City, sovereign state, tourist hub, living museum... whatever your impression of Venice, this place continues to defy all logic.
This audacious medieval masterpiece, perilously perched in the Adriatic lagoon, boasts some of the world's finest art and architecture. The City of Love almost sinks under the weight of its incredible past, yet stands tall as a fascinating window into a bygone age.
Lido di Venezia For a day out at the beach, look no further than Lido di Venezia, a sandbar seven miles long, just off the south-eastern tip of Venice. The pencil-thin island offers pristine white sands and gentle, welcoming Adriatic waves - ideal for swimming and paddling. A few metres inland, shops, restaurants and hotels line the Lido's main street, the Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta.
Gondola cruise The Venetian gondolas are the ultimate symbol of romance, and most tourists - lovers or otherwise - end up in a traditional wooden boat during their visit. With around 400 licensed gondoliers active in Venice, you shouldn't have any trouble booking a trip. Just be aware that prices can get expensive, especially later in the evening.
Kayak in the lagoon Kayaking in the lagoon is a great way to take in the main Venetian sights while getting your heart rate up. Operators run guided water tours for individuals, couples and groups, with options suited to beginners and experienced paddlers.
Explore historic Padua Picturesque Padua, on the banks of the Bacchiglione River, lies a short train ride away from Venice (about 25 miles or 41 km). This densely-built student city, the setting for Shakespeare's the Taming of the Shrew, is full of architectural jewels. The Scrovegni Chapel, which houses Giotto's 14th century cycle of frescoes, is Padua's principle attraction, and Santa Sofia, the Basilica di Sant'Antonio and the Abbey of Santa Giustina are other religious landmarks of note. Meanwhile, the Palazzo della Ragione is remarkable for its huge unsupported roof.
Day trip to Verona Take the train west for an hour from Venice and you'll find another another city with strong Shakespearean connections. The charming tourist hotspot of Verona is, like Venice, an all-inclusive UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to its rich architectural and literary heritage. The city's amphitheatre - the Arena - is the third-largest in Italy; other historic landmarks include the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore and the Castelvecchio Bridge.
Conquer the Dolomites
Drive north for two hours out of Venice and you'll arrive in the mighty Dolomites. Stunning views, testing trails and high-octane winter sports await in Italy's highest mountain range. The alpine landscape offers a stark alternative to cultural exploration on the coast - simply hire a car and plan your day's skiing, cycling, climbing or hiking.