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Venice - Ponte dei Sospiri

The Lower Po Valley, the eastern bank of Lake Garda and the eastern Dolomites, occupying what was once the Republic of Venice.

Venezia (Venice) stands on an island in a lagoon at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea, a position which gave it unique economic and defensive advantages over its trading rivals. Much of the wealth generated was, of course, invested in the construction of monuments to the glory of both God and the merchants, and Venice must be counted as one of the highlights of any tour of Italy.

The city’s main monuments – the Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Square and the Bridge of Sighs – have gained fame through the innumerable paintings representing them, not least by such artists as Canaletto, but the whole city is in many ways a work of art. Away from the main thoroughfares, it is characterized by little canals, small squares (often containing remarkable Gothic churches) and above all, since it contains no motor traffic, by serenity – the city’s ancient name was ‘La Serenissima’. One of the most evocative representations of Venice must be in Thomas Mann’s book, Death in Venice.

The causeway linking the city with the mainland can become very clogged with traffic. Although there is a large car park on the island, it is often easier to park at one of several near the north end of the causeway and continue by foot, bus or taxi; there are also trains connecting with boats.

The Venetian aristocracy built many villas in the surrounding countryside; some, including the Villa Pisani at Stra and the Villa Valmarana at Vicenza, are open to the public.

Popular Adriatic resorts include Lido di Iesolo, Bibione and Caorle.

The city of Padua is famous for the great Basilica of St Antony; St Antony himself was buried here and it is an important pilgrimage site. The city also contains works by Giotto (Scrovegni Chapel frescoes) and Donatello. Nearby, Abano and Montegrotto provide fully equipped thermal establishments for the treatment of many
rheumatic complaints.

is the birthplace of Andrea Palladio, whose published analyses of ancient architecture did much to spread the Renaissance throughout Europe. His buildings here include the Basilica Palladiana and the Palazzo Chiericatai.

, historically associated, among other things, with Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet and The Two Gentlemen of Verona) contains a well-preserved Roman Arena (operas are staged there in summer), and the lovely but austere Church of San Zeno. This graceful city is surrounded by a river and there are many beautiful bridges, as well as churches, squares and markets.

Cortina d’Ampezzo
is Italy’s best-known (but not most challenging) ski resort. The Winter Olympics were held here in 1956. It makes a fine base for exploring the Dolomites in summer.

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