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Venice is undoubtedly one of the world's most romantic destinations. It's the city of masks and, of course, the stylish carnival. The city comprises a group of over 120 small islands in the middle of a marshy lagoon (Laguna Veneta), the majority of which are connected to each other by more than 400 bridges. Venice is a unique, magical city, which appeals to the imagination of many.

Whereas other cities have a main road, Venice has the Grand Canal and its gondolas. Water gently laps at the splendid palazzi which line the big canals. A truly unforgettable sight!

The city produced many of history's famous names, the best known being Marco Polo. The discovery of the silk route by this famous explorer and trader brought great riches to the city. Legend has it that he brought the recipe for spaghetti back with him from China, a claim that every Italian immediately denies.

Because Venice was a prosperous trading city, it possesses a great wealth of art and culture that's reflected in its ornate facades, palazzi, churches and magnificent churches. For many hundreds of years Venice was also the centre of glass making, and it wasn't until the early 19th century that industrial glassworks encroached on its position.

Venice has many restaurants, but because hordes of tourists descend on the city every year, it's difficult to find a good one. That's why we've recommended a limited selection under the heading 'restaurants'. One thing you shouldn't miss is the spaghetti alle vongole - a Venetian speciality.

Venice is a beautiful city, but the clock is ticking. That's because Venice is sinking. Add to this the fact that the sea level is rising, and you'll understand that the city faces a huge challenge. This doesn't mean you have to grab the first flight there, but it does mean it's a good idea to visit the city fairly soon.
 

History

Venice developed on silt deposited by the rivers which flow into the Adriatic Sea. The silt formed small islands where fishermen and saltmakers were the first to settle. Later, wealthy Romans had their summer residences here. Thanks to its strategic location and rich fishing waters, Venice's development continued and the population grew. Agriculture and fishing remained important, and trade also started to gain economic significance. The city comprised many small towns and settlements on the various islands. By building a number of wooden bridges around the ninth century, the city became a unified whole. The new city's prestige increased further when it acquired a patron, St Mark of Alexandria. He was buried on the spot where the Basilica San Marco (St Mark's Basilica) now stands.

In the 10th century, Venice had the largest fleet in the Mediterranean. Durng the 12th and 13th centuries, the city was at the peak of its power. Until the beginning of the 15th century, the republic focused its attention primarily on the sea. Trade and the many settlements around the Mediterranean yielded great wealth, and this is reflected in the many splendid palazzi and churches built at that time. When the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, Venice a large number of ports and islands, and fell into financial difficulties.

Venice was unable to compete against the European superpowers. Its independence cam to an end in 1797 when it was conquered by Napoleon. Venice became part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. In 1866, Venice became part of Italy.

The city on the lagoon was once the queen of the Adriatic Sea. With her fleet, she had ruled the seas. Venice was a politically stable and liberal city with a healthy economy, and was one of Europe's largest cities. Nowadays Venice is regarded as an elegant and refined city, rich in art, architecture and literature.