VENICE, Italy (AP) — On a sunny day, when the Grand Canal is a sparkling ribbon of aquamarine embossed with boats ancient and modern, Venice can steal your heart.
And it can do a number on your wallet, too. Knocking back a Bellini cocktail at the Hemingway haunt of Harry's Bar will cost you beaucoup euros. And taking a gondola ride? You don't want to know how much.
But here are five things to do in La Serenissima — as the serene city is sometimes called — that don't cost a dime, or a pound of flesh.
Centrally located St. Mark's Square — Piazza San Marco — is lined with shops and restaurants and is a must-see. Go early or late to avoid the worst crowds. You can go into the church for free, although there are fees to see the museum and other areas. Completely free: window shopping, people-watching and posing for selfies with the very friendly pigeons. Church hours, weekdays 9:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays and holidays 2 p.m.-4 p.m., http://www.basilicasanmarco.it/ .
For a good map of the city, visit http://www.veniceonline.it/Maps/Maps.asp .
Venice is brimming with bridges. The Rialto, a stone arch lined with shops that crosses the Grand Canal at about the halfway point, is the most famous. The Academy Bridge — Ponte dell' Accademia — between the Campo di San Vidal and Campo della Carita, also offers great views of the Grand Canal.
The Bridge of Sighs connects the interrogation rooms at the Doge's Palace (just around the corner from St. Mark's) with its historic prison cells. The bridge's name described the sighs of prisoners as they were led to their fate. You have to pay to walk inside the covered bridge, but can get a good, free, view of the outside from the Paglia Bridge (Ponte della Paglia).