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Venice, queen of the sea
Historical, elegant and refined: this is Venice, a city of art that tells and is included in many stories.
Some of the best painters have captured it in their pictures or have been inspired by it including Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, Canaletto and Guardi. Shakespeare put it on stage in "The Merchant of Venice." Goldoni presented it in "Il Campiello," on a carnival day. Goethe described it in his "Italian Journey." Shelley arrived there by gondola in his "Venetian Poems" and the main characters of Lawrence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover" on a vaporetto. Wagner enjoyed it from his seat at a café in the splendid "salon" that is St Mark's Square. The young Proust loved it, hearing his mother reading Ruskin's "The Stones of Venice" to him, before he even saw it. Aschenbach desired it in Mann's "Death in Venice".
The artistic and cultural liveliness of these characters matches the unique style of Venetian architecture. More than 400 bridges, 150 canals and 6 sestieri (districts) embrace a romantic maze of calli (roads, streets and lanes), campi and campielli (large and small squares).
Each corner of Venice reflects the timeless charm of the Veneto city, which, with its lagoon, has been on UNESCO's World Heritage List since 1987.
La Serenissima is a city to be admired on foot but also in a gondola, as Hemingway suggests in his "Across the river and into the trees."
The majestic Grand Canal, which hosts the traditional Historical Regatta, divides the city in two and is a hubbub of gondolas and vaporetti coming and going. It is crossed by famous bridges. The most famous bridges are the Ponte degli Scalzi, the Ponte dell’Accademia, the Ponte della Costituzione, the work of the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, and the ancient Ponte di Rialto, made of Istria stone, one of the most popular destinations together with the picturesque Rialto market, where you can buy fresh fish, fruit and vegetables.
The heart of the city is Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square), the only one to be called "piazza" to distinguish it from the others that are simply "campi".
From the Piazzetta dei Leoncini you can admire St Mark's Basilica and, opposite, the Campanile (Bell Tower), known affectionately as "el parón de casa" by the Venetians, from which Galileo demonstrated the telescope to the Seigniory of Venice, and on the top of which stands the rotating gold statue of an angel, which moves with the wind.
To enjoy a wonderful view from on high, the Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower) is the ideal place. Its most extraordinary features are the gold and blue enamel astronomical clock and the Moors of Venice, two bronze statues of an old shepherd and a young one, who mark the hours by striking the bell with their hammers. The entrance to this splendid building is at the start of the Mercerie, where you will find shops, boutiques and souvenir stalls.
The Doge's Palace, where the Doge used to live and is today the Civic Museum, is one of the symbols of the city. Passing under the famous Bridge of Sighs, a suspended corridor linking the Doge's Palace to the adjacent Old Prison, it is impossible not to feel the atmosphere of the prisoners "sighing" while thinking of their lost freedom. Giordano Bruno, Silvio Pellico, Niccolò Tommaseo and Giacomo Casanova, after his escape from the Piombi prison, are among the most famous prisoners.
Next along the sides of the Piazza come the Procuratie Nuove, the home of the Correr Museum, the Procuratie Vecchie with many shops, historical cafés and open-air dance bands, and the Napoleonic Wing, in which the splendid Salon and the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana stand out.
A few minutes from Piazza San Marco, you must visit the "La Fenice" Theater, which Giuseppe Verdi chose for the first performances of his "Attila," "Ernani," "Rigoletto," "Simon Boccanegra" and "La Traviata."
Also in Venice are hundreds of "palazzi," all of great historical, architectural and artistic interest: Ca' d'Oro, now a museum housing works of art collected by Giorgio Franchetti and which is so named because originally some of the facade was covered in gold; Ca' Vendramin Calergi, home of the Venice Casino where Wagner died; Ca' Foscari, in front of which, during the Historical Regatta, the floating stand (the "machina") where the winners are awarded their prizes is located; Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, the home of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection; Ca' Rezzonico, which houses the Museum of 18th-century Venice; Palazzo Grassi, one of the main venues in the city for art exhibitions; Ca' Pesaro, the home of the Modern Art Museum and the Oriental Art Museum; Ca' Dario, one of the most distinctive because it is linked to the tragedies that marked the lives of all its owners over the centuries, and the Fontego dei Turchi, home of the Venetian Civic Natural History Museum.
"Semel in anno licet insanire," "Once a year, it is lawful to go crazy" says an old Latin saying, ideal for describing the surreal atmosphere of the Venice Carnival, an internationally renowned carnival, together with the Rio de Janeiro Carnival.
Elegant masks and sumptuous costumes meet in the 'salon' of Piazza San Marco, which is transformed into an open-air stage for the occasion. Shows, concerts and recitals come one after the other before the traditional Flight of the Dove or Flight of the Angel,during which an acrobat descends from the St Mark's bell tower into the Piazza, before the enraptured eyes of the crowd. Everything comes to an end on Shrove Tuesday and the "Vogata del Silenzio" (Silent Rowing Parade), a promise to meet again next year.
No art lover should miss the Venice Biennale, one of the most prestigious contemporary art events in the world, and the International Film Festival at Lido di Venezia, where the Golden Lion is awarded.
A visit to the city of the Doges cannot be complete without tasting Venetian cuisine.
A spritz or an ombra de vin, accompanied by cichéti, typical Venetian snacks, are a compulsory ritual, which everyone who comes to the city must try in one of the many bàcari, where you usually eat and drink standing up.
After a stroll through the calli and campi, we recommend that you treat yourself to a quick and easy snack: the tastiest choice is the Venetian sandwich, two slices of bread, softened with mayonnaise, containing delicious ingredients.
For a very traditional lunch, the most popular dishes are risi e bisi, the most famous Venetian soup, castraure, a variety of artichoke typical of the city, sarde in saor (sardines), Venetian-style liver, bigoli in salsa (Venetian pasta in sauce), stuffed duck and desserts such as bussolai, fugasse, fritole and galani.
Everyone who visits Venice will find a view, a hidden corner or a work of art that they will take home in their heart.
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