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Travel Lust: Venice

CHRISTINE BENVENUTO is the author of a new book, SEX CHANGES: A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On and Shiksa: The Gentile Woman in the Jewish World, both published by St. Martin's Press.

Mystery and magic

For hundreds of years, Venice, Italy has been the dream destination of travelers. The moment you arrive in the city you’ll understand why.

Travel Venice

Where to stay

There are many famous hotels, and any guide book will list them. What you might not hear about are the short-term rentals available in the city, from modern and modest one-bedroom apartments in residential neighborhoods to breathtaking historic palaces on the Grand Canal — and everything in between. I've used two services with good results. Check out what's on offer at www.halldis.com and www.rentalinitaly.com and search for Venice.

Travel Venice

Where to eat

The canals and campi (squares) of Venice are lined with places to grab pizza and gelato; cafes to eat, drink and people-watch; and wine bars to stand around on the street outside of, glass in one hand, appetizer plate in the other, doing what the natives do.

If you want something special, try one of these:

For an elegant meal, eaten outdoors in the quiet square in good weather or indoors in bad, pay a visit to Osteria L'Orto dei Mori, in Campo dei Mori, Cannaregio 3386. Be sure to try the warm salt cod appetizer.

La Zucca: The name means pumpkin and the place is decorated with them. Cozy and relaxed, don't miss the terrific pasta with gorgonzola. San Croce 1762, between Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio and the San Stae vaporetto stop.

Vizio Vertu: Two locations, both in Campo San Toma, one selling gelato and chocolates, the other specializing in cakes. They make, without exaggeration, the most expensive ice cream and cake I've ever had — and worth every euro.

What to do

There are so many must-sees and must-dos in Venice. If I had just one day to spend in this magical city, this is what I would do:

Take a gondola ride: I had visited Venice many times, refusing to succumb to this most touristy of Venice activities. I was wrong, as I discovered when I finally climbed inside a gondola. This really is the way to see Venice. Don't miss it.

St. Mark's Cathedral: Get to Piazza San Marco early in the morning if you can to avoid the lines. If you can't, wait as long as necessary to visit this magnificent church. If you are lucky enough to catch the singing during a mass, all the better. Be sure to dress modestly, or you'll be asked to pay small sums for pieces of cloth to wrap around bare shoulders and legs.

Get lost: Put the maps away, and take out comfortable sandals or shoes. Venice is a wanderer's paradise. Turn down every narrow street that intrigues you, cross every bridge that entices, stop at every shop window that catches your fancy. You're in for an only-in-Venice adventure.

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