Venice is a short trip from Milan (2.5 hours by slow train). It is a very popular day trip for locals and visitors to make. I wish I could stay longer next time. I would be interested to see what Venice is like after the daytrippers leave.
(Venezia Sta. Lucia Station)
Venice is very accessible from Milan Central Station. The Venezia Sta. Lucia Station is right on the water. You can catch a vaporetto (water bus) right outside to take you to St. Mark's Square. We decided to go to the Square (about 40 minutes from the train station) then slowly work our way back to the station to catch our return.
Covered Bridges dot the grand canal on the way to St. Mark's Square.
When Venice was becoming a prosperous and powerful city, the dukes wanted to have a patron saint and protector for the city. They decided on St. Mark.
Well, the problem was, St. Mark died and was buried in Alexandria in Egypt. The merchants convinced the church in Alexandria to give them the body (they kept the head in Alexandria). Since the Muslim population was growing in Alexandria the Venetians made a good case of having a safe haven for such an important relic away from the infidels.
In order to evade the nosy Muslim customs agents, the Venetian merchants placed the body in a pork barrel since the Muslims would not dare touch it. Et voila! - instant patron saint and shrine!
The Doge Palace is an amazing structure which housed the Dukes and government of Venice. They had a huge room for Senators (they had about 50 - for such a small city). They also had receiving rooms for dignitaries and map rooms and even a prison! I did not quite understand how the government of Venice was structured but it seemed very complicated and multi-tiered. Aside from a Senate, they had a Council and sub-council and another sub-council to do checks and balances - oy!
(View from the Bridge of Sighs, with construction)
One of the highlights of the Doge's Palace is crossing the Bridge of Sighs. They call it the Bridge of Sighs because the prisoners who crossed it saw their last glimpse of the glory that is Venice and they heave a sigh. Unfortunately, when I crossed the bridge, the view was obstructed by some construction (neatly covered with murals) so I could only conjure up a half-sigh...
A great discovery during the trip was the Fortuny museum. This was Mariano Fortuny's workshop, residence and storefront. It houses several of his artwork (his own and his peown personal collection. I saw Delphos dresses up close and his unique hand printed velvet capes, the technique and ink formula of which died with him.
The Rialto is the traditional market of Venice. If you come early enough, you can see stalls of produce and meat dotting the market area. There are also small eating places around to sample some Venetian cuisine.
The best thing about Venice is getting lost and discovering small and pretty side streets. We somehow found our way back to the train station using a crude map which I clipped from Travel + Leisure magazine.