Few landmarks are more identifiable with Italy than the country's great churches, amazing works of architecture that often took centuries to build. In Venice, there are more spectacular churches than you can even imagine. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Venice was not necessarily more pious than other Italian cities; if fact, Venice was never known for its spirituality. Building or funding a church or convent was a way of demonstrating one’s wealth and power; hence, the proliferation of splendid religious buildings.
Il Dolce Far Niente
"The sweetness of doing nothing" has long been an art form in Italy. This is a country in which life's pleasures are warmly celebrated, not guiltily indulged. Of course, doing "nothing" doesn't really mean nothing. It means doing things differently: lingering over a glass of wine for the better part of an evening as you watch the sun slowly set; savoring a slow and flirtatious evening passeggiata; or meeting friends at a bar or café for an aperitivo, and making a commitment—however temporary—to thinking that there is nowhere that you have to be next, and no other time than the magical present.
An opera at La Fenice
Attending an opera at Venice's historic, newly restored XVIII century Opera House not only allows you to hear some of the best music Venice has to offer but also brings you into contact with a good cross section of Venetian society. You'll see everyone there, from your plumber to the family of the countess who lives in a palazzo on the Canale Grande.
A gondola trip through Venice's back canals
Sure, a gondola ride is the quintessential tourist experience, but being rowed through Venice's back canals will allow you to see some of the most beautiful facades in the city: many palazzi that have insignificant street-side entrances have sumptuous and elegant canal side facades, which were, of course, the original main entrances.
Sipping wine at a bacaro
The Venetian hinterland and adjacent provinces comprise one of the major wine growing areas in Europe. A visit to one of the city's friendly bacari, or wine bars, will allow you to savor some of the wines that have made the region famous. Your barman will be more than happy to guide you. You'll also be able to sample traditional Venetian ciccheti, the local version of "tapas."
Exploring the Venetian Lagoon
Some of Venice's most important artistic monuments, such as Torcello's spectacular cathedral, are on islands in the lagoon surrounding Venice, and you can, of course, shop for Venetian glass on Murano. Seeing artistic treasures and shopping are, however, not the only reasons for venturing out onto the lagoon. Touring these waters, from its agricultural islands, Sant' Erasmo and la Vignola, to the north, to the fishing centers of Chioggia and Pantelleria to the south, will give you an idea of how the rhythm of Venetian life depends upon the sea.
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