It is probably the most remarkable city in Europe that attracts thousands of tourists. This historical metropolis, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, can be explored in three ways. The first and most popular one is visiting it with a tour guide or a smartphone. However, not many know that this is the worst way one can discover this city on water…
Most famous for:
St Mark's Square and ubiquitous gondoliers
A breakthrough moment in history:
1797 – Napoleon conquered Venice
Famous historical monuments:
Saint Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, the Rialto Bridge, Ca' d'Oro palace
Most interesting architecture styles:
One definitely needs to:
explore the deserted alleyways in search of bars for locals
Something for gourmets:
Risi e bisi, frittelle di zucca, frutti di mare
A place for a walk:
St Mark’s square
Off the beaten track:
the deserted Poveglia island
Giacomo Casanova, Canaletto, Marco Polo
Don’t be a tourist
Although it is still taboo, recently you can hear more and more about Venetians who are getting tired of the noise and crowds of hated tourists. It may be somewhat of an exaggeration, but this does not change the fact that the city’s attractions are swarmed to such an extent that the area looks like a tram cramped with people during the rush hours. No wonder Venice has developed alternative ways of exploring the city, which assume leaving all kinds of tour guidebooks at home, or even better forgetting about
them altogether, and going along with just a notebook filled with already pre-written ideas. Go where the mystery is, not where the obvious attracts crowds – says one of the alternative tourism fans. Therefore, the another way of exploring Venice is to enjoy the city by visiting the famous locations used in a lot of films shot in this city, especially blockbusters. This is an increasingly popular trend that has still not been discovered by travel agencies.
Dorsoduro, a district in Venice. A charming square free from the crowds. In its background, a beautiful Neoclassical temple supported by semi-columns with capitals in the Corinthian style. Among the tables of the nearby café, there is a manhole that suddenly jumps scaring the customers away. From it emerges a thoroughly wet fellow in a suit, who looks around and sighs with satisfaction: “Ah, Venice!”. At this moment, the audience bursts into laughter. This is the famous scene from Steven Spielberg’s mega hit “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. The temple which served as an ancient library and the tomb of a mysterious crusader, one of the guards of the Holy Grail, is actually the church of St. Barnabas.
Next to it, you can find Ponte dei Pugni, i.e. the Bridge of Fists, whose name derives from a legendary fistfight between members of the Castellani and Nicolotti families. The fight, that interestingly, has become an annual tradition and was depicted on canvas in 1673 by a German painter Joseph Heintz the Younger. Although Dorsoduro does not lack monuments, museums and cafes, surprisingly, it does not attract many tourists. Nevertheless, most of the guidebooks do not mention the church of St. Barnabas and the Bridge of Fists. Thus, it is even more worth coming here, especially as it is a great place for having seafood.
Indiana Jones was not the only silver screen hero who had adventures in Venice. Fans of action films can also follow the footsteps of James Bond in “Casino Royale” or Frank Tupelo, the eponymous “Tourist” played by Johnny Depp, who starred alongside Angelina Jolie.
In the former, the role of the sinking tenement house was played by Al Palazzo Lion Morosini, whereas in the latter the astonishing interior of Hotel Danieli was presented. Inquisitive fans will find more such places, especially by visiting film-related websites. It is not only great fun, but also a great way to prepare yourself before your trip to Venice!
A pinch of darkness
The last, but equally interesting way of exploring the city, is a journey during which you can follow its dark secrets that are not mentioned in guidebooks. Most of all, it is worth diving without a map into the deserted alleyways and take pot luck. Only there we can find bacari, a bar for locals serving the best dishes in Venice at a reasonable price, where you have to order risi e bisi (risotto with peas) or frittelle di zucca (pumpkin filled doughnuts).
The more adventurous tourists may try going to Poveglia, an Island which, due to dark urban legends, is visited only by fans of thrilling stories. It is said that the damned souls of the victims of the plague which devastated this area centuries ago, are wandering there. If that is not enough, the island is home to an abandoned mental asylum that has become an inspiration for many grim stories. It is a real treat for fans of alternative tourism and urban exploration.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with the more traditional way of exploring Venice with a guidebook. However, you have to keep in mind that regardless of season, you will be surrounded by a dense crowd of tourists. Nevertheless, you should visit such attractions as St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs (it was prisoners, not lovers, who would sigh here when being taken down to a harsh prison),
the Rialto Bridge, the famous 98-metre bell tower, the first Jewish ghetto, or Marco Polo’s house. You should also not forget about three spectacular events: the famous winter Venetian carnival that precedes Ash Wednesday, the Venice International Film Festival that gathers the biggest film stars, and the Festa del Redentore – the Redeemer’s Feast. And these are just some of the many colourful Venetian events!
The Bridge of Sighs
is wrongly thought of as a meeting place for lovers
The place where adventures of two iconic film characters took place
James Bond and Indiana Jones