Venice Italy

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Venice - Italy front line five star hotel trips and tours

Venice Italy

Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals – including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces. The central square, Piazza San Marco, contains St. Mark’s Basilica, which is tiled with Byzantine mosaics, and the Campanile bell tower offering views of the city’s red roofs.


Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals – including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces. The central square, Piazza San Marco, contains St. Mark’s Basilica, which is tiled with Byzantine mosaics, and the Campanile bell tower offering views of the city’s red roofs.


With a city as filled with tourist attractions as Venice, it's hard to know where to begin. Perhaps the best way is to simply get lost for a few hours wandering through its enchanting little streets and passageways, strolling beside its canals, and finding its secret corners. At every turn, you'll see something worth remembering with a photo. No matter where this exploration takes you, it's easy to find your way back to Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal. Most of the best sights you'll want to visit lie around these two landmarks.


Venice is divided into six sestieri, neighborhoods that have distinctly different characters. San Marco is the central one, surrounded on three sides by a great loop in the Grand Canal. Across Rialto Bridge is the artisans' neighborhood of San Polo, and across the Grand Canal to the south is stylish Dorsoduro, with its prestigious art museums and lively squares. At the outer edges are Santa Croce, Castello, and Cannaregio, home of the original Ghetto. Beyond the six sestieri - neighborhoods - of the city itself, you'll want to hop aboard a vaporetto to its islands: Lido, Murano, Burano, and Torcello. A fourth island, San Giorgio Maggiore, is worth visiting for the beautiful views of San Marco and Venice from the tower of its church.


Certainly Venice's best-known church, and one of the most easily recognized in the world, St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) was originally the Doge's private chapel, decorated with Byzantine art treasures that are part of the booty brought back by Venetian ships after the fall of Constantinople. The gold-backed mosaic pictures above the doorways on the façade only hint at the mosaic artistry inside, where 4,240 square meters of gold mosaics cover the domes and walls. These set a distinctly Byzantine tone to its soaring interior, but you'll find treasures from other periods, including later mosaics designed by Titian and Tintoretto - names you'll encounter all over the city. The magnificent golden altarpiece, the Pala d'Oro, one of the finest in Europe, was begun by early 12th-century artists, and centuries later, adorned with nearly 2,000 gems and precious stones. If you can tear your eyes from this, the mosaic domes, and the multitude of richly decorated altars, glance down at the floor, a masterpiece of marble inlay. And take time to see the gold reliquaries and icons in the Treasury.


The vast expanse of Venice's largest square is brought together and made to seem almost intimate by the elegant uniformity of its architecture on three sides. But more than its architectural grace, St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) is loved as Venice's living room, the place everybody gathers, strolls, drinks coffee, stops to chat, meets friends and tour guides, or just passes through on the way to work or play. Three sides are framed in arcades, beneath which are fashionable shops and even more fashionable cafés. The open end is bookmarked by the erratic, exotic curves, swirls, mosaics, and lacy stone filigree of St. Mark's Basilica. Above it towers the brick shaft of the campanile. For overviews of this busy piazza, you can go to its top or to the top of the Torre dell'Orologio, where a pair of "Moors" strikes the hour.


Visitors arriving in Venice once stepped ashore under the façade of this extraordinary palace. They couldn't have failed to be impressed, both by its size and the finesse of its architecture. If they were received inside by the Doges, the impression would only strengthen as they entered through the Porta della Carta, a perfect example of Venetian Gothic at its height, and ascended the monumental Scala dei Giganti and the gold vaulted Scala d'Oro to be received in what many consider to be the palace's most beautiful chamber, Sala del Collegio. Even jaded 21st-century travelers gasp in awe at the palace's grandeur and lavish decoration. You'll see works by all the Venetian greats including Tintoretto, whose Paradise is the largest oil painting in the world. Not open on public tours but included on private tours is a walk across the Bridge of Sighs to the dark cells of the Prigioni - the prisons from which Casanova made his famous escape. Lines for admission to this Venetian landmark are often long, but you can avoid these, and see sections of the palace not open to general visitors, with a Skip the Line: Doge's Palace Ticket and Tour. A local guide will take you past the lines and explain the history and art in each of the dazzling rooms before leading you across the Bridge of Sighs and into the notorious prison.