The jewel of the Adriatic Sea, Venice is filled with romance. As many visitors to this Northern Italian city will tell you, Venice's famous canal-lined neighborhoods are as beautiful in reality as they are in the imagination. Once the most important port in Italy, Venice was built atop a series of small islands that are connected by narrow waterways. These canals function like roads in this unusual city, where automobile traffic is almost nonexistent. The distinctive urban map, along with the city's elaborate Gothic architecture, has made Venice one of the world's most famous destinations.
During the Renaissance, Venice was home to a prominent artistic community. Today, Venice continues to play an important role in the international arts culture with many renowned museums and galleries. Venetian craft is among the most famous in Italy, including the popular and widely exported Merino glass produced on a small island just outside the city center. Venice is also the host of one of the world's most important art fair, the Venice Biennale, which draws huge crowds of celebrities, journalists, artists, and tourists for exhibitions and parties.
Eating and drinking is another centerpiece of the Venice experience. Here, small trattorias and cafes prepare a range of regional dishes, like risotto with cuttlefish and fish soup, which pair perfectly with Northern Italian wines.
If you've never been to Venice, the place to start is in the water. Take a gondola ride through the twisting waterways or hop on a vaporetto, a public water-bus, down the Grand Canal. From the canals, you can admire gorgeous Venetian architecture, tiny footbridges, and charming open-air cafes throughout the city center.
In addition, don't miss:
-Piazza San Marco: This is the heart of Venice and the site of splendid St. Mark's Cathedral, an architectural gem built over the course of many centuries.
-The Grand Canal: The city's main artery, this large canal is crisscrossed by motorboats and flanked by palaces.
-Doge's Palace: Also known as the Palazzo Ducale, this architectural wonder was built in the 10th century. Today, it is a handsome museum with art by Venetian masters
-Galleria dell'Accademia: This famous museum holds a collection of Renaissance art by Venetian masters, like Titian.
-Peggy Guggenheim Collection: This is a wonderful contemporary art collection, displayed in the Venice home of famous collector, Peggy Guggenheim.
-Rialto Bridge: This stone footbridge is one of the city's most famous and most beautiful architectural treasures, with a central portico housing a row of gift shops.
You can enjoy Venice's unique atmosphere in a historic villa or luxury vacation rental. An apartment rental or condo with a view of the canals will let you live like a Venetian for a few days.
As featured in USA TODAY and recommended by Travel + Leisure in its annual Villa Guide:
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