Walking on Water

AChioggia, a fishing port, also known as Little Venice

If you are drawing up a bucket list, here's what should feature pretty high up visiting Venice. There is no place like it on earth and it's pretty easy to see why. Walk out of the Venezia Santa Lucia train station if you are arriving by land and it is like being embedded in a fairy tale. Opening out in front of you is this historic, unique city built entirely on water. In fact, you emerge facing the Grand Canal, the city's main aquatic thoroughfare which snakes its way through Venice, under ancient bridges enshrined in history and literature (including the Rialto of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice) and is connected to smaller canals which lead to different sections of Venezia, as the locals call it. It is a grand entrance to a place where the waterways are the only way to get around; this is the only city in the world that is for pedestrians only, no vehicular traffic except for the famous gondolas and the vaporetto, the water buses, or private water taxis that ferry tourists and locals around.

It may seem to be a fragile construct. Venice is built in a lagoon and every building has its foundation made of wooden pilings and sunk in water. Yet, it has survived like this for centuries and boasts a historical foundation as fascinating and improbable as the city itself, from Charlemagne to Napoleon and Casanova as well as other wealthy families who have left their signatures on Venice's beguiling face. Author Alexander Herzen described it best. "To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius." To best experience this 'mad genius', take a ride along the Grand Canal, lined on either side by imposing buildings and Renaissance palaces. Little wonder that the entire city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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