Venice is a city rich in history, for 1100 years it was the capital of the Serenissima Republic of Venice: for its urban peculiarities and its artistic heritage, it is universally considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, declared, together with its lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Obviously it is impossible to see and know all its beauties in one day, but here is my little itinerary for a day trip.
Starting from the train station of Venice Santa Lucia you can head left where the signs along the walls will point you to Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. Along the way you will come across the Teatro Italia, in Campiello de l’Anconeta, a nice old theater that now houses a supermarket!
Continuing straight and enjoying the corners of the city and the small stores that sell the typical Venetian carnival masks you will reach Campo Santa Sofia, where you can find gondolas – ferries that take you to the other side of the canal for only 2 €. A low cost gondola experience!
A few more efforts and following the signs you will easily reach the famous Rialto Bridge, a grandiose work of architecture and engineering supported by 6,000 wooden poles. The original structure was built in the late Middle Ages in wood, while the current stone bridge was designed by Antonio Da Ponte at the end of ‘500. From the top of the you can take pictures of the beautiful landscape of the Grand Canal.
Near the Rialto Bridge you can already start to taste the famous spritz Select with cicheti in the bacaro Bacarando in Corte dell’Orso. The cicheti are snacks born to “absorb the wine” of the “ombre”. The most common are: sarde in saor, baccalà mantecato, nervetti con le cipolle, folpetti that is small octopus or moscardini in umido, peoci al forno that is mussels au gratin or polenta e soppressa. To taste Venetian cicheti you go to bacari, that is small taverns where you can find a place, even at the counter, and order a glass of wine and a plate of samples.
Now you are ready to face the rest of the tour towards Saint Mark’s Square, the heart of the city and one of the most visited squares in the world. In front of you stand extraordinary masterpieces of architecture, such as the stunning St. Mark’s Basilica, also known as the Golden Cathedral for its extraordinary gold mosaics.
To the right of the Cathedral is the center of power of the Republic of Venice: the Doge’s Palace, the residence of the Doge, a building full of contradictions. In its magnificent halls kings, queens and diplomats from all over the world were received. However, it was also the place where justice was administered: its prisons and torture chambers had become known and feared by all.
Continuing on and passing the Doge’s Palace, you arrive at the Riva degli Schiavoni, from which you can admire, on the other bank, the splendid Church of San Giorgio Maggiore and follow the outline of the Giudecca Island. Moreover, you have now arrived at the iconic Bridge of Sighs which owes its name to its original function: to connect the prisons with the Doge’s Palace. The bridge was crossed by inmates awaiting sentence and from those little grates emanated what was probably their last breath.
From the Bridge of Sighs, going back for a moment you can reach Palazzo and Scala Contarini del Bovolo, a hidden late-Gothic jewel with its impressive spiral staircase (which in Venetian is called “bovolo”, hence the name!). I recommend booking tickets to climb up to the terrace and enjoy the visit!
Nearby, specifically in Rughetta del Ravano you can find Bacaro del Ravano so you can enjoy another frozen spritz with some cicheti.
Now head over to the special Libreria Acqua Alta on Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa. Here you’ll find stacks and stacks of antique, used and rare books literally stacked along the walls and on a gondola. You can also take a photo on the gondola docked just outside the back of the store.
The day may be coming to an end, so to return to the train station, take an alternative route and head towards Ponte Chiodo in the Sestiere of Cannareggio. There are 446 bridges in Venice, originally they were all built in stone and generally without lateral protections called since 1600 bande or spallette. Since ‘800, for safety reasons, were instead all equipped with parapet. Only two bridges have survived “without bands”, one is the Ponte Chiodo, which is now a private bridge.
To end your trip completely, from Ponte Chiodo in 10 minutes you can reach one of the most original bacari of the city and pass in front of the Bacaro del Gelato ice-cream parlour. Both are located in Via Fondamenta della Misericordia, where you can then reach the Jewish Ghetto and always following the signs to the train station. In short, the name of the bacaro that you should not miss is Al Timon. Here you can sip the original Select spritz accompanied by cicheti for €1 while sitting on a boat along the canal!