According to local legend, no one can claim to own a thoroughly accurate map of Venice. Despite Google Maps and satellite photography, a comprehensive street plan of the romantic island-city has never been created. Or so the rumour goes. ‘But how can that be true?’ I hear you thinking.
Once you’ve been there, you’ll understand why. An impossibly intricate network of alleyways and mysterious canals make up Venice’s unique urban landscape. Time and time again, travellers set off from a given point, only to find themselves lost between narrow walls, leading to enigmatic locked doorways, sudden picturesque waterside scenes or unexpected open squares. There’s no telling where anyone might end up.
A One-of-a-Kind Adventure
Such an adventure can’t be had anywhere else in the world. That’s why, from our experience, it should be a mandatory part of any European touring schedule, especially a cruise, which is all about seeing the best of a particular geographical region.
As part of their Venice cruises, MSC offers a diverse array of onshore excursions, putting together colourful itineraries for both guided walks and gondola tours.
Why a Gondola?
It’s actually really difficult to imagine that anyone would contemplate cruises from Venice without first taking a gondola tour. It would be a bit like going to Australia without seeing a kangaroo or travelling to London without visiting Buckingham Palace. To truly get under the skin of a new place, it’s crucial to embrace quintessential experiences – to gain an understanding of what creates a particular cultural distinctiveness or ambience.
Unlike other car-free environments, Venice has never heard the hum of engines in its streets. Even though the city appears to be one island, it’s actually comprised of 118 tiny ones, which have been separated with canals and connected at various points by bridges. Water-based transport has always been essential to every aspect of life, from visiting friends, to conducting trade, to waging warfare. So, in order to penetrate Venice’s heart, a tourist should lose themselves in a gondola ride.
Taking to the water also means access to secret sights that simply can’t be seen from the street. Buildings take on new perspectives and bridges are even more enchanting when you’re passing underneath them.
St Mark’s Square
Once back on land, you’re bound to be yearning to see the world famous St Mark’s Square. It’s an important stop on any guided tour and one of the few locations in the city where the narrow lane ways give way to the sky’s expanse – unbelievably blue and clear during the warm summer months. As much as it might be difficult to envision today, back in the 800s, St Mark’s was a much smaller, tree-dotted area.
St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace
Now, however, the Square is home to many of the city’s government offices, and in the centre, of course, stands St Mark’s Basilica (or in Italian ‘Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco’). Your guide will tell you all about the role this stunning example of Venetian-Byzantine architecture, which the locals refer to as the ‘Church of Gold’, has played in Venetian culture and history.
You’ll also be hungry to hear every detail of the rich and varied history of the Doge’s Palace. Finished in the 15th century, it’s a fine example of Gothic design and construction, subtly influenced by Byzantine ideas. Highlights of the interior include magnificent statues of Mars and Neptune, awe-inspiring examples of ornamental art and portraits of every Venice doge ever to have lived. The Venice cruises onshore tour guides, with their entertaining stories and detailed knowledge, add immeasurably to the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing these artworks.
If you’re enthusiastic about experiencing even more of Venice, I’d suggest opting for a walking itinerary that includes tours of the city’s top museums. What’s Italy without a significant dose of art, after all?
Once you’ve seen the best of what Venice has to offer, you’re highly likely to be curious enough to visit its renowned, glassblowing neighbour facing north, Murano. Even though it’s just a short 1.5km boat ride away, Murano opens up a whole new world of cultural wealth and heritage, through its’ artistic glassworks and product manufacturing . I’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard of its internationally adored glass blown products. By taking the time to visit, you’ll be able to watch the glassblowers at work first hand. I should warn you, though – you might find yourself extremely tempted to buy some examples to take home – either as a treat for yourself or as a gift for someone special.
How does all of that sound for an amazing journey to remember? If you’re considering MSC’s cruises from Venice, I highly recommend taking a guided walking and gondola tour. You definitely won’t regret it.
With Italy as it’s home, MSC Cruises is one of the leading Mediterranean cruise liners with the most modern fleet in the world. With refined style in Italian tradition, let our cruise ships take you to the best detinations in this region. Buon viaggio!
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