With its canals, noble palaces and soft mist, Venice turns every visitor into a child, their eyes filled with wonder at a city that seems almost unreal.
Dozens and dozens of monuments, museums and basilicas crowd into a rather small area. The heart of the city is Piazza San Marco, where the Basilica of San Marco stands in the centre, its façade adorned with mosaics, golden decorations and the famous bronze horses from Constantinople: an excellent example of Italo-Byzantine architecture, this is the city's cathedral and is flanked by its iconic bell tower, whose summit is almost 100 metres high.
Next to St Mark's Basilica stands the Doge's Palace, built in the 15th century as the seat of the government of the “Serenissima” Republic of Venice, and now a museum filled with works by the most important Venetian artists. Its premises also house Sansovino's Library, and from inside the Palace you can cross the famous Bridge of Sighs to get to the New Prisons: the 'sighs' that since the 18th century have given their name to the Baroque structure made of Istrian stone, were in fact not those of lovers discovering one of the most romantic cities in the world, as it is often believed, but those of prisoners being taken to their cells.
Talking about bridges, it is absolutely impossible not to mention Rialto, another symbol of the city: for almost three centuries it was the only link between the two banks of Grand Canal, as well as the city’s economic hub. Today it is still the most famous of the four bridges spanning Venice's main waterway.
Grand Canal and the other rios are overlooked by numerous noble palaces, which still bear the names of the wealthy Venetian families who resided there at the time of the Republic o Venice. The most famous include Palazzo Fortuny, home to the museum of the same name, Ca' Pesaro - which now houses the International Gallery of Modern Art and the Museum of Oriental Art in Venice - and the famous Ca' Foscari, which gave its name and seat to the city's university. From the boats and gondolas that sail the waters of Venetian canals, you can see the ancient structures of the so called “Fondachi”, buildings dating back to the Middle Ages that were used as warehouses and as reception areas for merchants: especially well known are Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a few steps away from the Rialto Bridge, and Fondaco dei Turchi, today home to the Natural History Civic Museum.
One of the most significant exhibition venues is Peggy Guggenheim Collection, named after the famous and eclectic American collector: in her Venetian residence, at the southern end of Dorsoduro, she has assembled the most important exhibition of 20th century European and American art in Italy, boasting works by Picasso, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Pollock and Mirò.
For culture enthusiasts, a stop at Teatro La Fenice is a must. Just like the legendary creature whose name was given to this structure, the famous opera house - one of the most prestigious in the world - has risen twice from its ashes, rebuilt after being hit by two devastating fires in 1836 and 1996. Its stage has hosted premieres held by absolute maestros of the calibre of Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti, Stravinsky and Prokofiev.
Among the world's most prestigious cultural institutions is the Venice Biennale, which has been researching and disseminating new contemporary artistic trends in every field since 1895: art, architecture, dance, theatre, music and, of course, cinematography, with the promotion of the Venice Film Festival: the world's oldest industry festival, after the Oscars.
The rich cultural offer of the Venetian Lido is completed by the famous islands of Murano and Burano, with their world-famous craft traditions: glass art and needle lace, respectively.