Venice Sights

It's called La Serenissima, "the most serene," a reference to the majesty, wisdom, and impressive power of this city that was for centuries the leader in trade between Europe and the Orient, and a major source of European culture. Built on and around a cluster of tiny islands in a lagoon by a people who saw the sea as a defense and ally, Venice is unlike any other city.

No matter how often

you've seen Venice in photos and films, the city is more dreamlike than you could ever imagine. The key landmarks, the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale, are hardly what we normally think of as Italian: fascinatingly idiosyncratic, they are exotic mixes of Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles. Shimmering sunlight and silvery mist soften every perspective here; it’s easy to understand how the city became renowned in the Renaissance for its artists' use of color. The city is full of secrets, inexpressibly romantic, and, in both art and everyday life, given over to an unabashed celebration of the material world.

You'll see Venetians going about their daily affairs in vaporetti (water buses), aboard the traghetti (gondola ferries) that carry them across the Grand Canal, in the campi (squares), and along the calli (narrow streets). They are skilled—and remarkably tolerant—in dealing with the hordes of tourists from all over the world, attracted by the city's fame and splendor.

Venice proper is divided into six sestieri, or districts (the word sestiere means, appropriately, "sixth"): Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Marco, San Polo, and Santa Croce. More-sedate outer islands float around them—San Giorgio Maggiore and the Giudecca just to the south, beyond them the Lido, the barrier island; to the north, Murano, Burano, and Torcello.

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San Marco 12

Castello 11

Dorsoduro 9

Cannaregio 8

Santa Croce 4

San Polo 4

Murano 3

Torcello 1

The Lido 1

San Michele 1

San Giorgio Maggiore 1

Giudecca 1

Burano 1

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Historic District/ Site 2

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Museum/ Gallery 17

Neighborhood/ Street 1

Plaza/ Square/ Piazza 4

Religious Building/ Site/ Shrine 29

Viewpoint/ Scenic Overlook 1

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Venice Sights

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Arsenale

  • Historic District/Site

Visible from the street, the impressive Renaissance gateway, the Porta Magna (1460), was the first classical structure to be built...

Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo

  • Plaza/Square/Piazza

This large, attractive square is the site of two city landmarks: the imposing namesake Gothic church and the Scuola Grande di San Marco,...

Chiesa della Pietà

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

Unwanted babies were left on the steps of this religious institute, founded by a Franciscan friar in 1346. The girls were immediately...

Chiostro di Sant'Apollonia

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

Behind the basilica and over a bridge, a short fondamenta leads right toward the unassuming entrance of the Museo Diocesano (upstairs),...

Museo Storico Navale

  • Museum/Gallery

The boat collection here includes scale models such as the doges' ceremonial Bucintoro, and full-size boats such as Peggy Guggenheim's...

Querini-Stampalia

  • Museum/Gallery

A connoisseur's delight, this art collection at this late-16th-century palace includes Giovanni Bellini's Presentation in the Temple...

San Francesco della Vigna

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

Although this church contains some interesting and beautiful paintings and sculptures, it's the architecture that makes it worth the...

San Zaccaria

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

Practically more a museum than a church, San Zaccaria bears a striking Renaissance facade, with central and upper portions representing...

Santa Maria Formosa

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

Guided by his vision of a beautiful Madonna, 7th-century Saint Magno is said to have followed a small white cloud and built a church...

Santi Giovanni e Paolo

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

A venerated jewel, this gorgeous church looms over one of the most picturesque squares in Venice: the Campo Giovanni e Paolo, centered...

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