Vacationing in Venice

Venice is crossed by hundreds of canals and overlooked by hundreds of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. The cultural heritage of Venice includes such Renaissance luminaries as Lorenzo Lotto, Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto. To be sure, Venezia has become synonymous with the sensuous face of urban Italy.

It exudes romance-most notably within the Grand Canal that splits the city in two. Over 400 gondoliers work in Venice, and are required to speak three languages, spreading the city's storied history to tourists.

Waft through the waters at sunset before stopping for some cichetti and an appertivo along one of the waterways. Or, If your drink of choice is a dry martini, be sure to stop at the famed Harry's Bar (a favorite of Ernest Hemmingway's) for their signature cocktail. Home to Baroque and Renaissance art, the city has also amassed a number of contemporary art stops, like the Palazzo Grassi and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.

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Venice Villas

If you plan on staying in Venice for a week, consider a villa in one of the cities neighboring towns, where you can experience classic architecture, restored with contemporary amenities but also filled with antique touches. A villa allows the privacy and space a group or family may wish to experience on an Italian vacation, but also puts you close to the floating marvel of urban planning that is Venice-a timeless city that has attracted visitors for years.

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Among the more authentic Venice hotels is Hotel American in the center of town on the San Vio canal, a former residence built in the 18th century by a successful Venetian merchant, then rebuilt in 1925 by the architect Duilio Torres to assume its present form, at one time called Pensione Dinesen. Another of the finer hotels in Venice is four-star Hotel Concordia, located directly on St. Mark's Square and a staple of 17th-century Venetian "casa" living for over three generations.

Finally, five-star Hotel Villa Condulmer is a former 16th-century residence flanked by two formal "barchesse" porticos located minutes outside of Venice in a private park at the end of a long, graceful driveway.

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