It was a sudden decision to take a sleeper train to Venice. We didn't really know what to expect. By chance, we arrived at Carnivale (mask and costume festival), probably the busiest time of the year. Venice was filled to the rafters with tourists, prices were high and it was difficult to walk in many areas due to the number of people in the narrow streets! The solution was to take to the water - catching the ferry was fun and it got you out of the crowds.
Venice is really beautiful. The Doges (ruler's) palace and nearby Cathedral in St Marco square are amazing. The palace has huge painted ceiling murals by famous artists and enormous open halls. In the Cathedral, there are golden mosaics over the whole ceiling, and even the floor is an artwork in tiles. There's also some impressive golden relics from when the Venetians sacked Constantinople during the crusades.
In Venice, most streets lead to the water, and the best facades are turned towards the canals. It really is a city designed to be traversed on the water. The buildings are mainly standing on foundations made from hundreds of pine trees hammered into the silty mud under Venice. Historically, Venice's influence peaked in the 13th century or so, and from then on, it was a slow decline in power. But to make up for this, the wealthy families spent lavishly on buildings, clothes and decorations.
On our last day in Italy, we went to Padua to take a look at a more typical Italian city. It was a friendly and fun place with few tourists, but good food and a nice atmosphere. Last picture is of Padua, all the rest are from Venice!