Venice's historic centre is divided into 6 quarters - San Marco, Dorsoduro, San Polo, Santa Croce, Cannaregio and Castello. Other popular islands around Venice worth a visit are the famous Murano, Burano, Torcello and Lido di Venezia where the classic film "Death in Venice" was made. All can be reached by local vaporettos or by a day excursion from San Marco.
Venice is believed to have first been settled around the 5th and 6th century. The first inhabitants were people from the mainland seeking refuge during the barbarian inventions. During the Byzantine times the first dodges of Venice were elected in 687 and from that time until the spread of the Ottoman Empire the city became a major maritime and naval power. At later times Venice saw the arrival of Napoleon and eventually fell into Austrian hands. It was finally united with Italy in 1866 and during the time of Mussolini the road bridge connecting it to Mestre and the mainland was built.
San Marco is for most the centre of Venice. "The finest drawing room in Europe", as described by Napoleon, this square is a tourist magnet for people from all over the globe. St Mark's Basilica modeled on Constantinople's Church of the Twelve Apostles is a spectacular sight full of treasures. A few steps across from the Basilica and for a bird eye's view of Venice, it is worth climbing up to the Campanile which began its life as a lighthouse in the 16th century. Around the corner you can visit the Palazzo Ducale (Dodges Palace) which was home to the doge and to all government councils.
Ponte di Rialto, the 2nd most visited place in Venice, has always been the commercial heart of the city. The bridge if full of vendors selling souvenirs, but you can also visit its famous fruit and vegetable market. Nearby is the city's oldest church of San Giacomo di Rialto or you may decide to visit the Gallery of Modern Art west of the bridge.
The Gallerie dell'Accademia established in 1807 contains fine collections of European Art. Highlights include Paolo Veneziano's "Madonna and the Child with Two Donors and Carpaccio's "Crucifixion" and "Apotheosis".
Among the highlights of Venice is the Guggenheim Museum only a few minutes walk from the Accademia which has an excellent private collection of modern art. You can explore the numerous quarters of this romantic city including the Frari with the Scuola Grande di San Rocco and San Rocco church, San Pantaleone with its atmospheric shops, cafes and bars and Cannaregio in the northernmost part of Venice being one of the quietest and prettiest parts of the city.
Your stay in Venice will not be complete without a visit to one of its charming islands. Murano is world famous for its glass production and has a glass museum which can be visited from 10.00 am till late afternoon. Burano a small fishing island is known for its lace making. Here you will discover a narrow street full of lace shops and brilliantly painted houses in pastel colours.
Torcello was settled on the fifth century and it houses Venice's first cathedral, Santa Maria dell'Assunta. The island of Lido is one of the few places in Venice where you can actually swim in the sea by entering one of its many organised beaches. Here you will find a number of good hotels and excellent restaurants. Lido can be reached by Vaporetto from San Marco.