shutterstock_32488702_328x219The Grand Canalshutterstock_43288153_328x219shutterstock_33098500_328x219shutterstock_31028482_328x219

Venice has always inspired fascination and awe.  For more than one thousand years it has stood apart from the world around it. Arguably the most beautiful city in the world, it a place of contradictions and contrasts.  A city of stone that seems to float on water.  A place out of time that stands apart from the modern world.  There is nothing like Venice.  Every year more than twelve million people visit this fabled city, frozen in time and set like a jewel in the shimmering waters of its lagoon.  Yet, sadly most visitors are not able to truly explore the richness of Venice’s history, the glory of her achievements, and the splendors of her art.   For like the winged lion of Saint Mark, which was the symbol of her Republic, Venice shields a proud and regal history that most tourists never see.

This sojourn uncovers the fascinating history of Venice from the earliest settlements in the fifth century to the modern struggles with twin deluges of water and tourists that threaten her survival.  We learn how a small community of fishermen banded together to build a city in the middle of a watery lagoon, safe from the violence of a crumbling Roman world.   We examine how the city grew into a republic of entrepreneurs, a Crusader state, and finally an empire stretching from Italy to the Middle East. We ponder how it not only survived, but thrived through many centuries.  We discover how and why Venice looks as it does today and how it looked in times long past.   We uncover the majesty of Venice’s culture, from the Renaissance masters, to the invention of opera, to the perfection of crafts such as printing and glass making.  We learn about the controlled chaos of Venice’s famous festivals.  We discover the real Carnevale, the celebration of masks, revelry, gambling, and sex.  We walk the streets of Casanova’s own Venice.

We explore not just the history of this enchanting city but the hidden treasures of its maze-like streets and canals.  We float across Venice’s lagoon and take in the beauty of a city that continues to captivate visitors today. We explore the Rialto markets, where modern banking was born and where the fish merchants of Venice still sell their catch to the locals.  We visit the Arsenal, where for centuries the Venetians produced their state-of-the-art naval fleets.  We experience the lesser known churches and scuole, admiring the art of a world and a people who have passed away.  Though much of Venice is now adorned with the artistic treasures of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, we seek out those remnants of the medieval city that can still be found for those who know where to look. And we visit the islands where one can still see the lagoon as it was when Venice was founded. An excursion takes us  to the countryside palaces of the wealthy Venetian merchants and to the city of  Ravenna whose art and architecture provide a dramatic example of  how Venice became a mediator between the Byzantine Empire to the east and post-Roman, medieval Europe to the West.

Most significantly we visit the ways less traveled, where the tourists disappear and the quiet beauty of Venice can be truly experienced. And, from the earliest settlers, to the medieval merchants, to the revelers of Carnevale, we meet the people of Venice through their words and in the places that they live.  We peek into their churches, meeting halls, and homes still decorated with a thousand years worth of glorious art.  We uncover the Venice of myth and legend – that place which the Venetians themselves called La Serenissima, the Most Serene.

For eight hundred years Venice has been a tourist destination.  This sojourn is for those who want to know Venice — to learn its fascinating history, experience its captivating beauty, and come face-to-face with the city that most tourists never see.  Venice is more than just postcards, gondolas, and masks.   This sojourn uncovers the enduring legacy La Serenissima, the Most Serene Republic, has left to those who are willing to look and to learn.

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