Venice, Italy, is romance: a bridge arching over a canal, a gondola gliding by, the moon reflecting off water. Venice is history: the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), Piazza San Marco, the Grand Canal, great art and great museums. Venice is modern: the headline names and paparazzi of the Venice Film Festival, the buzzing excitement of Carnival in the 10 days before Lent begins.

Venice has a plethora of world-famous museums and artistic treasures. The Basilica di San Marco, with its spectacular Golden Altar; the Bridge of Sighs, where prisoners could enjoy one last glimpse of the beautiful city before entering the dark jail; the Gallerie dell'Accademia, with its collection of art of the 14th-18th centuries; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection of 20th-century art—the list is long. Pick and choose which places you'll visit in-depth, or just skim the surface and soak up the atmosphere.

Venice is set on islands connected by bridges, with the Grand Canal as its main thoroughfare, and traffic moves by boats that range from the traditional gondolas to refuse barges. The absence of automobile noise means you can hear the laughter of children from your window, as well as footsteps seemingly just around the corner. But what makes Venice so unique also challenges its existence. The rising sea levels of global climate change threaten the city, and now, more often than in the past, high tides from the Adriatic Sea can flood whole sections of the city.

Although the resident population in Venice has declined as many young people have moved to the mainland, where real-estate prices and the cost of living are lower, the city continues to draw tourists. In fact, the central areas can be packed, people may be brusque, and prices are high. Even so, Venice remains a treasure to be savored.

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