Venice is called La Serenissima, “the most serene,” a reference to the majesty, wisdom, and impressive power of this city that was for centuries the unrivaled leader in trade between Europe and the Orient, and a major center of European culture. Built entirely on water by a people who saw the sea as a defense and ally, Venice is unlike any other town. No matter how often you’ve seen it in photos and films, the real thing is more dreamlike than you could ever imagine.

From the look of it, you’d think Venice spent all its time primping. Bask in the glory of Grand Canal palaces, but make no mistake: this city’s a powerhouse. You may have heard that Venice is an engineering marvel, with marble churches built atop ancient posts driven deep into the barene (mud banks) – but the truth is that this city is built on sheer nerve.

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