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What Not to Do in Venice

by Lee Marshall

Follow the herd in St. Mark's Square

The piazza that Napoleon dubbed "the drawing room of Europe" is spectacular, pigeons or no pigeons. It is number one on most visitors' Venetian checklists, with St. Mark's Basilica (pictured), the Doge's Palace, and the Campanile all within hopping distance. But because it is so obvious, people tend to do the obvious things here. They troop dutifully into St. Mark's and squint up at the poorly lit mosaics, trudge around the Doge's Palace with its acres of bombastic frescoes, get the elevator up the Campanile for that Google Earth photo-op, and finally collapse exhausted in front of a restorative cappuccino outside Florian's or Quadri's, the historical cafés with the hysterical prices.

Mark your own path

If you can stand the early start, the daily 7 am sung mass in the Basilica brings out all the mysterious spirituality of the church's interior—so easily lost when the place is full of tourists. Or book ahead (a day in advance is usually enough) for one of Venice's best-kept secrets: the guided tour of the Torre dell'Orologio, the ornate Renaissance clock tower that dominates the north side of the square. You get to see the restored workings of the clock (its mechanism dates back to 1497) and the two bronze statues that strike the rooftop bell just before and after the hour. Above all, you get a privileged view of the piazza, the Basilica, the Doge's Palace, and the busy waters of the lagoon, which will sum up Venice's powerful magic in a single frame. A ticket costs $17 but will also admit you to the worthwhile Museo Correr and Archaeological Museum just across the piazza.

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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