Traveller Justine Shapiro explores what is arguably the world’s most stunning city, Venice. Situated in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea off mainland Italy, this city built on water is a maze of over 100 tiny islands linked together by a network of bridges.
The way to explore Venice is either by boat or on foot – there are no cars in the city. Justine hops aboard a public waterbus, or vaporetto, that takes her along the Grand Canal to her evening’s accommodation, an elegant palazzo with amazing views over the city. Justine begins her sight-seeing at the epicentre of Venice, St. Mark’s Square. Napoleon described it as the ‘the finest drawing room in Europe’ but Justine finds it full of tourists and pigeons today. She marvels at the basilica, and its ornate mosaics that tell of how daring Venetians stole St. Mark’s body from the Orient and brought it to the city for prestige and honour. As Justine leaves the main sights behind and explores Venice’s backstreets she finds that it’s all too easy to become lost in the labyrinthine alleyways, although she also discovers this is a perfect way to stumble upon hidden treasures.
No visit to Venice would be complete without a ride in a gondola; Justine gets a romantic ride and a cheeky insider’s view on the city from pin-up gondolier Gianbattista. Justine takes a ten-minute boat ride from Venice across the lagoon to the island of The Lido for some glamour. It is the setting for the annual Venice Film Festival and she lines up with other tourists along the red carpet hoping for a glimpse and a chat with some of Hollywood’s hottest stars. Next stop is Burano, a complete contrast to The Lido. This sleepy fishing village is famous for its brightly coloured houses and lace-making. Justine tries her hand at the intricate needlework with the help of an octogenarian islander.
Back in Venice, Justine mingles with young Venetians at a popular bar and tries the local seafood tapas before taking an unusual night tour with the romantic city’s most infamous loverand libertine, Casanova. The following day, Justine heads to Doge’s Palace. This palace, resplendent in gold and sumptuous oil paintings, was the political heart of the Republic of Venice. It was home to the city’s elected leader, the Doge, and its Bridge of Sighs leads to the city’s incarcerated.
Venice’s unique status of being built on water also means that it faces a precarious future, as the city is regularly prone to flooding. Justine takes a boat ride with a local scientist who explains how heavy water traffic and industry are threatening the equilibrium of the lagoon, and what counter-steps are being taken. Back on a boat on the Grand Canal, Justine completes her Venetian adventure – by taking part in one of the city’s most colourful and joyful festivals – the annual Rowing Regatta. A flotilla of historic boats is followed by fast and furious racing to determine the city’s speediest gondoliers.
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