People often say that their hometowns or favorite cities are unique. "There’s no place like New York," they declare. This is true, up to a point—no two cities are exactly alike—but, broadly speaking, it’s nonsense. Almost every modern city is like New York, because nearly every city is substantially like every other city: There are traffic jams and suburbs and hip, formerly industrial neighborhoods and decaying ones. But Venice? Venice is different. There’s no place like Venice.
The same quality that made the Queen of the Adriatic a world power in medieval and Renaissance Europe—her amphibious nature, unassailably positioned out in a lagoon, her finger on the pulse of [...]