Venice is a very unique city. The first Doge was elected by Venetians in 726, starting a proud history for almost eleven centuries to come. In 828, Venice needed a patron Saint. Venetian merchants set out to steal the bones of St. Mark from Alexandria. By the end of the tenth century Venice was a powerful and rich trading nation. With 116 islands, 150 canals, and 409 bridges, this city is an intricate maze - some of the most unexpected architectural delights are to be found. Venetian independence ended in 1797, when Napoleon Bonaparte conquered the Veneto.

St Mark's Square, Piazetta and the Venetian Lion

The Basilica San Marco is a sparkling jewel with its 4000 square metres of golden mosaics. On top is a quadriga of San Marco. The four horses are said to be of Roman origin. They are Byzantium war booty from Constantinople. The winged Lion of St. Mark is the apostles traditional symbol, holding a book with the words Pax tibi Marce evangelista meus "Peace to you, Mark, my Evangelist".

Doge Palace

The Doges' Palace was built between the 14th-15th century in Gothic style. The famous bridge of sighs leads directly to the dungeons. On the second floor are the Grand Council chamber, which is the largest room in the palace. The Ballot chamber, where the committee met to elect the Doge, and the Doge's apartments are located on the same floor.

Canale Grande and Rialto Bridge

The Grand Canal, the main traffic artery, is shaped like a reversed letter S. Its main bridge is the Rialto, built by Antonio da Ponte in 1691. From the 16th century on, the Grand Canal became the place where the Venetian nobility built their lavish homes and palazzi. Everything is build on wooden pillars, who are petrified through the centuries. Vaparetto - Water busses frequent the canal as the equivalent to their four-wheeled versions.

Waterways, Gondolas and Views

The gondola is another symbol of Venice. At about eleven meters length and 600KG weight, it is easily driven by one men with a single oar. But its uniqueness doesn't stop there: It's shape is assymmetric and has a flat bottom. The color is traditional black due to the pitch used for sealing. Venetians developed their own style of rowing, in a erect position in the direction of movement.