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5 Beautiful Reasons to Love Venice

The canals. The piazzas. The art. It's not easy to pinpoint what makes Venice the world's most beautiful city (as voted by you in our Readers' Choice poll), so we asked local photographers what inspires them about their city.

(Alastair Hendy)

Venice teeters on the edge of cliché with its lacework of canals, its domes and gilded spires, its kiosks with straw gondolier hats and refrigerator magnets in the shape of the Piazza San Marco. Postcard fodder, and yet...

Venice is beautiful—improbably so, a centaur-like hybrid, neither land nor water but somewhere in between as it lifts from the green of the Adriatic. The city is drenched in so-exquisite-it-hurts beauty: the tracery of arches in the Doge's Palace, the pinpoint of lights from boats in the lagoon at night. The grime of centuries eats at its stones, but the decay is luscious. The seduction proceeds.

It has been so for centuries. To be a tourist in Venice is to join a procession reaching back to the 14th century, when pilgrims stopped en route to the Holy Land. To capitalize on its geography as the departure point for voyages to the East, the canny Venetians created festivals to coincide with the influx, a hint of the commercialism to come.

Irritating, that wallet-squeeze, but one you inevitably force yourself to stomach, particularly when catching sight of the Venice silhouette for the first time from the mainland shore of the lagoon. To get at the essence of Venice, we asked the experts—a group of professional photographers—what they see when they look at the city. From their most treasured scenes to their favorite hotels, they've given us five beautiful reasons to love this city even more than we already do.

SEE THE FIVE SCENES THESE PHOTOGRAPHERS LOVE (+9 MORE BREATHTAKING SHOTS)

 

"It's the kind of place that's spectacular in every shade of light."

--Photographer: Olimpio Fantuz

"I've been coming to Venice from nearby Treviso since I was a child. It's one of the most unique cities in the world, not only for its breathtaking architecture and frailty, but also for its endless array of angles. One of my preferred perspectives is the canal behind the Basilica di San Marco. From the lagoon side on the Ponte della Paglia, you can see this, but it's nearly impossible to get an unobstructed view because of the wave of tourists on the Ponte della Paglia. Farther down the canal, inside the tangle of buildings, you get this stunning look at all four bridges lined up and anchored at the end by the Bridge of Sighs. This is the kind of place that's spectacular in every season and in every shade of light." See the shot.

My favorite hotel: Ca'Della Torre, a two-bedroom apartment with a stocked kitchenette (a two-minute walk from the bridge in this photo's foreground). viewsonvenice.com, sleeps four, $274 per night for seven nights.

 

"The beauty of Venice is in the winter, in its time of tranquility."

--Photographer: Massimo Borchi

"For all the obvious reasons, I understand why Venice receives the deluge of tourists it does in summer. I prefer the city in winter, when this photo was taken inside Caffé Florian, in Piazza San Marco. Then, the cafe is melancholy like the lagoon. Neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city are nearly silent. For me, this photo captures that moment. You see empty tables and locals enjoying their gilded cafe. I believe the beauty of Venice is found in its time of tranquility." See the shot.

Tip: Should you sit when there's a band playing at a cafe like Florian, you'll be charged an additional $8.75. caffeflorian.com, coffee and table service $8.75.

My favorite hotel: The 15-room La Residenza, housed in a 15th-century Gothic-Byzantine palazzo. venicelaresidenza.com, from $107.

 

"I find the water and the flooding quite beautiful."

--Photographer: Johanna Huber

"For Venetians, high waters are an ugly and perilous occurrence. I snapped this photo just behind Palazzo Ducale [Doge's Palace] on a rainy October day, and it strikes me because the Venetians are just plodding through the torrents rising around them. They persevere, as they have for nearly 1,000 years. I settled in the nearby Veneto region nearly 50 years ago, and I find the water and flooding quite beautiful. The natural process of high tides has long defined Venetians and their city. It encourages sociability and is what's prevented cars from taking over. Now that the Moses dam is being built under the lagoon to limit flooding in Venice, you probably won't see this magical event as often." See the shot.

SCENES OF VENICE

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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