World famous as a jewel in aspic and brimming with lovers, exotic merchandise, art and architectural history, Venice is truly in a cloistered world of its own. A flotilla of 117 tiny islets floating in a blue lagoon and connected by some 400 bridges, for 1,000-odd years it was an independent republic which, thanks to its soft, reflected light and famed tolerance, was known as ‘La Serenissima’ or ‘The Most Serene’.
Today it’s a little less serene, thanks to the 15 million eager tourists who annually thread through its pretty, narrow ‘calles‘, particularly during the Carnival in February and ‘high season’ (April to October). But the complete absence of cars, gentle pace, shimmering light and wealth of beauty on display still make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a dream landscape that time forgot.
Daily undermined by the Adriatic tides, Venice was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and members of the ever-dwindling local population complain that, these days, you can’t bang a nail in without permission in quadruplicate. This does mean the city’s unrivalled in the architectural preservation stakes and boasts a complete absence of prosaic, functional modern buildings, although as a tourist hot-spot which has to bring in all its goods from the outside, it‘s also famous as Italy‘s most expensive city and can burn a hole in your pocket without even trying.