Things to see
St. Mark's Basilica
Often seen as the living testimony of Venice's links with Byzantium, St Mark's basilica is also an expression of the city's independence. In the Middle Ages any self-respecting city state had to have a truly important holy relic. So when two Venetian merchants swiped the body of St Mark (though some historians believe they got Alexander the Great's remains by mistake, a theme developed by Steve Berry in his 2007 novel The Venetian Betrayal) from Alexandria in 828, concealed from prying Muslim eyes under a protective layer of pork, they were going for the very best - an Evangelist, and an entire body at that. Fortunately, there was a legend (or one was quickly cooked up) that the saint had once been caught in the lagoon in a storm, and so it was fitting that this should be his final resting place. http://www.basilicasanmarco.it/WAI/eng/visite/interne/orari.bsm
An unobtrusive side door halfway down the right wall of the nave in San Marco leads straight into the courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace). Today's visitors take a more roundabout route, but that door is a potent symbol of the entwinement of Church and state in the glory days of La Serenissima. If the basilica was the Venetian Republic's spiritual nerve centre, the Doge's Palace was its political and judicial hub. The present site was the seat of ducal power from the ninth century onwards, though most of what we see today dates from the mid 15th century. Devastating fires in 1574 and 1577 took their toll, but after much heated debate it was decided to restore rather than replace - an enlightened policy for the time.
The palace is the great Gothic building of the city, but is also curiously eastern in style, achieving a marvellous combination of lightness and strength. The ground floor was open to the public; the work of government went on above. This arrangement resulted in a curious reversal of the natural order. The building gets heavier as it rises: the first level has an open arcade of simple Gothic arches, the second a closed loggia of rich, ornate arcading. The top floor is a solid wall broken by a sequence of Gothic windows. Yet somehow it doesn't seem awkward.
Cross the famous 16th-century bridge and walk to the centuries-old open-air fish and produce markets; nearby meat, cheese, and specialty-food shops attract gourmands. Fish market is closed on Sundays and Mondays; produce market closed on Sundays.
This story starts in Murano, an island next to Venice, the only place where Glassblowing has been allowed since 1300, when all the furnaces were moved from Venice to Murano to prevent any more fires that they caused throughout the floating city. The glass production took place under the protection of the ‘Serenissima Republic of Venice’ so that the glass blowers could not flee the country, taking with them these beautiful objects. So, because the production was under protection, the art of Glassblowing was passed down from father to son, along all generations that lived on the island. Simply mastering the skills that are required is not enough; you need to be creative and capable, something which became apparent to me when in the presence of dedicated craftsmen.
Burano is special on two fronts: firstly it is the sister island of Murano, a unique place where the embroiderers of lace have been working for centuries, Here is where the prestigious Venetian lace was made and exported world wise. Burano is also special as the colourful fishermen’s cottage that make up its unique architecture make this one of the most beautiful places in Italy.