Is there a city more legendary, more representative of artists' and engineers' dreams than Venice? It's a city replete with endless canals, singing gondoliers, elegant bridges, buildings, churches and cathedrals, built with incredible patience and skill. Each painstakingly-built part of this city is a work of art unto itself.
Let me take you on a gondola ride through this jewel of a city:
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The name Venice is derived from the ancient Adriatic Veneti people, who first moved to the region in the 10th Century BC. The city was the historic capital of the Republic of Venice. Throughout the ages, Venice has been known as "La Dominante", "Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals". Luigi Barzini described it in The New York Times as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man".
The Republic of Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially silk, grain, and spice) and art from the 13th Century until the end of the 17th Century.
This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history. It is also known for its several important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period. Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music, and it is the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi.
Some sources state that the city is no longer sinking, but this is not yet certain, therefore a state of alert has not been revoked. In May 2003, then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi inaugurated a project to evaluate the performance of hollow floatable gates, which involved fixing a series of 78 hollow pontoons to the seabed across the three entrances to Venice's lagoon.
When tides are predicted to rise above 110 centimeters, the pontoons will be filled with air, causing them to float and block the incoming water from the Adriatic Sea. This engineering is due to be completed this year.
The historical city is divided into six areas or "sestiere" . These are Cannaregio, San Polo, Dorsoduro , Santa Croce, San Marco and Castello. Each sestiere was administered by a procurator and his staff. Nowadays, each sestiere is a statistical and historical area without any degree of autonomy.
Each sestiere has its own house numbering system. Each house has a unique number in the district, from one to several thousand, generally numbered from one corner of the area to another, but not usually in a readily understandable manner, to the bane of some tourists.
Venice is even more beautiful at night, the water returning the warm colors spilling from the street lights. Venice has also been described by the Times Online as being one of Europe's most romantic cities. It's not hard to see why.
Venice is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world for its celebrated art and architecture. The city receives an average of 50,000 tourists a day (2007 estimate). In 2006, it was the world's 28th most internationally visited city, with 2.98 million international arrivals that year. It is regarded as one of the world's most beautiful cities.