It is a tourist destination not-to-be-missed, considered to be amongst the most beautiful cities in the world and included by UNESCO in the world heritage sites.
In the historic centre, which can be crossed on foot amongst “calli”, “campielli” and small bridges, there is a succession of one picturesque corner after another, aristocratic palaces and churches of exquisite architecture and fascinating interiors. The city is extremely busy with the locals and tourists. The fish and fresh produce markets are not to be missed where everything brought via the sea.
People live on the 118 islands, within the lagoon of the same name, with buildings which are on a wooden piling system. Some of these islands have been grouped while others are dispersed, linked by navigable canals crossed by gondolas (typical boats), by ferries or private motorboats.
The historic part of the city is divided in six “sestieri”: Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, San Polo, San Marco, Cannareggio and Castello, facing on the Grand Canal, the water road with a double loop from which all the minor canals branch out. Just as striking and imposing is the parallel Canale della Giudecca.
In the lagoon around the historic centre, there are numerous islands: Murano and Burano (famous for glass and lace), Torcello, Sant’Erasmo and Palestrina apart from the long island of the Lido, famous for its beaches and for holding the Cinema Festival.
The barbarian invasions of the Huns and Lombards pushed the inhabitants of the land to look for refuge on the islands spread in the lagoon, also calling the religious authorities.
In the centuries, it was established as one of the main harbours between the East and the West, thanks to dynamic and enterprising merchants who made it rich and created a system of autonomous republican government, so strong that it deserved the title of “Serenissima”.
In the 13th century it dominated large part of the Adriatic coast up to Dalamatia, Istria and the Aegean and Cretan coasts. The discovery of America, with business moving towards the new world, triggered the decadence of the maritime commercial activities.
Having lost its freedom at the end of the 18th century, it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and in 1866 it was annexed to the Reign of Italy.
The most famous place is Piazza San Marco, with the Basilica brilliant with its golden mosaics on which façade there are 4 bronze horses taken from the Imperial palace of Constantinople after the fourth Crusade. Next to it is the Campanile di San Marco, built like a lighthouse for sailors, and near the Palazzo Ducale, seat of the government of the Republic, with pink marble delicately sculptured like lace.
Other important Venetian monuments are l’Arsenale, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, Basilica dei Frati and the synagogue of the Ghetto.
Not to be missed are the famous historic cafés, because it was here that the use of coffee started being spread, imported by the Ottoman Empire during the 17th century. The most ancient is Florian under the “Procuratie Nuove”.
The most characteristic dishes are those with fish: “sarde in saor” (fried and pickled), “moéche” (little soft crabs), “risotto de go” (typical fish of the lagoon), “polente e schie” (fried prawns), “sepe col nero” (cuttlefish). Other specialities: “fegato alla veneziana” (with onions); “pasta e fazioi” (bean soup), “risi e bisi (rice and peas).