A serious contender for the most beautiful city in the world, Venice is as unforgettable as it is unusual. A shining triumph of romance over reason, the city of canals isn't bothered with innovation, having remained virtually unchanged by the passage of time. The capital of the Veneto region is one of those cities you simply must visit in your lifetime; seeing the Canal Grande at sundown is a joy fit to go into anyone’s golden book of memories. The only catch is that because of this, Venice sees an unreasonable amount of tourist traffic virtually all year round. So, plan on sharing your holiday with the crowds, or, if you’re good with compromises, pick a quiet weekend where your arrival is the biggest thing going on in town, just be warned that there aren’t too many of those.
Venice is so ferociously cultural and so set on preserving its values that to this day, the city cannot be driven through by car. There are no busses, no motorbikes — people walk, here, or take little boats on the supremely inconvenient, but even more beautiful canals. The result of this is that the cultural frequency of the city broadcasts undisturbed by modern conveniences, so that every cobblestone ally, every crumbling wall, every little footbridge breathes culture down your spine. Keep your eyes open as you walk to the next museum, the upcoming exhibit, or if, in a stroke of luck, you have been invited to an event at the biennale or the film festival.
While the tourist hordes have made it difficult to eat an authentic and reasonably priced meal in Venice, it isn’t entirely impossible; it just takes some detective work. You have three choices: either stick with the Venetian aperitivo, called cicchetti, which are small plates of deliciousness that go with your glass of wine; head out to Mestre, the city at the gates of Venice; or find a place that seems low-key enough to be avoided by tourists. Avoid areas that have live music at all costs and realize that this is the small price you pay for the unbeatable attractiveness of Venice, the beautiful grande dame of Italy, who doles out her affections to one and all like a high school beauty queen.
Venice doesn’t do entertainment halfheartedly: you either go down to your local wine bar and spend the night in the company of drunk locals or don your full costume — mask, powdered wig and all — and head to the carnival. This most iconic Venetian event happens in February so that the city sees a significant influx of visitors in what is otherwise a quiet time in Italy, and, Europe, in terms of tourism. But even if that isn’t your cup of tea, you can always ride a water bus and delight in the strangeness of the concept, spend a summer’s day at the surprisingly beach Lido, or go to the Peggy Guggenheim and see a collection of modern paintings, drawings, and sculptures unlike any other — one born from personal love and adoration for the arts, much like the city of Venice.