Continued (page 4 of 4)
To explore Venice, all you really need is a good pair of sensible shoes. Check out the six sestieri (districts) without a guidebook, and hop on a vaporetto to the islands. Remember, it's a radically seasonal city. November is misty and atmospheric; February is Carnevale; August is to be avoided.
PIAZZA SAN MARCO, BASILICA, CAMPANILE, THE DOGE'S PALACE
These are the great sights that define the city. The huge Piazza, dominated by the Basilica and Campanile, is the center of everything; it's nothing less than the greatest public space in Europe. The Doge's Palace was the seat of power during the centuries La Serenissima ruled the Continent. Everybody should see these places at least once: What better circumstances can you imagine?
Venetian painting alone is reason enough to visit: Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Tiepolo, et al. The Galleria dell'Accademia (Campo della Carità, Dorsoduro 1050, Tel: 39-041-522-2247) is your first stop.
THE VENICE BIENNALE
The 52nd Venice Biennale will take place in 2007—but this festival is more than a months-long international art exhibition that takes place every two years. It also encompasses the September Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica (Film Festival) on the Lido, the International Architecture Exhibition (9/10–11/19, 2006; urban-age.net), the International Festival of Contemporary Music (9/28–10/7, 2006), a new Dance section (6/8–25, 2006), and an even newer Theater section that was attached to the 2006 Carnevale.
Campo San Fantin
This jewel box of an 18th-century theater makes for a thrilling night out even if opera isn't your bag. If anything, we can all take great comfort in the Rossini-to-Wagner continuum. Read John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels for more about the Great Fire of 1996. For last minute tickets, call 041-2424.
Hire charterage gondole from a stazi (rank) to be sure you're getting a real one, identifiable by its seven-pronged ferro (prow). You can also take a traghetto, a cheap, swift, non-tourist shared trip in the gondole da parada that cross the Grand Canal in seven spots.
The Pescaria (fish market, Campo delle Beccarie, 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday) and Erbaria (fruit and vegetables, Campo San Giacomo di Rialto, 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Saturday) are just ordinary markets to Venetians. For the rest of us, they are delightful must-see landmarks. Finish by taking a traghetto to the Ca' d'Oro.
CARNEVALEFebruary 13 to 20, 2007
Only revived in 1979, this bacchanal—featuring masks, tricornes, crazy costumes, balls, and fireworks—has really taken off in recent years. One for the fiercest party animals, with deep pockets.