The wonders of Venice: 3 classic destinations you won’t want to miss*

We know all about the canals of Venice, and what a unique city they make it. Let’s face it, if you’re going there for a holiday, you’re going to know all about those before you even book. But are we guilty of reducing a spectacular city to a tourist cliche? While we all know about the fine art in Milan and the historical magnificence of Rome, should Venice be reduced to balconies and boats?

It’s pretty unfair, when you think about it. Italy is full of wonderful historical cities. Pages and pages are lavished on the Spanish Steps in Rome, La Scala in Milan and Florence’s famous Uffizi Gallery. Is it OK that so many people think of Venice and don’t think of much beyond the occasional singing gondolier?

Not when the city has so much else to offer. And this isn’t one of those travel articles that tries desperately to convince itself that “there’s more to [insert city here] than this”. There really is a lot more.

Doge’s Palace

Doge Palace

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No, not that kind of doge.

Between the 7th and 18th Centuries, the highest office held in Venice was that of Doge – a kind of duke, although not in the sense we understand by that term. Where modern dukes have their titles bestowed or inherit them, in Venice they were elected. The term for what we know as a Duke was “Duce”. Although that’s a term with its own problems in modern Italy.

The residence of the Venetian Doge was an ornate Gothic palace on the avenue now known as San Marco. It is easily accessible by Venice water taxi, and more than worth the visit. Tours of the prison are, surprisingly, a particular highlight.

St Mark’s Basilica

St Marks

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Or, to translate it, Basilica San Marco.

As you may have noticed, the name San Marco keeps popping up – this is because St Mark is the patron saint of Venice. The author of one of the four main gospels, his name is found far and wide around the city. This cathedral is one of the finest to be found anywhere in the world, and can reasonably be called iconic.

It’s impressive enough from the outside, but when you step into the building you will be taken aback by the richness of the look. Rich in more than one sense, as the interior is painted in gold and dotted with mosaics. As part of your trip, a visit to the on-site museum comes highly recommended.

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

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While it is possible to talk of Venice without mentioning the canals (much), it would make it all but impossible to talk about one of the great sights. The Rialto Bridge, a covered crossing which traverses the Grand Canal, was built in the 1600s. It has been preserved in much the same form, but with the addition of shops and restaurants has become an unmissable tourist destination.

You may need to fight your way through crowds of tourists to get to it, but it’s worth any elbowing you have to do. Once on the bridge, the view you get over the Grand Canal is unparalleled anywhere in the city.

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