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Venice The Loveliest City Every Built

Venice is a city in north-eastern Italy made up of 118 little islands separated by canals and joined by bridges. It is famous because of the beauty of its setting, and its architecture, and its art. This is why the whole city, including the famed lagoon, has been designated a World Heritage Site.

It is named for the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region in the tenth Century before Christ. The city is known variously as La Dominante, la Serenísima, the Queen of the Adriatic, the City of Water, the City of Masks, and the Floating City. In a piece inThe New York TimesLuigi Barcina described it as "the most beautiful city ever built by man”. It is universally regarded as one of Europe’s most romantic cities, where visitors can enjoy the waterway, gondolas, palazzos, old treasures, and delicious cuisine, as the water laps ceaselessly against the walls of fabulous churches and other ornate buildings. A boat ride down the Grand Canal makes you feel like a figure in an old painting.

Venice is an open-air museum. Its architecture, monuments, and buildings reflect its Byzantine heritage, and nowhere more strikingly than in the mosaics of the Basilica de San Marcos. Very near the Piazza de San Marcos (St. Mark’s Square),we find the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), where the city’s ruler once dwelled, and which exemplifies the ostentation of the Renaissance period. Visitors may descend to the gloomy palace dungeons, and then get some fresh air on the famous Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs), where prisoners often caught their last glimpse of the Adriatic.

The city’s main street isn’t a street at all, but the celebrated Grand Canal. This is a good place to buy a City Pass, the most economical option for moving around Venice on its vaporetto water buses, with many stops along the Grand canal.

One of the numerous mansions along the canal is the sumptuous, 14th C. Palazzo de Santa Sofia; better known as the Ca d’oro, (house of gold), because the abundant gilt in the polychrome and white marble exteriors that once made this lovely Gothic building shine like a jewel. There is also the famous Rialto bridge, which retains all the elegance that made it such a sensation when it was completed in 1591, 400 years after the first pontoon bridge was built on the site.

A city’s true character is often to be found in its markets, and Venice has two that should not be missed by visitors. One is the Erbaria product and fish market in the Rialto district, where you should check out the local asparagus and artichokes. Then there is La Pescheria for a dazzling variety of mainly local fish and seafood.

For connoisseurs of Italian cuisine, the Riva del Vinis the place to find the café or restaurant of your dreams in a quiet riverbank setting. Other excellent restaurant districts are Campo Santa Margherita, with its floating terraces, Zattere, where you can watch the sun set over the Laguna Veneto, and the streets near the fashionable Campo Giacomo di Rialto,where many Venetians take their “aperitivi” in the late afternoon. Try a Spritz and a snack of delicious codfish. The classic Venetian recipe for Spritzes, by the way, is 1/3 dry wine like Prosecco, 1/3 soda or bubbly mineral water, and 1/3 sweet Aperol or bitter Campari.

Outstanding amongst the city’s numerous museums is the Guggenheim, with possibly the continent’s best collection of European and American art from the first half of the 20th C, housed in the old Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal, where it was opened in 1980 to show Peggy Guggenheim’s personal collection, masterpieces from the Gianni Mattioli collection, a garden of sculptures by Nasher, and temporary exhibitions.

To view the city in all its splendour from a distance you can take a number 42 vaporetto at the San Sacaria stop in St. Mark’s Square to the island of Murano, passing the Fondamento Nuove and stopping to visit the San Michelle cemetery, a “cemetery island”, where you can see the graves of such luminaries as Igor Stravinsky, Joseph Brodsky, Sergei Diaghilev, Ezra Pound, and Luigi Nono.

If all the water makes you hanker for a beach, there’s the legendary,Lido –a 7-mile long sandbar in the lagoon– with its many stylish cafes and restaurants.

To really discover Venice, you need to get lost there, so use the vaporettos freely and get off at any stop –the streets are safe even after dark. And a night-time visit to St. Mark’s Square is an experience you will always treasure.

Venice. There’s simply nothing like it. However often you visit, the surprises keep coming! Now’s the time to book a flight there with Vueling. Check out our prices here!

Photos: Fernando Sanz
Text: Tensi Sánchez de actitudesmgz.com