Best of Venice

Venice is like eating

an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.

Truman Capote


As a passionate night owl, I was pleasantly surprised by the pleasures of catching the sun rise over Venice, soft blue making way to gray or sunny skies.

The one thing to know aside from timing your visit with Carnival is that there are no porters nor cars past its train station.   Walking is how everyone stays fit.  As a tourist dragging heavy luggage, your back will thank you if you choose a hotel with direct canal access.   Skip the queue for the bus, the vaporetto and the schlep over a few bridges by hiring a private taxi from the airport (110 Euros or share a ride for 30 Euros per person.)  To buy a private taxi ticket at the Marco Polo airport, keep left when you walk out of baggage claim.  Their booth sits like an island in the middle of the hall.

Money matters:  get the best exchange rates using your ATM or credit card.   If you want to watch your dollars magically halve, cash exchange counters charge about 30 Euros per transaction.   Tipping is generally not expected but with wages that have not caught up with the Lira’s conversion to the Euro, why not?   Service and/or cover charge are automatically added to your bill at restaurants.

San Marco Square

Join the early birds in owning the town before the street lamps go off at 6:30 am. Be the first in line to see the Basilica interiors and climb the second level to better admire the artwork on its golden domes.  But as soon as you notice puddles of water spreading on the pavement, get yourself out of San Marco quickly before the tide floods the square.

Doge’s Palace

A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Doge’s Palace (aka Palazzo Ducale in Italian) is a landmark of building elements and ornamentation.  The public entrance is through the Porta del Frumento, under the colonnade of its 14th century waterfront façade.


Cafe Florian

On San Marco square, the place to see and be seen especially during Carnival is Cafe Florian.  The crowd that gathers here adore elegant period costume that transport you back in time amidst authentic 18th century decor.

Terrace with a View

Because I love rich velvet on everything, I had to dine where the seats are upholstered in it!  Hotel Danieli faces the water next to the Doge’s Palace. Service at fancy hotels has its share of critics because of the expectations that are as high as the price they command.  Know that you are coming here for its unrivaled view of the city.   (Photo from


Rialto Bridge

For almost 300 years since it opened in 1591, the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) was the only way to cross the Grand Canal on foot between the districts of San Polo and San Marco.   Probably the most visited structure among tourists today, it is best photographed when you’re on the water from a gondola, water taxi or the vaporetto (public water bus.)   Three walkways cross the bridge:  two along the outer balustrades and a wider one in the center with shops on both sides.  (Photo by National Geographic.)

Bridge of Sighs

This bridge behind the Doge’s Palace has a bleak history.  A more romantic version comes from local legend that promises lovers eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St. Mark’s Cathedral toll.  This legend is the plot line of the movie A Little Romance starring Laurence Olivier and Diane Lane.


San Giorgio Island

To get to the island with the brick church steeple that beckons across the water, take the #2 Vaporetto in front of Hotel Danieli.  Twilight is the best time to photograph the city lights and panorama.


Murano and Burano Islands

Murano Island is the home of hand blown glass and the famed Venetian chandeliers.  It is the first stop of the same ferry that takes you to Burano Island known for its lace and colorful house facades.



Even without a charming gondolier, Venice has no better known icon.
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© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

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