Every year, on March 25th, Venice celebrates its birthday! This year, like for many of us, it will be the second birthday celebrated during covid-19 lockdown! But this is a very special anniversary for Venice, the city turns 1600 years old! It’s a very important birthday! Why was Venice founded in the middle of the water? Let’s look at the most important stages in the growth of Venice!
The myth of the 25th of March
According to tradition, Venice was founded on the 25th of March 421 AD. On that day, at Noon, they positioned the first stone of the church of San Giacometo. The 25th of March is also the day of the Annunciation. Venetians entrusted themselves to the protection of the Virgin Mary, the one who was able to give birth to the Son of God and his message of salvation. Of course, the most beautiful city in the world couldn’t have humble origins!
Building on water
The first area where people started settling was the area of Rivoaltus. The name is due to the fact that it was located on an island slightly higher than the others. This is the area around the current Rialto bridge. The bridge was named after the Rivoaltus area. How come that people decided to settle and built a city in the middle of a lagoon? They had to face sand, water and mud, it wasn’t the perfect habitat for humans! You have to know that during the 5th and 6th centuries Barbarian invasions began. Italy was the scene of the ferocious raids of the barbarians and the lagoon was an ideal place to take refuge. That’s why people started escaping from the mainland and started settling in the islands of the lagoon. They had to work a lot to shape the islands and find the right technique to built resistant buildings. It is thanks to the hard work and commitment of those people that today we can admire the magnificent palaces and churches of Venice!
1600 years old
From the first settlements that started in the 6th century, the expansion of urban soil in Venice will continue for centuries. It was a long, hard and complex process. Venice overcame many challenges, some problems still require hard work and commitment! Thanks to the Mose project the city finally seems to be protected for the high tide and they are promoting new plans to encourage sustainable tourism. The city now is quiet and calm, covid-19 crisis has hit the economy of the city very hard! Venice will celebrate 1600 years with a sober party! But fingers crossed for next year! We are expecting you to come and enjoy the beauty of Venice soon with one of our tours! In the meantime…Happy Birthday Venice!
Carnival is the most popular festival in Venice, its origins in the city date back to the 13th century when the Doge made it a public holiday. Originally Carnival in Venice started on the 26th of December and lasted for several weeks until the beginning of Christian Lent. Carnival was an occasion of social release. People were gathering together celebrating by eating the most tasty food and dancing all day long.
How Carnival developed?
Throughout the centuries Venetian Carnival has become famous all over Europe. People from other countries arrived in Venice to enjoy the celebrations. That way, Carnival quickly turned into a luxurious festival with elaborated costumes and masks. In that period there were parties all over the city inside the beautiful palaces on the Gran Canal. To attend those parties masks were mandatory! This way you didn’t know who the person in front of you was! You could party with a sailor, a nobleman, an actress, a commoner and you didn’t care! The idea was that of hiding your identity and your social standing in order not to judge or to be judged by anyone. You can guess that anything could happen in those occasions…and when we say anything, we really mean anything! This general freedom also had some negative outbound. Crime began to raise. With the mask on criminals were unpunished, they couldn’t recognize them! That’s why the Republic of Venice started imposing some rules to control Carnival. They forbade to wear a mask in the streets after dark. They also abolished them inside churches, monasteries and convents. We can say that even friars and nuns enjoyed celebrating Carnival!
Carnival and masks
On the bright side that of producing masks became an actual art. Venetian mask makers used their talent and creativity. They made masks with papier mache and decorated them with pearls, feathers and glitters. They could be colorful, extravagant and lavish, never sober! This is a tradition that has survived up to current days. The mask is still the most typical souvenir in Venice. If you get lost in the little alleys you can find laboratory shops and even craft your own mask.
The most famous traditional Venetian masks
BAUTA: it is the quintessential mask of Venetian tradition. It was particularly popular inside casinos (houses for gambling and brothels). As a matter of fact, its beak like shape allowed people to eat and drink without taking it off. It was also a way to disguise your voice. MORETTA: it was a small black velvet mask. It had French origins and it was exclusively for women. Guess why? In order to wear it, they must held it in their mouth. In this way it was impossible for those women to talk! This silence was a weapon of seduction as it added a huge amount of mystery to the game. PLAGUE DOCTOR: originally doctors used this mask during plague epidemics. It has got a long beak where they put dried herbs and flowers to avoid breathing the bad smell of their patients! The length of the beak also allowed them to maintain some distance from the corpses.
After many centuries of fun and great celebrations Carnival in Venice ended with the Napoleonic invasion that started in 1797. The darkest pages of Venetian history corresponded to the end of this magnificent Festival. Venetians would have to wait until contemporary times to bring the spirit of Carnival back to life. As a matter of fact, it was only in the 70’s that a group of students and local associations started organizing the first parades with music, costumes and masks. Today the main celebrations are held in Saint Mark’s Square. They still organize splendid balls inside the palaces on the Grand Canal. Tickets can be very expensive but we believe it is one of those lifetime experiences you must live at least once. Unfortunately the covid-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of all public events. But don’t worry, Carnival 2021 will be an online event. For more info, check this link out! Fingers crossed for next year! We are looking forward to meet you soon in Venice to host you in one of our tours and have a nice spritz together…who knows, maybe right during Carnival time!
HAVING A SPRITZ WITH A COUPLE (OR MORE) OF CICCHETTI
You’re planning to come to visit Venice but all you have is a day? Don’t panic! It might seem impossible to learn something about it in such a limited time, but there are actually many things you can do and many places you can visit. We garantee this will turn your short staying into an unforgettable and intense experience. Here is a list of the six things you should include in your plans to exploit every minute in this amazing city!
VISITING SAINT MARK’S SQUARE AND THE DOGE’S PALACE: THE HEART OF VENICE
It might seem a little bit obvious but there are certain wonders in Venice that you really have to visit. It doesn’t matter the time you do or do not have, the crowds you may find in the city, the weather or your personal mood, Saint Mark’s square is a must!
Our suggestion is to go there early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. Once you get there you’ll notice there is really a lot to see! Of course it would be great to have the chance to visit both the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. Considering you limited time, our suggestion is to enter only the church so that you can admire the amazing golden mosaics and the beautiful byzantine architecture. The Palace is obviously an interesting museum but it will take a lot of your time away so decide accordingly. Anyway don’t worry because whatever you choose, the incredible architecture of the square as a whole is so overwhelming that simply looking around it, will make your day brighter.
VISITING THE RIALTO BRIDGE AND THE POPULAR MARKET
Another must do: The Rialto Bridge! There are more then 400 bridges in the city and each one of them has its own charm and allure but none of them is as impressive and romantic as the Rialto one. The version you can admire today dates back to the 1500’s but they built the original bridge in the 1200’s. The purpose was connecting the market area (Rialto) to the political one (Saint Mark’s Square). Our suggestion is to get there early in the morning so that you can also visit the traditional fish market. Walking through the different stands selling from fresh fish to fruit and vegetables, from meat to cheese, you will be able to breath an authentic Venetian atmosphere. It will allow you to take part of one of the most traditional and ancient experiences in the city.
HAVING A SPRITZ WITH A COUPLE (OR MORE) OF CICCHETTI
Visiting the city will carry you on a different dimension, so much so that you will not feel the tiredness and you’ll want to walk and explore more and more.
But, if you can forget the fatigue, what about the hunger? Well, that is a much more complicated issue! 😉 Since walking with your belly empty is not an option, our suggestion is that of stopping in one of the thousands bars of the city and trying a truly Venetian traditional food: the Cicchetti.
They are pieces of bread similar to the Spanish tapas with many ingredients on top of them. For example: cheese, fish, meet, vegetables and other types of finger food like meatballs, salty muffins and little pies. The most traditional ones are the Baccalà Mantecato (marinated codfish) and the Sarde in Saor (fried sardines marinated in a bitter sweet vinegar sauce). For a truly Venetian experience, remember to combine your cicchetti with a glass of good wine or a Spritz. Drinking and eating are two very important aspects of the Venetian life so you cannot say you deeply enjoyed Venice without having stopped in one of our Bacari (bars).
GETTING LOST IN VENICE
Venice is such a people-friendly city, that you can wander around it just walking. This will allow you not to spend extra money for the public transportation, which is wonderful because that way you will save it for your spritz…or better..your many spritzes!!
Joking apart, be prepared, as walking in Venice is often a synonym for getting lost; don’t worry tough, just do it! It is actually the best possible way to enjoy the city. Venice is like an open air museum. Every corner, little alley, canal, every palace and piece of stone tell you a story and dive you into the history and the beauty of the city. So take a couple of hours where you just explore Venice without a purpose, walking, taking pictures, looking around and filling your eyes with its incredible beauty.
One of the best areas to get lost in the city is probably Castello district, the biggest and one of the most residential we have. Our suggestion is that of taking a nice walk on the breathtaking Riva degli Schiavoni, which is a long bank facing Saint Mark’s basin. The view from there is one of the best you can find in the city and once you arrive at the end of the long street you will reach the green area of Sant’Elena. From there, you can have fun exploring the inland areas, reaching San Pietro di Castello and simply enjoying the feeling of being lost in Venice.
We promise you sooner or later you’ll find your way back to the central areas and with a bunch of amazing pictures you wouldn’t be able to take otherwise! 🙂
BOAT TOUR ON THE GRAND CANAL
The Grand Canal is the main road in Venice. The most important and breathtaking palaces dating back to different periods and mirroring the different architectural styles, are all there. Missing this water perspective is really a shame as the real essence of the city lies there.
Venice is inextricably and inevitably both land and sea so you really need to combine walking and sailing. Our suggestion is that of taking regular public transportation. The best Vaporetto (water bus) is line number 2 as it is the fastest one on the Grand Canal. You can either start from Piazzale Roma (the bus station) or from Saint Mark’s Square. The number is always the same, you just have to check for the direction. Lido if you start from Piazzale Roma, Piazzale Roma if you start from the Square. It will take you half an hour more or less and the tour will definitely take your breath away!
BOOKING ONE OF OUR TOURS
Last but not least, book one of our Touring Different Tours! They are the best way to learn a lot about the city in a relatively short time! We are all passionate, young, fun, professional guides! Our crew is more than committed into giving you plenty of information about the interesting history of Venice. The guides will also talk about how the city was built, its popular churches, the great artists and traditions that contributed to turn it into the amazing place it is today. Last but not least we will tell you many more fun stories, legends and give you good tips on how to experience Venice as a local.
You can find us every morning in Campo della Carità, in front of the entrance of the Academy Gallery of Arts, for an adventurous and artistic tour of the southern Dorsoduro district. In the afteroon you can find us in Campo delle Fava, one step away from the Rialto bridge, for an historical and introductory tour in the northern area of Venice.
We simply love our city! Our team is determined to convey our passion to you and really turn your staying in Venice into an unforgettable experience. Each guide really wants to fill you with good memories and interesting stories that you can share with your families and friends.
It would be unnecessary to say that a lifetime in Venice wouldn’t be enough to explore all of its hidden corners and to learn all of its secret stories. Nevertheless, following our personal mini guide you will be able to take home with you the perfect mix between the conventional and the unconventional sides of the city. You’ll feel like you lived three full days of explorations and enrichment all condensed into one.