They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…well, Venice should be proud. There’s a desire in cities and towns as far afield as Thailand and China to cash in on Venice’s canal cachet – and often all it takes is the dubious presence of a slow moving river for them to assume a ‘Venice’ nickname. Some towns have more claim than others – and we’ve listed our favourites below – but none can honestly compete with the real thing. Italy’s Venice is inimitable: intricate marble palaces and glorious churches are dotted amongst 100 small islands – no cars or roads, just canals and boats – and behind each corner is an outrageously photogenic scene steeped in history. The city is already lousy with artistic and musical culture, but once a year the glitterati of contemporary cinema sweep up the Grand Canal in their gondolas. The Venice Film Festival, founded in 1932, is the oldest film festival in the world and one of the most prestigious. The 73rd festival will be held this year from August 31st to September 10th and British director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Skyfall, Spectre) will head the jury and assign the coveted Golden Lion for best film.
Victor’s pick of aspiring Venices:
Venice of the East
Bangkok, Thailand – Much like Venice, historic Bangkok had many canals that crisscrossed the city, and it used them primarily for transportation and floating markets. Most canals have since been filled in, but a few remain. You’ll still find a handful of colourful floating markets using canals to sell fruit and Thai culinary delicacies. Damnoen Saduak – an hour outside of the city – is the tourist magnet where you’ll find the most kaleidoscopic photo opportunities.
Fly with Victor into Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)
Venice of the NorthAmsterdam, Netherlands – There are several self-proclaimed Venices of the North – we’ve counted ten – but Amsterdam is hard to dispute. It has more than 100km of canals, approximately 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. Three main canals – dug in the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century – form concentric semi-circles around the city with hundreds of tiny canals fanning from the centre. Amsterdam has deliciously pretty architecture and is best admired from a bicycle.
Fly with Victor into Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)
Venice of the North
St Petersburg, Russia – Russia’s cultural capital can’t decide whether it’s Venice of the North or Paris of the East, so it greedily calls itself both. Built on 42 islands in the delta of the Neva River, the city is littered with splendid palaces, historical monuments and almost 400 intricate bridges that cross its 40 rivers, canals and waterways. The White Nights – an official cultural festival and general party time for the public – makes the most of nearly round-the-clock daylight from late May to early July.
Fly with Victor into Pulkovo Airport (LED)
The Venetian Hotels
Las Vegas, Nevada & Macau, China – All ‘style’ and no substance, these sister mega casinos used Venice as their design inspiration. The Venetian Las Vegas features architectural replicas of renowned Venetian landmarks, including Palazzo Ducale and Piazza San Marco. The Venetian Macau – the world’s largest casino – has a ‘Grand Canal’ replete with gondolas and warbling gondoliers for guests.
Fly with Victor into McCarran International Airport (LAS)
Fly with Victor into Macau International Airport (MFM)
Venice of AmericaImage courtesy of Keri Lee Miller
Venice, California – A tobacco millionaire called Albert Kinney had the zany idea of building a American beach resort town in Venice’s image. He had the marshes drained, dug canals, built an amusement pier and opened an arcaded business street with Venetian architecture. It was founded in 1905, flourished for a while and then was annexed by Los Angeles in 1926 when many of the canals were covered.
Fly with Victor into Van Nuys Airport (VNY)
*Feature image courtesy of Found The World
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