As you can see on the map of Venice, it is the most beautiful city in the world and it rarely disappoints. Even if you visit it in the middle of winter when a frozen drizzle covers the whole lagoon, or on the bright, hot, and stifling summer days, when the canals, the old churches, and the countless palaces are bathed by the sun’s rays. Although threatened on several fronts, pollution and depopulation are real problems, the city remains as close to the real world as a fairy tale can be.
General Information about Venice
If you take a look at the map of Venice, you can see it is a relatively new city compared to Rome, London, or Paris. However, few remained untouched by the passage of time. The lagoon on the Adriatic coast has probably been inhabited since Christ’s time, although very little, and some groups of refugees may have settled on the islands after the barbarian raids of the 5th century AD.
The first doge (leader) was elected in 726, but he led a confederation of free settlements rather than a single city. Later, the invasion of the Franks in the 8th century forced some of the inhabitants of the lagoon to go to Rivus Altus, or the high banks, a group of special islands, which in time would become the Rialto, the cornerstone of Venice. today.
By the tenth century, the nascent city had established trade links with the east and other territories. Prosperity increased during the Crusades and as the city’s maritime debacle increased. On land, the city defeated its main maritime rivals, Genoa being the most important, and expanded far to northeastern Italy, becoming an empire that remained intact until the arrival of Napoleon. Its decline was mainly due to the Turks, who, starting in the fourteenth century, gradually absorbed the maritime empire of Venice, and due to long-standing enmity with other Italian and European powers. The end of the independent city came in 1797, by Napoleon’s goodwill, then came under Austrian control before joining united Italy in 1866.
Map of Venice: Things to see in Venice
If you take a look at the map of Venice, you will notice that it is divided into six “sestieri”, or neighborhoods, three on each side of the Grand Canal, the largest main maritime artery.
Instead of establishing a base for various objectives around these neighborhoods, it is better to focus on small groups of tourist objectives that are next to each other. Before getting dressed for the Venice show, take a walk on the Grand Canal, by far the best introduction to the city.
The map of Venice is filled with tourist attractions. First of all, don’t throw yourself straight into San Marco, where, with so much congestion, you could be haunted by the city before starting your journey. Instead, start with one of the small pieces – Campo Santo Stefano and Campo Santa Margherita are the most suitable because they are not completely invaded by tourists. Only after you get acquainted with the more intimate areas of Venice, you will be able to capitulate to the views that need to be admired.
As you can see on the map of Venice, the most important churches in the city are Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and Santi Giovanni e Paolo (known as San Zanipolo) and the main art galleries are the Peggy Guggenheim Academy and Collezione. The main “scuole”, old buildings full of art objects, are the Scuola Grande di San Rocco and the smaller Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni.
The galleries in the second echelon include the Museo Civico Correr, Ca ‘d’Oro, and Ca’ Rezzonico, while among the lesser churches – a relative term in Venice, where even the smallest church has incomparable charm and treasure – are Santa Maria Della Salute and San Zaccaria. At the end, get ready for the “big two” – the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica.
The biggest attraction of Venice is Venice itself, and you have to give yourself enough time to wander through its magical labyrinths. Especially night explorations, when the streets are almost deserted, are worth doing (and you’re safe). Don’t forget the marginal areas, especially the quiet western area, around San Nicolo dei Mendicoli, and the eastern residential district, around the Biennale Gardens. Also try to see Giudecca, an island not very visited in the south of the city, but do not waste time with other distant objectives, such as the famous but disappointing Lido.
There are many islands on the map of Venice, but don’t rush to the most famous ones. Instead, go to the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore – the view you have of Venice from the church is a memorable one – and by no means miss the Torcello Island, one of the most enchanting places in Venice.
A thing not shown by the map of Venice is the problems. If Torcello shows you what is the most beautiful city, it is worth remembering that Venice is a city with many problems. It may not sink, but its position still makes it a permanent victim of floods, while the combination of sea, saltwater, and the corrosive effect of air pollution produced by factories on the continent severely affect the city’s buildings.
Depopulation is also a problem, in the sense that the number of visitors is higher than the city can support. Maybe Venice is a fairy tale, but it can be one with an unhappy ending.
Map of Venice: Canal Grande
The most visible element on the map of Venice is Canal Grande or the Grand Canal. There is no better journey than the one on the Grand Canal, the main waterway, meandering in curls and charming serpentines through the center of ancient Venice. Wherever and however you get to the city, your first thought should be to board one of the “vaporetti“, a kind of bus that runs on the route bordered by palaces. An unforgettable odyssey of images and sounds, and an opportunity to glimpse the eccentricities of everyday Venetian life.
Board Piazzale Roma or in front of the train station and head to San Marco. The first church you see on the left, after the bridge, is Scalzi, designed in 1656 by Baldassare Longhena (1604-1682), the architect of Santa Maria della Salute and some of the most prestigious palaces along the canal. Further on, on the left, is San Geremia, the home of the precious relics of St. Lucy, a martyr from the 4th century.
The map of Venice shows us Fondaco dei Turchi on the southern shore, full of arcades, now the natural history museum of Venice. It was once the headquarters of Turkish merchants between 1621 and 1838, and Deposito del Megio, on its left, served in the 15th century as a grain depot for emergencies, such as siege or famine.
Mauro Coducci’s Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi, one of the most beautiful palaces on the Canal, is now a casino. One of his apartments was occupied by Richard Wagner between 1882 and 1883, in the last month of the composer’s life. Two other famous palaces are a little further on, Ca ‘Pesaro and the splendid Ca’ d’Oro, now museums of modern and medieval art, respectively. Near Ca ‘d’Oro is the Pescheria, or fish market, announcing the proximity of the Rialto, the old town, and another must-see, the 16th-century bridge, Ponte di Rialto.
Beyond the Rialto, the 13th-century Palazzo Loredan and the Palazzo Farsetti on the left now form the town hall. It was once the home of the neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova. Among the former occupants of Palazzo Benzon, a few palaces below, on the same side, was Countess Benzon, an important person of nineteenth-century society, among whose guests were enlightened girls such as George Byron.
The poet lived nearby, in one of the four palaces owned by the Mocenigo family, on the Volta del Canal, the most important bend of the Canal. Byron lived for two years in the haunted Palazzo Mocenigo, located on the other side of the San Toma landing point.
Among the guests who did not stop for a long time is Margherita Cogni, one of Byron’s many mistresses, who, when she was abandoned, attacked the poet with a knife, then threw herself into the Canal. On the other bank, right at the right bend of the canal, is Ca’Rezzonico, now home to a 16th-century Venetian museum.
As you can see on the map of Venice, on the left, after the Ponte dell’Academia, the last of the canal’s three bridges, is the 15th-century Palazzo Barbaro, bought in 1885 by the Curtis family, a Boston dynasty whose guests included Claude Monet. , John Singer Sargent, Cole Porter, and Henry James. The modern, eye-catching mosaics in the palace are totally different from Palazzo Barbarigo, now owned by a glass company. A little further down, on the same side, stands the truncated Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, where the Peggy Guggenheim collection is housed. Immediately after him, Palazzo Dario, one of the most enchanting palaces on the Canal, bends dangerously, but also one of the least desirable (for a long time the Venetians thought it cursed).
Two palaces below, Palazzo Salviati, with a mosaic on the facade, is owned, like Barbarigo, by a glass company. Right after Santa Maria del Giglio, the stairs lead to Palazzo Pisani-Gritti, the most important hotel in Venice, almost eclipsed by the Church of Santa Maria della Salute. After this you can see the Doge’s Palace and Piazza San Marco.
Ca ‘d’Oro, or the house of gold, takes its name from gold and other precious materials that once covered the magnificent facade. Started in its current form in 1420, the palace endured the succession of many careless owners and a crude restoration before being left to the state and opened to the public in 1927. After long renovations, the facade returned to its original splendor, and the interior now houses the Galleria Franchetti, a remarkable potpourri of medieval painting and sculpture.
It can be noticed on the map of Venice, that the gallery is not large, it has only two floors, each with several small rooms and a large “portego” (the area that shares most of the Venetian palaces, its purpose being to help the circulation of cool air during the summer). The works of art are not in large numbers either, although they are quite refined. For example, on the first floor is Mantegna’s masterpiece “St. Sebastian” (1506). As a saint invoked in prayers against diseases, Sebastian was a popular painting subject in Venice’s hard hit by the plague. He also used Mantegna in the gloomy conception of the painting, exemplified in the symbolic blinking candle and in the Latin inscription: “Only divinity is eternal, the rest is only smoke.”
Other notable works include: “Bust of a Young Couple”, from the 15th century, by Tullio Lombardo, six bronze bas-reliefs by Andrea Briscio, from the 15th century, paintings by Carpaccio, Giovanni Bellini and Antonio Vivarini and works of art by Florentine craftsmen such as Luca Signorelli and Antonio da Firenze.
A staircase bearing the glorious passage of time leads to the second floor and a room full of Flemish tapestries, in their time a much more useful thing than paintings. Hidden among the exhibits, you will find a “Venus” by Titian and portraits by Tintoretto and Van Dyck, artistic preludes to the few faded frescoes near the portico, executed by Pordenone, Titian, and Gorgrione. A bitter memory of the works lost by Venice over the centuries (the decorated facade of Ca ‘d’Oro) is the damaged paintings that have been moved, for safety, from churches and other buildings in the city.
Venice enjoyed many colorful periods, but few were as striking as the decadent years of the mad eighteenth century, a time when, according to a popular saying, “Venetians do not taste pleasures, but swallow them altogether.” Ca ‘Rezzonico, or Museo del Setecento Veneziano, is a museum dedicated to that period, the exhibits, and sumptuous interior reflecting the artistic and social tastes of the city in the years, often frivolous, of its decline.
Ca ‘Rezzonico was started in 1676 by Baldassare Longhena (1598-1682), the most famous Baroque architect of the time, and finished, after many interruptions, a hundred years later. In the long list of owners was Pen Browning, the son of the English poet Robert Browning, who bought the palace with the help of his rich American wife.
Although not visible on the map of Venice, the first thing that catches your eye, on a tour of the palace, is the magnificent ballroom, whose splendor is spoiled only by the famous but coarse furniture of Andrea Brustolon (1662-1732), who handcuffed wooden slaves, creating a discouraging image. Immediately after the ballroom comes the Salla dell’Alegoria Nuziale, with the ceiling decorated with frescoes by Giambatistta Tiepolo (1696-1770) and three rooms adorned with pastel portraits by Rosalba Carriera. You will admire the Flemish tapestries and beautiful lacquered furniture.
Part of the second floor houses an art gallery, where you will find works by Canaletto, vignettes of Venetian high society by Francesco Guardi, and fascinating snapshots of Venetian daily life taken by Pietro Longhi.
But the pride of the palace is the satirical fresco painted by Giandomenico Tiepolo (1793-1797) from the last rooms, brought here from the country villa of the artist.
Piazza San Marco
The famous central square of Venice is not only the headquarters of the famous buildings of St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, but also of some historic cafes, the Campanile and the Correr Museum, whose proximity introduces you to the fascinating and long history of Venice.
The most distinctive smaller monuments of the square are the two columns near the shore, brought from the eastern Mediterranean in 1170. One has at its top the lion of St. Mark, and the other, St. Theodore, one of the patron saints of the city, flanked by a creature unknown, the meaning of which is unknown. The area between the columns was once a place of execution, and the Venetians still consider it an unlucky place, unsuitable for walking.
To the west is the Mint of Jacopo Sansovino (1545), the city’s mint until 1870 and one of the few buildings in the city built entirely of stone as a precaution against fire. Next to it is the Sansovinian Library (1588), or the state library, also a work by Sansovino. The entrance is made under the portico from number 13a.
Look up, to the left (north) of the basilica, at the Torre dell’ Orologio, a clock tower built in 1499, whose Latin inscription says, “I only count the happy hours.” The two distinctive bronze figures are known as I Mori, or Maurii, after their dark faces.
Campanile, the tallest building in Venice, at 98.5 m, offers the most enchanting view, but when it was built in 912, it had three completely different purposes: to be the bell tower for the basilica, to be an observation point. for the port below and to serve as a lighthouse for ships. Over the centuries, all sorts of minor changes have been made, none, unfortunately, to the foundation which, for unknown reasons, is barely 20 m deep.
Washed by rain and wind, corroded by saltwater and struck countless times by lightning, the tower deteriorated more and more. When he finally gave up on July 14, 1902, the only question was why he had not collapsed earlier. No one was killed in that disaster. Within hours, the city council promised to rebuild the tower “where it was and how it was” (where it was and how it was). The promise was made ten years later, in 1912, when a new tower, identical, but 600 tons lighter and better supported, was inaugurated by the Feast of St. Mark (April 25), a thousand years ago. at the construction of the first Campanile.
Flanking the square on three sides stands the Procuratie, an arched building that once served as offices for the Procuratie, the highest level of the Venetian administrative bureaucracy. Inside, part of the building houses the Museo Civico Correr (Correr Museum), whose exhibits offer an overview of the long history of Venice. Spread over three floors, the museum has a historical section, a painting gallery, and a more specialized sector dedicated to the unification of Italy. Also here there is a salon with the early masterpieces of the sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822).
The rooms in the first part are arranged by theme, starting with the section dedicated to topography and other views of the city. The following rooms are those for costumes, coins, flags, glassware, weapons, and a collection of tickets, posters, views, and labels related to maritime activity. The favorite area of many visitors is the one intended for shoes and extraordinary “zoccoli”, or platform clogs, once worn by Venetian women. Remarkable paintings in the surprisingly rich painting gallery include Carpaccio’s famous “Women” (1507), also known as “Courtesans” and a “Pieta” (1476) by the Sicilian artist Antonello da Messina.
Basilica di San Marco
One of the most iconic and famous tourist attractions on the map of Venice is Basilica di San Marco. It’s hard to imagine another building in Western Europe more beautiful or more richly decorated, with a longer architectural and artistic heritage than the Basilica di San Marco. A magnificent church, it housed for almost 1000 years the tomb of St. Mark, was also the private chapel of the Doges (leaders of Venice) and spiritual support and fundamental symbol of power, authority, and continuity of the Venetian state – the longest living republic in the world.
San Marco was first a modest chapel inside the Doge’s Palace, first replaced in 832, then again in 978, when riots destroyed the church and mausoleum. In 1063, the Doge Contarini began the fourth construction, demanding that it be “the most beautiful ever seen.” Work on this unparalleled masterpiece culminated in 1094 when the new basilica was consecrated and declared the “official church of the Venetian state.” This is, more or less, the building you see now, although in 1094 it still had to acquire the richness of artistic and architectural ornaments. Work on the mosaic began around 1100, but most of the ornamentation appeared in 1204, many of them shamelessly looted by Venetians in Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.
At first glance, the basilica looks like an intimidating apparition. In reality, at least on the outside, it is relatively open, without complications. There are three facades: start visiting from under the right (south) facade, the one from the water, where you can still see traces of what was once the main entrance to the basilica.
The two independent columns in front, 5th-century Syrian works, are either from Constantinople or from Accra (in present-day Israel), where the Venetians defeated the Genoese in 1256. The smaller column next door, Pietro del Bando, is certainly brought from Accra, once used to proclaim state edicts; (It was also used to expose the heads of executed criminals). Upstairs, on the façade, is a small mosaic of the Madonna, flanked by permanently burning candles, but initially, they were lit only at executions, when the convict would have returned to the Madonna shouting “Hello Queen.”
Others claim that the mosaic was ordered by the authorities to atone for the sin of executing an innocent man or to fulfill a promise of an old sailor lost at sea and saved with the help of the Virgin Mary.
Many of the treasures on the main façade are children, notably the famous bronze horses (the originals are inside) and the vast majority of the mosaics, only one is original: “Moving the body of St. Mark in the Basilica” (1260-1270), above the door on the left end.
This door, of the five, contains bas-reliefs made of tiles made in the fourteenth century, which depict the symbols of the evangelists, as well as an architrave with panels and decorative patterns dating from either the fifth or thirteenth century.
The most remarkable works on the façade are the Romanian-style sculptures (13th century) above the central entrance (third), whose wide range of themes and figures include (on the outer arch) the famous statue of the man who gnaws. nails (the Venetians claim that he is a Greek architect of the eleventh century who gnaws his nails in anger that his work has been criticized).
Images on the northern façade, often ignored, include the Porta Dei Fiori, or Flower Gate, whose arches frame a beautiful scene of the Nativity. Next to it is the tomb of Daniele Manin (1804-1857), the leader of a heroic, but unsuccessful revolt against the Austrians, from the 19th century.
At the center of the first arch is an 8th-century Byzantine bas-relief depicting the 12 Apostles, and between this and the next arch is a strange 10th-century bas-relief depicting Alexander in search. mythical of heaven, in a chariot pulled by two griffins.
The inside is not visible on the map of Venice, but I can assure you that it is as good as its fame. The crowds and services in the basilica prevent you from wandering around as you would like, so you have to decide which of the many treasures you want to see.
It is very difficult to choose from, but in order to see as much as possible and to understand something of the stunning display of mosaics, it is good to buy a special guide from the basilica store.
Try to arrive as early as possible in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid heavy congestion. And remember that the entrance to the basilica is free, but you need special tickets to see its true treasures.
Almost any free piece of the basilica (4000 sqm) is covered with gilded mosaics, such as the great Greek cross of the church, inspired by Byzantine tradition and creating an artistic ambiance. The cross dates from around 1100, but in the last 700 years, additions have been made. Over the centuries, prominent artists of the time, such as Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, contributed to the design of the Basilica.
The mosaics in the dark interior of the basilica describe scenes from the New Testament in detail, while those in the narthex, or vestibule, the first area when you enter the main entrance, describe scenes from the Old Testament.
Loggia dei Cavalli (Horse Lodge)
The narthex steps lead to the Loggia dei Cavalli, an outdoor balcony that offers a splendid view of St. Mark’s Square. Also here are the famous bronze horses, brought from Constantinople in 1204 (or rather copies of those horses, because the originals are now kept in the adjacent museum, Galleria Marciano, away from the corrosive attack of polluted air).
Part of the “quadriga”, or four-horse chariot, the golden creatures are the only artifacts that have survived from classical antiquity, whether Greek or Roman, the origin is uncertain.
All four were taken to Paris, thanks to Napoleon, but were returned to Italy 18 years later, unlike other Italian works of art that were looted by the emperor.
The most imposing element of the basilica, after the four horses and the solemn beauty of the dimly lit interior, is the area behind the main altar (the sanctuary and the monumental work on the altar, the Pala d’Oro, or the Golden Screen).
It is located behind the altar, which is said to be the eternal resting place of St. Mark the Evangelist, although many claim that the relics of the saint were destroyed in a fire in 976. The shovel is the largest medieval gold and silver exhibit. from Europe, its dazzling frontispiece is adorned with 15 rubies, 100 amethysts, 400 garnets, 300 sapphires, 1300 pearls and about 200 other precious stones.
Beginning in 976, it was rebuilt in 1105 and again in 1209, when it was adorned with most of the precious stones stolen from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.
Admire the pulpit at the exit of the altar, the place from which, according to tradition, the new doge was presented to the crowd, and the huge iconostasis, or crucifix, on top of which are the statues of the Virgin Mary, St. Mark and the Apostles, made in the fourteenth century.
St. Mark the Evangelist
Venice has always had a special relationship with St. Mark, an apostle, and an evangelist. Not that St. Mark did not have a special relationship with Venice, a city purified for centuries by its existence.
The closest place to Venice where the saint landed was when he was on his way to Rome from Aquileia, a Roman colony on the Adriatic. Then an angel appeared to the saint as he crossed the lagoon and said to him, “Pax tibi, Marce, my evangelist. Hic requiescet corpus tuum” (Peace be with you, Mark, my evangelist, here your body will rest). The story is probably a myth invented by the Venetians, used to justify the theft of the saint’s body and to give spiritual value to the establishment of a city that was, in fact, disappointingly banal in origin.
The theft, a significant moment in the history of Venice, took place in 882, although the details of this fact remain shrouded in mystery. The authorized version suggests that those who had custody of the saint’s body, then in Alexandria, Egypt, feared that the Alexandrian king would rob the tomb. Fearing attacks, they decided to help the Venetians steal the body, hiding it under piles of pork, to distract the Muslim guards.
After a tumultuous voyage by sea, the remains of the saint were presented to the doge and Mark was declared, as it should be, the patron saint of the city of Venice.
Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)
Another fabulous attraction on the map of Venice is the Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace, which has been the residence, for almost a thousand years, not only of the Doges who ruled Venice, of the secret police and the Court of Justice but also of municipal prisons, torture chambers, and many administrative institutions. One of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in the world, the exterior is a beautiful mix of columns, intricately decorated marble, and four-leaf clover decorative motifs. The interior consists of a labyrinth of gilded and painted rooms, but also of a series of dark towers in which Casanova, the 18th-century adventurer, was once imprisoned.
The first fortress-like palace was built in 814 but was destroyed by fire in 976 and 1106. Construction of the current building began in 1314 when work began on a large hall for Maggior Consiliglio. the parliament of the republic. Three years later, after it was ready, in 1422, remains of the old palace were demolished to make way for the main facade of the palace. Then, the interior was permanently modified, as the administrative and governmental apparatus grew, the palace reaching more or less its current form in 1550. The destructive fires of 1574 and 1577 brought the building close to collapse, and for a time discussed its demolition and the construction of another, in Renaissance style. The proposal was unsuccessful and a more modest restoration saved the Gothic palace for posterity.
The visit begins with a walk on the Ponte Della Paglia, located at the end of the façade from the canal. From the small bridge, you can admire the Ponte Dei Sospiri (1600), or the Bridge of Sighs, inexplicably famous. It is said that its name is derived from the sobs of those sentenced to death who were crossing this bridge from the palace to the city prison. Then look up to the left to admire “Noah’s Drunkard,” one of three statues adorning three corners of the palace, the others depicting “Adam and Eve” and “Solomon’s Judgment”.
Going back along the façade from the canal, you see the statue “Justice” (1579) above the central window. After the fangs, on the other main facade of the palace, look up at the lodge and the two abnormally large red columns, which are said to be stained with the blood of criminals who were hanged here before the execution.
To the left of the flamboyant Porta Della Carta (1443) are the famous Tetrarchs, a group of Moorish knights carved from porphyry, probably from the 4th century, representing the emperor Diocletian and the three co-rulers of the Roman Empire.
In the courtyard of the palace is the Scala dei Giganti, or Steps of the Giants (1501), named after the Statues of “Neptune” and “Mars”, the work of Jacopo Sansovino (1576), the emblem of Venice’s dominion over land and water.
After buying the ticket, climb Sansovino’s Scala d’Oro (Golden Stairs) (1550) to begin an itinerary through the long succession of magnificently decorated rooms of the palace.
The first of these, the Salla dell’Anticollegio, a kind of anteroom for distinguished guests, who, while waiting to enter the audience, could admire the paintings of Tintoretto and Veronese. The same painters also decorated the Salla dell Collegio, the seat of Venice’s governing council, the Collegio, and Signoria, another room belonging to the Collegio.
Among the many rooms you will pass through, the most important are the Sala del Senato, laden with gold, and the Sala del Consiglio dei Dieci, a meeting room of the Council of Ten, magistrates, and overseers of Venice’s dreaded secret police. In the next room, Salla Della Bussola, is the “Bocca di lione” (Lion’s Mouth), a kind of mailbox in which the citizens of the city could file accusations against their fellow citizens. The back door of the room leads to a smaller interior room, and from here you can reach the torture chamber and the prison.
Next, are four chambers acting as weapons depots. Following the route, which is somewhat in a circle until here, you reach the star of this circuit, the huge Sala del Maggior Consiglio, dominated by the largest oil painting in the world, “Paradiso” by Tintoretto (1592).
Next is the old prison, which you reach through the Bridge of Sighs, strikingly dark and gloomy after the splendors of the past.
Besides the public rooms, you can see other parts of the palace, including the old towers, if you go through Secret Itineraries, the excellent guided tour of the palace.
Map of Venice: Conclusions
As you can see from the map of Venice, there are a lot of tourist attractions to visit in Venice. I highlighted the ones I think are worth seeing. Of course, Venice’s streets are attractions by themselves, since it is a unique city.
Do you know someone who wants to visit Venice? Share this article on social media and help them decide what to visit.