Venice, Italy

Venice has been called the City of Bridges, Water, Canals, Gondolas, Masks and Palazzos. All of these monikers fall short of describing this marvelous destination. As soon as you start walking, you will get lost. But with something wonderful across every bridge, who cares?

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1 Ponte della Costituzione at Piazzale Roma in Venice, Italy

Cars are not allowed in Venice. So, once you drive 2.5 miles across the lagoon on the Deck della Libertà, also called the Freedom Bridge, you’ll park in one of the expensive garages at Piazzale Roma. While stretching your legs, enjoy this first view of the City of Bridges from across the Ponte della Costituzione. The Constitution Bridge was built in 2008, making it the fourth and newest to span the Grand Canal.

Piazzale Roma, 496, 30135 Venezia VE, Italy
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2 Colorful Mooring Poles on Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

During your first ride down the Grand Canal in Venice, you will be in awe of the colorful buildings clinging to the waterline. They are called a palazzo or palace. Most were built by wealthy aristocrats. In front of them are mooring poles. These pali are used to secure boats. The colors of the stripes represent the family who originally owned the residence.

Calle Aseo, 5768, 30131 Cannaregio, Venezia VE, Italy
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3 Gondola Rowing Along Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

The gondola used to be a main form of transportation in Venice but today these black, flat-bottomed rowboats are primarily an iconic ride or ferry for tourists. It takes years of extensive training, exams and an apprenticeship to become a professional gondolier and then they have to wait because the guild only issues 425 licenses. The first woman was admitted in 2010.

Riva del Vin, 741 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
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4 Colorful Woman’s Venetian Theater Mask in Venice, Italy

Colorful Venetian theater masks are available throughout the “City of Canals” in retail and souvenir stores plus outdoor kiosks. Many of them are works of art. Interestingly, these masks were outlawed when the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia seized the city in 1797. However, in 1979, they were reintroduced by college students who wanted to turn a quick buck. Now they are extremely popular with tourists and are again part of the annual Venetian Carnival celebration.

Rio Terà de la Maddalena, 2364, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy
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5 Historic Grand Canal and Palazzos in Venice, Italy

Soon after the Venetian islands were settled in 811AD, it grew into a maritime and military power from the 9th through the 13th centuries. For the next three hundred years, the city became a cultural center and a haven for wealthy aristocrats who competed to build the most palatial residencies. But then the Black Death struck in 1575 and again in 1630 while it was also losing its importance as a trade center. Finally, in 1797, it was conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte, putting an end to the Republic. You can sense most of this fascinating history as you float along the Grand Canal.

Ponte dell'Accademia 30100 Venezia VE, Italy
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6 Ca’ Rezzonico and Ponte della Pazienze in Venice, Italy

There are over 400 bridges in Venice which is why it is called the “City of Bridges.” Some are spectacular and famous but most are a simple and practical means to cross over a canal. A typical example is the Ponte della Pazienze which spans the Rio Chiuso. The white marble palazzo with the Corinthian columns is Ca’ Rezzonico. Construction started in 1649 but it was not completed for over one hundred years. Today it is an art museum called Museum of Eighteenth Century Venice or, in Italian, Museo del Settecento Veneziano.

Dorsoduro, 2792b, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
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7 Gondola on Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

Venice is built on 100 islands that are connected by 170 canals. It is impossible to get lost because if you walk long enough you will reach one of the major waterways. Practically speaking, however, it is easy to get lost once inside the catacomb of alleys connected by endless footbridges. Fortunately, there is always a gondola nearby that will come to your rescue … for a hefty fee of course.

Calle Aseo, 5768, 30131 Cannaregio, Venezia VE, Italy
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8 Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy

In 1591, a wooden bridge that repeatedly collapsed was replaced by the Rialto Bridge. This white stone treasure of Venice is located at roughly the midpoint of the Grand Canal. For three hundred years, it served as the only foot bridge across the city’s main waterway. Notice the portico containing merchant shops. Interestingly, a design for this bridge by Michelangelo was rejected.

Riva Ferro, 10, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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9 Italian Boat Rush Hour on Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

The waterways in and around Venice are full of boats including ferries, water taxis, steamers, cargo, sanitation, water buses (called vaporetti), gondolas and speed boats. It is hard to imagine how they all navigate the S-shaped, Grand Canal so effortlessly. In addition, there is usually a cruise ship or two docked nearby.

Ponte dell'Accademia 30100 Venezia VE, Italy
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10 Cà Foscari and Giustinian Palaces in Venice, Italy

On the left is the Palazzo Giustinian, a late Venetian Gothic palace that was built in the 15th century and once was the home of opera composer Richard Wagner. Its neighbor along the Grand Canal is Ca’ Foscari. It’s named after the Doge (or duke) of Venice who constructed it in 1453. Henry III, a king of France, used to live here in the late 16th century. It is now part of a university.

Dorsoduro, 3228, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
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11 Composer Wagner’s Ca’ Vendramin Calergi in Venice, Italy

Richard Wagner, the German composer, spent his final years in Venice and he died in 1883 of a heart attack in this building on the Grand Canal called Ca’ Vendramin Calergi. It is now home to the Casinò di Venezia which was established in 1638 and claims to be the world’s oldest gaming house. A Wagner museum is also inside this palace that was built at the turn of the 16th century.

Cannaregio, 2040, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy
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12 Giuseppe Zolli Statue at Giardini Pubblici in Venice, Italy

Few tourists venture to Giardini Pubblici, a large park created in 1807 by Napoleon Bonaparte in Venice’s eastern district called Castello Sestiere. It is filled with shaded grass, walkways, pavilions from 30 nations and the Monumento a Giuseppe Garibaldi, a tribute to a 19th century Italian general. This statue is Giuseppe Zolli, his closest guardian and one of his soldiers who were called Redshirts or Camice Rosse. The park hosts the Venice Biennale Art Festival every other summer, which is an exhibition of contemporary art.

Viale Giuseppe Garibaldi, 1257 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
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13 Ponte Nuovo Bridge Reflecting in Canal Water in Venice, Italy

The Castello District on the eastern side of Venice is a charming and unrushed local neighborhood. This red brick Ponte Nuovo bridge reflecting in the waters of the Rio de la Tan canal is typical of its enchanting features.

Fondamenta Sant'Anna, 1127, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
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14 Church of San Pietro’s Leaning Campanile in Venice, Italy

This white stone Renaissance bell tower on Isola San Pietro di Castello looks like it is leaning in the photo because, well, it does lean. It is part of the 17th century San Pietro di Castello church that claims to exhibit the marble chair of St. Peter the Apostle. When this island was named Olivo it contained Venice’s first cathedral from the 7th until early in the 19th century.

S. Pietro di Castello, 380 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
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15 Brick Wall, Bell Tower and Moored Boats in Venice, Italy

During the 6th century a castle stood on San Pietro island which is how the Castello Sestiere district got its name. In 774 it was called Olivolo Island because the first episcopal see of Venice was founded here. It remained the center of the Roman Catholic archdiocese until 1451 when that designation moved to St. Mark’s Basilica. This brick, castle-like wall with the bell tower and moored boats is a few steps away from the island’s Basilica di San Pietro.

Castello, 70, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
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Residential Balcony in Sant’Elena in Venice, Italy

The core of Venice is filled with tourist attractions which are, naturally, filled with crowds of tourists. But stroll to the far eastern island of Sant’Elana if you want to experience how the local Venetians live. You’ll see people bartering at street produce stands, chatting with their neighbors, washing the sides of their moored boats, hanging their laundry to dry and watering the flower pots on their small balconies.

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16 Gondola Under Ponte della Paglia in Venice, Italy

This gondola is floating beneath Ponte della Paglia. This Straw Bridge name dates back to the 14th century when merchants unloaded straw here. The Venetian watercrafts seem simple but each wooden rowboat takes about 500 hours to build by a master squerarolo. Some unique features include the oarlocks, called fórcolo, that allow the gondolier total steering and power flexibility through narrow canals. The left side is taller than the right to aid balance, and each piece of ornamentation has historic symbolism.

Riva degli Schiavoni & Piazza San Marco, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy
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17 Bridge of Sighs and Gondola in Venice, Italy

Floating in a gondola below the ornate limestone Ponte dei Sospiri footbridge with the two small lattice windows is romantic. However, if you were crossing the Bridge of Sighs in the 17th century, you were a prisoner being led from the courtrooms of Doge’s Palace to the Prigioni where you were locked up or soon executed.

Piazza San Marco, 1, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy
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18 Institute of Science, Arts and Letters Building in Venice, Italy

This stunning, yellow building houses the Royal National Institute of Science, Arts and Letters whose origins were founded by Napoleon in the 19th century. It is an academy plus it offers grants and scholarships for historic and scientific research. On the right, downstream along the Grand Canal, is the Santa Maria della Salute Roman Catholic church.

Ponte dell'Accademia 30100 Venezia VE, Italy
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19 Male and Female Venetian Theater Masks in Venice, Italy

The first Venetian theater masks were worn in 1268 as part of an annual celebration that recognized a military victory in 1162. They grew in popularity in the Medieval times when prominent people disguised their identity during carnivals while engaged in promiscuous, immoral and carnal activities. This usage was parodied in comedies about adultery and love by traveling theater companies known as Commedia Dell’arte in the 16th through 18th centuries.

Rio Terà de la Maddalena, 2364, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy
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20 Dogana di Mare and Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, Italy

From the Canale della Giudecca you can enjoy this view of three Venetian landmarks. In the forefront is Dogana di Mare. This was a custom house when it was built in 1682. In 2009, it became the Punta della Dogana art museum. Sharing the triangular island is the Basilica of Saint Mary of Health. The Roman Catholic church was finished five years later. In the background is the campanile or bell tower of St. Mark’s.

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21 Middle-aged Couple Viewing Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, Italy

Other than ferries and gondolas, Venice is a pedestrian-only city so you will walk all day trying to explore its countless historic, beautiful sites. Periodically, when your legs begin to hurt, you just need to take a break like this couple sitting along a major promenade called Riva degli Schiavoni with a wonderful view of Santa Maria della Salute.

Riva degli Schiavoni, Venezia VE, Italy
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22 Palazzi on Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

The Grand Canal, called Canal Grande in Italian, is a magnificent waterway that flows through the heart of Venice, Italy. Along the banks is a rainbow of about 170 palatial buildings called a palazzo. Some are public, others residential and a few are palaces; they are all gorgeous. Several date back to the 14th century or earlier.

San Polo, 1176A, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
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23 Palazzo Santa Sofia on Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

The stunning, white Palazzo Santa Sofia is a beautiful example of Venetian Gothic architecture. Similar buildings in the city are more famous but this palace, which was built in the early 15th century, is one of the oldest. Notice the open corridor, called a loggia, which is at the edge of the Grand Canal. Above it are two magnificent balconies supported by columns and arches.

Fondamenta Trapolin, 3932, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy
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24 Palazzo Bembo on Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

Another example of the Venetian Gothic architecture is the red façade of the Palazzo Bembo. This palace on the Grand Canal was built in the 15th century and was the birthplace of Italian Cardinal Pietro Bembo who died in the mid-16th century. It is now a highly rated hotel. This location also hosts the Venice Biennale, which on a rotating two year basis is an exhibition for contemporary art, a film festival and architecture.

Riva del Carbon, 4793, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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25 Serenading Gondolier in Venice, Italy

Most first time visitors to Venice are excited to take a romantic gondola ride along the historic canals and are thrilled just to hear the oar pushing the boat through the water. However, some of the gondoliers entertain with traditional Italian songs like O Sole Mio. Still want more? Then sign up for the Gondola Serenade Tour. It includes a guitarist and sometimes an accordion player that provides the music for a spectacular baritone voice that delivers an opera quality performance.

Campo San Moisè, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
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26 Nine Women Sitting Along Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice, Italy

This tour group of nine American women needed a break from their hectic exploration of Venice, Italy. So, they sat along the Riva degli Schiavoni promenade and chatted as gondolas and boats floated by on the Canale di San Marco in front of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Riva degli Schiavoni, Venezia VE, Italy
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27 San Moise’s Façade Carvings in Venice, Italy

There is a long history of churches on this site. The first was built at the end of the 8th century, the second was created by Moisè Venier in 947 and the current one, finished in 1632, is dedicated to Moses and named Chiesa di San Moisè. The San Moise was funded by Vincenzo Fini. In a tribute to himself, he commissioned this elaborate carving over the church’s main portal. His bust sits on top of the obelisk which is supported by two camels.

Campiello S. Moise 30124 Venezia VE Italy
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28 San Polo Bell Tower in Venice, Italy

Venice is called the “City of Bridges” and the “City of Canals” but it could also be called the “City of Bell Towers” because there are 98 of them. The most famous and tallest stands 323 feet in front of the Basilica di San Marco, but you’ll find campaniles of various shapes, sizes and styles throughout the city. Their bells have rung from their belfries for hundreds of years to announce the time, signal danger, as part of worship and for celebratory occasions. A beautiful example is San Polo’s campanile. It is 85 feet tall and was built in 1362.

Salizada S. Polo 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
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29 Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice, Italy

The Franciscans built Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari during the 14th century. The minor basilica’s plain, Italian Gothic exterior belies the treasure trove inside of paintings by masters such as Giovanni Bellini plus Titan who created the Assumption of the Virgin. Among its seven side chapels are ornate wooden and marble sculptures and burial monuments. Frari also has Venice’s second tallest bell tower.

Campo dei Frari, 30125, Venezia VE, Italy
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30 Procuratie Vecchie in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy

Three sides of St. Mark’s Square in Venice are defined by the Procuratie buildings and, on the north side is the oldest: Procuratie Vecchie. Its three storied, impressive white facade has 50 arches supported by columns. The Old Magistrates once housed the Procurators of San Marco who were the senior members of the Republic. Today, historic coffee houses and modern stores are inside the first floor arcades. It was originally built in the 12th century and then rebuilt and expanded in the early 16th century.

Piazza San Marco 90, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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31 Doge’s Palace Western Façade in Venice, Italy

The Doges of Venice were the political and military leaders of the republic for 1,100 years from 697 until 1797. This opulent Venetian Gothic palace was started in 1340 to be the home for the doge plus his governmental council and law courts. The Palazzo Ducale was not finished until 1442. If you look closely above the exquisite arcades and loggia, you will see the sculpture of the Doge Francesco Foscari kneeling below the winged lion of Saint Mark.

Piazza San Marco, 1, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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32 Winged Lion on Column of Justice in Venice, Italy

Near the waterway on the eastern side of the Piazzetta di San Marco is a tall, granite column with the Winged Lion of Venice on top. This symbol of the city and St. Mark is standing on a Bible. It was erected in 1268. A similar column with the statue of Saint Theodore is nearby. They are known as the Columns of Justice because public executions took place between them for several hundreds of years.

Piazza San Marco, 1 30124 Venezia VE Italy
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33 St. Mark’s Basilica Crucifixion Mosaic in Venice, Italy

There are five portals or entrances on the eastern façade of San Marco that faces St. Mark’s Square. Each is decorated with an exquisite golden mosaic, many of which portray the Passions of Christ, like this one of The Crucifixion. The originals were created in the 12th and 13th centuries but four of them were recreated about 600 years later.

Piazza San Marco, 328 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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34 St. Mark’s Basilica Last Judgment Mosaic in Venice, Italy

Below the ornate tympanum and archivolt of the main portal or entrance to the Basilica of St. Mark’s is the golden mosaic called “The Last Judgment.” The original was destroyed by a fire and this replacement was installed during the 19th century. Inside this Roman Catholic church are additional mosaics that cover more than 86,000 square feet.

Piazza San Marco, 328 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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35 St. Mark’s Basilica Transition of the Body Mosaic in Venice, Italy

Mark the Evangelist, who was one of the “Seventy Disciples” of Jesus, wrote the Bible’s Gospel of Mark and founded the Church of Alexandria. In 828, his relics were stolen and brought to Venice. Immediately, the doge ordered that a magnificent church be built next to his palace to house the saint’s remains. This gilded mosaic over the Basilica di San Marco’s left portal illustrates the transition of Saint Mark’s body to the original basilica. In Italian, it is called “Mosaico Traslazione San Marco Venezia.” It is the oldest of the exterior mosaics dating back to 1260 or 1270.

Piazza San Marco, 328 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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36 St. Mark’s Bell Tower, Library and Loggia in Venice, Italy

Here are three significant landmarks in the Piazzetta di San Marco. First, the 323 foot, brick St. Mark’s Campanile. This historic icon was built in 1514 and reconstructed in 1912. Below it is the 16th century Loggetta by Jacopo Sansovino. The same architect designed the Biblioteca Marciana on the left. This Library of St. Mark’s contains over one million historic books and 13,000 manuscripts.

Piazza San Marco 16, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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37 Winged Lion on Loggetta Gate in Venice, Italy

At the main entrance of the Campanile di San Marco, also called Saint Mark’s Bell Tower, is an early 16th century building named Loggetta by architect Jacopo Sansovino. In front of it is an elaborately carved gate created in 1742 by sculptor Antonio Gai. This detail shows the Winged Lion of Venice with his paw on the Gospel of Mark, the patron saint of the city and the basilica that is across the Piazzetta San Marco Square.

Piazza San Marco, 16, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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38 St. Mark’s Basilica and Winged Lion on Loggetta Gate in Venice, Italy

At the base of the Campanile tower facing the western façade of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy, is a small building from 1549 called Loggetta. On its bronze gate is the winged Lion of Venice holding a gospel of St. Mark in his paw. This symbol of the city is also found on the top of two large columns in the Piazza San Marco. On the left is the female representation of Venice, the City of Canals. The nickname for St. Mark’s, a Roman Catholic cathedral, is Chiesa d’Oro or the Church of Gold.

Piazza San Marco, 16, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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39 St. Mark’s Clock Tower Features in Venice, Italy

The Torre dell’Orologio was built on Saint Mark’s Square in 1499. The major features of this St. Mark’s Clock Tower are (from the top) the bell that is rung by two bronze figures, the winged lion of Venice, followed by an arched niche with a statue of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child. On either side are blue numbers representing the hour and minutes. The most prominent feature is the astronomical clock. Finally, off camera, is a large arch that leads to Merceria street.

Piazza San Marco, 145, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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40 St. Mark’s Clock Tower Clock in Venice, Italy

The astronomical clock in St. Mark’s Clock Tower is a stunning, artistic timepiece that was built at the end of the 15th century. Inside the marble circle are twenty-four Roman numerals. The single, gilded arm moves around these to indicate the hour of the day. Beneath that are golden Zodiac signs that revolve to show the sun’s position. Inside the blue enamel center is the moon which indicates the lunar phase.

Piazza San Marco, 145, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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41 St. Mark’s Clock Tower Winged Lion in Venice, Italy

This statue of the Winged Lion of Venice, with a blue background and a field of golden stars, is towards the top of St. Mark’s Clock Tower. It is the widely recognized symbol for St. Mark, the city of Venice and, at one time, the Republic of Venice. Beneath his paw is the Gospel of Mark. The open book also symbolizes the state’s sovereignty.

Piazza San Marco, 145, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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42 Romantic Couple in Gondola on Canal in Venice, Italy

The perfect, romantic fantasy is snuggling next to your partner while floating in a gondola through the narrow canals of Venice such as this one named Rio de San Luca. Too often, living a dream falls short of your imagination. But this reality is one experience that you will always fondly remember.

S. Marco, 4231, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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43 Teatro La Fenice Opera House Façade in Venice, Italy

The Phoenix in Greek mythology was a bird that continuously rose from the ashes and was reborn. In Italian it’s called Fenice and its appropriate that the Venice opera house adopted this name because the building burned down in 1774, 1836 and 1996. Teatro La Fenice’s last rebirth was in 2004. However, as you can see from this close up, the Roman numeral date shows 1792 when this neoclassical façade was built.

Campo San Fantin, 1965, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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44 Tourists on Gondola in Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

Venice is built on over one hundred islands within the Venetian Lagoon which is part of the Adriatic Sea. Only about 270,000 people live in Comune di Venezia with about 60,000 of them in its historic center. Compare that to the approximate 50,000 tourists who visit each day. And I suspect a high percentage of them enjoy a gondola ride along the Grande Canal.

S. Silvestro Fondamenta Vin Castello, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
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45 Church of San Giorgio Maggiore and Docked Sailboat in Venice, Italy

Across the Canale di San Marco, where this sailboat is docked, is the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. It is built on an island with the same name that was first occupied by the Romans and then a church in the early 9th century before becoming a Benedictine monastery in 982. The current basilica with its distinctive white façade was finished in 1610. Its adjoining bell tower was built in 1467 but after it collapsed the current campanile was constructed in 1791.

Fondamenta Zattere Ai Saloni 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
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46 Two Moored Gondolas and San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, Italy

These gondolas are tied to wooden pali poles in Canale di San Marco. Notice the S-shaped iron pro-heads that are called a fèrro. The top resembles Venice and the teeth represent their six historical sestieri or districts. By a legal degree, all boats are painted black and most new ones are built by only one or two squeros or boatyards. In the background is San Giorgio Maggiore Island.

Riva degli Schiavoni 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
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47 Basilica of Saint Mary of Health Dome and History in Venice, Italy

This dome is exquisite but has a morbid history. Between 1630 and 1631, nearly 100,000 people in and around Venice, about a third of its population, died from the plague. In an attempt to defeat the pandemic, the Basilica of Saint Mary of Health was commissioned. By the time this dome was completed in 1687, the outbreaks had stopped but not before the Black Death killed an estimated 75 to 250 million people across Europe.

Dorsoduro 1, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
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48 Sunset on Santa Maria della Salute and Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy, is one of the most unique and beautiful cities in the world and may be the only one that is completely listed by the UNESCO World Heritage Site as culturally and physically significant. And just when you think you can’t be more impressed, the setting sun bathes the buildings along the Grand Canal with a spectacular, golden hue.

Ponte dell'Accademia 30100 Venezia VE, Italy
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49 Grand Canal at Dusk from Rialto in Venice, Italy

Few cities in the world duplicate the charm and romance of Venice, Italy. It is impossible to explore all of its treasures regardless of how long you stay. And then at dusk, as the sun slowly begins to set, the gondoliers are magically transformed into silhouettes as they row towards their mooring poles near the Rialto, the Grand Canal’s oldest bridge.

Riva del Vin, 741 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
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50 Young Couple Kissing along Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice, Italy

You are young, you are in love and you are visiting one the world’s most romantic cities. So, what do you do? You find a comfortable but hardly secluded spot along the Riva degli Schiavoni with a gorgeous view of San Giorgio Maggiore Island and you share a very passionate kiss. I am sure they are the first ones to do this since the promenade was built in the 9th century!

Riva S. Biasio, 2144 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
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