Venice is the capital of the Veneto Region in Italy. It is situated in the northeast of Italy, on the Adriatic Sea, between the mouths of the Po and the Piave. Venice is of course famous across the world for its canals, which run from the main canal, the Grand Canal, which cuts Venice in half. Venice counts 269.000 inhabitants according to the census carried out in 2007.
Venice is a city, which changes constantly and is characterised by its shimmering light and typical winter fog. Its canals, its “sestieri” (the six districts which make up Venice) and its narrow streets are other characteristics of the city, as are its leaning towers, due to the unsteady foundations of its buildings which are supported by millions of pillars pounded into the marshy grounds of the small islands which make up the lagoon. Venice is made up of more than a hundred islands, connected by one hundred and fifty canals and about four hundred bridges. Venice is divided into six districts, called “Sestieri”: Sestiere de San Marco, the heart of the city, Sestiere de Castello, Sestiere de Cannareggio (because it used to be the area of marshland and reeds), Sestiere de Dorsoduro which includes the island of la Giudecca and the whole of the southern section of the city, and el Sestiere de San Polo and Santa Croce.
One of the characteristics, specific to Venice is the regular flooding. The last one happened in December 2008. It occurs mostly when the high tide coincides with the Sirocco wind, thus giving rise to a phenomenon known as Acqua Alta, or high waters, which brings Venice completely under water, making it necessary to put wooden planks in the streets so that people may walk around. In order to avoid this serious problem, a project known as the “Moses” system is under way; its objective is to stop the water level from rising with the high tide and thus prevent the phenomenon of “Acqua Alta” which causes the flooding which regularly afflicts Venice.
If you come to Venice, you must experience the local means of transport par excellence, the typical Venetian gondola. The gondola is the most popular of all Venetian boats, and although nowadays, tourists mostly use them, they are however used for special occasions, such as ceremonies, weddings or funerals. The gondolier will take you through the little canals, which run through the whole of the city by way of streets; through these canals travel all sorts of boats, such as gondolas and “vaporettos” (waterbuses), as well as other small boats and private vessels. To get around, you can choose to use the public vaporettos, which are like buses that serve different routes across the lagoon, or you can choose to walk around the narrow streets and explore Venice. Venice is one of the few cities where the streets are free of cars and so all you need to be careful about is not to fall in a canal.
Venice is also famous worldwide for its carnival. This festival goes back to the 19th century and is the most popular festival in Venice. Although this tradition dates back to the year 1800, it had already established itself as a festival in the 13th century, attracting aristocrats from all over Europe. Following the decline of Venice as a commercial power and with the advent of mass tourism, the Venice Carnival has become more and more important. The costumes at the Venice carnival are real works of art, with colourful dress and very elegant, yet deeply mysterious, masks.
Venice is famous for its typical and original art, which can be admired all over the city in the monuments and museums, starting with Piazza San Marco, the heart of Venice, where the most important events in the city take place; for this reason, it is referred to as “piazza” (plaza) rather than “campo” like all the other squares. There you can find the Basilica di San Marco, (Saint Mark’s Basilica), its bell tower and the famous Doge’s Palace, in the gothic style, which served as the Doge’s residence, the seat of government, the law courts and city jail under the Venetian Republic.
The Bridge of Sighs is one of the most famous attractions of Venice. It was built to link the Doge’s Palace to the new prisons. Its name comes from the prisoners who used to sigh as they walked over the bridge when they were taken to the prisons, knowing that they were seeing the light and sky of Venice for the last time.
Another very famous bridge is the Rialto Bridge, which crosses the Grand Canal. It is one of the symbols of Venice and one of the liveliest places in Venice.
An important exhibition of works of visual arts, ”the Biennale”, takes place in Venice every two years and every year, the city hosts the Venice Cinema Festival, which awards the Golden Lion to the best movie. It attracts to Venice a multitude of dignitaries, in particular artists and celebrities, from all over the world.
When you visit Venice, do not miss the two most typical islands of the lagoon: Murano, for the glassmaking, and Burano, for its colourful little houses.
A famous university is also situated in Venice, “la Universita Ca’ Foscari di Venezia”, where you can study languages, such as Chinese and other subjects, such as economy.
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