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Enjoy the Enchantment & History of Venice, Italy
by Roy Witman © 2008

One of the most romantic cities in the world, Venice is primarily dependent on the water that intertwines throughout the town for transportation. You could easily spend days on end just sightseeing courtesy of a gondola. This is the only city in the world built entirely on water. As you look around, you'll quickly notice an abundance of gondolas, but no cars! Filled with nightlife, Venice is famous for its masquerade parties. Take time to attend local festivals including the Venice Film Festival and the ever-popular Carnival Masquerade Ball. While you're there, be sure to visit St. Mark's Square, the hub of the city.

St. Mark's Square

Early in the morning, St. Mark's Square is completely empty with the exception of those who clean this majestic wonder. Even then, in the quiet of the dawn, it is an awe-inspiring place to visit. An open- air square set before ancient domed architecture topped with numerous spires, St. Mark's Square is positioned on the Grand Canal by a gondola pier (“molo”). Its majestic Campanile (watchtower) takes center stage with a height of 314 feet. With the quiet crashing of the waves and the beautiful scenery, you could simply sit and stare for hours.

However, once the crowds rush in, the square is filled with sightseers who wander about, eat and feed the famous pigeons. But don't be content to sit outside in the square. Take the time to explore some of the buildings.

Basilica di San Marco

Best viewed early in the day (before the lines become too exasperating), Basilica di San Marco, also known as St. Mark's Cathedral, is simply stunning. Those visiting via cruise ship are advised to book the earliest tour possible at your excursion desk. Cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, offer a variety of tours departing at different times.

The exterior alone is exceptional, but the interior is not to be missed. With over 39,000 feet of gold mosaics and artworks by Italian masters Titian and Bellini, this church is spectacular.

Gondola Tours

Of course, no trip to Venice is complete without a romantic gondola ride. Check with your tour guide or the excursion desk of your cruise ship for details. Royal Caribbean, among others, offers day and evening gondola rides. These narrow, hand-painted boats maneuver through the canals, giving you a private tour of Venice up close and personal. If you're lucky, you'll also have the pleasure of a serenade!

Carnival Masquerade Ball

After a day of sightseeing, you might choose a change of pace. Get dressed to the nines and participate in one of Venice's most celebrated events: Carnival! Held in mid-February each year, many cruise lines put on their own versions of Carnival. If you're visiting Venice in wintertime, get in on the real thing. Otherwise, flirt with your neighbor onboard ship for an equally good time!

Curious, fun, enchanting and awe-inspiring, Venice is a city most never forget once they've experienced its wonder. When making your plans to visit, splurge! Take in as many of the sights as time allows. You'll cherish these memories forever!

Read more about European Cruises.
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