In the Veneto Region, in the waters of the Adriatic, is one of the most romantic and evocative places in the world, a priceless treasure: the Venetian Lagoon.
At the heart of this legendary Province is the Serenissima or Most Serene Republic, with its characteristic bridges spanning the canals navigated by gondolas, its monuments, piazzas, narrow lanes and silent waters.
Venice is actually a group of fascinating small islands, where art and history combine with old trades and the beauty of the sea.
Sandy beaches washed by the Adriatic Sea characterize the main resorts that offer vacationers every kind of comfort. The fascinating inland is composed of many paths traversing the green scenery, along with peaceful rivers that pass through small towns rich in history and fabulous villas.
It is an area full of the exquisite flavors of its typical dishes and a renowned “wine list."
Many opportunities for fun abound as well: outdoor sports, nightlife in the many glamorous night spots, and shopping in the typical crafts workshops to buy souvenirs.
Venice is elegant, precious, inimitable, entertaining, and romantic. It is a jewel in the Italian touristic landscape, where churches, buildings, old bridges, monuments and piazzas are the evidence of the artistic and cultural vivacity that marks the history of this city.
The heart of Venice is the wonderful Piazza San Marco - the most elegant in Europe - surrounded by outstanding buildings: the impressive bell tower and the Cathedral - with its five portals of marble and mosaic decorations (foreshadowing the luxury of the interiors); the Ducal Palace, a symbol of the golden age of the Serenissima; Torre dei Mori (the clock tower), the engineering masterpiece that has been telling Venice the time for centuries; and the Napoleonic Wing, site of the Correr Museum.
Not far away is Campo Santo Stefano, with the church of the same name (i.e. St. Stephen's), one of Venice's biggest.
Also from the piazza, the visitor can see the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore and the high bell tower that rises from the monumental structure of the old Benedictine monastery, a masterpiece realized by important architects of the time, including the renowned Andrea Palladio.
Venice is the best of outdoor museums, and it can be toured by boat or by gondola, most teasily along the Canal Grande, the main Venetian thoroughfare. The Canal begins at Punta della Dogana, the old harbor of the Most Serene Republic, with its peculiar triangular shape that is now, like Palazzo Grassi, a Contemporary Arts Center.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is another must-see, exhibited in the Palazzo Venier de’ Leoni; it is considered the most important collection of the 20th Century. Among other important museums are the Gallerie dell’Accademia, housed in the majestic structure of the Scuola Grande de la Carità (inside is a church of the same name and a monastery); and Ca’ Rezzonico, one of the most beautiful buildings from the Renaissance and home to the Museum of 18th-Century Venice.
On the right bank of the Grand Canal - also accessible by crossing the Ponte del Rialto - it is possible to reach the districts of San Polo, Santa Croce and Dorsoduro, where some of the most famous campi of Venice are surrounded by wonderful religious buildings and palaces: San Rocco, with one of the old Grandi Scuole di Venezia and the church dedicated to the Saint; the renowned Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, one of the most important Franciscan structures; San Polo; San Giacomo dall’Orio with the church of the same name at its center and decorated with wonderful Venetian Renaissance artworks; San Sebastiano masterfully decorated by Paolo Veronese; San Pantalon; San Nicolò dei Mendicoli with one of the city's oldest churches; and Santa Maria della Salute.
From Piazza San Marco, crossing the renowned Bridge of Sighs - with a wonderful view of the lagoon - is the Castello district, rich in architectural and artistic masterpieces. The campi of Venice are historic piazzas, usually embellished with remarkable monuments in the middle, and dominated by impressive religious buildings whence they take their names. This sestiere (district) also hosts plenty of interesting churches: the Chiesa dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo (Church of St. John and St. Paul), where state funerals were once held; the Church Santa Maria dei Miracoli, a fabulous example of Renaissance architecture; the Church of San Zaccaria in the homonyous piazza; the Church of San Giovanni in Bragora - considered one of the most beautiful churches in Venice - and the Church of Santa Maria Formosa, based on a design by Codussi.
Two further places that are well-worth a visit along the same route include the biggest Arsenal in the world, built in the 12th Century and later expanded, thanks to Venice's significant political and economic development; and the Scuola San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, home to some of the most beautiful paintings by Carpaccio. In Cannareggio, Campo della Madonna dell’Orto is one of the last surviving examples of ancient herringbone paving, and its Church of the same name was decorated by the famous Tintoretto. The Scuola dei Mercanti can also be found here. The Church of San Giovanni Crisostomo, Codussi’s last opus, is another magnificent example of Renaissance architecture. Finally, in the old Ca’ d’Oro building lies a precious art collection of pieces from the Venetian School.
You might already know that Venice is surrounded by a group of islands: Burano, renowned for its lace production; Murano, for its glassmaking; Pellestrina, characterized by sandy dunes and cane thickets; and Torcello, one of the oldest human settlements in the area.
On the northern side of the Lagoon are wonderful natural landscapes, with beaches that change color depending on the sunlight, just like the Dolomites that have nourished, over the centuries, this beautiful coastline.
Time permitting, tourists should also stop at a few of the Venice Province's other gems: Caorle, with its narrows alleys passing between pretty, colored houses; Jesolo, core of amusement and nightlife; Bibione, with its pinewoods that run right down to the beach; and Cavallino, the main European “open-air” tourist destination.
And along the banks of the Brenta, many sumptuous aristocratic Venetian villas were built between 1500 and 1700; period symbols of Venetian wealth and prosperity, they are the designs of some of the best architects and painters of the day.
It is possible to find the same splendor in the environs of Mirano, in the Terre del Tiepolo (Lands of Tiepolo), named in honor of one of the most famous artistic families. Without a doubt, this area witnessed a period of great cultural development during the Most Serene Republic's domination, the signs of which it is still possible to admire, intact, and in all their magnificence.
The Province of Venice hosts, throughout the year, various events, festivals, feasts and cultural performances, some of them internationally-renowned. One of the best attended events is the famous Venice Carnevale, an event full of art, music, amusement and ancient traditions.
Every February, Piazza San Marco becomes a huge stage where versatile artists and gorgeous masks entertain the spectators of this crazy and wonderful show.
Venice and its Lagoon are two indissoluble entities, two worlds that complement each other perfectly. Indeed, Venice's waters serve as the theatre for many events: for example, 120 boat races take place every year in the Venetian Lagoon. The oldest and most famous of them is the Historic Regatta, thrilling tourists and locals alike every time. Then, a parade of boats typical of the 16th Century makes its way along the Grand Canal; and another competition, known as the voga alla veneta, involves a special technique in which the rower stands, using one oar to propel and guide the boat at the same time.
Art and movie lovers, rather, should mark their calendars for two exciting and prestigious events: the Biennale and the Venice Film Festival.
Venice and its environs are a cradle of history, art, culture and traditions, and options for discovering the Serenissima (Most Serene Republic of Venice) abound: e.g. a boat tour on the Brenta or among the islands of the Lagoon, a walk through the narrow calle of Venice and the nearby small sea towns, or an excursion into the natural surroundings.
Those up for some shopping can take a look at the typical crafts workshops and the elegant boutiques. The famous Murano glass, the beautiful necklaces made with colorful pearls, the terra-cotta masks, and typical Venetian desserts are everywhere for browsing and purchasing as gifts and souvenirs.
This area also offers many opportunities for fun.
After a journey through the local history, relax in a bar or in a pub with friends, enjoying an aperitivo with tasty snacks. Those in Venice you should not miss the bacari, typical Venetian wine bars, where they can taste the exquisite cicchetti (appetizers) with an ombra (glass) of wine.
Those who love a bit of nightlife will be pleased as well: let yourself go in one of the various discos or spend the night at the Venice Casino, testing your luck at the tables.
The more active can choose from beach volleyball, surfing, waterskiing, sailing and paraflying at the beach resorts in the area. Prefer closer contact with nature? Visit the WWF Oasis of Valle Averto or to the Parco della Giara to observe and take pictures of the fauna characteristic of these parts.
The Veneto Region is very important for its viticulture, and the Province of Venice hosts the Strada dei Vini dei Dogi (Doges' Wine Routes), ideal for seeking out authentic and highly-prized blends labeled D.O.C.
Venetian gastronomy is generally defined as “frugal cuisine” not because it is of poor quality (it isnot), but because its origins are humble. Nowadays many of the typical recipes have been re-appraised by great chefs and have become examples of culinary excellence, thanks to the delicacies obtained from the land and the sea.
The sea, an element that characterizes the history of Venice, provides a lot of typical food: seafood, crabs, shellfish, sea bass, eels and oily fish. Moreover, it is possible to find the Moscardino of Caorle (the eledone octopus), the Schilla di Venezia (shellfish) and river crayfish, farmed and fished in the Venetian area since Antiquity. White meats are also typical: goose (to make pâté), salame, sausages, ciccioli (pork), prosciutto (ham) and speck.
The emblem of Venetian food has always been polenta, served as a main course, as an appetizer or side dish. The famous recipes are, in general, polenta with creamed codfish or polenta with osei (small birds wrapped with lard and sautéed with olive oil and sage).
After the polenta, the local cuisine’s main ingredient is rice. In Veneto this is served with broth (all’onda), and in the form of many other recipes: with potatoes, pumpkin, chicory, nettles, etc.
Amongst the desserts (including those mostly enjoyed at Christmas) are the famous dry biscuits or cookies: baicoli, zaleti, fave alla veneziana, bussolai, sagagiardi, and exquisite cakes such as Nicolotta and Pinza.
This exquisite food can be tasted with local wines such as Cabernet, Pinot, Verduzzo and Merlot.