Benvenuto! In my previous post, “What news on the Rialto?” adventures in beautiful Venezia; part uno, I talked about the opulent Boscolo Venezia hotel, my recommended eateries around Venice, as well as the “must do” operas by Musica a Palazzo.
So, after all that incredible seafood, pasta & opera, you’ll be in need of a nice relaxing day wandering the galleries and palaces of this beautiful city… of course avoiding the queues where possible 🙂
St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) Museums
We visited the Correr Museum & the Doge’s Palace on our second trip to Venice, with a St Mark’s Square Museums ticket, which I booked through VenetoInside, here. You can also book them directly on the website of the Museo Correr, here. It’s definitely worth buying in advance for the “jump the queue” aspect (we actually stood in line at the Doge’s Palace for quite a while before I realised I should have walked straight in with my special ticket!!).
We didn’t take private or guided tours that time, but on our next trip in November (😀), I would definitely like to do a more detailed or bespoke tour, as there is so much artwork and history to absorb in these extraordinary places! I’ll update you later in the year on any other tours I do.
The Correr Museum is huge, and laid out in five main sections, starting in the Neoclassical Rooms in the Napoleonic Wing, through Imperial Rooms ( where the Empress Elizabeth of Austria would stay during visits to Venice), the Wunderkammer (a collection of Venetian “wonders”), and finally the Pinacoteca, showing important Venetian paintings up to the 16th century.
Daedalus and Icarus, Orpheus and Eurydice (both Antonio Canova), and a view of St Mark’s Square from Museo Correr
By the time you have walked around the final section, the Pinacoteca, you will have seen a lot of art & treasures! After a seemingly endless display of over 200 years’ worth of varying depictions of the Madonna & Child (of course all beautiful in their own way) – I was ready for lunch! (more on that later)
Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)
A huge, instantly recognisable Gothic building on the opposite side of the square to the Correr Museum, the present building has been built on its 14th & 15th century foundations, although an original palace had been built in the 9th century. The Doge, the highest political position in the Venetian Republic, was the only one to be held for life. (I won’t get too caught up in the history – you need to go and discover it for yourself ; )
I suppose if they were going to hold the post for life, the Doges decided to go a little over the top with the decor in their humble little abode! The rooms are huge with incredibly ostentatious and elaborate decor. No expense has been spared in commissioning the finest artists and craftsmen, with the Doges obviously enjoying being portrayed in the actual artworks (I’m not sure there was actually a Doge present at the birth of Christ…I could be wrong!). We turned it into a game of “Where’s Waldo” with the Doges’!
Jokes aside, it’s an incredible experience not to be missed, and as I said, I would like to do a specific tour of it next time to learn more about the history and art.
St Mark’s Campanile (the bell tower @ St Mark’s Basilica)
We went to the top of the bell tower in November, which in my opinion is the perfect time to visit Venice without the crowds, if you don’t mind the colder weather.
You can buy “skip the line” tickets, from VenetoInside and other online companies, but only from April to October.
It was a rainy, cold day, and St Mark’s Square was practically deserted! We walked into the entrance (no queue), bought tickets, and were taken straight up in the lift! Despite being cold, it was incredible to be up there, looking down on the square from 99 metres, and seeing the one remaining original bell in the tower.
Highly recommended for a bird’s eye view of the city.. go in the colder months if you can! (my face is actually frozen into that smile ; ))
What about the champagne?? – Caffè Florian,Piazza San Marco 57
After soaking up all that art and culture, you’ll be looking forward to sitting down with a little glass of bubbly.. and where better than this famous establishment, which has been an important part of the Piazza since opening in 1720.
Yes, it’s a tourist trap (for good reason), but it’s an experience not to be missed. There’s nothing better than a dainty tray of salmon sandwiches, caviar, blinis, and a glass of champagne in beautiful surroundings after a day of sightseeing! It has some stunning artwork and paintings, and aside from the tourists dressed in their waterproofs and trainers, you could have stepped back into the 1920s!
If it’s good enough for Ernest Hemingway & Claude Monet, it’s good enough for me!
And finally.. a visit to Murano
Murano glass has been famously handmade in Venice since the 13th century. You can’t visit Venice without practically tripping over the myriad of colourful, intricate ornaments, vases & jewellery, and many other household items (well, not literally tripping over.. that would be dangerous.. but you get the idea).
You’ll see chandeliers displayed in hotels, objets d’art in restaurants and assortments of ornaments stacked in shop windows.
Some of the glassware being sold in souvenir shops may be the genuine article, but a lot of it probably won’t be! If you want to get a piece of bonafide Murano glass, I would recommend heading out to Murano itself, which is an interesting half day trip.
We took a boat to Murano directly from the Boscolo hotel, which is just over the water, and runs special trips over there at various times (there is a timetable at reception – just book your time slot with one of the staff). There’s also a water boat stop, “MURANO FARO”, or the factory will happily organise a water taxi pick up from your hotel.
You can watch a demonstration of glass blowing in the factory (we watched the expert make a glass horse out of ridiculously hot glass in about 30 seconds!), and experience the heat of the furnaces. After that, you can move onto the art gallery & showroom.
A word of advice – the tours of the factory and the free shuttle service from the larger hotels (even on Easter Sunday!) are of course designed as marketing tools – you’re almost expected to make a purchase at the end of the tour! And it’s not cheap.
That’s not to say there aren’t some beautiful objects – I could have happily gone home with more than a couple of huge vases or sculptures (which cost €1000’s). We were given glasses of water – in Murano glass of course! – and left to wander the showroom, our female guide shadowing us in a mainly unobtrusive manner.
When I veered towards buying something in the gift shop, which has some very nice objects, we were told that these are not considered “art”, and we were much better off buying something from the gallery. I adore art – but my natural cynicism was kicking in by this point – I’m not convinced anyone would notice whether your Murano glass is from the gallery or the gift shop (for a fraction of the price) – call me a philistine!
We ended up buying 6 beautiful lowball glasses in different colours (from the gallery), which we use a lot. It was important to me to take something away that we would actually use and enjoy.
Then there are the practicalities of buying objects d’art made of glass! You can’t walk around Venice with these expensive items, and you probably don’t want to risk them in the suitcase – even if you’ve bought something small! The glass factory will of course ship them home for you, but this is also expensive (think €100’s).
You can also buy directly from the factory online, here, which seems to have some good feedback from customers, and some more reasonably priced smaller objects for gifts, as well as the larger vases etc.
In conclusion – definitely worth a visit to see the glassmakers at work, and to see the beautiful showroom. Be prepared for a hard sell on the glassware! However, if you’re in the market for some beautiful objects for your Californian mansion and money is no object – then you’re definitely in the right place!
So thanks for reading, as ever, and I hope this gave you some useful tips and advice on some things to do and visit during your next trip to this amazing city.
I’ll be updating you with more tours and recommendations after my next visit to Venice in November (I can’t wait!!)
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Ciao for now!