A marbled web of tiny islands, Venice has grown up in a very different way than other Italian cities, and you’ll find an altogether unique expression of culture and history. Monuments speak to a noble past, and life along the canals is at once lively and nostalgic: history spills into the stone courtyards and a colorful café culture leaks out from the open facades. Basilicas shine golden against the sun, and there are so many romantic flourishes – from floating gondolas to lantern-laced piazzas – that you’ll swear you were in a Renaissance painting come to life. You can’t say you’ve experienced the floating city before you’ve seen these eight quintessential Venetian sites.

Rialto Bridge

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Sure, the Rialto is a convenient passage over the river, but it’s not just a bridge: this sprawling stone bridge has watched over the city for 400 years, opened its sheltered galleries to generations of Venetians, and still offers the very best view of the setting sun. It’s nearly impossible to miss, so you probably won’t have to go out of your way to walk over its storied steps.