Standing in the middle of the magnificent piazza San Marco is an experience in itself: Napoleon referred to it as the ‘drawing room of Europe’, apt today as, at times, it appears that much of Europe’s population is crammed into this great square.
No trip to Venice would be complete without a punt down one of the city’s picturesque waterways in an iconic gondola.
The best way to take in the Grand Canal is on board a vaporetto (Venice’s ubiquitous waterbus). The canal may no longer be teeming with merchandise-laden cargo boats, but it is still the main thoroughfare of Venice, and only a little imagination is needed to understand its historical importance.
To the east of campo Santo Stefano, campiello Pisani is overlooked by the impressive 17th-century Palazzo Pisani, now the music conservatory. The palace was used for the shoot-out at the end of the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale.
Carnevale, the world’s largest and most famous masked party, has existed since the Middle Ages, but it came into its own in the 18th century. Today, visitors to the pre-Lenten event flock to piazza San Marco, where professional poseurs in ornate (and exorbitant) costumes occupy prime spots and wait for the world’s press photographers to immortalise them. Venetians, on the other hand, organise private masked and costumed celebrations, or gather in smaller squares.