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Mary on the Ponte Scalzi (Scalia Bridge), one of only three bridges that cross over the 2.5 mile long Grand Canal, the main canal in Venice.

Official age of Venice in 2000: 1,579 years

A busy canal off of the Grand Canal. While the Grand Canal is the equivalent of a main highway through town, these side canals serve as smaller, but still busy, "boulevards" into the residential areas of Venice.

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Size equivalent to: New York's Central Park

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One late afternoon we took a gondola ride, complete with singer and accordianist who serenaded us while accompanying us through several canals and under the Ponte Dell' Accademia (Accadamia Bridge). There were seven gondolas in our little group, which received much attention from other tourists as we passed under many smaller bridges.

Number of alleys (estimate): 3,000

A view of buildings along the Grand Canal as we glide along in our gondola.

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Length of alleys if laid end to end: 120 miles

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One of Venice's famous gondoliers with the Ponte Dell' Accedemia behind him.

Number of bridges (estimate): 400

A quiet canal off of the main canal. Canals are everywhere in Venice, and other than the alleyways, provide the only way to get around.

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Number of islands: 118

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One of the many ornate bridges in Venice, this one connects two buildings which were once used as prisons. Called the Bridge of Sighs, this Baroque stone bridge received its name from prisoners' sighs as their only view of the lagoon was through the barred windows.

Number of canals: 170

A quiet, picturesque canal deep within Venice. This canal is some distance away from the main canal and would only see local traffic such as people going to and from home.

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Number of souvenir shops: around 450

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Our gondola ride was a couple of hours long. Each gondola held up to six people. We traveled down the main canal for a short distance then entered one of the side canals and wound our way through several smaller canals until coming out onto the main canal again.

Many of the streets in Venice have ancient names which reflect different work that was done in the area such as Calle del "Pestrin", which means milkman, or "Pistor", which means baker, or "Frezzerie", where they made arrows.

Floating on the Grand Canal with a big smile. The gondolas are distinct to Venice, and all follow the same traditional design. Some are more ornate than others, but all include the brass horse sculpture seen in front of Rick.

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When a higher than usual tide is expected in the city, sirens blare to warn the population so that they can prepare themselves.

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One of the many smaller, more crowded canals in Venice just before dusk. This is the equivalent of a residential neighborhood, with people's "vehicles" parked at the "curb". Note the clothes hanging to dry on balconies.

Number of visitors per year (estimate): 12,000,000

The view across the lagoon from a terrace at the end of one of the many alleyways. Some alleyways simply end at the water's edge, where at one time there might have been a dock.

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Population in 1994: 72,000

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The Basilica Di San Marco, Venice's most famous church, was built in 830 to house the body of St. Mark. The adjacent Piazza di San Marco (St. Mark's Plaza) is the largest square in Venice and a great place to sit at one of the many outside cafes and relax, enjoy an overpriced drink or desert, and watch the people.

Venetian rowing differs from the usual style in that the oarsman stands, faces forwards and rests his oars in special oarlocks - fórcole.

One of the 3,000 alleys in Venice. This alley, a relatively long one, generally followed the Grand Canal from our hotel to the train station, about 1 mile away.

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Number of roads in Venice: zero

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Mary enjoying the central courtyard of our hotel. The hotel dates back to the 13th century. Centrally located, it was no more than a 30 minute walk from anywhere in Venice.

Number of plumbers: 13

A gondolier propels his gondola giving his pasengers a sunset ride they will remember for quite some time.

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Click on these pictures for more images of Italy.

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