Even Those Already in Love with La Serenissima Will Still Find Fascinating Discoveries
Few cities are as iconic and enchanting as Venice, floating precariously along its lagoon in the Adriatic. Photos of its flowing alleyways, bridges, piazzas, gondolas and towers are instantly recognizable, requiring no caption at all. The grandeur of Piazza San Marco and basilica, gondoliers welcoming visitors aboard, the artistic masterpieces held in the Academia, the church of Madonna dell’Orto and so many other remarkable sites — all enchanting and enriching in their long-steeped traditions. And while Venice is certainly no shrinking violet or “undiscovered” gem, there are still details and discoveries to pique the curiosities of even the savviest travelers. Today, our wanderlust carries us virtually to La Serenissima, where bridges and islands and masterpieces of all kinds abound. Take a peek behind some of the things that are so iconically Venice…
Fine glassblowing has been a treasured craft on Murano Island since the 13th century, when a stringent law mandated that all furnaces used for glassmaking be moved to Murano. This was both to prevent the spread of fire from the furnaces to Venice’s largely wooden structures of the time and also to prevent the spread of Venice’s glassmaking artistic secrets and techniques to outsider artisans. The popularity of Murano glass has ebbed and flowed over the centuries, as most styles do, but the art never lost its integrity and the product has again been firmly established as one of the world’s most sought after as 20th-century artists innovated new fashions for Murano glass. Today, chandeliers, engraved and etched pieces, dual-colored layered techniques and other iterations of the craft can be found throughout Venice.
For geography’s sake, let’s start with the fact that Venice is an island, whose loveliest highlights for visitors include other islands (there are more than 70 islands that comprise the chain within the Venetian Lagoon); most are easily accessible for day and half-day trips. Burano is a treat for the eyes, with its vibrantly colored houses lining the canals and exceptionally intricate lacework still crafted locally. Murano’s claim to fame is the beautiful blown glass (more on that below), while San Michele Island is a serene place of basilicas and cemeteries and tranquil Torcello Island was once a favorite spot of Ernest Hemingway.
There are 400 bridges in Venice. Reasonable, considering the aforementioned 70+ islands lining the lagoon. Four of them span the famous Grand Canal, and the most famous of these is certainly the Rialto Bridge. It’s also the oldest, constructed in 1591, and features prominently in many of the photographs snapped of lovers gliding on gondolas along the canal. After two previous structures of the bridge collapsed in 1444 and 1524, Michelangelo was among the artists considered to redesign a more permanent structure. Antonio da Ponte was ultimately chosen and finished the current stone bridge in three years.
Insider Tip: The Bridge of Sighs – spanning the Rio di Palazzo between the New Prison and interrogation rooms at the Doge’s Palace – is best seen from the inside. Walk through the enclosed limestone bridge and gaze out on the canal and city below to get a true sense of what was many prisoners’ last view of Venice before incarceration.
Food and Drink
It’s not about pizza here. Think fresh seafood and produce, courtesy of Venice’s abundant lagoons and island gardens. Dishes here are flavored with generous helping of simple spices, risotto and polenta are the preferred way to load up on carbs, and virtually everything pairs with a beautiful glass of vino blanco. Visit the Rialto Market beneath the namesake bridge for an authentic Venetian foodie experience, then pop into one of hundreds of gelaterias for a sweet treat. The most famous way to whet your whistle in Venice may be with a Bellini at Harry’s Bar, where the bubbly drink was created in the 1930’s. But the locals here prefer the equally refreshing Aperol spritz, which can be found at the less touristy spots in the city.
Crystal Symphony, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Esprit explore Venice and all its charm in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Crystal invites travelers to book now and plan your journey to Venice with added peace of mind and flexibility as we look ahead to sailing together again.