhere and act exactly the same way as we do at home, learning absolutely nothing. If that’s you feeling guilty as charged, why not change your ways? If you’re planning an upcoming visit to Venice, learn about the history of the city to be able to truly understand it. The city of “Venezia” as we know it today dates all the way back to around 400AD. Men were fleeing the mainland of Italy after the fall of the Roman Empire. Soon, an entire population had settled in this lagoon town. They were largely self-sustainable, as they could trade fish and salt. Fortunately, they were largely unaffected by invaders or the general politics of the day.
The History Behind the Architecture
Away from drama, they could focus on building something beautiful. They became a mercantile town, but also one of stunning architecture, unlike anywhere else. Italy is naturally beautiful throughout, but this was more to do with their architecture and man-made ideas. They were aiming for extravangance, and that’s what they produced. Doge’s Palace is a very good example that has a long and interesting history. This site first hosted a palace in 810, but that building burned to the ground a few centuries later. Construction on the present-day luxurious structure started in 1340, although it has gone through considerable alterations. Today, the Palazzo Ducale is a museum of art and history. There’s also Casa de Venezia, which actually was the world’s first casino, right in the heart of the city. The word itself is Italian, stemming from the words “little house”, places of leisure and fun. Untouched by the rest of the public, Venetians had time to enjoy such things. This first casino opened in 1638, and remains open today. People don’t tend to think of Italy when they think of casino fun, they think of Vegas as a casino hotspot, instead. Well, ever wondered why their best casino is the Venetian? It’s in a nod to where it all began! This history makes Venice full of intringue, which is why it’s so popular to visit to this day.
There is actually so much more to Venice than just riding around on boats. There’s such a vivid past here, that you may not get a chance to see it all. Poveglia Plague Island highlights some of the mystery of the region. Just a short journey from the city itself, at just half a mile away, it’s a forbidden island with a very dark past – it was used as a plague quarantine station. Napoleon also used it to store weapons, and, rumour has it, when an institution was opened for the mentally ill, a doctor went rogue. There are many hidden secrets, and yet it’s never been fully investigated – but it is said to be haunted.
Too creeped out? You could try doing something a little more fun. The city is a hotbed of literature and art, and so it’s reflected all over. Of course, this much is obvious. Look at how prevalent Venice is in Shakespeare’s works, such as Othello and the Merchant of Venice. You can explore the canals and the city almost exactly as it was in his day. Other works of art include the painted, colored houses of Burano, or some of the other architecture. The flooded church at the Crypt of San Zaccharia and also St Mark’s Clocktower are all to be marvelled at, and if you can’t get enough of literature, you’ll get a kick out of the “Libreria Acqua Alta”, a library where they keep books in bathtubs because they’re prone to constant floods!
Locals are all about Italian food, but of course, they just call it food. This is where you need to get away from the tourist traps and go to where the locals love best. Italian dining is quite unlike anywhere else. Seven-course dinners are not uncommon, and you’ll eat until you’re full, and then some.
There are plenty of places to eat with the locals, but you’ll have to meander through waterways and navigate your way through cobbled streets. Venetian food tends to be a little different to the rest of the country, in that it has some unique and stand out dishes. Cuisine of Veneto, as it’s known, features meats, mushrooms, cheeses and polenta. It also encompasses “cicchetti”, or Venetian Tapas, small dishes of filling, simple, yet creative dishes. Please don’t go all the way there and just order a pepperoni pizza (even if it probably would be the best you ever had). Locals recommend restaurants such as Cantina do Spade, near Rialto and Al Timon, which sets up some tables in boats.
Mangiamo! (That means “let’s eat”).
Time For Romance
Okay, if you absolutely must ride a gondola, be firm. It’s the perfect romantic date, but don’t let them rip you off. Learn some basic bargaining terms in Italian, to make it easier to communicate.
There are plenty of amazing places to see in Italy, and it’s a country that’s known for bringing love to people’s hearts. And why not? Mystery, beauty, art, literature, food… all an incredible recipe for love. Learn the language, ditch the guidebooks, and follow your feet and your heart… who knows where you might end up!