Venice is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in the world. It has wonderful churches, great art, and luxurious palazzi, but the city itself is the masterpiece. A walk through Venice confronts the visitor with the play of light on the curve of a canal, the slap of water against a gondola, the pervasive scent of the sea. Venice has had a remarkable history. It is a city that operated as an independent republic for over a thousand years -- the dominant naval and trading force of the Mediterranean, the principal crossroad of East and West, and the richest, most prosperous commercial center of the Western world. Marco Polo lived here; the Venetian navy maintained trade routes against the onslaught of the Ottoman Empire.

Venice is easy to live in. One can walk to every location. Public boats (vaporetti) are available for longer trips. Excellent beaches are nearby on the Lido, a short boat ride from Piazza San Marco. Nearby islands are famous for their production of glass artifacts (Murano) and lace (Burano). Venice also offers a good base for weekend excursions. It is a major train hub, with Milan, Florence and Rome accessible in a few hours. To the north, Austria, Switzerland, and France are easily accessible by fast trains.

One of the founding members of the European Union, Italy is bordered by Switzerland, France, and Austria. Greece is easily accessible by ferry. Students who want to travel on the weekends can easily travel to southern Italy, head to Eastern Europe, or train to France or Germany for a short visit. Nearby, the outdoor Roman amphitheater in Verona offers summer opera with international stars. The Dolomite mountains are nearby for a weekend of hiking. Padova offers an urban experience within half an hour by train as a great university town.

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