Venice, Italy, is a destination on most dream travel lists. The beauty of the city lives up to the romantic ideal that has formed around it. Everything about the place is original and unique. The town is particularly captivating. Although the city has spread beyond the island, this remains the heart of the city and is where you want to be. There are rare and exceptional moments to be grasped here that are truly representative of Old Venice – priceless and real. These are the simple, free and basic features that form Old Venice, classic Venice; authentic Venice. 

The Buildings of Old Venice

The architecture of old Venice is one of its most appealing features. The range of old, dilapidated buildings is part of the whole distinctly Vancian blend that makes the city so unique and so beautiful. So much character lies in the tattered style. But this is not vintage design – this is original, decaying, Venice.

San Marco Venice

Venice lives up to its idealized romantic imagery. Scruffy Italian flags do hang out of peeling plaster windowsills. Washing lines do hang between rusty iron balconies. The canals and streets of Venice are a beautiful distraction. But remember to look up. The buildings stand over you, with a presence dominating the small alleys that cut between them. Strong yet slowly sinking, the buildings of Old Venice bathe in history, culture, and fascinating design.

Casinos, concert halls, museums, galleries and houses all make up the buildings of Old Venice. But perhaps the most passionate representations of Italian architecture are found in the Churches. San Marco is the basilica that you cannot help but admire. Although all the tourists flock to the square, it worth following the crowds to see it. Infinitely impressive – epic and strong on the outside and mind-blowingly intricate on the inside. Golden mosaics line the walls and rooves of the interior. Be sure to look inside. Although you might have to queue, entrance is free. By witnessing the detail, you realize the true extent of creativity and passion – the unbelievable amount of time and energy that created something so beautiful.

Some buildings act as hostels for cheaper travelers. Although a bit more expensive than some European cities, it is worth staying in the center. This way, you can fully immerse yourself within the old, sinking, rugged, tattered, yet fantastic, buildings of Old Venice. 

The Canals

The Canals are the heart of Old Venice. The most defining element of the city, they flow between the buildings, acting as streets in an entirely unique way. However, they are also the heart of the tourist traps. Gondola rides for only $40. Waterside bars with overpriced drinks. Restaurants with views of the canal and a steep service charge.

Canals of Venice

For the real experience of Old Venice, you don’t have to spend a penny. The canals are, after all, free. Nobody will charge you for sitting next to one and enjoying the incomparable, buzzing, light and fresh atmosphere. Be sure to do so – grab a book, a pen or a sketchpad and record the immediate inspiring experience of Old Venice. This way, you can watch gondolas pass you by and appreciate them in a priceless manner. After all, the view of a gondola is better from an outside perspective.

If you do want to get out on the enticing water, the boats here act as buses. Buy a cheap ticket taking you from one end of town to the other, and be sure to stand outside. You can observe people walking in the squares, wave to relaxing coffee drinkers, see where the small alleyways suddenly stop and drop into the canal itself. Some buses continue running into the early hours. Sit out the back – watch the scattered lights of Old Venice define outlines on the dark, mysterious waters.

The Grand Canal is extensive. It is especially appealing when you start to feel claustrophobic in the continuous tiny streets of the city. But the small, intricate canals create the complex web that makes up the city. These canals are narrowly encased within the old buildings, sometimes feeding echoes of sound and sometimes blocking out everything, allowing silence.

The Art

The city is an area dedicated to its art. The city has a rich artistic history, inspired by the beauty of the city. There are various art galleries, museums and workshops demonstrating this affiliation. The Accademia Art Gallery is one – presenting Renaissance work. The Palazzo Grassi is another. Its focus is on modern art and holds larger major pieces. Some galleries are always changing by hosting touring collections. Others provide art that demonstrates the history of Old Venice. There are hidden workshops you can wander into, from glass blowing to Chinese lace. The city displays a range of creative outlets.

venice fish market

However, the best art is in a small sheltered area next to Mercato di Rialto – the daily fish market. A covered square has red curtains draped around the sides. Right on the edge of the Grand Canal, local artists come here to paint. It is a place reserved for stillness and quiet, cut off from the bustle and noise of the market next door. You can slowly wander through, watch them paint and even buy one if you want. It is art in the process of creation, by people who live, know and experience the beauty of Old Venice on a daily basis.

The Streets

It’s almost laughable when someone hands you a map of Old Venice. The streets are so tiny, intricate and intertwined on the page; it is entirely useless. The whole point is to get lost. You are not supposed to navigate these roads easily. Everything about the design of this city is hidden, secretive and mysterious. Narrow paths work in squares, leading you round in circles. Suddenly a road will break off in a whole new direction, and you will accidently be in a new part of town. Little bridges take you to what seem like a dead end before a tiny alleyway reveals itself. Some walls look like walls until you realize it’s possible to slip behind them, into a new street.

Streets of Venice

One street is busy and buzzing, and the next is empty and silent. Squares and Fountains are scattered around. Markets gather by the canals, where there is slightly more space. But even then, you are as immersed in the crowds as you are in the streets and all is disoriented and wonderful. Looking to experience Old Venice? Simply wander the streets and explore this infinite maze.

Everyone knows Venice is a popular travel destination. It can be disheartening to get swept up in the tourist tide. But there are so many streets in the city, and to pave your independent way through them is easier than you might think. Many people pay a lot more for the authentic experience than they need. But this city has so much to offer without spending money. Nobody should be distracted or discouraged by prices or falsities. The original streets, bridges, canals and unique artistic essence are the real heart of this city. Be sure to experience Old Venice now – after all, it is sinking.


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