The first settlement of the marshy islands in the lagoon was for protection from barbarian tribes that terrorized mainland farms and villages. Island living quickly led to the development of skills in handling boats, then ships. Maritime trade conducted by shrewd merchants brought great wealth, which permitted the building of palaces, churches and monuments. The city became the center of the vast Venetian empire, its name forever summoning visions of grandeur, magnificence, richness, graciousness and beauty. Although later linked to the mainland, first by a railway bridge built in 1848 and then by a motor causeway in 1930, this island city will always be considered the "Queen of the Sea." There are no cars in Venice; all transportation is by boat or on foot along the time-worn, cobblestone streets and across some 400 bridges that span the city's 177 canals. Enchanting Venice truly offers an atmosphere that exists nowhere else. Explore Condé Nast Insider Tips for Venice
Festa del Redentore
First weekend in September
Venice Film Festival
late August - early September
Off the Beaten Track
Padua: The setting for Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew", Padua is a only a half hour away from Venice by train. This picturesque city has a dense network of streets, quaint bridges and arcades. Artistic treasures can be found in this artist enclave. Plan ahead if you want to see the Giotto paintings in the Cappella degli Scrovegni.
History, music and art form the backbone of Italian culture. Well educated city residents and poor villagers alike, are intimately acquainted with opera and enjoy singing it. All attend operatic performances whenever possible. Most people work five full days and a half-day on Saturday. However, lengthy lunches and siestas often break the work day. Meals are savored and social interaction is an integral part of dining. Most Italians are Catholic and as such, religious rituals and traditions are intertwined into their culture. Amazing masterpieces in the form of frescoes, sculptures, paintings and architecture are everywhere, testaments to Italy's varied and exciting past.