Guide to Veneto and Venice
A journey through art and culture in a land of mountains, sea and hills
A landscape full of art and culture, infused with the scent of the ocean and the clear, pure air of the mountains – this is Veneto. A magnificent mosaic, made up of a sheer unbelievable diversity of natural landscapes and a huge cultural legacy.
Veneto draws some 60 million visitors every year, making it one of Italy’s most popular destinations. It offers every imaginable option for a tailor-made holiday: from the broad golden sandy beaches of the Adria between Lignano and Jesolo to the untouched mountain panoramas of the Dolomites with their highest peaks Marmolada, Tofane and Civetta, a paradise for mountain hikers and skiers. Not to forget the refreshing banks of Lake Garda, lined with charming villages such as Torri del Benaco and Malcesine. Veneto also includes the traditional wine-growing regions with their rolling hills dotted with vineyards – among them well known wine regions such as Colli Euganei, Valpolicella, Soave and Valdobbiadene, home to the famous Italian “bollicine” sparkling wines. These areas in particular are perfect for experiencing a hidden side to Veneto, so far untouched by mass tourism for the most part.
These places are little cultural gems, alongside the large, world famous jewels of the region: Venice, the indescribably beautiful city, as well as the other charming islands in the lagoon – such as Murano, renowned for its glass art, or the island of Burano with its famous lace. Treviso, with its pretty houses on meadow-lined canals. Verona, the romantic town of Romeo and Juliet. Padua, housing such unique cultural treasures as the Giotto (1267-1337) frescoes in the Cappella degli Scrovegni. Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) too was born here, Veneto’s most famous architect. His style, based on ancient Greek architecture, encounters us in the wonderful buildings of the Villas Emo, Barbaro, Foscari and the Rotonda, almost all in the direct vicinity of Vicenza – known as the “city of Palladio”.
It is almost impossible to escape the charms of this city – Venice is a uniquely beautiful place. With its mixture of aged pomp and elegance, above which floats a painful air of decadence and decay, Venice deeply touches every soul. The city at the centre of the lagoon is one of the main destinations for tourists interested in art and culture from all over the world, with no less than 18 million visitors every year. Venice is very special in many ways: unlike in the rest of Italy, the roads are called ”calli”, the squares are called ”campi” and the city’s quarters are the ”sestieri”. Everyday life takes place on the water; there is a constant hustle and bustle in the tangle of canals, to and from of boats of all kinds – barges, water taxis, the ”vaporetti” water buses and of course the traditional gondolas. If the canals are the liquid frame around the world-famous painting known as Venice, then the elegant palaces, the medieval churches and quarters are the canvas. Together they form a work of art that testifies to a long and eventful history. The San Marco quarter stands for the Venetian republic La Serenissima, led by the doges, with Saint Mark’s Square and its famous basilica, the high campanile, the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, crossed for the last time by those unlucky souls sentenced to death. Venice’s most magnificent waterway is the Canale Grande, lined by an over-dimensional backdrop of richly ornamented, pillared palaces from all epochs. Like no other, this very scenery – popularised by Canaletto’s paintings – has influenced the collective image of Venice around the world. Further away from the Canale Grande, however, there are still more genuine parts of the city to be discovered that are less overrun with tourists, such as the south-eastern sestiere of Castello. In its narrow alleys, corners and squares with the city’s typical bleached facades, washing lines are still hung from house to house in the old-fashioned way. But there are also unexpected historical sights to be found here beyond the next bend in the road: on the island of San Pietro with its basilica of the same name, for example, the seat of the Bishop of Venice up to 1807. Or the wide territory of the Arsenale, the Cannaregio district dominated by broad, straight canals with spacious roads alongside them. This sestiere, where the first Jewish ghetto was built in 1516, also features two Gothic jewels: the Palazzo Ca’ d’Oro with its delicate white marble façade and the church of Madonna dell’Orto, where several paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto can be viewed. For a quick snack or an evening aperitivo, head to a ”bàcaro”, a typical osteria for this part of Venice, and order ”cicchetti”, delicious little sausage and fish dishes; and of course a good glass of wine. This is an essential and delightful ritual that should be part of every stay in Venice.