Canals, gondoliers, romance, swaying buildings and mystery persons wearing painted masks. This guide will help you get behind the mask of Venice in just 48 hours.
Venice Day Tours

Providing you haven't spent the better part of the day trying to locate your accommodation you may find some time after checking in to do some exploring. One of the first things you will notice is no traffic. Vehicles are restricted to the last piece of solid ground near the train station, Piazzale Roma. This is where the bus terminal and public carparks are located and where your journey begins.

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As you walk across the first of 409 bridges spanning the 150 canals you may wonder what inspired the original inhabitants to build their city afloat on 117 tiny islands in a marshy lagoon. The key reason was safety and protection from the marauding non-swimmer Attila the Hun. However the locals soon learnt that the centralised location was equally important in terms of European trade.

Walking the streets of Venice is an attraction in itself. The architecture is a mix of Byzantine, Renaissance and opulent Austro-Hungarian tastes. Narrow alleyways lead into decorative courtyards or twist around corners to hidden gardens. Some of the buildings have taken on a seriously disturbing lean that can leave you feeling dizzy and hoping that they remain standing for a few minutes more as you pass beneath.

There are three main street signs mostly visible with arrows pointing to either Piazzale Roma, or 'Ferrovia' (the train station) or towards Piazza San Marco and more often than not, in both directions. There are wider street arteries which allow the majority of crowds to find San Marco with ease but to get a real sense of Venice it is recommended to get off the beaten track.

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Turn a few corners and after a few hours you will have been totally lost and found again, either ending up at the Ferrovia or hopefully in Piazza San Marco.You will notice first the campanile towering above you.

The campanile was built as a lookout and lighthouse on foundations that dated back to the Roman period. Added to and enlarged over several centuries the end result was a total collapse in 1902 and a huge international effort to rebuild it brick by brick. The logetta base relief at the base of the tower was painstakingly pieced back together after being completely shattered by the falling bricks. The climb to the top of the campanile is worth it for the view across the lagoon to the outlying islands and a great way to orientate yourself. Gallileo even demonstrated his telescope to the Doges up here.

The other obvious thing to dominate the square is the sheer number of pigeons. They are usually seen covering small children which kindly parents have doused in birdseed in hopes the birds will fly away with them. On a slightly more serious note the rumour is there is a $500US fine for anyone caught kicking the pigeons. It's really tempting but...

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