Venice was created more than 1,000 years ago by men who dared defy the sea, implanting their splendid palaces and churches on mud banks in a swampy and treacherous lagoon. The city was built on over 100 islands, four kilometers from terra firma and two kilometers from the Adriatic Sea. Gothic styles were adapted to create a new kind of Venetian Gothic art and architecture. Venice is extraordinarily beautiful, presenting an urban landscape so rich in its lavishness that it can be overwhelming. The major sights like the basilica and piazza of San Marco are perhaps the city's most famous. The Piazza San Marco is the hub of most activity, signaled from most parts of the city by the Campanile, which began life as a lighthouse in the ninth century.
Venice's most celebrated event is the Carnival, which occupies the ten days leading up to Lent. Another major event is the Regatta Storica, held on the first Sunday in September, an annual trial of strength and skill for the city's gondoliers. Venice is also the home of the Venice Biennale, set up in 1895 as a showpiece for international contemporary art, and held every odd-numbered year from June to September.