Venice is a city that spreads across 118 small islands in a bay called the Venetian Lagoon lying between the Po and Piave rivers. The islands of Venice are separated by canals and brought together again by 400 different bridges. This romantic city on water has kept the same look for hundreds of years, which makes it one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world.
The name Venice derives from the Latin word Venetia, which was the name Romans used for the people known as Veneti who inhabited northeastern Italy. The origin of this word is not very clear. The name Veneti could have a Proto Indo-European root wen which means "to strive, to love," or a connection to the Latin word venetus, meaning "sea-blue."
Today, the Doge's Palace operates as a museum, but for a thousand years before, it was the place where the rulers of Venice, the Doges, lived. Originally built in the 9th century when the seat of the government of Venice was moved from the Malamocco Island, the initial building was destroyed in a fire, so there are no remains of it.
Over the years, the palace was reconstructed and expanded, either upon personal wishes of the Doge or a fire. The complex consists of the palace and a spacious courtyard overlooking the lagoon.
In the palace, there is the Doge's apartment with different, beautifully decorated rooms, valuable art, and jewelry. Other rooms were used for political purposes during the republic. The Doge's Palace was also used as a prison for many years, although some prisoners successfully managed to escape.
When it comes to sightseeing, the main area is the Saint Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco). One of the notable sights in the Clock Tower, built in the late 15th century. The clock and the tower can be seen from the waters around Venice which meant to show how wealthy and influential the old Venetians were.
Two bronze statues stand on the top of the tower, appearing to strike the hours of a large bell. They are known as "the Moors." One of them is an old man and the other is young, representing the passing of time. Besides them, there are several other statues of religious figures, a former Doge, and a lion. The clock itself is decorated in dark blue and gold which makes it look truly magnificent.
Another important sight on the Saint Mark's Square is the Basilica. This church originates from the 9th century; yet, the present basilica was only constructed later in the 11th and 12th century. In these first several centuries, the church operated as a private chapel of the Doge.
From the 13th century onward, the basilica became a state church where many great public ceremonies were held, including the burials of the Doges. The interior of the church is inspired by an Orthodox church in Istanbul, and the walls are covered in mosaics made of gold. For this reason, the basilica is also known as Chiesa d'Oro (Church of Gold).
On the outside, there are famous Horses of Saint Mark, statues which were installed in 1254. Napoleon took them to Paris when he defeated Venice in 1797, but they were returned shortly after.
The most recognizable symbol of Venice located on the Saint Mark's Square is the tall red bell tower known as the Campanile. Like the basilica, it was initially constructed in the 9th century, but its current form originates from 1514. The tower was used as a watchtower in its early years.
This bell tower is 323 feet (98.6 m) tall, and it houses five bells. Each of the bells was used for a special purpose, one announcing executions, another used only at noon, the third one for sessions of the Senate, the fourth one for council meetings, and the last one marking the beginning and the end of a working day. The tower collapsed in 1902 and was reconstructed a decade later.
Perhaps the most special objects in Venice are gondolas, traditional rowing boats perfectly suited for the narrow canals of Venice. At the time Venice was a city-state, the gondola was the main means of transportation.
Nowadays, they are still a convenient form of public transportation; however, they are mostly there for the curious tourists. In the 17th and 18th century, up to ten thousand gondolas were present on the canals.
They are now restricted to a set number of licensed (permitted) boats (some 400 of them). An old law in Venice ordered that all gondolas should be painted black, so even today they will lack any other color.
For a perfect dinner in Venice, starts with cicchetti, a collection of small snacks. They typically include small sandwiches, olives, and small servings of meat and seafood. The trademark main course is cuttlefish. It is served in cuttlefish's black ink (a dark liquid released by the fish) as a sauce, together with polenta (corn flour), risotto (a kind of rice dish), or pasta.
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