Venice may often seem metaphorically drowned under a sea of tourists at the height of summer, and even the landmark Piazza San Marco is often literally drowned during the flood tides, but there is no denying that La Serenissima (The Divine Republic) is an epic, unique and unforgettable city.
Venice has the capacity to impress not only goggle-eyed first timers, but also the most jaded of travellers. Quite simply, La Serenissima is unlike anywhere else on the planet, with a collage of 116 islands connected by 409 bridges, where cars are banned and everyone, including postmen and the police, goes by boat.
Venice travel, Italy Tourist Attractions
History is writ large in this northeastern Italian city and when visitors ease through the morning mists on empty canals, with grandiose buildings rising up on all sides, it is easy to slip back through the centuries, to the time of the Doges - the omnipotent rulers, whose influence spread well beyond the Venetian Lagoon.
Venice then was an exotic melting pot of East and West, where travellers breezed in and out and traders peddled their silk and spices. Venice under the Doges was a land of unimaginable wealth, and riches were spent wisely in crafting some of Europe's most memorable buildings, from the imposing Doge's Palace to the grand architecture of St Mark's Square, famously described by Napoleon as the 'drawing room of Europe'.
The flooded main street of Venice - the Grand Canal
A room with water views - hotels line the Grand Canal
Mosaic above entrance of Basilica di San Marco
Out-of-this-world mosaics at Basilica di San Marco
Piazza San Marco from Museo Correr looking towards the Basilica di San
Amber tones of the city at dusk
Away from the main tourist throng, another Venice appears, with narrow canals, women hanging out their washing and small osterias (bars) where locals, for once, outnumber tourists. The introduction of the smoking ban has done little to dampen la dolce vita.Papua New Guinea
In the intense heat of a Mediterranean summer, the city can just get too much and the tourist congregations too large. Many visitors are now choosing to turn up out of season, when swirls of mist and frosty winds descend upon the canals.
At this time, the beauty of this unique city emerges through quintessential Venetian experiences, such as getting off a vaporetto at a random stop and ambling down a deserted canal; sniffing out an unheralded trattoria; or bouncing across the Venetian Lagoon after a freshly mixed Bellini at Harry's Bar, en route to dinner at the Hotel Cipriani.
The city's citizens have endured flooded basements for decades, wearing Wellington boots to navigate its waterlogged streets during acqua alta (high waters), and there has been chronic damage to some of its most impressive buildings. But finally something is being done to shore up Venice: the 'Moses Project' has come to save the day after years of political struggles.
Brighter than broadway - night view of the Grand Canal
Perhaps the last word on Venice should be left to one of her most illustrious patrons, Henry James: 'Dear old Venice has lost her complexion, her figure, her reputation, her self-respect; and yet, with it all, has so puzzlingly not lost a shred of her distinction'.