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Venice - Out and About

Venice is situated in the Veneta Lagoon, on an archipelago of 120 islands, separated by 160 canals,which in their turn are spanned by 400 bridges. The city, connected to the mainland by both a rail and road bridge, is divided into six districts (sestieri): San Marco,Dorsoduro, Cannaregio, Castello, Santa Croce and San Polo.

These zones are divided up by a dense network of canals (rii) and an intricate system of narrow and windy streets (Calli and Salizade) which open out onto the canals and campielli (small Venetian squares). The historic centre borders the Grand Canal, which is crossed by the Academy bridge, the Ponte di Rialto and the Ponte degli Scalzi. The centre is split into two unequal parts with a thorough fare which starts at the railway station and leads to Piazza San Marco. San Marco is the central most district and that which best represents the public life of Venice. Here the visitor finds the famous and busy square, site of San Marco Basilica with its magnificent bell-tower and the splendid Palazzo Ducale (Duke's Palace). The area is surrounded by the major points of interest and tourist sights of the city, together with prestigious historic cafés (Caffè Florian, Caffè Quadri), open-air orchestras and the elegant shops located under the Procurate arches.Beautiful buildings flank the south curve of the Grande Canal and indicate the district's limits, these include: Palazzo Mocenigo, Palazzo Grassi, Palazzo Barbaro, Palazzo Fasan, Palazzo Giustinian and Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo.

Dorsoduro is the district for those interested in art. This area comprises the zone around the Academy The Peggy Guggenheim Collection and various churches that house many paintings and sculptures. These churches include San Sebastiano decorated by Veronese, the Carmine Grande Scuola and the Jesuit Church, decorated by Tiepolo. The Santa Maria della Salute Church with its Tiziano altar-piece and a magnificent work by Tintoretto, is a Venetian Baroque architectural work of art.

Each November during the Festa della Salute ( Health Festival) worshippers arrive here having crossed a pontoon bridge, decorated for the occasion, which crosses the Gran Canal. Lively Campo Santa Margherita, the art of the western zone of Dorsoduro, is characterised by its cafés, market stores and the constant coming and going of its residents. Along the foundation of the Zattere, which look out over the Giudecca Canal, it is possible to find one of Venice's liveliest zone, a place to lunch or pass the time in one of the many open-air cafés. The area has old warehouses, such as the old salt deposit, today the site of sailing clubs and artists studios. The best route is that which leads around the Jesuit church and to the landing stations of the steam-boats which run to Giudecca.

Cannaregio, the northern most district of Venice, occupies a large arch from the XXth Century railway station in the west to one of the oldest Venetian district in the east. The gangways in the north look out over the islands in the lagoon while the district is bordered by a large curve of the Gran Canal. It is a tranquil and uncontaminated zone, divided in wide canals, spanned by bridges with antique hostels and bars, surprisingly lacking in tourists. One of the prettiest and remote district is located in the north, around Campo dei Mori, near the beautiful Gothic church of Madonna dell'Orto. The church was the parish church of Tintoretto and houses some of his paintings.

Cannaregio is also the site of the early Renaissance Santa Maria dei MIracoli Church. The building in multicoloured marble is an architectural wonder. The oldest ghetto in the world is situated next to the Cannaregio Canal. It is here that the Jews were forced to live in the XVIth Century. This historic area is one of the most fascinating in the district. Around the shabby houses without either church or palace, it is possible to find, a few kosher shops, a bakery, a jewish library and two sinagogues.

The Castello district is little visited by tourists and stands in an area between the north part of the lagoon and the Riva degli Schiavoni. Visit the arsenal where the large war-ships of the Venetian fleet were constructed. Walk along the gang-planks and boarding stations of the Riva degli Schiavoni, bustling with souvenir stalls, restaurants and cafes. This route leads to the Public Garden and has always been the most important promenade in Venice. Today it is a crowded crossroads of steam-ships and island cruisers.

Beyond the market stores, the district is calm and characterised by narrow alley ways, elegant buildings and beautiful churches including the large Gothic Santi Giovanni e Paolo Church and the Pietà Church, whose choir master was Vivaldi and where every Tuesday and Thursday it is possible to admire both the music of Vivaldi and the Tiepolo frescoes. The area is also the site of the Hotel Danieli, the most famous hotel in Venice, with its Venetian -Gothic façade which looks out over the Bacino of San Marco. Santa Croce is the district which begins outside the train station and is formed by a tangle of alley-ways and small squares. San Paolo is a large open space and the preferred playing field for the Venetian children, surrounded by lively market stalls selling fruit and fish. The main points of interest in this area are the Frari church, the San Rocco School and the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) lined by shops which connect the district to the Grand Canal. Venice is relatively small and the majority of the city is easily reached on foot. Using a street guide makes it impossible to get lost in the maze of streets.

All the buildings are numbered, based upon the district to which they belong and not to the street. Each house is indicated initially with the name of the district followed by the number. There is a wide choice for those who wish to take a boat trip. tickets are available from all the boat stops and in some bars, shops, and tobacconists who show the ACTV sign. The steamboats run the entire length of the Grand Canal, with departures every 10-20 minutes. Line N° 1 is the slowest and runs along the Grand Canal to the Lido. Line 12 goes to Murano, Burano, and Torcello. Line 14 which departs from the Paglia Bridge, arrrives at the Lido and Punta Sabbioni, from here it is possible to catch the number 12 which continues on to Burano and Torcello.Line 13 leaves from the dock at Fondamenta Nuove and travels to Vignole and Sant'Erasmo. N° 10 and 20 motorboats leave from the San Zaccaria quay to San Servolo and San Lazzaro degli Armeni. It is possible to catch a ferry boat to arrive on the Pallestrina Island. The ferry departs from the medieval borough of Malamoccou. The hydrofoils are the fastest means of transport and can be caught at 16 different points around the city, including the airport, station, Piazzale Roma, San Marco and the Lido. A gondola can hold up to 5 people, however it is advisable to agree the price beforehand.

Venice - Not to be missed

The Academy in Campo Carita in the Dorsoduro district, houses the finest collection of over 500 years of art from the Venetian school, including Medieval Byzantine to renaissance, from Baroque to Rococò.

The paintings are displayed in chronological order with the exception of the last hall, which houses Renaissance works. The first 11 halls house Byzantine art, international Gothic, early and late Renaissance with masterpieces by Bellini, Mantegna , Giorgione and Veronese.This section is followed by Baroque paintings, on a landscape theme with works by Tiepolo and Longhi. Finally in the Sala dell'Albergo, there's the 14th century room with the ' Maria al Tempio' by Tiziano. The Guggenheim Collection is housed in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal. This museum of contemporary art contains 200 paintings and sculptures, some of which are placed around the garden ( Giacometti, Brancusi, Marini) All the major artistic movements from the 20th century are represented, in particular the surrealist movement ( Bacon, Braque, Magritte and Modrian ).

Venice - Walks and tours

A wider view of Venice can be had by taking one of the many boat trips to the islands or around the lagoon. There are a total of 40 islands sprinkled throughout the lagoon, including naturally the famous Murano Island, the obvious choice for anyone wishing to purchase a Venetian glass object. The island's main sights include the Architectural jewel the Fondamenta Giustinian, the Giustiniani Palace, site of the Glass Museum and the Santa Maria and Donato Basilica. The island of Burano is noted for its traditional activities of fishing and pizza production. The island is very picturesque with its brilliantly coloured houses. The roads lead from the quay to Baldassarre Galluppi, the heart of the town, where it is possible to eat the freshest fish in open-air restaurants.

A visit to Torcello, permits the visitor to see the ancient monuments during the Santa Maria Assunta Byzantine Cathedral, the Santa Fosca church and the Estuary Museum.

Venice - The traveller's notebook

Currency : Euro

Electric supply: 220 Volts, a two or three pin plug is used

Climate : The humidity in summer is oppressive and the low temperatures in Winter are biting. The two best season to visit are spring and autumn. The wettest months are March and November. During December and February, there is the increased risk of high tides.

Opening hours : . Shops are open from 9am to 2pm and from 4pm to 8pm, except Saturday and Sunday afternoon and the week period around the 15th of August. Banks are open from Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 1.20 pm and from 2:45pm to 3:45 pm. The post office and other offices are open Monday to Friday from 8.30 to 1:20pm. Restaurants are open from 12:30 to 3.30pm and from 8pm to midnight.

Telephones : the code for Venice is 041

Venice - A pocket guide

Shopping lovers should take a stroll along the elegant portico in Piazza San Marco, or visit Calle dei Fabbri, Calle Vallaresso and the streets to the north of Campo Santo Stefano. Art galleries, antique and craft shops and low priced goods, can be found in Venice's side streets.

Good quality shops offering low priced goods, can be found beyond the Gran Canal in those streets to the south west of Rialto towards Campo San Polo, and along the Strada Nova in Cannaregio. In these zones there are in particular first rate food shops and shops selling leather goods.

Venice has a strong tradition of handicrafts in glass of masks and paper. The best glass products can be bought on Murano island. Certain shops including Ca' Meccano, in Dorsoduro, allow the visitor to do the mask production which can be of a fantasy or comedy of art theme.

Legatoria Piazzese or the Vallese- Ebru laboratory in San Marco are ideal for paper purchases. Venice is the site of numerous artistic exhibition, including the bi-annually Art Exhibition in the month of June, the Film Festival at the end of August and the Campiello literary prize in October.

The Carnival takes place in February and lasts for ten days. The Ascension Festival is held the second Monday in May and includes the Vogalonga, e 30 km. rowing race. The ancient marine republic Palio is held between May and June. The festival of the Redeemer with its banquets and its mid-night fireworks display to thank the Redeemer who saved the city from the plague in 1576, is held in the month of July. The Opera season is held in a pavilion on one of the islands in the lagoon during winter. The most frequently visited rooms in the pavilion, where it is possible to listen to classical music, are La Scuola Grande di San Rocco, the Frari, the Pietà, the Cà Regonico and the Ducale Palace courtyard.

There are two casinos in the city. The Municipal Casino in Palazzo Vendramin in Cannaregio and the Casino Palace in the Lido on the Marconi Promenade. The summer night life is concentrated around the Lido. Information about Venice can be obtained from the tourist office in Piazza San Marco and at the Santa Lucia main railway station. The quarterly Venice Pocket is rich in useful information. The monthly Leo gives detailed information about city life.

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