The picturesque lagoon city of Venice, situated on an archipelago of 118 small islands in northeastern Italy, has long been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. The city is visited by 18 million tourists a year, an average of 50,000 every single day, creating a consistently buzzing and lively atmosphere. In fact, it is predicted that by 2013 the population of Venice will be entirely composed of visitors due to the ever-decreasing number of native inhabitants, the proportion of which has decreased by a massive two thirds since 1950.
So why is Venice such a draw for tourism?
- Glamorous movie scene: Venice has been used as the setting of movies including the terrifying horror Don´t Look Now,in which a cloaked child haunts the winding passages of the city, as well as the immensely popular Bond film Casino Royale, for which a shoot-out was filmed in the 17th Century Palazzo Pisani.
- Off-beat cuisine: Fresh seafood is a long-standing culinary tradition in Venice and the city boasts a number of unusual dishes such as sea snails (garusoli), spider crab (granseola) and mantis shrimps (canoce).
- Alternative travel: Perhaps Venice’s most unique trait is its transport system, composed of water buses/taxis, gondolas and traghettos, which cover the network of 177 canals which run around the city.
On the subject of Venetian travel, a trip to Venice would simply not be complete without experiencing a romantic boat ride around the city’s exquisite waterways in one of the iconic gondolas. There are around 350 gondolas in Venice today, each composed of 280 separate pieces and shaped to perfection to provide the best efficiency of movement in the water. Being chauffeured around the city on the water, whilst luxuriating in Venice’s unique sightseeing experience, is certainly the best way to really taste the essence of Venetian culture.
So what should look out for as you glide along the Grand Canal?
The Rialto Bridge, which connects the districts of San Polo and San Marco, sweeps across the Grand Canal in the very heart of the city. This crossing was opened in 1591 and provided the only way of reaching the other side of the canal on foot for nearly 300 years. Today, the Rialto Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in Venice and always filled with visitors who gather to witness the stunning view of the waterway from above. Considered the most beautiful bridge which crosses the Grand Canal, this majestic sight makes for spectacular viewing from the comfort of a gondola.
Another sight you cannot afford to miss is the most magnificent palazzo in Venice: the Ca’ d’oro, translated as the House of Gold. This visual spectacle, constructed in 1430 in a Venetian floral Gothic style by the famous architect Giovanni Bon, faces directly onto the Grand Canal and is one of the most photographed buildings seen from the water. The House of Gold is undoubtedly true to its name, with gold leaf detailing forming part of the intricate decoration on the outside which lines the beautiful balconies. Although some parts of the palazzo were dismantled by one of its previous owners, it was later rebuilt and restored to its former glory, which can be witnessed today from no better perspective than the water.
As tourists continue to pour into the city every day of the year, the future of Venice remains uncertain; there is a chance that the lagoon city itself might be drowned by tourists long before its high waters. Despite this potential eventuality, Venice continues to thrive and defy such a fate, remaining one of the most renowned and magical cities in the world.