Sunday, December 23, 2012

Venice, The Dream City

You'll find cities claiming to be "the Venice of the North," "the Venice of Africa," "the Venice of the East"... Any city crossed by canals or with colorful buildings sitting on the water's edge wants to be associated with the image of the world's most beautiful city. But the beauty of Italy's Venice is unrivalled and the entire city is one work of art. It's also one of only a few cities in the world that can be described as truly unique, where main "streets" are canals, there are no cars or traffic jams, and the mixture of Renaissance, Byzantine, Gothic, and Baroque architecture leaves anyone wondering if this magical cityscape is real at all. The fairytale or theatrical atmosphere is then enhanced by the carnival mask shops, romantic gondola rides, and colorful palazzos. Everywhere you turn is a postcard image of this unequalled urban masterpiece.

Nothing quite prepares you for Venice, even after seeing it a million times in tourist brochures, guidebooks, or films. You'll fall in love at first sight and will stand in awe of its architecture, piazzas, and canal views until the very last minute before you leave. You'll have the designer shops, sophisticated bars, classy restaurants, galleries, and other tempting attractions to go indoors, but nothing can prevent you from going back to standing by a canal admiring the most spectacular city ever created, over and over again.

 Top 10 Sights and Attractions
  1. Stand in the middle of PIAZZA SAN MARCO (one of the world's most beautiful squares), and marvel at its BASILICA.
  2. Admire the magnificent architecture and interior of the PALAZZO DUCALE.
  3. Take a vaporetto down the GRAND CANAL and a GONDOLA RIDE through the city.
  4. Visit the Peggy Guggenheim Museum for its modern art.
  5. See Renaissance masterpieces in the Accademia Gallery.
  6. Cross the iconic RIALTO BRIDGE and browse the MARKET behind it.
  7. Stand under the dome of the landmark SANTA MARIA DELLA SALUTE CHURCH.
  8. Go inside Palazzo Grassi for the building and its art exhibitions.
  9. See the impressive paintings of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
  10. Admire the art found inside the SANTA MARIA GLORIOSA DEI FRARI CHURCH.
Hotels and HostelsHotel Bookings
Look for the hotel or hostel that best matches your budget, type of trip or personality. Here you can guarantee a room but you do NOT pay anything at the time of booking. Payments are only made at the hotel and there are no booking fees. Most hotels allow cancellations with no penalty if done up to 24 or 48 hours in advance. You'll see that information at the time of booking and again in the confirmation email.

ShopsShopping Window-shop down Calle Larga XXII Marzo west of Piazza San Marco for all the big-name fashion labels you expect to find in any Italian city. Other upscale shops line the streets collectively known as the Mercerie, but note that prices in Venice are generally higher than in Rome or Florence. The best buys in the city are its crafts, especially glassware from Murano, lace from Burano, and the famous papier-mâché masks. There are so many shops selling those crafts, that many are of mass-produced low quality and very likely even made in China. To make sure it's an authentic Venetian item, look at the price. If it's an astronomical amount, it's likely to be the real thing. You'll need to take some time to look around and find the truly original pieces, with a trip to Murano being the best idea if you're really serious about special glassware. You also can't leave Venice without visiting the bustling Rialto Market, taking place every morning from Monday to Saturday by the Rialto Bridge. You'll find Venetians buying their fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and a variety of cheeses. 


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