This sublime, interesting, complicated, amazing northern Italian city, is comprised of over 100 islands, many of them linked by bridges and the largest criss-crossed by blue-green canals to facilitate the endless traffic - all of it floating.
Located in the Venetian lagoon, a large inlet on the Adriatic Sea, Venice was founded in 421 AD. From 1000 AD to about 1630 AD, it was a powerful maritime empire controlling the spice trade and ruled by a succession of toughminded, and sometimes bloody, Dukes - or Doges as they were called locally.
The city's incredible wealth found expression in gilded palaces and merchant villas lining the main thoroughfare, the Grand Canal. The personal wealth of the powerful enabled them to commission works from the finest Italian and foreign artists including Titian, Carpaccio, Tintoretto, Veronese and many others for the decoration of their palazzos, guild halls and churches. It is the legacy of this civil munificence which attracts art-loving tourists today.
The city has not only inspired gifted artists. Many writers including Henry James, Thomas Mann, Ernest Hemingway, who spent a lot of time in Harry's Bar - Bellini's, have found themselves enthralled with Venice.
Venice is one of the top 5 tourist destinations in Italy, along with Rome, Pisa, Florence and Siena, so it is a crowded place particularly in the summer months. It is best to be mentally prepared to deal with them.
You will want to see the standard attractions: first and foremost Basillica san Marco (St. Marks's Basilica), with its bell tower (Campanille San Marco) and immense pigeon-filled square (Piazza San Marco). Don't miss a gondola ride up the Canale Grande (Grand Canal). Visit the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) and walk over the Ponte de Sospiri (the Bridge of Sighs).
In its twisting and intersecting alleyways, you will see the city abounds with cafes, restaurants and shops to suit every taste and meet every budget and appetite. You wil enjoy the place all the more if you take your time and simply submit yourself to the city.
Frommers Tourist Attractions in Venice
Know this, however: the tourist trade extends an iron-grip on the city, everything and everyone seems to be involved in the industry. Tourist traffic only seems to abate during the chilly winter months, before it starts up again with the fanfare of the Carnivale in February. Whatever their numbers, however, they do not seem to diminish the lasting, sultry and moist charm of "La Serenissima" - the Divine Republic.
For our money, the best time to visit Venice is in spring or autumn when you will have fewer fellow tourists to contend with, and the benefit of more moderate temperatures and fresh ocean breezes. Visit earlier or later and you will enjoy crisp winter weather but also the chill of icy winds and mists.
Venice is a maze, so it can be very interesting to explore on your own without a guide. Letting your self get "lost" in the narrow streets is probably the best way to visit the "real" Venice.
If you would like a guide, however, the estimated cost for a "tour escort" who accompany clients for 8 hours would be about 250 Eur; or 150 for a half day. Local guides who will take you through a museum will charge you about about 150 Eur for 2 hours.
The importance of tourism to the modern Venician economy has produced a number of positive actions on the part of the local and regional government. The waterways of Venice, once closed to licensed boaters only, are opening-up so visitors can hire and drive their own boats. The Fenice Theatre, victim to a mysterious fire, has been restored and re-opened. And most importantly, the Moses Damn, which will prevent the recurrence of frequent flooding - Aqua Alta - is under construction.
Other islands in the Venetian
lagoon are also being blessed with new life. Lazzaretto Vecchio for example, once a home for stray dogs, is now a huge sports complex. The isle of San Servolo, formerly a Benedictine monastery, now hosts an international crafts centre and San Clemente has recently opened an exclusive high-end hotel whose pampered guests have the island to themselves.
A word of warning for travelers and tourists who dress casually in the British or North American style: recently, the Mayor and Council have imposed "10 commandments" that regulate "indecorous" behaviour. Breach a rule and you could be forced to pay an on-the-spot fine. Among the rules: No midriff-baring clothes or bikini tops (even in June-August when temperatures can easily reach 25°C and humidity levels are perspiringly high). Do not bathe in fountains or picnic on church steps.
Well, why not? If you are respectful to Venice, Venice will pay you back in wonderful, life-long memories.
by Vian Andrews