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This iconic Baroque bridge was designed in the early 17th Century by Italian architect Antonio Contino. It was built over the Rio di Palazzo to connect the Doge's Palace and the New Prisons, creating a route traveled by convicts between sentencing and imprisonment. Although many attribute the bridge's name to its popularity as a romantic spot, other accounts say that it got its name due to prisoners experiencing their last glimpses of freedom. As for its English moniker, Lord Byron is credited with translating Ponte dei Sospiri to Bridge of Sighs in the 19th Century. This must-see Venetian landmark is now loved by tourists and welcomes all to see it for themselves.
Spanning the girth of the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge was once the only way to get across on foot. The majestic bridge arches over the murky waters of the canal, allowing ample room for the gondolas and water buses to pass underneath. The bridge was built in between 1588 and 1591, replacing predecessors from 12th Century onward. Designed by Antonio da Ponte, the bridge has survived unscathed for over four centuries. Today, the Rialto is only one of the four bridges that serve the canal but remains the most prominent. Small shops selling all kinds of souvenirs and curiosities run the length of the bridge while the Mercato di Rialto is a popular local market nearby.
Layer upon layer of differing architectural styles come together to form the magnificent Doge's Palace. A symbol of the Venetian government and political heritage, the historic palace was once the seat of the Doge, the chief magistrate of the former Republic of Venice. The foundations of the complex were laid during the 14th Century. Through the years, the palace was repeatedly reconstructed, extended and restored, creating a mix of artistic and architectural styles ranging from the Medieval to the Renaissance. A masterpiece of Gothic design, the palace is replete with exquisite details like sculptures, frescoes, arches and graceful columns. The original Doge's Apartments, the Armory, the Prisons, the Courtyard and Loggias have all been beautifully restored, with numerous hidden treasures around every corner. This historic icon also houses the Museo dell'Opera and its extensive art collection.
Just around the corner from the Galleria dell'Accademia, on the Grand Canal is one of Venice's premier museums. This world-famous museum is run by the same institution, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, that manages the renowned Guggenheim Museum in New York. Peggy Guggenheim, was interested in contemporary art and came into contact with various artists who guided and educated her, including Alexander Calder and Marcel Duchamp. This museum houses her collection of contemporary art such as works by Bacon, Balla, Brancusi and Chagall. You'll also find masterpieces by the likes of De Chirico, Kandinsky, Klee, El Lissitskj, Magritte, Man Ray, Picasso and Pollock.
Richly adorned with gold mosaics, intricate carvings and marble arches, Saint Mark's Basilica is a glorious example of Byzantine architecture. The basilica was originally built in the 9th Century to house the remains of Saint Mark. Destroyed in 932 CE, the church was later rebuilt to a better design and served as the Doge's chapel until 1807 when it replaced the Basilica di San Pietro in Castello as the cathedral of the Archdiocese. Although the architectural plan of the church has remained largely unchanged since the 12th Century, generous adornments were added over the years, creating one of Italy's most impressive collections of ecclesiastical art. Inside, the ceilings are made of gold mosaics, full of intriguing architectural details. One of Venice's most iconic structures, the Saint Mark's Basilica sits amid Piazza San Marco at one end of the Grand Canal.
Located in the old church and school of the Carità, Galleria dell'Accademia's building was partly built in the 12th Century and finished in the 14th Century. The Academy of Fine Arts was started here by the Napoleonic government. In its 24 rooms, it displays works of Italian art, by artists such as Andrea Mantegna, Piero Della Francesca, Cosmè Tura, and Giovanni Bellini. Other artists include Giorgione, Tintoretto, Paris Bordone and Moretto Da Brescia among others.
Dating back to the middle of the 13th century, the construction of Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari was extended and continued until the 16th century. The church houses paintings by Titian, such as l'Assunta and La Madonna di Cà Pesaro. Within the chapel, you will find Bellini's Madonna. It also contains the tombs of Titian, Canova, Monteverdi, and Francesco Foscari. In spite of its many historical and artistic treasures, the church's large dimensions make it look spacious. Services are held daily. This is the place where you can thoroughly appreciate the religious art of the Renaissance period.
The Grand Canal carves a path through the heart of Venice and serves as the city's main thoroughfare. While water taxis and water buses operate on the waters, the canal winds its way through the center of the city, terminating at the lagoon at one end and the basin, at San Marco square, at the other. Along the way, the jade waters flow past historic structures and sprawling squares, alive with the call of the gondoliers. From the Medieval, Byzantine and Gothic to the Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical, the structures that line the Grand Canal form a chronicle of sorts of the city's architectural change across the ages. Romanticized by numerous movies and novels, a gondola ride down the Grand Canal is an essential Venetian experience.
The only Venetian square to be granted the title of 'piazza', St. Mark's Square, or Piazza San Marco, is the city's political, religious and social center. The square lies at one end of the Grand Canal, surrounded by some of the city's most iconic historic edifices. The Basilica di San Marco is the focal point of the square - a 12th-century, Venetian-Byzantine church highlighted with gold mosaics and lavish carvings. On either side lie the Procuratie Vecchie, stately buildings that once harbored the offices and apartments of the procurators. Two columns erected in honor of the city's patron saints, St. Mark and St. Theodore of Amasea, stand nearby, while the splendid Doge's Palace, the towering Campanile, the Procuratie Nuove, the National Library, and a couple of museums take up the rest of the space around Venice's largest square. The city's history comes together at the awe-inspiring St. Mark's Square.
Driven by a Gondolier, someone who is both a specialized operator and knowledgeable of the Venitian history, a Gondola is a wooden boat with a flat surface and cozy seats. Initially used by the upper-class Venetians, over the years, a gondola has become a popular activity among couples. Accessible from several landmarks, Grand Canal is one of the most popular and busiest sources of boarding a gondola. From here, you pass through popular attractions such as Palazzo Cà Dario and Chiesa della Salute and you can also learn about their significance in Venetian history.