Venice, Italy

Panoramic view from the campanile of St. Mark's Basilica, Venice. Photo Creative Commons License Wally Argus.

The city of Venice (Venezia to the Italians) stretches across numerous small islands in a lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy. It has a population of about 272,000. Lord Byron called Venice "a fairy city of the heart" and it has earned the nickname La Serenissima, "The Most Serene." Venice is a unique cityscape of well-worn buildings that seem to float on water and marble steps that descend into lapping waters. Inhabited since the 6th century AD, Venice became a major sea power during the Crusades and a center of commerce and art during the Renaissance. Positioned at the crossroads of the Byzantine and Roman worlds, Venice acquired a unique heritage of art, architecture, and culture. Today, the hordes of traders and merchants that swarmed Venice have been replaced by tourists, but there is so much to see here that you can still have the "real Venice" all to yourself in the many charming alleys, churches, bridges and piazzas hiding just off the beaten track. And even San Marco is quiet if you get up early enough!

Santa Maria della Salute
One of the most well known churches in Venice, this Baroque church at the entrance to the Grand Canal houses a precious Byzantine icon and works by Titian and Tintoretto.
Jewish Ghetto
This is the area of Venice in which all Jews were forced to live from the 16th to the 18th century, as described in The Merchant of Venice. It is home to several synagogues and a Jewish museum.
Santa Maria dei Miracoli
This barrel shaped church covered in marble slabs is a favorite among Venetians for weddings. Inside, the ceiling glistens with golden miniatures of holy figures.
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
A Franciscan church built in 1330, I Frari is best known for its masterpieces by Titian and other artists.
Basilica of St. Mark
A Byzantine wonder that looks more like Istanbul than Italy, the 11th-century Basilica di San Marco is covered in golden mosaics and filled with art treasures.