Venice tantalizes millions of visitors each year, and I was no different. It is mid-morning as I load my suitcase on the boat taxi. The boat is wobbly and I nearly lose my balance. In a few minutes, the boat begins to move and I am off. The cold breeze turns my face red. I eyed the ancient buildings of Venice for the first time. The city of Venice consists of several islands situated at the edge of the Adriatic Sea. Every detail of Venice is charming and romantic. Visiting in winter is a magical time and is undoubtedly the best time of the year to visit Venice, Italy. The crowds are smaller in the winter, and the odor of the canals isn’t pungent like it is in the summer. Over my visit, I had a charming weekend experience during the winter season in Venice, Italy.
Take a tour of St. Mark’s Cathedral and San Marcco Plazza
The streets are a tight squeeze. Often times I stop to let someone else pass me in the opposite direction. The San Marcco Plazza is where the small streets diverge into a large open space. St. Mark’s basilica is famous for it’s Italo-Byzantine architecture and upon entry I spot gold plastered on its high ceiling, truly looking like a church made for a king. I walk over hand cut mosaic tiles and marble slabs. This Roman Catholic Church was built to store sacred relics inside, such as the body of the apostle Mark. However, there are over a hundred of other places that also claim to have St. Mark’s body so be careful what you believe.
The outside is impressive, but inside is just as dazzling. Don’t miss venturing to the rooftop to get the perfect view of the San Marco Plazza below.
Shop for Fresh fish and produce at the Rialto Market
The smell of fresh fish permeates my nose, and I know I am close to the market. Upon arrival, the market is quieter and less crowded than I expect, but wintertime in Venice is slower paced.
I am fooled into thinking the fish are still alive. The fish sold in the Venice market are so fresh, some appear to still be moving. I am told that after the fish are no longer living, they have muscles twitches that make them appear alive. Eel, octopus, bronzing, peietro, sogliole, and more can be purchased at the Rialto Market. Much like other open-air markets in the Rialto Market sells fresh produce, fish, meat, and cheese. I have to resist the urge to buy an unnecessary amount of dried fruit. The dried fruit sold in Italian markets, especially the dried strawberries, is like dessert.
While the local culture of Venice has diminished, due largely because of tourism, the market offers a glimpse of local fishermen lifestyle. While Venice has more tourists than residents, many fishermen commute in to the market and deliver their produce early in the morning.
Relax on a romantic gondola ride
If you spot a man in a black and white striped shirt, they are most likely a gondolier. During the winter, Venice is chilly. This makes it the perfect time to snuggle under blankets for a romantic gondola ride through the canals of Venice. While gondola rides can be a pricy ride, it is a once in a lifetime experience. Most of the original streets of Venice are waterways, making it possible to travel throughout the entire city by boat. The buildings in Venice are much taller than they are wide and most of them have hues of red, orange, and yellow.
See a musical show performance at San Vidal
I always enjoy watching talented musicians, but listening to the Interpreti Veneziani performing at San Vidal I am blown away. They performed the classic Four Seasons, making my ears tingle the entire performance. Interpreti Veneziani plays with precision; every second, breath, measure, and note matters. Even the body moment of the musicians is dramatically timed perfect with the music. The audience didn’t want to make a sound, and I didn’t want to miss a thing. My own breathing stopped for a moment to ensure I hear everything correctly. There was a moment I chuckled to myself because the violinists hair fell out of place from vigorously moving his bow back and forth. The musicians themselves made the concert a spectacle.
Elena Blain, an audience member explained, “Listing to Vivaldi is an experience that fills your whole soul. It is an energy that flow through you as you watch the passion and intensity of the musicians.”
While you are in town you can’t miss it.
Take a boat taxi to Burano
Burano looks like a real life version of candy land. During the wintertime when the crowds were small, I hardly saw anyone except locals in Burano. It was a late afternoon by the time I got to Burano. I enjoyed a cappuccino at Al Vecio Pipa and explored the empty streets.
Fishermen coming back home from a day selling fish, artists, and restaurant owners were the only other people I found on the island. The houses are painted in vibrant colors. This was unlike any other neighborhood I had ever seen.
The Dodge Palace, founded in 1340, is the former government building of the Venetian Republic. The building offers visitors a look into Venetian past, as well as gothic style architecture. The Museo dell’Opera is located on the ground floor and has a variety of collections and layouts.
Inside the Dodge Palace, tempura paintings decorate the wall. This reminded me of the Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy. In several rooms, the paintings cover the space from ceiling to floor. While walking through the Dodge Palace, I could tell the artists paid attention to every detail. With the overwhelming number of paintings, it was hard for me to do the same. I tried to stop in front of each painting, but you could spend hours in front of each one.
Be sure to explore the courtyards, armory, chambers, exhibitions, and the old prison.
The Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs connects the Dodge Palace to the old dungeon. As prisoners were crossing over to their fate, they would sigh at the sight of lovers down below enjoying a gondola ride. Not only does this bridge has a unique story and historical significance, but it is one of the most ornately designed bridges in Venice.
Ponte dell’ Academia Bridge at night
I stop and observe the boats cruising through the channel, even though the chill of winter sends shivers down my spine. The Ponte dell’ Academia Bridge has one of the best views overlooking the canals and boat taxis, and it is especially intriguing at night.
St. John and Paul Hospital
When my tour guide informed me that the building before me was a hospital, I knew Italy truly is a dream I never wanted to awake from. The St. John and Paul Hospital is different from any other hospital you have ever seen before. This hospital also looks like is could be a palace or house an art museum.
Venice is the adult version of candy land and during the winter it is even more magical.
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