There are two main areas where your cruise ship may dock. One of them is Marittima (full name Baciono Della Stazione Marittima), at the western side of the city, consisting of four terminals: Terminal 103, 107/108 and Isonzo 1-2 are all dedicated to larger vessels; and Terminal 123, dedicated to ferries. There are various facilities at the terminals: there are food court and shopping areas at the Terminal central body, Wi-Fi throughout, A/C, waiting rooms with VIP lounges, check-in desks, luggage storage space, ATMs, public phones and passenger information desks. Parking and transportation to central Venice is also available. There are water taxis (“motoscafi”) for hire and the far cheaper water shuttles (“vaporetti”) as well. The nearer airport is Venice Marco Polo International and it’s 20 min away by car, 15km distance. Treviso Airport is the alternative one, 40 min by car, 42km away. Getting to the sights of Venice is easy and straight-forward. There is a “People Mover” light rail link that connects the Marittima area to Piazzale Roma, the station is in front of Terminal 103. You can also walk an unpleasant walk from your terminal, just short of a kilometre. From Piazzale Roma you can catch a “vaporetto”, number 1 or 2 along the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco – the most popular square of Venice. You can also walk the distance, it’s about 2km away. Venice is very easy to explore on foot. For a car-less city, this is the best option, as well as the affordable water-shuttles. The water taxis mentioned above for private hire make an expensive ride for £80 or so, even for short distances.
The second area where smaller cruise ships would dock is San Basilio Terminal in the Giudecca Canal. This terminal is also well-organised, with similar facilities as the Marittima ones. The Venice Marco Polo Airport is a little further, 25 min by car, 15km away and the Treviso Airport is 45min by car, 43km away. The public transport option here is to walk east along the promenade (about 8 min) and get to the San Basilio vaporetto stop to get to Piazza San Marco in about 20 min.
The local currency is Euros – EUR. Exchanging money would be quite easy, mostly done by getting cash from ATMs. Do make sure the local ATM of a specific bank is compatible with your card and notify your bank and credit card issuer that you would be abroad. Make sure you are aware of the fees they would charge when you withdraw or pay in Euros. Many banks and card companies now offer fees free service for travellers. The exchange rates at banks, post offices and exchange bureaus tend to be less favourable and they would also charge commission. Most of the banks would require you to open an account with them to exchange cash. The cheapest way seems to be to withdraw cash from an ATM from your Debit card or pay with your card directly. Most of the outlets would accept the major credit cards, less so for American Express. Never exchange money with anyone that approaches you on the street and protect your PIN number at ATMs.
Opening hours – the banks and post offices in Venice are normally open from 8.30 am to 1.30 pm with various opening hours in the afternoon during weekdays. Some of them would also work Saturday mornings. Some shops and stores would be closed Monday mornings. Many shops close for a couple of hours middays, although now more and more shops are staying open, especially in the city centre. Traditionally Easter and Christmas are bank holidays in Venice, as well as other national and religious holidays. Do make yourself aware of those before you travel.
Tipping in Venice – Tipping is expected end appreciated, but bear in mind that Italians aren’t big tippers, so don’t go overboard. Check your restaurant and hotel bills for any service charges before you decide to tip. 5-10% are considered enough, or simply round up the bill. Bellhops and housekeepers would appreciate a 1-2 euros tip, and you may round up the fares for taxis and tour guides if you are happy with the service.
Venetians speak Venetian – a dialect of Italian. English language is spoken mainly among the younger generation and people that work in the tourist industry. A few Italian/ Venetian words could take you a long way.
The local time in Venice is GMT + 1 and the International dialling code is 00 39 041.
Things To Do
Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square) is where it all starts from in Venice. Napoleon allegedly called the square “the drawing room of Europe” and no wonder, since the most popular attractions of the city are all here. The square is dominated by the lavish and extravagant exterior of the Basilica di San Marco(St. Mark’s Basilica). This is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice and the most famous of the city’s churches and in the whole of Italy. The building is a prime example of Italo-Byzantine architecture, best known for its gold mosaics, covering 4240 sq metres of its interior, the golden Byzantine retable, known as Pala d’Oro and the treasury, containing probably the best single collection of Byzantine metalwork, especially in gold and enamel.
Doge’s Pallace (Palazzo Ducale), adjacent to the Basilica was the residence of the Doge’s family and the seat of the Venetian government. The palace is a symbol of the city and a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, built between 10th and 11th century. The opulently furnished private quarters and staterooms, the prisons, where once the legendary Casanova was held and escaped from, the gold central staircase and the lavish paintings are all a must-see.
In front of those two buildings is St Mark’s Campanile – the all-brick bell tower of the Basilica. Built originally in the 12th century as a lighthouse, the 99 metres high tower offers lovely panoramic views of the city. A couple of interesting facts about the tower – this is where the traditional “flight of the Angel” took place in the past, a balancing act in which an acrobat descended a tightrope from the belfry to a boat in the Basin, while the Doges and their guests observed the performance. It is also known that Galileo used the campanile as an observatory to study the skies and in 1609 he demonstrated here his telescope to the Lords of Venice.
Another landmark on Piazza San Marco is the St Mark’sclock tower (Torre dell’Orologio). The clock was commissioned by Doge Agostino Barbarigo 1493 and built by Maurizio Codussi by 1499. The clock displays the time, the phases of the moon and the signs of the Zodiac. On top of the tower sit two bronze statues, who strike the bell every hour. The bell is still the original one, cast at the Arsenal in 1497. Although the figures were designed as giants, the dark patina has now won them the nickname “Moors”, hence the clocktower is also called “The Moors clocktower”. The clock’s height is carefully measured to let the clock be visible from the sea and to be protected from often occurring floods.
A few minutes walking distance from St Mark’s Square is the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) – the oldest bridge on the Grand Canal of Venice. The bridge was built to replace the original structure of 1181. Several other bridges were built and collapsed before the current one was constructed in 1591. The stone composition has 7.5 metres (24-foot) arch to allow galleys to pass underneath and sits on 12000 wooden pilings that still support it some 400 years later. It was designed by architect Antonio da Ponte, who competed for this project with such famous names as Michelangelo, Palladio and Sansovino. Walking through the bridge requires climbing lots of steps, so it’s unsuitable for mobility challenged people.
In a city that has hardly changed in the last 500 years, there is so much history and art to be seen, that you can merely scratch the surface in a single day. Do your research and choose carefully what you would like to see, having in mind that many people may have the same idea as you and take under consideration the queuing time for all major landmarks.
There is a fabulous collection of museums and art galleries in Venice. See the Accademia Galleries (the Gallerie dell’Accademia) for the finest collection of Venetian art. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is the place for modern art, housed in a 18th century palace. The Museo Civico Correr (the Correr Museum), adjacent to the Doge’s Palace hosts collections, dedicated to the civic history of Venice. Its most prized possessions are the marble sculptures by Antonio Canova and the paintings and drawings of the cityscape of Venice as it has changed through time. Ca`Rezzonico museum on the Grand Canal is a home to the largest single collection of 18th century art and a former Baroque home-palace of the Rezzonico family, displaying three floors of paintings, sculptures and lavish furnishing. Punta della Dogana Museum hosts one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world from the Francois Pinault Foundation. It occupies a unique triangle building on a piece of land where the Grand Canal meets the Giudecca Canal. Ca`Pesaro gallery is another home of modern art, where you can see valuable paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries in an opulent Baroque palace. The Museum of Fondazione Querini Stampalia is a house-museum, displaying gorgeous frescos, furniture, paintings, sculptures, fabrics and house items. The Palazzo Grassi, Palazzo Grimani, Palazzo Ca`d`Oro, Palazzo Mocenigo, Scuola Grande di San Rocco and Fondazione Vedova’s project are also worth seeing for some fascinating art. Visit also the less cultural, but equally fascinating Venice Lace Museum and the Naval Museum.
Venice is also home to a few old and beautiful churches, masterpieces of art themselves as well. The oldest one is the Torchelo Cathedral – built in 639, it’s an example of Venetian-Byzantine architecture and is decorated by the earliest mosaics in the Veneto area. The Church of San Martino, the Basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo, the Church of Madonna dell`Orto, the Santa Maria dei Miracolichurch and the Gothic Church are also not to be missed.
If you have more time in this timeless city, don’t hesitate to venture out of Venice and visit the islands of Murano – for prime examples of the famous glass jewellery and interior items, Burano – for its beautiful traditional lace and houses, painted in bright colours and Lido of Venice – if you happen to be there in summer and would like to spend some time on the beach.
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