Venice and Its Lagoon
1. What Venice and its lagoon are and where they are located
Venice lies in the centre of the lagoon of the same name, in the Adriatic Sea, and is spread over a vast territory consisting of 118 islands, many of which are interconnected.
The historic centre of Venice consists of six zones, the original sestieri that still retain their historic names: Cannaregio, Castello, Santa Croce, San Marco, San Polo and Dorsoduro. Numerous islands form part of the historical area of the city, from the islands of Giudecca to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.
The Venice lagoon includes islands that have acquired a worldwide reputation over the centuries, such as Murano, the island of glass facing the San Michele cemetery and, a little further north, the rainbow island of Burano.
2. History and information on Venice and its lagoon
Founded by the Venetians in 500 AD in order to escape barbarian invasions, Venice began its long period of splendour in 697 with the beginning of the era of the doges, the heads of state who ruled the Venetian Republic for over 1,100 years.
Strengthened by its strategic position, “La Serenissima” came to control much of the Adriatic coastline and part of the Mediterranean.
Only the Treaty of Campoformio in 1797 between the French and the Austrians put an end to the Venetian Republic.
3. Why Venice and its lagoon are a UNESCO site
Venice is a work of art without equal and together with its lagoon it contains one of the greatest concentrations of masterpieces in the world.
UNESCO listed the city as a World Heritage Site in 1987, emphasising not only its important historical and artistic heritage but also the unique cultural landscape that man has been able to create by making the most of the inhospitable environment.
4. The most beautiful places to visit in Venice and around its lagoon
Visiting Venice is a unique experience.
Even those who have travelled the length and breadth of the world remain captivated by the splendour of the city and its lagoon, an enchanting landscape where millennia-old history and culture intertwine in a unique jewel.
The most famous place in the city is undoubtedly the monumental St Mark's Square, the heart of Venice, which is overlooked by the Doge's Palace, a masterpiece of Venetian Gothic architecture, and St Mark's Basilica with its imposing bell tower. The Basilica, dominated by its five domes, was built starting in 1063 and represented the splendour of the Venetian Republic over the following centuries.
From St. Mark's Square, don’t miss the fascinating Bridge of Sighs. Today it is full of romance, but historically it was linked to the fearsome tribunal of the Serenissima. This bridge was once crossed by condemned prisoners as they walked to their cells. It can be admired from the nearby Ponte della Paglia and you can walk across it during a visit to the Doge's Palace.
Take all the time you need to savour the wonders of this city and its canals with their gondolas, the world-famous icons of Venice.
Be sure to make a trip to the Teatro della Fenice. Destroyed twice and rebuilt in its original style, it remains one of the city's most famous monuments: you can visit it every day even if you don't attend the scheduled events.
The Rialto Bridge is the oldest and most famous of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal and dates back to the late 1500s. It leads to the lively and colourful Rialto Market. The Accademia Bridge leads to the Gallerie dell'Accademia, the city's finest museum, which houses the best collection of Venetian and Veneto art, including works by Giorgione, Titian and Tintoretto.
The other museum not to be missed is the eighteenth-century Venetian museum, housed in Ca' Rezzonico, one of the city's most famous palaces with its splendid Baroque façade designed by Baldassarre Longhena.
And if you want a taste of the vastness of the Venetian lagoon, hop on a vaporetto to reach the colourful Murano, famous for its long tradition of glassmaking, and the island of Burano, which is famous around the world for its lace of the same name.
5. Local products and dishes from Venice and its lagoon: the specialities to try
Venice also offers culinary temptations with many dishes linked to the city's long history.
If you love fish, we recommend starting your meal with sardines in saor, a delicious starter in which fried sardines are combined with caramelised onions, pine nuts and sultanas.
Polenta col baccalà mantecato is a speciality you will find in every restaurant and trattoria, as is fegato alla veneziana, the city's most famous meat dish.
If you love pasta, you can play it safe with bigoli in salsa, handmade and served with meat or fish sauce.
And if you are in the mood for something sweet, bussolai di Burano are the mainstay of Venetian pastry-making: light biscuits to be enjoyed while sipping a glass of Vin Santo or Zibibbo.