Walking Tour of Venice, Italy
Venice is truly a unique city and a cultural treasure that the world must preserve. Although a gondola ride and an excursion on a Vaporetto are must while here, the best way to experience the city and to get around is by walking, although the labyrinthine jumble of streets is a true challenge to negotiate. Expect to get lost, no matter how good your map or walking tour.
That being said, begin any walking tour at the heart of the city, Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square). Easily one of the most elegant and recognizable squares in all of Europe, it is surrounded by classical facades and archways.
At its eastern end is the most important tourist sight in the city, the Basilica San Marco, with its tall, stately Campanile just opposite the entrance. Climb the 300-foot tower for magnificent views of the Lagoon, outer islands, and the beaches (Lido).
Spend some time admiring the unusual exterior of the church. It dates to the 11th century and is a blend of Romanesque and Byzantine architecture, indicative of the position of Venice as a commercial crossroad between East and West. Look closely at the mosaics which adorn the outer doors, as well as the four bronze horses above the entrance (the originals are found in the Museo di San Marco, inside.
Inside, prepare to be amazed at the quality and quantity of mosaics which can be found on the floor, the walls, and beneath the domes of the church. Be sure to pay the extra fee to see the Pala d’Oro, the gold-and-jewel-studded altarpiece behind the main altar. Although Napoleon stole some of the gems when he conquered Venice in 1797, there are still plenty left to impress visitors.
When finished here, head to the southern end of the square, the Piazzeta, to visit the Doge’s Palace, Venice’s other mega-attraction. This was the residence of Venice’s elected ruler, Doge, as well as its council chambers and city prison. Important features not-to-be-missed include the Giant’s Staircase, leading from the courtyard up to the palace and designed to impress and intimidate visitors, the Sala del Maggiore Consiglio, the ruling body’s meeting room, which contains Tintoretto’s Paradise, and a walk across the Bridge of Sighs into the dungeon.
Exit the palace and walk down to the waterfront, then turn left to walk along the lagoon’s edge. Look to your left as you pass the palace to view the exterior of the Bridge of Sighs.
Take a left when you reach Salizzada Campo San Zaccaria. At the end of the square turn left on Salizzada San Provolo, then immediately right on Calle de San Provolo which ends at a canal. Turn left onto Fondamenta di San Lorenzo, then left again on Calle Largo San Lorenzo and right on Calle Capello. Turn left at its end and then right onto Calle Muazzo, then left on Calle Barberia di Tolo which leads to the Church of Saints John & Paul (often called San Zanipoli). It is also known as the "Pantheon of Venice" because of all the notables buried here. Check out its artwork and stained glass, as well as the ornate tombs.
After your visit, continue westward (the direction you were going when you arrived at the church) on Calle G Gallina which changes names as it winds left along a canal. Then turn left to cross the canal to reach the Santa Maria dei Miracoli Church. This exquisite Renaissance masterpiece is awash in marble, both outside and in.
When finished head back over the canal and take your first left. Go to the end and turn right on Calle Boldu then left on Salizzada San Canciano, then right on Calle Dolfin and left on Strada Nova. When you reach Calle Ca’ d’Oro turn left to reach Venice’s House of Gold (Ca’ d’Oro). A tour of the house-turned-art-gallery reveals a number of significant pieces.
From here return to the Strada Nova and turn right, backtracking to the end of Calle Dolfin. Now, after a left on Salizzada San Canciano, take a quick right across the canal on San Giovanni Grisostomo. The street names changes several times but continue in the same direction to Calle San Pio X and turn right to find another of Venice’s premier attractions, the Rialto Bridge. The covered bridge, one of only a few which span the Grand Canal, is lined with shops.
After browsing the shops as you cross, continue straight ahead on Ruga di Orifici, then left on Calle San Giovanni. Continue southward (straight) on this street which changes names numerous times and crosses several canals. When you reach Calle Saoneri turn right, then left on Rio Terra and right again on Fondamenta di Frari. Take the first left, over the canal, into Campo di Frari, home of Santa Maria Gloriosa di Frari, a huge Gothic church which displays masterpieces by Titian, Bellini, and Donatello.
Exit the square on Calle San Gallipoli, then left at the canal on Calle Donna Onesta Forner, then right, across the small bridge, and straight ahead on Calle Larga Foscari. Then cross the square ahead and continue on Calle Cappeller and straight through the archway to Fondimenta Rezzonico and left to another of Venice’s elegant palaces, Ca’ Rezzonico, now a museum celebrating 18th century Venice.
Head back along the Fondimenta to Calle Rotteghe and turn left over the canal and into a square. Cross the square and exit onto Calle di Casin which travels along a canal. Turn right on Calle di Toletta, across another canal, then left on Fondimenta Friedi, then right on Calle Corfu then Calle Gambara to the Accademia Belle Arte, Venice’s most important art museum. Browse its galleries if you have time. Otherwise, plan to return later in your visit.
Head around the building and continue roughly eastward on Calle San Agnese which changes names but heads in basically the same direction. You will soon see the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, on your left, which, again, you can choose to bypass for now or stop for a look, depending on the time.
Exit eastward on Calle San Cristofaro, then left and right on Calle Barbaro, then cross the canal onto Calle Bastion. continue straight past St Gregory’s Church and ahead to Santa Maria della Salute, the picturesque and imposing Baroque church at the end of the Grand Canal, where it empties into the lagoon.
After your visit, retrace your steps walking basically westward back to the Accademia. Now cross the Grand Canal using the Accademia footbridge. Contniue forward alongside the Rio San Vidal (a canal) into a fairly large square. Take a right on Calle San Stefano and right again on Calle Spezio. The street names change but continue more or less straight ahead, then left on Calle di Ostregghe and right on Calle Larga 22 Marzo. Again, continue straight eastward to Calle Vallaresso. Take a right here to visit the world-famous Harry’s Bar, on the waterfront. Have a Bellini or two before returning up Calle Vallaresso. Take your first right which will return you to the Piazza San Marco where your walk began.