Venice is a city in northeastern Italy sited on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. It is located in the marshy Venetian Lagoon which stretches along the shoreline, between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. Venice is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture, and its artwork. The city in its entirety is listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its lagoon.
Venice is the capital of the Veneto region. In 2009, there were 270,098 people residing in Venice's comune (the population estimate of 272,000 inhabitants includes the population of the whole Comune of Venezia; of whom around 60,000 live in the historic city of Venice (Centro storico); 176,000 in Terraferma (the mainland), mostly in the large frazioni (roughly equivalent to "parishes" or "wards" in other countries) of Mestre and Marghera; and 31,000 on other islands in the lagoon). Together with Padua and Treviso, the city is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), with a total population of 2,600,000. PATREVE is only a statistical metropolitan area without any degree of autonomy.
The name is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC. The city was historically the capital of the Republic of Venice. Venice has been known as the "La Dominante", "Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals". Luigi Barzini described it in The New York Times as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man". Venice has also been described by the Times Online as one of Europe's most romantic cities.
The Republic of Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially silk, grain, and spice) and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history. It is also known for its several important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period. Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music, and it is the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi.
Venice is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world for its celebrated art and architecture. The city has an average of 50,000 tourists a day (2007 estimate). In 2006, it was the world's 28th most internationally visited city, with 2.927 million international arrivals that year. It is regarded as one of the world's most beautiful cities.
Tourism has been a major sector of Venetian industry since the 18th century, when it was a major center for the Grand Tour, with its beautiful cityscape, uniqueness, and rich musical and artistic cultural heritage. In the 19th century, it became a fashionable centre for the rich and famous, often staying or dining at luxury establishments such as the Danieli Hotel and the Caffè Florian. It continued being a fashionable city in vogue right into the early 20th century. In the 1980s, the Carnival of Venice was revived and the city has become a major centre of international conferences and festivals, such as the prestigious Venice Biennale and the Venice Film Festival, which attract visitors from all over the world for their theatrical, cultural, cinematic, artistic, and musical productions.
Today, there are numerous attractions in Venice, such as St Mark's Basilica, the Grand Canal, and the Piazza San Marco. The Lido di Venezia is also a popular international luxury destination, attracting thousands of actors, critics, celebrities, and mainly people in the cinematic industry. The city also relies heavily on the cruise business. The Cruise Venice Committee has estimated that cruise ship passengers spend more than 150 million euros (US $193 million) annually in the city.
However, Venice's popularity as a major worldwide tourist destination has caused several problems, including the fact that the city can be very overcrowded at some points of the year. It is regarded by some as a tourist trap, and by others as a "living museum". Unlike most other places in Western Europe, and the world, Venice has become widely known for its element of elegant decay. The competition for foreigners to buy homes in Venice has made prices rise so high that numerous inhabitants are forced to move to more affordable areas of Veneto and Italy, the most notable being Mestre.
The need to balance cruise tourism revenues with the protection of the city's fragile canals has seen the Italian Transport Ministry attempt to introduce a ban on large cruise ships visiting the city. The ban would only allow cruise ships smaller than 40,000-gross tons to enter Venice’s Giudecca Canal and St Mark's basin. In January, a regional court scrapped the ban, but global cruise lines indicated that they would continue to respect it until a long-term solution for the protection of Venice is found. The city considered a ban on wheeled suitcases, but settled on banning hard wheels for cargo from May 2015.