Things to Do in Venice
Just over 106 miles north of Venice, high up in the Dolomites, sits a large natural lake that contributed to Olympic speed skating history. With its handful of hotels lining its shores, clear, fresh air and mountain backdrop, Lake Misurina is the spot to go to if you're looking for a scenic getaway from the canal city of Venice.
The lake is near the 1956 Winter Olympics host city of Cortina d'Ampezzo and served as the site of the last Olympic speed skating events that were held on natural ice. A 1.6-mile path runs around the lake, which has a maximum depth of 16 feet. Each of the several hotels on the lake offer views of the spectacular mountains. Behind each of the hotels on the lake are the spectacular mountain views.
Burano is one of the islands in the Venice lagoon. It is famous for its colorful houses and lace-making. You can watch the skilled women working and see why it takes months to make even the smallest piece; each lace-maker specializes in a particular stitch. Not surprising then that a lot of the lace currently for sale in Venice is knocked off in factories far far away; another example of Venice’s traditional crafts becoming too expensive for the modern world.
Burano’s other claim to fame is its color: every house is painted a bright shade of blue, yellow, pink, purple. Put this with the washing flapping in the breeze, the window boxes of red geraniums, and the painted saints in their wall niches and you feel like you're at a permanent festival.
Venice may look like it hasn't changed in hundreds of years, but wander behind St. Mark's Square and you'll find evidence to the contrary – the Hard Rock Cafe Venice.
This is the smallest Hard Rock Cafe in Europe, and it's located inside an historic Venetian building. One side of the restaurant overlooks a canal and what is typically a large gathering of gondolas – it's near one of the main pick-up points for visitors who want a gondola ride. It's the place to go in Venice if you're craving classic American food and the only place to get those signature Hard Rock Cafe souvenirs. There's also a “Rock Shop” at the Rialto Bridge, if you just want to go shopping without eating at the restaurant.
On the island of Torcello in the Venetian lagoon sits one of the most important churches in Venice - the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Torcello itself is the site of one of the earliest settlements on the Venetian islands, so it has enormous historical importance. The cathedral itself is one of the oldest structures in Venice.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta dates from the 7th century, although most of what you see today was built in the 9th, 11th, 12th, and 14th centuries. The 11th and 12th century renovations in the Byzantine style include some stunning mosaic pieces on the interior walls in what’s called the Byzantine-Ravennate school. If you’ve visited St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and liked the colorful mosaics there, then you’ll love seeing the mosaics in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta - in the same style, but older.
The island of Murano in the Venetian lagoon is famous for its glass-making, but nearby Burano has its own crafty claim to fame - lace-making. The ancient tradition of hand-made lace is not nearly as common as it once was, but you can still see some women in Burano making lace the old-fashioned way, and you can get your lace education at the island’s Museo del Merletto - the Lace Museum.
The Lace Museum on Burano contains more than 200 examples of Venetian lace-making dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The collection is organized in chronological order over two floors, including a section on the Burano Lace School, which existed on the island for nearly 100 years. There are also special exhibits that are on display periodically, so check at the museum ticket desk to find out what extra collections are there when you visit.
More Things to Do in Venice
From the outside, the brick Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (the Frari Church) looks rather plain. But step inside and you are surrounded by some of the greatest beauty of the Italian Renaissance. Built for the Fransicans in the 14th and 15th centuries, the design itself is simple - although having the choir stalls in the middle of the church is an unusual feature - but the art that the monks commissioned more than makes up for it.
The most significant painting is Titian's Assumption of 1518 over the altar. It changed painting forever. There are also side chapels full of art, and in the main church, the tombs of significant wealthy Venetians battle for supremacy. Titian himself is buried here in an impressive tomb and the sculptor Antonio Canova has a pyramid-shaped monument!
Along with many, many other uses, Venice's famous Doge's Palace once had a few corridors serving as prisons. The original palace prison earned the nickname “Piombi,” Italian for "lead," because it was in the attics underneath a lead-covered roof.
A lead roof was undoubtedly put in place at least partly with the intention of making the prison impenetrable, and this is what it became known for. The Piombi also had a reputation of being notoriously uncomfortable; it was extremely hot in summer and very cold in winter, making it an even more undesirable place to be incarcerated. Perhaps the most famous resident of the Piombi was Giacomo Casanova, who successfully escaped from the supposedly inescapable prison in 1755.
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