Dubbed “the finest drawing-room in Europe” by Napoleon, San Marco Square is undeniably one of Italy’s most beautiful spaces, despite being terribly congested in high season (and often flooded during acqua alta). Today, the square is a focal point for Carnevale, as well as the spectacular Basilica and the most historic cafes in Venice—it’s worth spending time in at least one of them for the ambience alone. The oldest (1720) is Caffè Florian, with compact Caffè Lavena (founded on the opposite side of the piazza in 1750) said to be Wagner’s favorite (look for the plaque inside) and the hangout of fellow composer Franz Liszt in the 19th century. The final member of the San Marco “big three,” Gran Caffè Quadri opened in 1638 as “Il Rimedio” (“The Remedy”), but it was more of a retail coffee operation at first, with the cafe upstairs added in 1830. It’s been revitalized by chef Max Alajmo of Le Calandre restaurant in Padua, who added a fancy restaurant (Ristorante Quadri). Expect the same high prices and surcharges at all three.