by LAURA JEEVES
More and more people are discovering the joy of Italian river cruises and you’d be hard pressed finding a more relaxed and indulgent way to spend a week. Wonderful scenery, fabulous cuisine and the opportunity to spend time with a small group of likeminded people is a very appealing prospect. When you throw in the opportunity to disembark and enjoy an itinerary of cultural experiences along the way, well, what’s not to love?
Explore the Highlights of Venice
Depending on which of the Italian river cruises you choose, you can visit the beautiful city of Venice, where you’ll be able to go ashore and explore. Here are a few highlights, but remember, some of the most enchanting and memorable parts of Venezia (as the locals call it) are actually off the beaten track – so make sure you leave time to simply wander.
St Mark’s Square
The main square of the city (aka Piazza San Marco) is usually the first stop for most visitors; and if it looks somewhat familiar, it could be because it’s been the subject of countless photographs. With elegant arched architecture surrounding it on three sides, it’s home to stylish cafes, restaurants and shops and is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists. Sitting in the shadow of the Basilica (see below) and the Torre dell’Orologio, St Mark’s Square truly is the defining icon of Venice.
St Mark’s Basilica
One of the most impressive churches in Europe, the interiors of St Mark’s are dripping with priceless Byzantine treasures and stunning gold mosaics by Titian and Tintoretto that decorate the walls and domes. The embarrassment of riches continues with the spectacular marble inlaid floor and the golden altarpiece, encrusted with gems, known as the Pala d’Oro.
Ponte di Rialto
The Rialto Bridge might well be the most romantic bridge in Italy, if not the world. Constructed in 1588, it was once the only bridge to span the Grand Canal and is actually a replacement of the original wooden one, which collapsed. It’s a lovely landmark to stroll across, stopping to take photos of the passing water traffic, pose for photos yourself, or pick up some souvenirs in the little shops. This is one of the most beautiful sights of Venice and seeing it for yourself is a memorable experience.
The grandeur of the Doge’s Palace is truly stupendous and it is an extraordinary place to visit. It’s a stunning example of Venetian Gothic architecture, with the incredible staircases, Scala dei Giganti and the golden Scala d’Oro (both named for obvious reasons), and the beautiful chamber, the Sala del Collegio, just a few of the many highlights. The walls of the palace are adorned with artworks by Tintoretto (keep an eye out for the largest oil painting in the world, Paradise), and other Venetian greats. You’ll also be able to see the famous Bridge of Sighs, which connects the palace to the cells of the notorious ancient prison, Prigioni.
Visit Venice on Italian River Cruises
Venice is just one of the places you’ll be able to visit on Italian river cruises to soak up the art, history and culture. For many people, the so-called City of Love is a true bucket-list destination, and the contrast of a few hours spent exploring, then returning to your wonderful floating hotel to continue on your leisurely cruise makes it all the more memorable.