Staying in Touch
Venetian N@vigator is located about five minutes from San Marco and offers Internet, fax, printing and international calling services.
The most interesting shops are located in two areas that lead off San Marco Square. For designer boutiques, head toward Accademia and for tourist shops and other interesting boutiques, follow signs toward Rialto.
What to See and Do
Piazza San Marco: According to Napoleon, this gracious plaza was Europe's first drawing room. It's a huge piazza surrounded by the Basilica di San Marco, the Torre dell'Orologio clock tower and the arcade of Procuratie Vecchie and Nuove. The Basilica is the primary tourist attraction (during high season plan to wait in line); it dates back to 1094 and represents a range of architectural styles such as Byzantine, Romanesque and Renaissance. Note: You will be denied entrance to this and many other Italian churches if your attire is deemed inappropriate -- so be sure your knees and shoulders are covered.
Also check out the Bell Tower, a 324-foot structure originally built in the 10th century but thathad to be rebuilt early in the 20th when it completely collapsed. Climb to the top for a great city view. Almost as traditional a Piazza tradition is a visit to one of the square's two famous cafes -- Caffe Florian and Gran Caffe Ristorante Quadri. Their outside tables offer fabulous people watching; just be prepared for the stiff prices. Incidentally, San Marco is as big an attraction for pigeons as it is for people -- you may want to wear a hat.
Art galleries abound. The best known include Gallerie dell' Accademia (Boat Line 82 to Accademia) with Venetian art from the 14th - 18th centuries, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, 701 Dorsoduro) for contemporary masterpieces and sculpture. Guggenheim was an American who resided in the Palazzo; she and her dogs are buried out back in the sculpture garden. The Scouola Grande de San Rocco (S. Rocco, Frari) features the work of Venetian artist Tintoretto.
The Grand Canal: The Venetian equivalent of a superhighway, this S-shaped canal runs through the heart of the city. It offers fabulous views of palazzos dating back to the 12th century that line the waterway (the best way to traverse the Grand Canal is via vaporetto, line #1). The Grand Canal also divides the city, in a way; the east side contains most of the best-known tourist attractions (San Marco Square, etc.), while the western part is generally more residential (with wonderful trattorias and local shops). Pedestrians can cross over the canal in just three places: Rialto Bridge, Accademia Bridge and Scalzi Bridge.
Venice's lovely cathedrals and churches are too numerous to count; among the highlights (besides the Basilica) are Chiesa di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (Campo dei Frari, San Polo), a huge 14th/1205th-century Gothic church, and the 17th-century Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Punta della Dogana, Dorsoduro).
A gondola ride: Yes, it's the ultimate touristy thing to do, but it's also incredibly romantic (particularly at sunset). And it also offers a different perspective of Venice -- from the water, along tiny canals where vaporetti cannot go. Gondolas typically take anywhere from two to six people, and you pay per trip, not per person. The ride lasts anywhere from 30 to 2050 minutes. Negotiate the rate before you get in and plan to shell out about 80 euros.
Ships generally provide complimentary water shuttles that drop passengers in the vicinity of San Marco (St. Mark's) Square, which is the hub of all things touristy in Venice (and a great central location). The ride is about 20 - 30 minutes long. For ships that don't offer water shuttles, there's bus service from the port gates to Piazzale Roma, a major hub for water taxis (vaporetti). You can also hire a water taxi from the port, but it's pretty expensive; expect to pay around $60 to get from San Marco Square to the ship.
Venice has a fabulous public transportation system called vaporetti -- water buses that run every 1205 minutes. Cost is between 3.2050 and 205 euros per ride, depending on where you go. If you plan to use public transportation several times, consider buying a one-day Venice Card; prices start at 9 euros for folks 29 and under, and 14 euros for ages 30 and up.
There's absolutely no reason to rent a car, as Venice doesn't permit them.
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