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Eternal Grandeur by Merle Wilkening | 29th February, 2024 | Playground

As the 60th anniversary of the Biennale approaches, Venice is once again transforming into an ­international art hub. Its historic heritage and cultural riches are the lifeblood of the lagoon city.

In Venice life plays out surrounded by water, on the water. You sense this special ethos the moment you arrive. Venezia, the capital of the Veneto region in northern Italy, is built on more than 100 islands in the middle of a lagoon in the northern Adriatic. The city’s six historic districts, or sestieri, are linked by countless bridges. The Ponte della Libertà, for instance, leads from the center to the Mestre and Marghera boroughs on the mainland. The railroad bridge runs parallel to it. Gondolas, boats and vaporetti (waterbuses) ferry locals and visitors to magnificent residences and apartments. The Grand Canal, a waterway almost four kilometers long, is the main thoroughfare. Cars, scooters and bikes are totally banned in the lagoon city.

Having been the mightiest trading pow-er in Europe during the Middle Ages, today Venice is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. During the peak season there can be as many as 100,000 overnight guests here at any given time, as well as tens of thousands of day-trippers. But mass tourism and the water are taking their toll on this unique city. Built on sandy subsoil, the islands’ historic architecture is in danger of sinking into the lagoon. Venice subsides by several millimeters every single year.

Several times every winter, when high tides push the water into the lagoon, residents and visitors get to witness the acqua alta phenomenon. The Piazza San Marco – the lowest point in Venice – is first to be flooded. In the meantime, however, the city has a flood protection system and has undertaken numerous measures to save both the natural environment and its historic heritage.

In 2024 the city is celebrating a major an-niversary: The Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest art event of its kind, is being held for the 60th time. This year, the influential cultural event revolves around the theme “Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere” and is under the artistic direction of Adriano Pedrosa, the first Latin Ameri-can to hold the position. Starting in April, Venice will live and breathe art for seven months. Besides the international exhibition at the Arsenale, a former shipyard in the east, and the central pavilion in the Giardini, a host of national contributions and accompanying events will also be vying to attract artists and art enthusiasts.

All year round, the city awes visitors with its monumental architecture and museums in magnificent palaces that testify to its past riches. In the Dorsoduro district, renowned institutions like the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Palazzo Cini and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection line the Museum Mile. The famous Museo Correr in San Marco show-cases Venetian history, art and culture, and the winding lanes are dotted with galleries like Patricia Low Venezia, which features a program of international artists.

If you have the chance, make sure to visit the island of Murano, famous for its centuries-old glassmaking industry, or enjoy some spaghetti alle vongole surrounded by the colorful houses that line the streets of Burano. And in the stores of traditional footwear brand Piedàterre Venezia, handmade slippers await. What better way to round off a day in Venice than to jump, light-footed, into a waiting gondola and head for the evening sun!

IssueGG Magazine 02/24
City/CountryVenice, Italy
PhotographyAsia Orlando