Venice is the only city of its kind in the world because of the way it was developed: it was built on over 100 islands in a lagoon four kilometers from terra firma and two kilometers from the Adriatic Sea. The entire historic center, crisscrossed by canals connected by hundreds of bridges, is a treasure from the artistic and architectural point of view.Visiting Venice is like unwrapping a present for the senses: The toll of church bells; beribboned gondoliers churning their oars; the sharp scent of coffee; glass chandeliers twinkling; and slender, twisting streets suddenly turning onto sun-filled market squares. The elegant piazzas and glistening waterways of this northern Italian city breathe ancient urban grandeur and romance.
When To Go:
Best weather: April to June, September, and October. July and August are hottest months, and the canals may smell when it's hot. Tourism swells May through September.
Why To Go:
Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance are the principal reference points for the artistic development of Venice. Marbles and columns arrived from the Middle East at the lagoon city, where projects for the construction of the first great buildings were directed by masters from the East and from Ravenna. The Basilica of San Marco is a masterpiece of Romanesque-Byzantine style, the center of Venetian life for all times. Today few buildings remain from that period and their locations demonstrate clearly the early lines of the city's development: from San Marco to Rialto and, along the borders of the Grand Canal, from San Zan Degola to San Polo.
What To Do
Take a canal tour: : A must-see on any Tuscan tour, this charming sienna-hued city in central Tuscany is one of Italy's best-preserved medieval towns. Siena was a hotbed of art and learning during the Middle Ages, and its hilly streets, Gothic cathedrals, and stone palaces are perfect for daydreaming. The Piazza del Campo -- a large square with 11 streets snaking into it -- lies at the city's heart.
Visit Piazza San Marco: : Pigeons, tourists, and street entertainers flock to this lively plaza, home to the glittering gold and mosaic-embellished Basilica di San Marco and the fresco-filled Palazzo Ducale. Tour the palace and cross the Bridge of Sighs, so named because it was the last view Venetian prisoners had before facing their fate.
Get lost: You're likely to get turned around in Venice, but getting lost was never so much fun. Labyrinthine streets will reveal new discoveries at every turn. Don't pass up that off-the-beaten-path shop selling candy, Carnevale masks, or marbled paper.
Travel by vaporetto: : These boats, which carry Venetians just as city buses carry passengers in less liquid locales, are the best way to see the Grand Canal.
Eat fine Italian cuisine: Water, water everywhere provides some of the best seafood in Europe, and the Italian touch creates risotto beyond compare. Best bets include Trattoria Madonna, canal-side Ristorante Da Raffaele, and Harry's Bar, where the Bellini was invented and still reigns supreme.
See Ponte di Rialto: : This bridge over the Grand Canal also serves as a marketplace, the perfect spot to buy a gondolier's hat or assorted souvenirs.
Take day trips: Just a short vaporetto ride away are: Murano, the birthplace of Venetian glass; Burano, known for its candy-colored houses and fine lace; and Torcello, site of two lovely 11th-century churches and plenty of prime picnic spots.