Stepping out of Santa Lucia Venezia railway station, I was greeted by clear blue skies and the sparkling Grand Canal. As a first stop, I visited the closest gelateria. Why? Because it’s a firm belief of mine that gelato in Italy must be consumed at least once every day. It’s happy deliciousness, inexpensive, and it allows one to engage with the locals and learn more of the language! And to prove that I’m not just paying lip service, I licked my way through twelve scoops in three days.

My choice of flavours during my stay in Venice included gianduia (chocolate-hazelnut; a precursor to Nutella) and amarena (sour cherry).© Nisha Maria DSouza
I once noticed a diver in a canal, inspecting a building with a set of unidentifiable tools. It had all the makings of The Italian Job, so I stared at him till he boarded his boat and took off with my fledgling dreams of joining a renowned gang of thieves. © Nisha Maria DSouza
Quaint and narrow walkways line the canals, bright with colour. © Nisha Maria DSouza

Built on an ancient swampy lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, the floating city is best experienced by water. Whether your choice of vessel is a gondola, water taxi or vaporetti (public water buses or ferries), a trip down the serpentine Grand Canal is a must. History unfurls itself along its banks with magnificent fifth century palaces, elegantly dressed churches, stylish statues and a sixth century pescheria (fish market) filled with colours, smells and Venetian housewives!

A view of the grand canal, with vaporetti and water taxis plying by, from the Ca’d’Oro Palace.© Nisha Maria DSouza
Beautifully designed buildings (like these in the San Geremia area), many of them previously palaces and now museums, line the Grand Canal. © Nisha Maria  DSouza 
Sleeping gondolas against the backdrop of the San Giorgio Maggiorie church in the background © Nisha Maria DSouza
A gondola traffic jam. © Nisha Maria DSouza

Another way to absorb the essence of Venice is on foot and preferably without a map. There is no tiring of the labyrinth of narrow alleyways and tiny canals that Venice is so well known for. Every corner is picture perfect, every little bridge looks like it’s been lifted from a fairy tale, and solemn church bells frequently toll throughout the city. Venice is built across 118 islands, separated by 150 canals, connected by 450 bridges, and sprinkled with charming campos (little city squares, called piazzas elsewhere in Italy) for the weary adventurer to rest in. The whimsical and sombre alike are attracted to Venice, also referred to the city of love, making it the perfect setting to people-watch.

Venetian buildings are supported on oak and pine piles, enough to frustrate an entire ecology movement. Driven deep into the intensely water-logged soil, the lack of oxygen prevents their decay.  © Nisha Maria DSouza
The Venetian Botanical Gardens from the water. © Nisha Maria DSouza
The side canals quieten down at dusk as tourist flock to see the sunset from Piazza San Marco © Nisha Maria DSouza
Restaurants and trattorias (Italian-style eating establishments) come alive at night. © Nisha Maria DSouza

One of the first places on any must-do list is the grandiose Piazza San Marco, that echoes a history spanning centuries.

The Basilica San Marco, also known as the Chiesa d’Oro (Church of Gold), is one of the world’s best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. © Nisha Maria DSouza
Large opulent mosaics and panels recounting the Old and New Testaments, decorate its exterior. © Nisha Maria DSouza
A little bit of night magic at Piazza San Marco. In the early mornings it transforms into a battle ground for pigeons. © Nisha Maria DSouza
The Campanile di San Marco (bell tower of St. Marks) stands directly opposite the Basilica, at 98.6 meters tall. The Campanile unexpectedly collapsed in 1912, killing only the caretakers unfortunate cat. It was rebuilt to 95 ft and is said to offer a fantastic view of the Venetian rooftops and canals. The Biblioteca Marciana, beside it, is a library built in the Renaissance style and named after the Patron Saint of Venice, St. Mark. © Nisha Maria DSouza
Adjoining the Basilica, close to the water’s edge, is the Palazzo Ducale, a masterpiece of the Venetian Gothic style. Although famous as the residence of the Doge’s family, it also served as the offices for administration of justice, till the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. © Nisha Maria DSouza 
A serene and peaceful Venice at sunrise – No street vendors, no tourists, no sound – only the occasional splashing of oars in a canal © Nisha Maria DSouza
As the tale goes, prisoners walking across the Bridge of Sighs, connecting the Palazzo Ducale with the prison, would sigh as they glimpsed the lagoon for the last time © Nisha Maria DSouza
In the commercial heart of the city, the iconic Rialto Bridge affords a beautiful view of the Grand Canal. Unfortunately, it is also insanely crowded and you may have to bring your knees and elbows to the game. © Nisha Maria DSouza

It’s worth crossing the Ponte de l’Accademia to the Galleria de l’Accademia, where Napoleon amassed the richest collection of Venetian paintings – Bellini, Canaletto, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Guardi, Longhi, Tintoretto and Titian! My appreciation of art is only slightly worse than my grasp of physics so I opted to explore the surrounding area and consume a bellini and carpaccio (fresh slices of beef and salmon set on the plate with lemon, olive oil and truffle mushrooms or Parmesan cheese) instead.

View from the top of the Ponte de l’Accademia bridge © Nisha Maria DSouza
Santa Maria della Salute is a minor basilica in the Dorsoduro part of Venice. The church, built in the Baroque style, was dedicated to Our Lady of Health in 1630 when Venice experienced a devastating outbreak of the plague (Black Death) © Nisha Maria DSouza
The charming and relatively quieter Campo Santa Stefano is filled with artists, musicians and restaurants with traditional Venetian foods like Risotto al nero di seppia (squid-ink risotto), Fegato alla veneziana (Venetian liver and onions) and Risi e bisi (rice and peas). © Nisha Maria DSouza

Murano & Burano

I opted for a day trip to the twin towns of Murano, known for its traditionally-made and unique glass-masterpieces, and Burano, famous for its refined embroidered and lace work. 

Murano is beautiful in its peacefulness and not awash with tourists © Nisha Maria DSouza
Formerly dependent on fishing, Burano’s bright and colourful houses attract thousands of tourists yearly © Nisha Maria DSouza
Is it possible that Oompa loompas hail from Burano? © Nisha Maria DSouza

Returning to Venice, I wished I could spend a little longer exploring her streets. This is one city I will definitely revisit. 

Sunset with an aperol spritz and gelato © Nisha Maria DSouza

 

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