You can’t quite fully experience the essence of Italy without traveling to and visiting the unforgettably exhilarating, unique, and breathtaking city of Venice. Venice, the capital of the region as well as the province of Veneto, in northeastern Italy, is the beautiful “Queen of the Adriatic,” with a population of close to 262,000.

Venice (Venezia) actually stretches across a group of different islands in the marshy, shallow, saltwater Venetian Lagoon alongside the Adriatic Sea, between the mouths of the Piave River in the north, and the Po River, to the south.

Interestingly, there are no historical records on the true origins of Venice, although legend says Roman refugees escaping from the Goths founded it back in 422. Known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice from the eighth century until the 18th century, in 1797, Venice developed into an important and substantial city-state, especially during the ninth and 12th centuries. It eventually became particularly known as a large and strong sea power (famous for its navy), an imperial power, a Crusades’ staging area, and a major center for trade and commerce, and art, literature, and culture during the Renaissance.

During the 1700s, in particular, Venice became one of the most advanced and refined cities in all of Europe, and that particular century saw and enjoyed many fascinating developments and advances that fell into decline after Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Venice on May 12, 1797. Venice officially became a part of Italy in 1866, after the Seven Weeks War.

Nowadays, the Italian wonder is probably most known for its canals flowing through the city, as it’s built on a group of 118 islands formed by 150 canals and connected by 400 bridges in the Venetian Lagoon. Nobody drives anything besides a boat in Venice; transportation is strictly on water or on foot. It remains the largest fully functioning, self-sustaining urban automobile-free urban center in Europe.

Locals traverse the canals via motorized waterbuses and private boats for everyday use, while gondolas are used for tourists and special occasions.

As Venice is in fact a city on water, many have indeed wondered about its building foundations, as well as the question of whether in fact Venice is sinking, or if the water level is rising, or both.

In fact, it has long been disputed whether Venice is sinking, and what to do about it. The buildings are built on intact wood piles interspersed with layers of sand and clay (wood does not decay underwater). However, with the use of artesian wells in the 20th century, Venice started to sink, leading to the ban of these wells in 1960s.

However, Venice remains threatened by flood tides, and as a result, many local residents had to move to higher levels. Manyexperts have recommended “lifting” Venice above sea level through pumping water into the underground soil, which would allegedly be a more permanent solution.

It is also well know that Venice faces problems of overtourism and sustainable travel. Because of the large amount of tourists in the city, especially in high season, Venice has become victim of disneyfication, where everything becomes about sightseeing but drained from it's original people and cultural venician feel. So if you do want to plan a trip there that is somehow more culturally representative, it is probably better to go into winter months.... and please avoid cruises with Venice as a destination.

Still, Venice offers a wealth of tourist attractions and main sights to see during your stay in the enchanting city on water, besides the surrounding beauty of the islands and the Venetian Lagoon itself. The large Piazza San Marco and Campo San Polo are definitely worthwhile visiting. You may also like to check out the city’s many palaces and palazzi, including Doge’s Palace, Palazzo Grassi, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and Palazzo Labia.

Many ancient cities in Europe boast architecturally stunning churches, and Venice is no exception. Consider visiting the Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica) and the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, in particular, although there are many other churches to set your sights upon.

Other Venetian tourist attractions you may be interested in include Accademia, The Arsenal, La Fenice opera house, and bridges like Rialto Bridge, The Bridge of Sighs, and Scalzi Bridge.

See also Venice Attractions >