Italy. Venice, Italy. See La Serenissima Through the Eyes of James BondBy Erica Firpo
James Bond, Ian Fleming’s iconic spy and the world’s number one Casanova, has had a love affair with Venice ever since the final scenes of 1963’s “From Russia With Love,” when Sean Connery’s Bond snuck off on a gondola ride with Russian agent Tatiana Romanova.
There’s no doubt that Venice is an incredible backdrop for romance — a beautiful tangle of 16th-century campi makes it an incredible setting for films, but La Serenissima also sets the stage for dynamic action.
And nobody does it better than Bond, whose spy-jinx brought him back to the floating city in three different films: “From Russia With Love,” “Moonraker” (1979) with Roger Moore, and “Casino Royale” (2006) with Daniel Craig.
Here’s where and how to experience Venice like James Bond.
The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal, the main waterway that courses through Venice, weaves its way through all three Bond films, but there was probably no more dramatic and glamorous movie moment than in “Casino Royal.”
In this flick, a newly retired Bond and Vesper sail through the city along the canal, passing all the requisite Venice landmarks, including Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, the Campanile of San Marco, Church of the Salute and the Accademia and Rialto bridges.
Bond’s Eye View: Buy a full-day vaporetto ticket and spend your afternoon coursing the Grand Canal on the local water bus (No. 1 or No. 2 will do). To admire the canal for a longer spell, book a stay at The Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Venice, or plan dinner at its restaurant, The Gritti Terrace, which overlooks the striking canal.
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco, Venice’s largest square, named for the city’s patron saint, serves as backdrop to a desperate Daniel Craig as he runs through the square in search of his love, Vesper Lynd, in “Casino Royale,” after realizing she has betrayed him.
Bond’s Eye View: Though the Basel Bank featured in the film doesn’t exist, Piazza San Marco and its beautiful arcades still do and are open to the public.
The Piazza San Marco also gets a second of screen time in “Moonraker,” but the true focus is on the Torre dell’Orologio, an early Renaissance clock tower nearing 300 feet in height.
After Roger Moore’s Bond faces an incredible kendo fight sequence in a glass shop — actually the historic Venini boutique in San Marco — he finds himself in a chase with Drax henchman Chang in the clock tower. Bond ultimately tosses Chang through the clock’s stained-glass face, though this face was a replica made for the movie.
Bond’s Eye View: The clock tower is visitable by reservation, Monday through Wednesday, at 11 a.m. and noon, and Thursday through Sunday, at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Rialto Fish Market
On the sestiere San Polo side of the Rialto bridge is the city’s pescheria, a centuries-old fish market set in a neo-Gothic loggia. And it’s in the loggia shade that Quantum agent Adolf Gettler is lurking when Vesper and Bond sail down the Grand Canal in “Casino Royale.”
Bond’s Eye View: Doff your best fedora and head to the Rialto Bridge; from there you can’t miss the market.
In “Casino Royale,” the minutes leading up to the demise of Vesper Lynd occur in the courtyard of Palazzo Pisani. The Baroque-style Palazzo Pisani has an incredible courtyard, where Vesper has her fateful meeting with Gettler before Bond tries to save her.
Vesper ends up running through the abandoned palazzo and locking herself in an elevator as the palace’s flotation devices give way and sink into the Grand Canal in one of the most epic Bond scenes ever.
Bond’s Eye View: While there is no way to reenact the sinking palace, Palazzo Pisani is the home to the Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello, a second-century music conservatory that regularly holds concerts in its halls and famous courtyard.
You can also get eye to eye with the palazzo’s facade by taking Traghetto S. Angelo to San Toma for just two euro.
Ponte dei Sospiri
Venice’s most famous bridge has long been a photo op spot thanks to its picture-perfect setting. The enclosed limestone bridge was built in the mid-1600s to connect the Doge’s Palace to the nuove prigioni (new prisons).
More infamous than famous, the bridge is known as the “Bridge of Sighs” for the last breaths of freedom that convicted persons would have before heading to the cells. In the final scene of “From Russia with Love,” Sean Connery’s Bond cozies up with Russian agent Tatiana Romanova in a gondola as they pass under the Bridge of Sighs.
Bond’s Eye View: Hire a gondola from the Stazio Danieli and reenact the scene for yourself.