Venice is famous for its system of canals, lined by colorful palazzos and trafficked by gondolas and vaporetti (water taxis) ferrying tourists and locals along. Cars in the city are banned and thus Venice is a very pedestrian-friendly town -- although it is not easily navigated; be sure to bring a map and prepare to get lost a couple of times. Fortunately, reaching one of the many squares dotting the city can help visitors find their bearings. One of the most recognizable, and most famous, of these squares is the Piazza San Marco, surrounded by centuries-old buildings including the stunning St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace. (Tours of the Doge's Palace are fascinating; some take visitors across the Bridge of Sighs leading to the prison.) Piazza San Marco is also known for its historic cafes and thousands of pigeons.
Venice is one of the most expensive cities in Italy, but nonetheless attracts a large number of tourists. Peak season is from May to September, with a lull during the hot months of July and August. Coming during the off-season often gets tourists better deals on lodging, but it can also mean that lodging is harder to find; some hotels close during the winter.
Visitors come for Venice's rich history, fabulous museums (such as the Peggy Guggenheim), and delicious food. And it wouldn't be a visit to Venice without a gondola ride. The nightlife is much quieter and harder to find than the nightlife in cities such as Florence and Rome, which is one of the reasons it's a popular choice in Italy for families -- as is the fact that it's one of the safest cities in the country.
Venice has been attracting tourists for centuries -- and has been around for even longer. Venice was settled around the fourth century and it has had its ups and downs: It barely survived the plague and was dealt a shocking blow by Napoleon, whose conquering of the city ended its 11 centuries of independence. But through it all, Venice, or "La Serenissima" as it is called (meaning "the most serene"), has retained its unique character.
The Grand Canal divides Venice in two, with six neighborhoods spread along the banks. The most central of these is San Marco, home to numerous sights, such as the Rialto Bridge, as well as gorgeous historic buildings and luxury hotels. However, Venice is a pedestrian-friendly city and so tourists do not need to stay in San Marco to be able to explore it.
Even simple B&Bs' rates in Venice can surprise you (nothing comes cheap) so the earlier you book, the better. During off-peak season (including July and August) room rates often drop, but some hotels close.