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I live just 15 minutes by train from Venice city and I was used to going there quite often just for a walk in the afternoon or just for aperitive, I love Venice and, in my opinion, is one of the most original and beautiful cities in the world, originality due to its small streets (calli) and its small canals full of gondolas is amazing, but at the same time a fragile city and everyone should take care of it; the citizen who lives there, but also and in particular the tourist, so please visit the city and enjoy it but respect the place because Venice is unique in the world.
History of Venice
The history of Venice still puts it in disagreement; It is a mix of legend and real fact. Legend has it that during the VI century the lagoon of Venice became a safe place for the inhabitants of the mainland (Altino, Oderzo and Concordia) from the invasion of the Lombards. When the citizens of the mainland saw their lands and property taken away decided to move to the islands of the lagoon as it was considered a difficult place to navigate for the conquerors. In this way, Venice born. This story is viewed as a legend because there are testimonies attesting human presence in the Venetian islands already in the Roman era with the workers in the Salt Pans.
What we know for sure about Venice is that it had a great history made of a decisive victory, commercial with the Orient and richness that we can see today around the city.
Best things to do in Venice
San Marco Venice. Everyone has heard at least one time about San Marco Square, it is the only proper square in Venice and it is a must to visit. If you are coming from the station after a really nice walk between small calles, canals and up and down from many bridges you will arrive in this huge and surprising square surrounded by historic building and portic that frame it like a small bonniere. Just at the first look, you can see the past splendour of Venice with the Cathedral, the Doge Palace, the San Marco tower but also many traditional shops, restaurants with tables and chairs in the middle and the multitude of tourist and people that lives the city. I know, the place is very expensive in general but it is absolutely a must and something that you will remember forever because Venice is unique in its genre.
The San Marco square will not only surprise you for its size and beauty but also for the big white and gold cathedral that makes the square even more unique and beautiful. I absolutely recommend an inside visit because it is even more spectacular with gold decoration, mosaics, sculptures and a lot of history; this is the classic example of elegance, splendour and power of an era gone by. The San Marco Cathedral that we see today was built around 1159, there was a previous Cathedral but a fire destroyed it and it was dated back to 828. The church was built to house the relics of San Marco and, of course, for its dimension to show the big importance of the Serenissima. The Serenissima brought, thanks to its conquest, different type of magnificent objects from other parts of the world like the mosaics, that we can find inside and outside to decorate the Cathedral with San Marco history, marbles and the Horse’s quadriga.
In my opinion, the history of the 4 horses is very interesting; the original horses are in the museum inside the church to avoid that the climate ruin them and a good copy is in front of the Cathedral on the big balcony. The horses were, not sure, from Constantinople and they were brought to Venice around 1204 after the IV crusade to embellish the façade. In 1797 for Napoleon welling they were brought to Paris and they were returned only in 1815.
Near the Cathedral we can find a white and very nice gothic palace, it is the Palazzo Ducale. It was originally built with the born of the Serenissima and as says the name the Palazzo Ducale was the house of the Doge, (the Doge was the state chief at the time of the Serenissima) the palace, during its history, has been hit many times by fires, that destroyed it more that one time but fortunately it was rebuilt every time so now we can enjoy the fantastic Palazzo Ducale with its Byzantine and Oriental Style. The Ducal Palace during the Republic of Venice was the heart of political and administrative life but since 1797, the year in which the Serenissima fell the functions of the Palace changed and with the annexe of the Regno d’Italia it became a house of some office until 1923 when it was restored and opened to the public has a museum.
Another tourist attractions in Venice you “must to see” is, with no doubt, the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sigh). It is the most particular, in my opinion, because a lot of history and people passed through this bridge. We are still in San Marco Square behind Palazzo Ducale; the bridge was built in 1614 link the last one to the new prisons, it is possible to visit the prisons and visit the small tidy cells used in the past and in some of them you can even see the scrawls and graffiti of ancient prisoners. I really love the story behind the name of this bridge; the legend says that at the time of the Serenissima the prisoners sighed above the Ponte dei Sospiri because they were aware of the fact that it would be the last time, before being imprisoned, that they would see the outside world. Actually, the bridge has only a very small window almost impossible to see outside but the I love legend and I think it has, in the deep, something true.
Famous bridge in Venice. There are in total 4 bridges that cross the Canal Grande and the Ponte di Rialto is one of the ancient and most famous. Famous for its form and the design very particular and unique; I love to walk here, up and down from the bridge, between artisan shops and of course an amazing view of Venice. The first Rialto bridge was built, in wood, around 1250 and took the name of the close market that in that years became very important and around 1401 on the sides of the bridge were built two rows of shops like today. During its history, the bridge was damaged multiple times from wars and even for the excessive weight and for this reason Venice decided to re-built it with stone. The beautiful Rialto bridge that we can see now was made by Da Ponte and complete in 1591.
The Jewish Ghetto is another must to see, first of all, because it is the oldest Ghetto in Europe and then because it is a city inside another city; let me clarify, you will enter from a small porch and in front of you a huge campo (it is a square but with another name) where seems that the years never passed away; the Jewish were supposed to live here under a law that the Serenissima Republic established on 29th March 1516 but this wasn’t the only law that was enacted in fact they were obliged to use a symbol for identification and every night they were closed inside in this Ghetto from the Christian people to avoid night escape. In this period Venice became multicultural (also from one Jewish to another). In 1797 with the defeat of the Serenissima the Jewish became at all the effect like the other citizen. Unfortunately, we all know the history and in 1938 started the deportation; 246 were deported from Venice and only 8 people come back to the Ghetto at the end of the war.
We are still in the San Marco square and the last but not least attraction to see is the San Marco tower. The first time I went up I was speechless, the view on the Venetian Lagoon and on the square is amazing but you will also have a complete panorama of the Venetian life with millions of gondolas, a lot of small and bigger boats and of course many tourists that throng this amazing city, quit difficult to describe for its beauty and the sensation that can give you the panorama even because the Tower is the tallest building in Venice so, you can only imagine what you can see from there. Originally the tower was built in 1173 and it was used as a lighthouse for the sailors; over the years the tower has suffered serious damage caused by many fires and, in 1511, by a huge earthquake that destroyed completely the tower; immediately the restoration takes place and San Marco tower assumed its definitive amazing shape that we can still see today. On its top is collocated a big gold statue of the Arcangelo Gabriele; at the beginning, the statue was 5 meters high for its big dimensions in few years it had to be replaced, in 1557, by a smaller one of 3 metres, its function is of signalling the direction of the wind. It is absolutely a “must to do” if you want to enjoy an amazing view of Venice from the top, don’t worry an elevator was installed in 1962.
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