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The Venetian Republic was a major sea power and a staging area for the Crusades, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially the spice trade) and art in the Renaissance. Venice is world-famous for its canals. It is built on an archipelago of 118 islands formed by about 150 canals in a shallow lagoon …

Magical Journeys to Venice

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» Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs, Venice

Built in 1602, the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) connected the interrogation rooms in the Doges Palace with the prison cells. It got its name from the fact that prisoners passing across it sighed for their lost freedom and their final view of Venice through the barred windows. The prison cells were small, dank and often a final stop before death. You can see them on a tour of the Palazzo Ducale (Doges Palace) …

» Burano

Burano, Venice

Burano is one of the islands in the Venice lagoon. It is famous for its colorful houses and lace-making. You can watch the skilled women working and see why it takes months to make even the smallest piece; each lace-maker specializes in a particular stitch. Not surprising then that a lot of the lace currently for sale in Venice is knocked off in factories far far away; another example of Venice's traditional crafts becoming too expensive for the modern world …

» Campo Santa Margherita

Campo Santa Margherita, Venice

The most famous square in Venice is that of St Mark, but if you're in the Dorsoduro sestiere, you should head for the Campo Santa Margherita - one of Venice's largest public squares. The Campo was named for a church on the square, although that building is now used as a university lecture theater. It's still worth a visit, though, and so is the 'scuola' of Santa Maria dei Carmini …

» Campo Santa Maria Formosa

Campo Santa Maria Formosa, Venice

In the Castello neighborhood of Venice is Campo Santa Maria Formosa, a lively piazza named after the 15-century church that sits in the area. The structure has two facades, each representing two different architectural styles, with its more ornate Baroque facade opening up onto the square. The large square also includes the 13th-century Palazzo Vitturi and the 17th-century Palazzo Ruzzini, both of which are now hotels that have largely kept many of their original elements …

» Church of St. Maria Assunta

Church of St. Maria Assunta (Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta) , Venice

On the island of Torcello in the Venetian lagoon sits one of the most important churches in Venice - the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Torcello itself is the site of one of the earliest settlements on the Venetian islands, so it has enormous historical importance. The cathedral itself is one of the oldest structures in Venice. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta dates from the 7th century, although most of what you see today was built in the 9th, 11th, 12th, and 14th centuries …

» Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale)

Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), Venice

Until 1797, the Doges ruled the Venetian Empire and the Palazzo Ducale was where they ruled from. It was one of the first things those arriving in Venice saw as their ships sailed through the lagoon and landed at Saint Mark's Square. The Doges lived here and the government offices were also in this building. Justice was meted out here and the Golden Book, listing all the important families of Venice, was housed here …

» Dolomites


Extending into the northeastern Italy, the Dolomites are a section of the Alps mountain range, which stretches from Austria in the east to France in the west. These peaks attract adventurers in the winter for skiing and in the summer for mountain climbing, but also draw in people simply looking to take in the views. Just an hour's drive from Venice gets you to the valleys of these majestic mountains, dotted with quaint villages and serene lakes …

» Grand Canal

Grand Canal

The Grand Canal is the main street of Venice. Lined with beautiful, if aging, palazzo, you can hop aboard a gondola and imagine a time when these boats were the main means of transport (once there was 10,000 now there are 400). The impressive palazzo, homes to all the wealthy families, had highly decorated exteriors with colorful paintings and mosaics. These days they tend to have faded to one color but many still have the ornate, oriental facades …

» Hard Rock Cafe Venice

Hard Rock Cafe Venice

Venice may look like it hasn't changed in hundreds of years, but wander behind Saint Mark's Square and you'll find evidence to the contrary - the Hard Rock Cafe Venice. This is the smallest Hard Rock Cafe in Europe, and it's located inside an historic Venetian building. One side of the restaurant overlooks a canal and what is typically a large gathering of gondolas - it's near one of the main pick-up points for visitors who want a gondola ride …

» Lake Misurina

Lake Misurina

Just over 106 miles north of Venice, high up in the Dolomites, sits a large natural lake that contributed to Olympic speed skating history. With its handful of hotels lining its shores, clear, fresh air and mountain backdrop, Lake Misurina is the spot to go to if you're looking for a scenic getaway from the canal city of Venice. The lake is near the 1956 Winter Olympics host city of Cortina d'Ampezzo and served as the site of the last Olympic speed skating events that were held on natural ice …

» Madonna dell'Orto Church

Madonna dell'Orto Church, Venice

The Church of the Madonna dell'Orto is a small church in Venice, built in the 14th century by a religious order that no longer exists. Roughly 100 years after it was built, it was taken over by a different congregation. After another 200 years, the church was again taken over by another religious order, and in 1787 the church fell under public administration. The Madonna dell'Orto church was reopened in 1868 and has undergone several restorations in the 20th century …

» Marco Polo's House

Marco Polo's House

The Venetian building that was once the supposed home of famous explorer Marco Polo and his family is now easily missable to passers-by. Located on a tiny square next to the San Giovanni Crisostomo Church (built centuries after Polo's death), the building now houses a restaurant and apartment vacation rentals. There is a small marble plaque on the wall commemorating the site's significance, however …

» Murano

Murano, Venice

Murano is one of 118 islands in the lagoon of Venice, famous for its glass factories. This is where the unique colored glass of Venice is made, in family-owned factories. Once located in the main city of Venice, they caused too many fires and were exiled to Murano in 1291 - that's how long the industry has been going. It takes ten years to master the art of making proper Venetian glass. It's such a specialized art that in centuries past glass-makers were forbidden to leave Venice …

» Museo del Merletto (Lace Museum)

Museo del Merletto (Lace Museum), Venice

The island of Murano in the Venetian lagoon is famous for its glass-making, but nearby Burano has its own crafty claim to fame - lace-making. The ancient tradition of hand-made lace is not nearly as common as it once was, but you can still see some women in Burano making lace the old-fashioned way, and you can get your lace education at the island's Museo del Merletto - the Lace Museum. The Lace Museum on Burano contains more than 200 examples …

» Piombi

Piombi, Venice

Along with many, many other uses, Venice's famous Doge's Palace once had a few corridors serving as prisons. The original palace prison earned the nickname 'Piombi,' Italian for "lead," because it was in the attics underneath a lead-covered roof. A lead roof was undoubtedly put in place at least partly with the intention of making the prison impenetrable, and this is what it became known for. The Piombi also had a reputation of being notoriously uncomfortable …

» Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto)

Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) , Venice

Rialto Bridge or Ponte di Rialto was the city's first bridge over the Grand Canal. Connecting the highest points on the lagoon islands settlement, the first bridge was built in 1180 and this more solid marble one in 1588-92. The bridge is an elegant arch with steps and shops, a mass of water traffic passing underneath, and huge numbers of tourists and Venetians heading across it. The area around the bridge was, and still is, full of important city functions. Nearby are the city's markets …

» Rialto Fish Market

Rialto Fish Market, Venice

Venice is a city of many traditions, and one of the oldest is the way residents get groceries. The Rialto markets have been serving the population of Venice since 1097, making them an authentic part of life in the city. The best-known of the markets is the Rialto Fish Market, called the 'Pescheria' in Italian. In addition to familiar seafood you'll see for sale, you'll also find specialties of the Venetian lagoon …

» San Giovanni and Paolo Church

San Giovanni and Paolo Church, Venice

Venice is home to many important churches, including the huge Basilica of Saints Giovanni and Paolo (John and Paul). Known as 'San Zanipolo' in Venetian, this Basilica was the setting for every Venetian doge's funeral from the 15th century on, and is the burial site for 25 of those doges. Santi Giovanni e Paolo was built in the 14th century on land donated by a 13th century doge. The church is enormous - one of Italy's biggest - and contains artwork by notable Italian artists …

» San Polo

San Polo, Venice

Venice is home to six districts, or sestieri in Italian, and San Polo is the smallest of the bunch. It lies at the heart of the city, hugging one of the big bends in the Grand Canal on one side. Named for the Church of San Polo, this area is one of the oldest parts of the city, and it is also home to many top sites. Venice's oldest bridge, the Rialto Bridge, connects San Polo to the eastern bank of the Grand Canal, and Venice's primary market sits near the base of the Rialto on the San Polo side …

» Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Scuola Grande di San Rocco (Scuola of San Rocco), Venice

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco was one of the many 'Scuole Grandi' in Venice, typically established by the church for charitable purposes. The 'Great School' of San Rocco was founded in the 15th century by a group of Venetian aristocrats, although other schools in Venice at the time were more egalitarian - there was no rule against lower classes joining. The structure of these 'Great Schools' was similar from building to building, with a large meeting hall on the main floor …

» St. Anthony's Basilica

St. Anthony's Basilica (Basilica of St Anthony), Venice

Padua makes a lovely day trip from Venice, and one of the main churches to visit in Padua is the Basilica of Saint Anthony. It was built in the 13th century, and it incorporated into its design the small church in which St. Anthony had been buried. This is why the church rises to the level of a Basilica. The brick facade of St. Anthony's Basilica is more austere than St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, but its rounded domes will no doubt look familiar …

» St Mark's Basilica

St Mark's Basilica (Basilica of San Marco), Venice

Basilica di San Marco (St Mark's Cathedral) is magnificent. It is both a wonderful architectural flurry of Gothic, Byzantine, Romanesque and Renaissance styles declaring the wealth of Venice over centuries, and a spiritual place of worship. Its domes and turrets, and gold mosaic stand out over the square and over Venice, and four ancient classical horses top the entrance, taken from Constantinople (Istanbul) when Venice sacked that city around 1200. Inside the church is dazzling …

» St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco)

St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco), Venice

St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) is filled with centuries of history and is still the symbolic heart of Venice; it has even been referred to as the drawing room of Europe. With the grand St Mark's Church at one end, the Campanile bell tower rising in the middle and the elegant colonnaded arcade of famous cafes on three sides, it is a wonderful place to be - and the hundreds of pigeons think so too …

» St Mary of the Friars

St Mary of the Friars (Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari), Venice

From the outside, the brick Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (the Frari Church) looks rather plain. But step inside and you are surrounded by some of the greatest beauty of the Italian Renaissance. Built for the Fransicans in the 14th and 15th centuries, the design itself is simple - although having the choir stalls in the middle of the church is an unusual feature - but the art that the monks commissioned more than makes up for it …

» Teatro La Fenice

Teatro La Fenice, Venice

Of the many famous opera houses in Italy, few are more legendary than Venice's Teatro La Fenice. Originally opened in 1792, the theater quickly achieved the status of a major venue for opera performances. The theater's name, 'La Fenice,' means 'The Phoenix.' It was a reference to an earlier theater owned by the same company having burned down, in an optimistic look toward the mythic bird that rises from its own ashes. Unfortunately, the name proved to be a prescient one …

» Venice Islands

Venice Islands, Venice

Of the several islands in the Venetian Lagoon, the 3 main ones are Burano, Murano and Torcello. Though small, each island has developed its own name and fame separate from Venice. The people of Burano are known internationally for their lace industry. Murano's inhabitants have a reputation as artisans as well, producing world-famous glassware. Torcello was the first of Venice's Islands to be populated, making it home to some of the areas oldest buildings and finest cathedrals …

« ITALYDiscover ItalyNorthern Italy • Venice

Magical Journeys to ItalyVenice Travel,
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Magical Journeys to Italy

When a city has been written about for centuries, like Venice has, it can seem like there's nothing new to say or read about it. No amount of reading about Venice, however, can adequately prepare you for what it's like to step from the train station or cruise port and straight into a postcard. The canal city is surreal, hundreds of bridges connecting islands that shouldn't really even exist, and yet that have managed to survive …

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Places to Stay in ItalyVenice Hotels
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Magical Journeys to Italy

Disrepair not-withstanding, Venice is a magical city of canals and bridges. Built originally to avoid invading barbarians, today it is a near perfect preservation of art and architecture. This sanctuary on the lagoon is virtually the same as it was five hundred years ago, which adds to the fascinating character of the city …

Magical Journeys to Italy

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