Escape into the myriad of alleyways in San Marco, explore hidden Venice and glide effortlessly on a gondola down the Grand Canal. Learn the secrets of the construction of this jewel of the Adriatic and the race against time to preserve it and all its splendid magnificence. The Venice Walking Tour and Gondola Ride starts near St Mark’s Square and pauses in front of the Hotel Bauer, famous for the filming of Don’t Look Now starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. You follow a narrow alleyway, the crowds disappear and Venice’s famous opera house, La Fenice suddenly emerges. The birthplace of Verdi’s La Traviata, it was destroyed in an arson attack in 1996, but completely re-built using the exact original plans. Hence its name meaning The Phoenix.
In the Campo San Marizio, you get a clear idea of the problems the city faces. The leaning tower of the church teeters precariously over the rooftops. In the next square, you find the splendid Campo Francesco Morosini, the gateway to the Accademia over the Grand Canal and its fine art galleries in Dorsoduro beyond. It is in the labyrinth of alleyways and small canals, however, that the real secrets of this city are to be found, no more so than the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, where the magnificent ornate staircase spirals upwards in a hidden courtyard. Along the way, you cross a myriad of bridges over the canals, see the preservation works and hear the sounds of the gondoliers shouting their warnings to the oncoming traffic.
The tour ends with a gondola ride down the Grand Canal, Venice’s most famous thoroughfare festooned with palaces and museums. Two miles long, 150 feet wide and 15 feet deep, it snakes its way from the station, Ferrovia, all the way to San Marco. The journey, however, cuts inland, winds its way past La Fenice, Mozart’s House and the Hotel Bauer and rejoins the Grand Canal near San Marco. On the way, you might hear musicians serenading the passengers as the gondoliers ply their age-old trade in transporting travellers round this city bereft of cars. Only 400 of the original 20,000 remain, but they remain an iconic symbol of the uniqueness and vibrance of this city.