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Venicela serenissima

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Venice Basics

Venice

Did somebody say “romance”—or was it "Venice”? No matter, for the two are synonymous. In Venice you’ll see, hear and feel things simply not possible elsewhere; this is La Serenissima, the city most serene, and a place that over the centuries drew power from—and built an empire on—what it lacked: land.

Venice is a city forever defined by water, and usually to glorious effect: This is a self-contained and sophisticated world of canals and islands. To be precise, Venice has 118 islands, forming a dense patchwork of no fewer than 160 canals and 447 bridges. Venice is about boats, too: the vaporettos (water taxis) shuttle up and down the Grand Canal and across the wider canal that separates the elongated island of the Giudecca from the sestiere (district) of Dorsoduro. Gondolas bob with elegant insouciance in St. Mark's Basin. You can take a gondola ride if you want, but they're expensive. Between the vaporetti and your own two feet, you can get pretty much anywhere you need to go here.

Like any great city, Venice has both mighty monuments and quiet charms. Start at the majestic Piazza San Marco—home of the iconic Campanile bell tower, the Byzantine-style St. Mark’s Basilica and the 14th-century Palazzo Ducale, or Doge's Palace, which housed Venice's senate, hall of justice and private apartments of the doge until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. The artistic treasures of Venice, both historic and contemporary, are exceptional. Don’t miss the Scuole Grandi, a collection of flamboyant buildings that used to be the homes of charity and social service centers. The ceiling of the Scuole Grande de San Rocco is covered by so many Tintoretto canvasses that they've put up mirrors to help visitors appreciate all the details.

From its unique architecture to atmospheric restaurants and shops, Venice is above all a place to slow down and savor a romantic world that exists nowhere else.

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