Welcome to my place . . . Venice
'Venice is a living breathing work of art floating upon the sea'
Valerie O’Hanlon (right) on Ponte delle Scalzi (Scalzi bridge) with her sister Evelyn O’Hanlon Casserly (left).
Valerie O’Hanlon moved to Venice in Italy nine years ago. She lives with her long-term Italian partner and Venetian-born son. In Ireland she ran her own business, but decided to follow her heart and to make Venice her adopted hometown. With her partner, she runs an Irish pub called simply Irish pub Santa Lucia, an ice cream parlour and a number of rental apartments (Val’s in Venice) in the Cannaregio district.
What do you love about living in Venice?
Venice, or what was once known as La Serenissima, is a living breathing work of art floating upon the sea. It is a city like no other in the world. Being intentionally lost is my favourite way to enjoy the city, wander the side Calle (streets) to see what you can discover bobbing and weaving through the labyrinth that is Venice. There I think about time, the history of the place and all the people who have passed through here before me.
Where is the first place you bring people when they visit Venice?
I always recommend my guests take an evening ride down the Grand Canal. There are usually very few people on the vaporetto after dark. Venice is a daytime place. They use early morning fisherman’s village time frame here. The Grand Canal at dark is magical. You can peep into the many palaces with their chandeliers lit. Those chandeliers were collected by wealthy merchants, blown to order on the island of Murano. So enjoy the game of “I have more money than you do”!
The top three things to do in Venice that don’t cost money are...
Not a lot as Venice is one of the most expensive cities to visit in Europe, but there is nothing quite so spectacular as catching Europe’s most famous living room Piazza San Marco at sunrise, the morning light literally dances about this space. Visit the gold-clad Byzantine Basilica which is free and well worth a short wait in line.
The Salute church is one of those Baroque architectural delights that visually remains with you forever and entrance is free. Enjoy the interior’s spectacular pavement – an example of Venetian artistry, the stunning black Madonna icon painting hanging daintily over the main altar. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to catch an organ concert too.
The Rialto bridge spanning over the Grand Canal and built in 1591 is the oldest in Venice, renowned for its architectural and engineering achievement. Don’t miss a visit to the famous Rialto markets as this spot has vibrated with energy for over 500 years and is very important to Venetian residents.
Where is the best place to get a sense of the Venetian role in history?
Venice is steeped in history. Every corner you turn you are faced with another church, another museum, another monument. Arsenal is located in the Castello district and was where the commercial and military ships of Venice were built. It is still used today by the Italian navy. It was strategically positioned in the city, to be protected from enemy attacks. In the last few decades it has come to new life hosting the Art Biennale which takes place every two years.
What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit?
Burano lace. Burano is an island in the Venetian Lagoon and north of Venice. It is famous for its lace work and brightly coloured homes. You will absolutely fall in love with this quaint little island where Le signore (ladies) sometimes open their front doors for you to watch them make lace by hand with linen and silk. Murano glass. Murano is another small island located in the Venetian Lagoon. It’s worth visiting one of the many glass museums and watching molten glass on the end of a rod being transformed into a vessel.
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