After a while, Venice can feel claustrophobic with its narrow, sunless streets and swarms of people, but visitors in the know can enjoy spectacular vantage points high above the bustle. Lines usually build up outside the celebrated 323-ft (99-m) Campanile (bell tower) in Piazza San Marco, but it’s worth the wait. In 1452 an impatient Frederick III, the Holy Roman Emperor, rode his horse up the ramp, but nowadays there’s an elevator.
A short boat trip across St Mark’s Basin is the quiet monastery island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Here, at the back of the church designed by Andrea Palladio, one of the remaining Benedictine monks accompanies visitors up to a little-visited bell tower that affords wonderful vistas. But the best place for memorable panoramas is the Skyline Terrace at the Hilton Molino Stucky hotel on Giudecca island.
A walkway around the hotel’s pool affords stunning views over the vast sweep of the shipping canals and the layout of the majestic city backed by the mighty Alps. A bar overlooks beautifully laid-out gardens and residences, as well as tastefully converted industrial premises.
Finally, for unbeatable aerial views take a boat over to the Lido (see p301) and treat yourself to a helicopter ride. Visitors taking off or landing at the outlying Venice airport only get a fleeting glimpse of the lagoon, but from the chopper, the intricate system of channels, shallows, sandbanks, and islands becomes crystal clear.
Campanile San Marco Piazza San Marco, San Marco;
Heliair Aeroporto G. Nicelli, Lido di Venezia, Lido;
Hilton Molino Stucky Hotel Giudecca 810;
San Giorgio Church San Marco; Line 2